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Charlie Briggs and the Witch`s Emerald

by  karenpink

Posted: Sunday, March 30, 2014
Word Count: 22915
Summary: A teenage boy with a huge chip on his shoulder about his lack of popularity in his middle school, is dragged onto a mission to deliver a precious emerald to the King of Atronia. If he fails, well then, to put it simply, the King's daughter is a dead cert goner!

Chapter One – Visions
This time it was different.
Charlie knew that instantly. It had started off the same; the same sensation of fireworks exploding all around him as he whizzed through a tunnel, and of being in a protective transparent bubble when it stopped, the ability to see without being seen. But this time he didn’t seem to be in the future, where his other visions had taken him. This time he seemed to be in the past. A long way back into the past …….
He had landed in a library, in what looked like a castle. Lit only by flickering candles, stone walls hung with tapestries and portraits of Kings disappeared into darkness high above him. Charlie pressed his face against the skin of his bubble, peering about him, wondering why this time he was being shown a scene from a history book. His visions had always shown him was going to happen, not what had happened. What was going on? He shivered; his bare feet were soaking up the cold seeping into his bubble.
 “Just what on earth is this blasted witchcraft useful for!” bellowed a voice. Charlie jumped in fright and swung around to see a bearded man standing nearby, staring right at him. “What use is it?” He hurled a silver goblet against the wall right beside Charlie. It bounced off with a clatter and rolled up to his bubble.
As he moved to the side, Charlie’s eyes were drawn to a painting on the wall. It showed the old man wearing a splendid robe and a jewel encrusted crown. So this man is a king thought Charlie. But that didn’t make sense. Kings didn’t live in mouldy old castles anymore. They lived in places like Buckingham Palace, where there were such things as electricity and carpets! No, this was bonkers.
A door behind Charlie slammed open. Although he had seen some pretty strange stuff while jumping around in time in previous visions, nothing could have prepared him for what came bounding past on his right.
“What the ….?” Charlie whispered as an enormous dragon stormed in. A dragon? No way. Where had that come from? Then it occurred to him. He couldn’t be looking at the future. Castles were ruins where he lived. And it couldn’t be the past because everyone knew that dragons weren’t real. So what was left?
A dream. He must be asleep. Oh well, he would just sit back and enjoy it. Funny though, how he thought he could smell the dragon’s breath. He didn’t think it was possible to smell things in a dream.
“What have you decided to do King Jordain?” the dragon boomed. A talking dragon! Yikes, this was going to be fun!
“I have decided to take back the emerald. It needs to be brought home.”
“And THEN will they let Shyla go?”
 “Well, she has given her word.” said the King. “Although I’m not sure how much faith we can put in a witch’s promise.”
 “And what if they don’t let her go? What then? They will have Shyla and the emerald.”
“I have no choice.”
“Very well then, what do you need me to do?”
“You must retrieve the emerald and its keeper and bring them safely to me. Once we have them both in our protection we can pay Morvonia a visit.”
“I will leave right away. Has the beacon been set yet?”
“Not yet.” The King shook his head. “You must do that, you know the places hidden from watchful eyes.”
“I will do it now.”
Charlie looked on as the dragon turned to leave, only to be stopped by the King.
“Oh, and Kavator, do be careful. I do not need to remind you how important it is that the emerald reaches us safely.”  
“I will not fail,” replied Kavator and Charlie watched the dragon thunder out of view, its red tail flapping wildly. The animal in his dream was certainly loud.
Charlie’s bubble started to wobble, indicating time was up. He couldn’t help thinking as he got swept away that he really shouldn’t eat so many sugary things right before bedtime. Not if it was going to give him such crazy dreams.
Charlie awoke, heart racing. He wiped the sweat from his forehead. Thank goodness that was over with. But was it that time already?
He quickly buried his head under his pillow as he heard his mother’s muffled voice. “Charlie. Are you up yet? You need to come and have your breakfast. Or you will be late. And I just don’t have the time to drive you to school. Again.”
 “Yeah right mum, whatever you say,” said Charlie. His bed was just too warm to crawl out of. Five more minutes wasn’t going to kill anyone.
“Charlie. I’m warning you, the car is not coming out of the garage.”
“Fine,” Charlie snapped to his empty room. Kicking the sheets off, his legs emerged. 
He shuffled over to his uniform that was hanging up and slowly got dressed, chucking his sweatpants against the wall when he was finished. A groan escaped his lips as his skateboard was knocked flat.
The competition! A jolt pinched at his stomach as he wiped his clammy hands on his trousers. His bed hadn’t been made yet. He could easily climb back into it. Why had he even bothered to enter that ridiculous competition anyway? I’m not doing it Charlie decided as he headed to the door, pausing to glance in the mirror. There was no time to flatten down his bed hair and it wasn’t like any of the girls were interested in him anyway. It would just have to do. 
Charlie was stopped from leaving by the sound of a thud on the carpet. What the heck was that? he thought. Dropping to his knees, he crawled around for a bit but, apart from the odd dirty sock and a few discarded chocolate wrappers, there was nothing to be found anywhere. Frowning, Charlie scanned the floor. Whatever had dropped was gone.
“Charlie Briggs, downstairs. NOW!”
“Alright I heard you the first time. Jeez.”  Charlie stood up and looked at his board. Should I do it even though I may look like a right moron?
Hesitating, he picked up his skateboard and trudged out of the room, head down. He couldn’t wait for the day to be over.
Charlie stood right at the very top of the skateboarding ramp, clutching tightly onto his prized Element Fibrelight board. If Ashton Smythe had one, well then Charlie had definitely needed one, no doubt about it.
Every pore on his body was sweating. With blood thumping in his ears he wished he had a glass of water because his mouth felt as dry as sandpaper. The sick feeling in his stomach was replaced by a judder as a microphone squealed around the silent crowd. Charlie let go of his skateboard just long enough to flatten down his fluffy hair but it almost toppled over and he fumbled to get control of it again. Nerves were starting to get the better of him; was the audience actually laughing? Trembling slightly, he took a deep breath. Stay cool and calm he told himself. It’s nearly over. You’re just being a baby.
But he couldn’t forget about Jake Johnson’s amazing debut just minutes before, wowing the crowd with his Double Pop-shovit Late Kickflip. It was just his luck he had to go next. Why couldn’t he have gone after one of the girls that had entered; that would have been way easier.
Charlie looked over at the crowd and his heart sank to see there were no smiles or encouraging thumbs up, not like there had been for Jake Johnson. Why is Ashton smirking? thought Charlie and he looked around for even one person who was on his side.
But all he saw were more of Ashton’s gang, pointing and grinning at him. Charlie felt his nerves being replaced with anger.
Just who on earth does he think he is? thought Charlie as he clenched his free fist and looked back down the ramp. Just because he had a girlfriend and could play football didn’t make him the star of the school. “I’ll show him,” he said quietly.
The muscles in his jaws tightened as he scowled. He was a good skateboarder. He had numerous badges to prove it. Ashton Smythe could kiss his butt.
Taking a determined step to the edge he went over his moves for his 360 Double Treflip one last time. Charlie placed the board down and stamped a foot onto it. It would be great when he won. Everyone would be there to congratulate him. Charlie Briggs; skateboard champion!
“Here goes,” he said as he leaned his weight forward and finally pushed off with his free foot.
That same wave of exhilaration hit him hard like a brick as he neared the bottom of the ramp. So far it was going great. Sure, it had only been five seconds, but he was still on his board and that was good. There was nothing to worry about. He unclenched his hands and let his muscles loosen. Biting his lower lip and bending his elbows, he focused hard as he reached the bottom of the opposite ramp.
The wind in his hair was just about the best feeling ever. As he reached the top of the second ramp he twisted his body to left and grinned as he pulled off the mid-air turn without a single glitch.   
Bang, he hit the side of the ramp perfectly. Yes! Twist one completed. There was nothing to it. It was like riding a bike, only a hundred times more fun.
Now things were starting to speed up. The momentum from his moves was carrying him effortlessly across the wood. He owned that skateboard. To Charlie, it felt like a third leg, something he had been born with. His body was pumped, and as he reached the top for a second time, he took a chance and reached down, touching the tip of his skateboard as he completed his turn. That hadn’t been the plan, but he just felt like doing it.  
Sneaking a peek at the crowd on his way down, he saw the other students were starting to take notice. He secretly gloated as he saw the look on Asthon’s face.
He cracked another smile. Two perfect turns, he thought. One more twist and flip and I’ve won. Showtime.
He was doing well, but his next move was going to be tough. Blocking out everything else, Charlie couldn’t hear a thing but the sound of wheels against wood. He gulped as he got ready.
“Here goes,” he whispered.
He flew up the ramp and over the top. He prayed his feet would stay with the board and as long as he stayed calm and did as he had a hundred times before he would be basking in glory within minutes. All he had to do was flip. He could do it! He would be as good as Tony Hawkins.
One, two, three….. he counted as he pushed his shoulders down and kicked his legs up. It was hard work, but he got himself into the trickiest position of the day, tucking his head neatly under his chin.
I’ve done it! he screamed to himself as realised it had worked. I’ve really done it. I’ve won the competition. Nothing can go wrong now. Eat my dirt Ashton Smythe!
Charlie went to swing his legs all the way over his head to finish off the move but for some reason they were stuck. And his arms, they were frozen too. He put all his energy into moving even one of his muscles but he couldn’t. Beads of sweat appeared on his forehead as he strained and his heart started to race.
I’ve broken my back Charlie thought. His limbs went numb; he needed air. Someone help!
He wondered if anyone in the crowd was going to come and save him. Surely someone must have noticed him hanging there. Hang, why am I still in the air? he thought. And why is it so bloody quiet?
Charlie was finding it hard to breath, and the tightness spreading across his chest made him wince; a pain which got worse as a dark shadow fell over his face. He felt the hairs on his neck prickle as gloom engulfed the gym.
This doesn’t feel like a storm cloud to me he thought as he quivered. It seemed much more sinister.
Charlie looked up to where the clouds were forming. Although they looked ready to burst, it wasn’t their appearance that made him shiver. His pulse raced at an all-time record for Charlie as he saw a shape forming in the mist. What on earth is that? he thought as he watched. That can’t be right. That seriously cannot be a witch!
The most evil face Charlie had ever seen in his life was looking right down on him from way above near the lights.
Get me out of here Charlie pleaded as he felt her menacing eyes burning into his. He couldn’t tear his gaze away even though every nerve in his body was telling him to do so. Their emerald gleam was hypnotising, holding his stare against his will. How long was he going to have to face her? He had no idea what was going to happen, but whatever it was, it couldn’t be good. If I get out of this alive I swear to be good for the rest of my life he swore to himself.
It worked! Charlie giggled inwardly almost hysterically. After what seemed like an eternity, the image started to fade. Relief washed over him and his chest started to feel a little bit better. Heck, he would have even kissed Amy Tweddle in joy, the ugliest girl in the whole school, had he been able to.
But his relief was short. Because it wasn’t over yet.
A split second before the witch vanished, she smiled wickedly, her eyes piercing into Charlie’s. A chill ran through him as she winked, directly at him, and whispered a single word that he was not going to be able to forget anytime soon.
“Charlie,” she breathed into the air as she finally vanished into nothing.
 His heart skipped several beats in one go. Had the witch in his vision really just whispered his name? It was impossible. So many things were wrong with it that he couldn’t get his thoughts straight. Feeling lightheaded, he was still in shock when he regained control of his muscles; which was not good at all considering where he was hanging.
With a foggy mind, he remembered too late that he was in the middle of his final seconds on the skateboard ramp, and as soon as he started to fly through the air again, he lost his balance mid flip. “Argggggg,” Charlie yelled as he came crashing down and banged into the side of the ramp.
“Nooooooo,” he moaned as he slid down to the bottom. This can’t be happening to me. He felt something smack him on the back of his head as he gazed at the floor.
“Piece of useless junk,” he muttered as he swept his skateboard to the side.
He couldn’t even be bothered to get up. He was just going to stay there. He would never live this down, not in a million years.
Charlie heard the first aider, Miss Hudson, from right beside him calling his name.
Just go away Charlie groaned as he tried to ignore her.
“Are you ok?” she said and Charlie sighed.
“Do I look OK? He muttered.
“Sorry?” asked Miss Hudson.
“Oh nothing,” lied Charlie as he shrugged. I’m going to have to get up. The quicker I do, the quicker I can hide. He knew one thing for sure; he wasn’t going to be at school for the rest of the week!
“I’m fine,” he continued. “Just help me up.”
“As long as you are sure there are no broken bones. That was quite a tumble you took.”
Charlie groaned again. He really didn’t need to hear how bad he had messed up. Miss Hudson took his hand and helped him up.
“Can you walk?” she asked, showing little concern. Charlie knew to her he was just a job. No one at school cared about him.
“I think so.” He hung his head to avoid looking at the crowd. They were still giggling uncontrollably. Out of the corner of his eyes, Charlie swore he even saw a few kids hi-fiving each other over his epic fail. Just perfect! His one chance to show them all and he had messed it up. His sister was never going to let him live it down.
“Come on then, let’s go.” Miss Hudson bustled him away and forced him down onto a plastic chair at the back of the ramp, away from the taunting eyes of the other students. “Do you need a lie down?”
“No, I’d really rather just be alone.”
“Well Ok, if you’re sure there are no broken bones.” She inspected his arms and legs, and assuring herself that all was right, she rushed off to her post. “Stay there until I get back,” she called back over her shoulder.
“Gee, thanks.” Charlie said once she was out of earshot.  He had a sneaky suspicion Miss Hudson was less concerned about his welfare, and more concerned about any possible law suit that the school may be faced with if he went home with a fractured limb.
“I’m not hanging around to hear what a fool I’ve made of myself,” he said as he peeked around the corner of the ramp.  He figured it was safe now; everyone else was busy watching some year five kid who was doing nothing much exciting whizz around the ramp. “I’m way better than him. Bet you he doesn’t have witch visions.”
He stood up and went for his escape. But his friend James Pickles had been watching and caught up with him at the door.
“What happened Charlie?” James gasped as he stopped. The curly mop of hair plonked on the top of his head flopped into his eyes as he leaned in towards Charlie.
Charlie’s face flushed. “Well, I fell didn’t I?” He just wanted to get through the door. But James wouldn’t move.
“I could see that, but what happened to make you fall. You were doing so well.”
“Oh you know, just one of those things,” said Charlie as he stepped to the side.
“Not another vision!” guessed James. Charlie bristled and had to stop himself from pushing James out of the way. He had learned to keep his mouth shut a long time ago about what he saw; it saved him a whole heap of trouble. James was the only one who actually kept bringing his visions up and it was annoying.
“It was, wasn’t it?” James continued. “I could tell. You were fine one second, and then bombed out a moment later. It’ so obvious that’s what happened. What was it this time?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” said Charlie, knowing full well how crazy he would sound if he started talking about witches. He put an arm out and swung the door open. He had to get out of there. He could feel the entire crowd looking at him. He had never felt so visible. He had wanted attention all right, but not like this. 
 “OK,” said James “but you know I’m here if you want to talk about it.” James nodded towards the seating area. “Don’t look now, but Ashton and his friends are talking about you.”
“I don’t care,” Charlie lied, resisting the desire to look. What would be the point? He would just see them mocking him. “Just let me through.”
“OK then,” said James and he finally moved out of the way.
“Well the judges have decided,” Charlie heard voice boom from over the speaker system.
It was too late. He had wanted to avoid hearing the winner, which really should be him, but he was going to be forced to do so anyway. He pushed past the doors and stepped into the hallway just as he heard the worst six words in the English language ever …. “And the winner is….. Ashton Smythe.”
Charlie could hear the muffled sound of cheers coming from the gym. He cursed and kicked the wall. All he could think about was how unfair everything was.
“Knew that was going to happen,” said James as he followed Charlie out of the gym. Charlie just glared at his friend. Sometimes James could be a right pain in the backside.

Chapter Two – Time to go
Charlie was heading home fully planning on hiding away from the world and licking his wounds for the evening. Maybe mum will let me hook up my X Box Live to the TV in the living room he thought as he plodded on.
But it wasn’t just the epic fail on his board that was bothering him. Why was that witch there today, in the school hall? His knees went a little shaky as he remembered it and he squeezed his eyes shut. He couldn’t explain it, and even with his own eyes shut, he still saw those pupils burning into his.
I must be going crazy he concluded as he turned a corner.
His heart nearly jumped out of his chest as a familiar voice shattered his thoughts, bringing him back to reality.
“What’s up with you?” said the girl who had joined Charlie’s side.
“Oh it’s just you,” he rushed as his heart rate slowed. He screwed his face up at his twin.
“Jeez, you don’t have to be so happy to see me.”  
“What do you want Mia?” he said staring at her.
Anyone who me the twins for the first time were shocked to hear that they were related. The only resemblances were that they both shared their mother’s sandy blonde hair and their dad’s brilliantly dark eyes. Oh, and there was one more thing, but only they and their mother knew about it. Each twin had a strawberry shaped birthmark on their lower back.
“Are you here to gloat?” he continued. “Because if you are, don’t bother. I’m really not in the mood for it.”
“Why would I gloat?” Mia asked.
“Because you normally do.”
“What? Me? That’s so not true. Although I did hear about what happened at the competition,” she said as she strolled along, swinging her designer satchel high up in the air. “I wasn’t there myself of course. Skateboarding isn’t really my thing.”
Charlie’s body bristled at his sister’s casual attitude. He couldn’t remember Mia coming to a single one of his competitions. He opened his mouth to tell her what he thought but was cut off short.
“Anyway, at least you are the talk of the school for something other than being weird,” she continued.
Charlie groaned. “Are you ever going to shut up.”
“It could be worse you know.”
“How? Tell me how it could possibly have been any worse?” Charlie raised his eyebrows and his eyes bulged. Tossing his arms up to the sky, the frustration inside was killing him.  “I wiped out. It was completely humiliating. I can’t imagine anyone is ever going to let it go. How can I ever go back to school again?”
“Hmmm,” Mia paused. “Well, your undies could have been on show and THAT would have been a million times worse.” She winked.
Charlie gave his sister the stoniest glance he could muster. “You’re about as funny as algebra, you know that right?”
 “Oh don’t be like that, I’m on your side really. What happened anyway? I thought you had been practicing for weeks?”
“I did practice,” Charlie said, gulping down a twinge of panic at the reason for his failure. “It honestly wasn’t my fault. I was sooo close to winning and then I …,” He paused.
 Should I tell her? Charlie thought but he decision was taken off him.
“Oh don’t even try and say it was one of THOSE…!” Mia stormed as she looked down her nose at Charlie.  Charlie cursed under his breath. Great!
“Well it was,” Charlie admitted shrugging his shoulders. There was no point in arguing now. “And it was right as I was about to complete a killer move. It ruined everything.”
“Oh Charlie, when are you going to grow up and just admit that you make those visions up just to make yourself appear special? You do realise that they are the reason you haven’t got any friends?”
“I do so have friends,” said Charlie but Mia really wasn’t paying attention anymore.
“Did you know that Liam asked Jessica out today and she said yes?” she babbled.
Charlie said nothing. His sister was so selfish.
“He bought her in a box of Milk Moments and he wrapped them with a big red bow and had written her a card and everything.”
Charlie stopped listening and concentrated on the ground. It was ten times more interesting than Mia. If only he could forget the day’s events as easily.
Charlie sidestepped a wobbly paving stone as he turned the corner to his street. He was about to cross the road when he paused. Why has Mia stopped? he wondered. I want to get home.  
 “Mia what is up?” he asked as he waited. A cold nipping was biting his bare arms as the wind messed up his hair, and he only just realised how dark it was getting. Charlie shivered again, this time not from the cold. The change in weather was strange.
“It cold, I’m hungry, and I want to go in. If you want to stay here like a moron that’s fine but don’t expect me to hang around. It looks like it’s going to start raining any second.”
“Look,” said Mia so quietly that Charlie had to strain to hear her. She pointed an arm towards the sky above their house.
For goodness sake, what now Charlie thought as he followed his sister’s gaze. He didn’t think he could possibly stand any more “excitement”!
But there it was, right at his own house, hanging in the sky and casting a gloomy shadow over the entire lawn. Now normally a thunder cloud didn’t send Charlie running for cover, but he knew this was different.
That looks just like the one in my vision today he thought as he glanced to the sky above every other house in the street and realised it was the only one there. In fact, the rest of the street was bright and Charlie couldn’t see a single leaf blowing on any of the trees other than the ones right in front of his wall. And was the cloud actually swirling? The purple haze surrounding it made Charlie’s body tingle. This is not normal he thought as he carried his legs back to where Mia was stood, still looking up. He was desperate to go inside and lock the door shut.
“Mia, come on. We’ve got to tell mum about this.”
“I really don’t want to go inside,” said Mia. “That thing looks dangerous. It might tear the roof off.”
“Well we haven’t got a choice,” said Charlie. He gulped. Just like Mia, he wanted to turn around and spend the night somewhere else but his mum was going to be home from work soon and would just tell them off if they hadn’t started their homework.   
“I wonder what it is,” said Mia as they slowly started walking forward. Charlie held back the desire to mention the witch. In fact, his desire to tell his sister so was so strong the words were nearly bursting out of him. He needed to tell someone, anyone. That would make him feel better, less scared. He bit his lip to stop himself from spilling everything. Why should Mia be just as frightened as he was when it was probably nothing anyway.
“It’s probably just the start of a storm.” Charlie said, trying to convince himself too. He was sure Mia hadn’t noticed the rest of the street seemed fine. He wished he hadn’t noticed either.
“Maybe,” said Mia as they reached the front door. “It just looks really scary and you know how much I hate being freaked out.”
“I know,” said Charlie turning his key in the lock and pushing the door open. They hurried inside just as Charlie felt a spot of cold rain hit his cheek. As Mia disappeared, he took one last cautious look up to the sky, before pulling the door shut firmly behind him.
Charlie looked at the clock on his wall as entered his bedroom. It was only nine, far too early to go to sleep, but he couldn’t sit through one more pointless soap his mum and Mia loved so much. He would rather spend the evening listening to his boring Uncle John twitter on about his dumb horse racing habit.
Besides, he wanted to see if the cloud was still there. He walked over to his open window and stuck his head out to look up past the roof. The icy air stung at his cheeks as he squinted into the dark. It was still there; the edges of it were peeking out over the guttering. His mum had dismissed it when the twins had told her about it, not even bothering to take a look.
“Just a little thunder cloud,” she had said unconcerned, “It’s been very warm here recently, and we are well overdue a little bit of rain. It’ll be good for the garden.” And she had gone back to marking her student’s homework without giving it another thought.
But Charlie had a feeling something wasn’t right. His body was tingling and he hadn’t been able to relax all evening. Maybe he should just go to bed, regardless of the time. At least then he wouldn’t have to think about everything that was going on and he could let it all blow over.
He caught his breath as a loud clang came from below him in the darkness. Tensing his body he listened hard, relaxing a little as he realised it was only the bin falling over in the wind. This is getting ridiculous he told himself. I’m going on like a five year old. “Get a grip Charlie” he said loudly.  
Pulling the window shut, he double checked to make sure he had locked it tight. Then he checked again, just to be sure. After the curtains were closed he calmed down as he realised after all that if he couldn’t see out, then nothing could see in.
Yawning, he rubbed his dry eyes. He probably was more tired than he thought. He had had a crazy day after all. Padding over to his bed, he got in and pulled the covers around him. But he wasn’t going to go straight to sleep, he needed something on the TV, just an episode of The Big Bang Theory or something. To help him get to sleep. A million thoughts were racing through his mind and he wanted them to stop.
Plus night times were not the best time of day for him anyway; often he found that his mind would wander to dream of how different his life would have been if his dad was still alive. An army incident was all his mum had ever been willing to say about it. She became very touchy whenever it was brought up and Charlie didn’t like to see his mum upset so he didn’t ask too often. TV was a way to avoid the pain.
“Why is there never anything good on?” Charlie complained as he skipped up the channels. He stopped on a new show about four school chums trying to get though the awkwardness of  life in a private secondary school. Oh, he had heard about this one. Charlie chuckled as a cool one liner grabbed his attention. It did look good.
But he only saw about five minutes before he began fighting against his tiredness. As much as he wanted to watch the show, his eyelids kept drooping. He managed to jolt himself up a few times before sleep won and he finally zonked out. Falling into a sleep filled with images of skating boys being chased by horrid witches under a dark stormy sky, Charlie missed the flashes of lightening starting to appear right outside his window.
He awoke feeling panicked. His TV had switched itself onto standby and apart from the little red light on the TV and the room was pitch black. Propping himself up onto his elbows he puzzled. What on earth had woken him up in the middle of the night?
Leaning over to check his alarm clock, he saw it just after two am. He rolled his eyes as he plopped back onto the mattress. I’m never going to get back to sleep he thought as he twisted.
Suddenly a bright light lit the room up, illuminating all of his things.
Urg thought Charlie. Mum was right, it IS a storm. He waited for the rumble to happen, but he realised that it was quiet. In fact, it was so silent that he couldn’t even hear the sound of a single car. And his house was the next street over from the main motorway.
Rolling over he was determined to get back to sleep but instead frowned as he caught sight of something not quite right.
“What’s that?” he muttered sitting up against his pillows. A strange glint shining out from the shadows was casting a glow on the carpet in the corner. Squinting hard, he peered into the dark.
Where is that light coming from? He thought, not sure why it was pulsing, glowing brighter one second, then fading the next. Charlie got up. He was already wide awake, he may as well go and see what it was.
“What is it?” he said loudly. He knew he was talking to himself, but at that moment, the sound of his own voice calmed him down. Being in the dark was eerie, and Charlie started to think about all of the monsters from the films he had watched.
Stumbling over goodness knows whatever, he yelped as he stubbed his little toe on the corner of something heavy before finally reaching the strange light. His old wooden toy trunk! Sitting down, he rubbed away the pain in his foot as he stared at the box.
It was half covered with an unfinished piece of art homework, a large poster board that he had been asked to produce to promote some charity the school had been involved in. He had been given a detention for not handing that homework in. Stupid Mr Knip.
Pushing the lid off, it banged against the wall as it fell, making a loud crashing noise, and Charlie jumped.
He listened for him mum to get up and tell him off, but as he crouched near the chest, he heard nothing.
Looking back to the trunk he saw it.  
How did that get in here? he thought as he picked a mysterious stone up and brought it up to his eyes.
The glass had been on his shelf ever since he had found it on the beach years earlier while he was walking with his granddad.
Keep it! his granddad had told him as they strolled along the sand. It looks interesting. You never know Charlie, it may have some value to it one day.
And now there he sat; in the dark admiring the ribbons of black and white that swirled around inside the glass. He had never understood how the colours had gotten in there, and even now, it remained a mystery to him.
So that must have been the thing that fell this morning. Mum must have found it and put it in here.
Another flash of light from outside shone into the room hurting his tired eyes. Charlie remembered the cloud that was floating over his roof.
There were too many odd things going on around him to just call it bad luck. The same night of the visions, the witch, and the swirly purple lightening cloud above their house. Was it just a co-incidence? Charlie shuddered at the thought the witch may actually be real. He couldn’t help but feel like something was about to happen. Something not good.
Standing up with the glass grasped in his hand, he went and placed it on his bedroom desk beside his computer. He returned to his bed and sat back on the covers. Keeping silent, his mind was working overtime. What was it? What could make a glass ball shine all by itself. It defied any kind of logic he knew.
Tucking his shaking hands under his legs to keep them still, he tried his best not to imagine that witch hovering right outside of his window.  Thank goodness the curtains were shut.
“Focus Charlie,” he said as he tried to grab hold of even one measly sensible thought. “You need to figure out what that light is.”
Maybe some light would help him think more clearly.
As he took his hands from under him and flicked on the lamp, he heard footsteps coming down the hall from his sister’s room. She must have woken up.
He jumped from his bed and tip toed over to the other side of his bedroom. “Mia” he whispered as he pushed the door. He cringed at the creak made by the hinges as it swung open. Mia, about to go down the stairs, swung around.
“You scared me you idiot,” she whispered back scowling. “What are you doing up, it’s after two in the morning.” She seemed to have forgotten about going downstairs, and stepped through the doorway into Charlie’s room.
“I could ask you the same thing,” he argued back.
“I’m after a glass of water,” Mia said “I’m thirsty. It’s too hot”.
Charlie felt hot too. It was definitely warmer than it should be considering it was stormy outside.
“Forget about the water,” he ordered. “There’s something that you really have to see.”
“But I really am thirsty,” she complained as Charlie took his sister’s arm and guided her fully into his room. He nodded towards his desk, and they both turned to face the glowing glass. Charlie gulped as he realised it was flashing a lot more quickly than before.
“What’s that?” she asked as she sauntered over to his desk. She picked up the small ball, only to immediately drop it onto the floor near her feet. It hit the carpet and Charlie watched open mouthed as it rolled, seemingly by itself, under his chair.
“Ow!” she said. “It’s hot”.
“I don’t know.” he said as he looked down. The glass had left a burn mark in the pile. His mum was going to kill him. But that was the least of his worries.
“What are you doing with something like that, you could burn the house down. I’m telling mum”.
“No wait,” Charlie stood in her way. “It wasn’t hot before. I’ve just gotten it out of my trunk.”
He frowned as he bent down to where it had stopped under his swivel chair. Putting his face to within inches of the glass he could feel its warmth on his forehead.                
But it wasn’t like that for long. Charlie had to jerk his head out of the way as a bright white light suddenly shot from the glass and skimmed past his cheek at an alarming speed. If he had been a second slower he would have lost the sight in his left eye. It was quickly followed by another one. Avoiding the flashes, he scrambled for cover behind his bed as Mia squealed and followed him. 
“What the heck is that” he yelled as he watched the two bounce off the furniture. Lightening? From a glass ball? Impossible!
His mouth hung open as he watched the lights dance around his bedroom before returning back to the glass. Then it happened again, only this time there were more. Charlie wriggled as he felt Mia’s fingers dig into his arms. He knew she was frightened but did she have to hold onto him so tightly? His fingers were starting to go numb.
Charlie tried to ignore her as he counted the number of flashes that coming from the glass. Seven, eight, nine…….. They just weren’t stopping! Thirteen, fourteen…….
Charlie held his breath and crouched behind the bed. He knew he had to do something, this was dangerous. They both could get burned if one of the bolts hit them.
“Should we make a run for it?” he gasped at Mia.
“Are you crazy? Have you seen how many blasts there are? We’ll get hit.” Mia’s eyes were wide and Charlie bit his lip.
“Well, the only other thing we can do its stay here and hope it ends”
“I’d rather do that.” Mia yelped as she ducked out of the way of a bolt that got a bit too close to her head.
“What if they don’t stop? They seem to be getting faster”.
“We’ll I’m not going anywhere,” she said and pulled his sheet over her head.
“Well, I could go and get help. Mum will know what to do,” Charlie said. He made a move to get up but Mia grabbed his wrist.
“Wait. Don’t leave me.”
“Well we can’t stay here forever,” he shouted. “We could die”.
He hesitated for a moment, and then stood up, shielding his face with his arm. He didn’t get far though because as soon as he got to his feet, the flashes stopped.
“Thank God,” he breathed as his legs began to go wobbly. “Mia are you all right?”
“Yes,” she spoke softly. His sister had never sounded so afraid and Charlie felt upset for her.
He looked over at the glass that was now quiet.
“Let’s get out of here. I don’t fancy seeing that happen again.” He pulled Mia up to her feet, who slumped against him hard as he pulled her to the door.
But the glass wasn’t finished and wasn’t going to let them get away that easily.
They were stopped from leaving by a blinding light so strong that it burned into Charlie’s eyes, sending pain shooting through his head. He squeezed them shut as he heard Mia whimper from beside him.
“Close your eyes Mia,” he screamed as he used his free hand to cover his own. Even though they were tightly closed, the light was really hurting them. What IS that? he thought. I can’t see a thing. We are going to walk into a lightning bolt and get blasted into nothing and I can’t do a darn thing about it.
Charlie heard his swivel chair crash to the floor. He didn’t know what was happening in his room but was scared to look in case his retina’s burned clean off.  
He felt his sister’s hand trembling and desperately wished the nightmare would end. He would gladly go through a thousand failed skateboard competitions just to have what they were going through now over with.
His cheek tightened as a woosh of air shot past his nose.
“Oh my god,” he heard Mia squeal. “Something just shot by me. I think it was one of those flashes”.
“I think it was too,” he agreed as he felt another burst of heat fly past his ear. This time it hit him. His ear was left stinging. He prayed that it wasn’t going to leave a scar but he wasn’t sure. He couldn’t even check to see if there was any blood.
“Let’s go,” urged Charlie tugging at Mia’s hand. “Lightening or no lightening we’ve GOT to get out of here”.
“But I can’t move Charlie,” cried Mia. “I’m stuck.”
“What do you mean you’re stuck?” He really wanted to go. Mia was just going to have to man up and move. He tugged on her arm and tried to pull her away but couldn’t.
Why can’t I move? Oh, not again! he thought thinking back to what happened at the competition. Only this time he was being pulled. He couldn’t feel anything actually pulling him, but he was defiantly being sucked towards the light. Against his will!
He dug his heels into the floor but it didn’t work.
“Mia, are you moving?” he asked.
“Yes I am. I’m being dragged to the light. Do something Charlie, I’m scared”.
“I can’t do anything Mia,” Charlie shouted. “I’m exactly the same as you. I can’t move my legs”.
He took his hand away from his face, and, ignoring the searing light seeping through his lids, reached out for anything that may help! His fingers skimmed his desk but that did nothing because the desk was moving too.
In fact, Charlie could hear the sound of lot of his things being pulled towards this light. He wished he could just open his eyes for one second. His room was getting very noisy. Is there anything that is actually staying still in this place? he thought.
“Charlie what is happening?” screamed Mia. “Was this what your vision was about today?”
“I thought you didn’t believe in them,” said Charlie, more concerned with trying to find something to hold onto rather than his sister’s stupid winging. Anything would do. Where was his cupboard? Surely that was too heavy for a wind to pull it in?
 “This wasn’t about my vision,” Charlie continued hastily as he grabbed hold of what he thought was his bookcase. Which was also moving! Dang it. Once again he leaned back away from the pull but it was a waste of time. He yelled out as he slowly continued to inch forward. “But I’m thinking that cloud outside may have something to do with it”.
“Mum said it was nothing,” replied Mia.
“Well is THIS nothing?” snapped back Charlie, exasperated at his sister. How could she want to argue at a time like this?
“No,” agreed Mia loudly.
Charlie winced as a cold shot of air shot up his foot and into his leg. It twisted at his pyjamas, wrapping them tightly around his calf. Then his arm felt it too. Were they finally at the light? Feeling exhausted, he gave a last effort to stay safe but his energy was gone. A strange tingle spread over his entire body.
“Mia, do you feel cold?” Charlie shouted.
“Yes,” she whimpered. “Charlie, I don’t want to die. Are we going to die?” Charlie could hear his sister sobbing uncontrollably as he bit back his own panic as his closed eyes began to prick. He couldn’t cry. He was a boy and he had to stay strong.
“I really don’t know Mia,” he said as the cold seeped under his skin. It was icy, like he had just been plunged into a bucket of chilly water. And the tingling, it was going crazy now. It was like having pins and needles, only all over his body.
The glare softened a bit and Charlie paused to think. Should he dare open his eyes? He didn’t know if it would be safe. Maybe if I do it slowly I can see if it is going to hurt he thought as he peeked through. Grimacing, he hesitated, before forcing himself to open his right one just one little bit. Expecting the worse, he braced himself. Phew. Nothing. It was safe after all. He opened the other one.
What on earth going on here? he thought as he looked around.
“Mia open your eyes,” he ordered as he tried to ignore the nauseous feeling churning in his stomach. They were standing in a short tunnel, waves of water circling over their heads and under their feet. The gushing waves were dripping spots on Charlie’s neck and each one was like a sharp needle to his skin. The tingling was gone, but Charlie still felt the chill.  It was coming from the wind in this tunnel.
“We’re trapped,” he said.
“Trapped, what do you mean? Where are we?” Mia asked. Charlie was glad to see she had also now opened her eyes as he didn’t feel so alone.
“I have no idea, but look there’s mum,” Charlie said as he glimpsed their mother walk past the room on her way to the bathroom.
“Why isn’t she stopping,” Mia moaned as she pulled away from Charlie and tried to escape. She bounced back against the opening to Charlie’s room and fell into him, winding him. At least we have use of our legs again realised Charlie as he gasped for breath. But it still wasn’t good. They were no longer being pulled into the light anymore, sure, but that was only because they were actually now in the light.  It sparkled through the water and gave them both a green glow.
Why can’t mum hear what’s going on? Charlie thought. He called out, but his mum didn’t come. Surely she could hear the buzz of the wind that the mysterious portal was creating, or spot the light spilling out into the hallway. She mustn’t be able to see this, he realised, terror washing through him. She isn’t coming to save us.
And that’s when it happened. That damn witch again!
The same face Charlie had envisioned earlier that day appeared above the twins in the portal.
Oh just go away,” Charlie screamed as he tried to reach out and punch her in the face. Charlie’s fist went straight through it into thin air and he tripped over his feet, stumbling into the water wall. So now he was wet as well as cold. Perfect!
“Arg,” he yelled out as the witch cackled. The sound made his skin crawl and frustrated him even  more. He wanted to strangle his vision.
“What are you doing?” Mia blurted as she pushed Charlie in his side. “What are you shouting at?”
“You don’t see it?” he asked his sister incredulously. It was right in front of them. I’m not crazy. Why don’t you see it?
“I only see you, punching the thin air. Acting all crazy instead of trying to get us out of here.”
Don’t get angry at me. I didn’t cause any of this.”
“Oh Charlie,” a voice which wasn’t Mia’s called out to him, the sound piercing his already sore ears. Oh god, please don’t let that be the witch he thought as he looked over to her.
His heart sank, body going limp as he realised the voice was hers. His energy was gone and he had nothing left to fight with. He sunk to his knees and looked at what she wanted to show him. Mia was pacing around the tunnel frantically now and wasn’t paying Charlie any attention. Which was a good job too because Charlie felt his face go ashen at the witch’s new vision and he was glad Mia hadn’t seen him.
It was the worst vision Charlie had ever seen.
His sister was there, beside the same witch he was staring at now, lying motionless on a stone floor. Was she asleep? Charlie hoped. He didn’t want to think of what else it may be. It was dark where she was and as hard as he tried, he couldn’t see much in the room, apart from thick chains tying her to the wall.  NO! he thought gasping for air. You can’t have Mia. I won’t let you!
The witch cackled once more and nodded at Charlie. Had she somehow been able to read his fear?
He stumbled up on his numb legs and ran to Mia, throwing an arm around his sister. “Leave us alone,” he roared at her, his throat burning at his words. And just like that, she vanished, leaving Charlie shaking.
“Get off me,” Mia said as she pushed him away. “You’re not helping AT ALL.”
He stared at Mia for a moment, not bearing to think that she was in grave danger, but had to force  himself to put it to the back of his mind while they had more pressing matters to attend to. Charlie looked back into his room. A shimmering layer of air had appeared, a bit like a waterfall, separating them from the world that they knew and were safe in.
He just could make out the clock on his wall. The second hand was frozen, as if time had stopped. Before he was able to take another step, the opening to his room closed in on itself and their world disappeared from view.
“What now?” Mia shrieked as they started to tumble around in the air. The floor was gone. Charlie felt like he was inside a very large tumbler drier; being thrown around like a rag. “Where did your room go?”
“I don’t know,” he said as his stomach started to churn. He didn’t manage too well on rollercoasters on a good day, so this was not going to be pretty.
“Charlie, I’m going to hurl,” said Mia as she bumped into him. He felt himself glide away from her and bounce of an invisible barrier. It was dark and he could barely see his twin.
But then it stopped. And what happened next was no better. In fact, it was easily ten times worse.
Charlie found himself suddenly falling down at a great speed, racing right down into a gapping cavern. But unlike a normal cavern, there was no end to this one. As he desperately tried to stay calm so that he could at least think about how he might get them out of this mess alive, he heard nothing but Mia’s terrified scream echoing of the unseen walls.
God help us he thought as he flailed his arms searching for something to grab onto. He reached for Mia’s hand and squeezed hard. This is it. We are totally going to die!

Chapter Three – Dragon Warrior
In the mystical Kingdom of Atronia, in a quiet, sunny meadow buried secretly in the forest, all was peaceful and somewhat uneventful. The birds were tweeting out to each other in the trees. A stream lazily babbled its way through the clearing as a mare and its fowl stood quietly grazing nearby.
It didn’t last long!
Just as rapidly as it had disappeared back in Charlie’s bedroom, the other side of the portal opened up in the middle of the bright, blue sky, shattering the peace. The two horses bolted into the trees, startled by the strange noise above them and the birds in the trees flapped off frantically into the distance.
Directly from the centre of this portal, Charlie and Mia appeared, screaming in terror as they were thrown around in the whirlwind.
Was it ever going to stop? Charlie thought as he tried to hold back his vomit. Being rolled around like they were on a constant loop the loop was very dizzying indeed.
Finally, without any kind of warning, the air ceased churning, turned incredibly still again, and the twins plopped out of the bottom of the portal like two small cannons. They dropped sharply to the ground, landing ten feet below with a massive thud. Although the soft green grass broke their fall, Charlie still felt bruised and sore.
Various items from Charlie’s room started to fall down all around them.
Charlie and Mia quickly scrambled to their feet and ran several yards away to distance themselves from the furniture shower, dodging falling books and Blue Rays on their way to safety. Just as they reached the edge of the forest, Charlie’s computer came crashing down less than two feet from where they were standing.
“Just missed that” complained Mia, stepping backwards. “Nearly got crushed.”
“Well It would have just been another mark to go with all of the other bruises.” remarked Charlie wryly, rubbing his shoulder, aching from where he had landed on it just moments before.
He looked down at his computer in dismay. It was well and truly wrecked, the screen was smashed, and bits of computer hardware were sticking out from the plastic casing. He was very upset, there were months’ worth of saved game play on that hard drive. It would take him forever to get back up to the superior levels of Fighter Pain again.
“I wouldn’t worry about that” Mia sensed her brother’s bad mood. “It’s just a computer. I think we have much bigger things to worry about. Em, like, what on earth just happened and where the heck are we now?”
Looking back up towards where they had come from, they could just see the gaping hole falling back into itself, getting smaller and smaller until it was so tiny that all they could see was a black dot against the backdrop of the sky. Then the dot simply vanished with a pop, and all that was left hanging in the void left was the green, glass ball. It floated for a second or two, before following them down to the ground with a thud.
Strangely, the glass rolled towards their feet, as if under some force of its own. It stopped right in front of Charlie. Charlie cautiously took one step back away from it, but the glass rolled forward once again. He didn’t know whether to pick it up or leave it well alone. His instinct told him that it was probably pretty safe, as the hole had gone, but he didn’t know what on earth they were going to do with it anyway.
“Don’t touch it” said Mia quickly as she walked over to him, seeing Charlie reach out for it. She peered over his shoulder, hiding behind him for protection.
“Well we’ve got to do something. We can’t just stay here like idiots” said Charlie as he kicked the glass gingerly with his bare foot, half expecting to get burned.
It did nothing. The heat had disappeared, and it was cold again.
“Well it’s stopped glowing, so I don’t think we will be going anywhere through this today.”
“Urrrhhh, do what you did in your bedroom and get it working again” Mia demanded.
“It did it all by itself” replied Charlie. “I don’t know how to get it working again.”
“Well what on earth is it?” demanded Mia sharply
“Hmm, hang on a second. Let me just consult my crystal ball and I’ll get back to you” Charlie pretended to be conjuring up a spell, waving his arms around madly and chanting a made up verse.
“You really are weird” replied Mia, not at all amused.
“Well how should I know what it is” said Charlie, dropping his game.  
“Well it was in your bedroom. Just where on earth did you get it from?” Mia haughtily replied.
Taking on the same snotty tone that Mia had adopted, he coolly answered. “Me and granddad found it on the beach a few years ago. We thought it would be a good keepsake to have. I only really took it as I thought it may be worth something. Sell it on E Auction or something. Make my millions.”
“Whatever you say” Mia rolled her eyes. “That still doesn’t explain what it is though.”
“I haven’t got a clue.” Charlie bent down and picked it up carefully. Once he was one certain it was not going to cause him any harm, he swiped it up into the palm of his hand and inspected it again like he had done in his room. Boring. There were no clues whatsoever that indicated this was a magic glass.  
However, he decided that it would be best to keep it with them. The portal might be the only way for them ever to get back home. And he certainly didn’t want to be stuck there forever.
Charlie put the glass into the breast pocket of his checked blue and white pyjamas and patted it. He turned to Mia, who was busy looking around at their surroundings.
“I wasn’t exactly truthful with you earlier” he admitted meekly to his sister. He knew she was going to give him grief about the vision but he had to tell her what he saw. She probably wouldn’t believe him anyway.
“What about?” Mia replied suspiciously, looking at him with a frown on her face. She didn’t like being kept in the dark about things. “What have you done?” she accused.
“Oh it’s nothing I’ve done” replied Charlie quickly. “It’s something I saw in my vision”.
Mia just looked at her brother with a little bit of disdain in her eyes.
“I know you don’t believe me” he said slowly.
After a long pause Mia’s face soften a little and she sighed. “I don’t like admitting this Charlie, but I think I may believe you after all. At least maybe a little bit. Ten minutes ago I’d never have believed that I’d be sucked feet first into a portal But if you tell anyone at school that I said that I’ll tell them all about the time you didn’t sleep for a month after you watched Skeleton Crunchers without mum’s permission!”
Charlie smiled. “Fine, I promise” he said.
“Swear” and Charlie shook his sister’s hand to seal the deal.
“Well, what did you see?” she asked raising her eyebrows.
“Well….” Charlie looked at the floor. He really didn’t want to admit about the witch, but after two identical visions, he thought it must be important, and after all, there they were, in a very strange place indeed.
“Come on” said Mia growing impatient. “Just tell me”.
“Well I don’t know what it means” he started, “but I saw a witches face. A pretty scary witch.”
“Oh right, a witch’s face” scoffed Mia scornfully dismissing her twin. “I take it back. I don’t believe you . You’re crazy, there are no such things as witches”.
“And since whenever has there been such things as portals?” Charlie defended himself.
 “Well” she said reluctantly. “Just for argument’s sake, let’s pretend that I do believe you and that you indeed did see a witch. That doesn’t mean that your vision wasn’t misinformed. It was probably just a fancy dress party or something.”
“That’s exactly what I thought, at first” agreed Charlie. “But it didn’t look like a party”.
Mia didn’t say anything.  
“And that’s not all” Charlie continued.
“There’s more?” asked Mia.
“Yes” said Charlie. “I think it’s really important to us. I saw the same image again. Just as we were pulled into the portal.” He left out the part about his sister being in the image, not wanting to upset her.
Mia turned serious. “Look, I don’t know what it could mean if it means anything at all” she ventured, “but I guess we should be carefully anyway. Everything about this is weird. Witches or no witches, what are we going to do?”
Trying to appear braver than he actually felt inside, he cleared his throat and addressed his sister. He felt guilty about not telling her about the part where she was captured, but he figured it was for the best. “Look we are ok at the moment aren’t we? Whatever power that this ball has, I don’t think it is going to harm us. It would have done that already.”
“Totally” said Mia.
“What I’m more worried about now are the things that may be out there watching us” He looked to all of the woodland that surrounded each edge of the clearing.
“Stop it” demanded Mia shrilly. “You’re scaring me.”
“Sorry” said Charlie. “I’m just saying that’s all. We’ve got to be careful”.
He was talking to his sister, but he was also trying to convince himself. He turned his attention to gaze around at the unfamiliar surroundings. To Charlie, it looked like any other wooded area he had ever been to. A clearing, some trees, a few rabbit holes dotted around. But one thing did stand out as being odd to Charlie. ‘Hmmm’, he thought to himself, ‘the air smells different’. To Charlie, the air he was breathing in was smoky, reminding him of burnt toast.
Mia also noticed the awful stench.
“Ew what’s that?” she said holding her nose unnecessarily.
“Don’t know” said Charlie.  “I didn’t notice it before. But I think I’ve smelt it before.” He looked at Mia.
“For goodness sake, stop holding your nose” he scolded.
“Well, it’s nasty” said Mia, ignoring her brother “I’m going to be sick”.
“Don’t be silly” said Charlie, “It is NOT that bad”.
“Yeah it is” said Mia sniffing in again delicately. She pulled a gagging face and buried her nose once more. “Do you think it’s getting stronger?” she said in a muffled voice.
Charlie breathed in again. “Yes I do”.
They tried to pinpoint the source of the overpowering odour.
“Where is it coming from?” Mia questioned
“I’m not sure”. And then it dawned on him just exactly where he had smelled it before. In that castle from his vision. Coming right out of the mouth of that dragon.
As the sickening realisation hit him of what was coming next, a voice neither of them had ever heard before boomed out from behind the twins and shook the shaking leaves from the trees.
“I think that smell that you are both so offended by is most likely coming from me” the mysterious voice thundered.
Charlie and Mia practically jumped out of their respective skins. Neither of them wanted to turn around, Charlie especially, knowing what was waiting to great them. Was it going to be a friend or an enemy? His feet were glued to the ground.
“Oh my word” whispered Mia to Charlie from out of the corner of her mouth. She was standing as still as a statue. “What on earth was that?”
“You don’t want to know” said Charlie.
 “It sounds like a monster” squealed Mia.
“Well, not exactly” replied Charlie.
“What do you mean not exactly?” said Mia
 “Well turn around and you’ll see”.
“I’m not turning around, you turn around.”
“I already know what it is.”
“Oh and what’s that? Your witch?” sneered Mia.
“No it’s not. It’s something completely different.” Charlie said not rising to the bait
“Well wha………” Mia was interrupted as the voice spoke once again. Quieter but still deep.
“Well as amusing as it is to stand here and watch the two of you squabble away like this, we don’t have the time. I’m on a very tight schedule. Both of you need to turn around at some point and if you do so now, it would save me the trouble from having to pick both of you up and carry you off in my jaws. It would make my life a whole lot easier, and I’m happiest when my life is easy.”
In its jaws. Charlie’s mind was made up. It must be an enemy.
However, enemy or not, they didn’t dare to ignore the command, so they both turned around on the spot at a painstakingly slow pace. They kept their eyes to the grass, wanting to delay the meeting until the last possible moment.
Finally, when he was rotated half a turn, Charlie built up the courage from deep down inside his bones to look up from the ground, to face the dragon.
Mia also looked upwards. She screamed and jumped behind Charlie.
Nothing they could have imagined in their wildest dreams prepared them for what they faced. Seeing it in real life was far worse than glimpsing it in a vision.
Trying to let it know that they were there as friends, and not to harm the dragon, Charlie managed to muster a weak smile and found his voice. “Hello” he squeaked, feeling very small indeed.

Chapter Four – The Emerald
What he really wanted to do was run away but thought he wouldn’t get too far. It would be impossible to outrun a dragon with the size of the legs that the creature boasted. Mia was tugging on his hand, but he really couldn’t feel it.
He thought about screaming, but just like his legs, his voice was no longer under his control. Besides that, who was there to help them anyway.  
In fact, he couldn’t get himself to do anything. He was stuck to the spot, waiting to be eaten.
As he prayed for a quick, painless death (he couldn’t decide whether it would be better to be swallowed whole or chewed to bits first) the inevitable, the beast too his chance to speak again. Its mouth opened to reveal a packed row of sharp pointy teeth.
“I am Kavator”, he said as he bowed his head grandly in a greeting to Charlie and Mia. “Welcome to Atronia.”
“Hi” was all Charlie could muster, his voice still barely a squeak.
“I am not here to harm either of you, so you can relax”. He brought his head close to them with grace and focused his eyes on Charlie. The dragon blinked several times before continuing. “I have been expecting you.” The smoky smell was extremely strong. It was coming from the dragon.
Kavator stood at least 20 feet tall, and the twins had to crane their necks all the way back to see to the top. Not only was he tall, but he was as wide a submarine. Well, maybe not that wide, but pretty big.
His scaly skin glistened as the sunlight bounced off his tremendous body. The tail snaked way back into the field behind him, and was covered in a double row of black triangular spikes that started at the very end, and travelled all the way up the dragon’s spine, stopping at his head.
Dark, black eyes, like two pieces of coal, were embedded in his face, and a set of muscular jaws looked like they could crush the both of them in one quick crunch. But what stood out the most was a large black slash that crossed over his left eye. It looked like a branding mark of some sort. As if someone in the dragon’s past had owned him and had wanted the world to know it.
“And what, may I ask, is your name?” Kavator directed his question at Charlie.
“ is Ch..Ch..Charlie” stuttered Charlie in awe. “And this is my sister, Mia”. Finally able to control himself, he pointed at Mia.
“Hi” Mia said meekly.
Kavator pulled his head back up to the sky, high above the twins, looking at Charlie intently, ignoring Mia completely. “A bit younger than what I was expecting” he mused thoughtfully.
Charlie felt small. It was just like being at school. Not good for anything.
But then he had an excellent idea. This dragon did not know him from Adam. He did not know that Charlie was so unpopular at Meadwell. He finally had a chance to escape his tiresome label, and he was going to grab that chance with both hands.
Charlie spoke up as boldly as he. “I am not so young. I am in year seven and I can certainly take care of myself.” Mia sniggered. Charlie realised that he was probably coming off as sounding rather immature, and decided that appearing to be confident was going to take a lot more practice than he had initially thought.
Kavator smiled wryly. “Well, then, I stand corrected. Eleven is certainly old enough to help us with the emerald. You have, after all, been chosen for a great task, and if the emerald found you, then you must be destined for this. The emerald is never wrong you know Charlie.”
The emerald! He must be talking about the green glass that was safely in Charlie’s pocket.
Without saying anything more to Charlie, Kavator turned his attention to Mia who was pouting over being ignored. “You we were certainly not expected today girl. This could cause us some problems. We have important work to do over the next few days, and I’m not sure this is the right place for a girl.”
If Mia had been able to hide her impatience before, she was certainly not able to do so after such a belittling remark. She was, after all, House Captain back at Meadwell.  
“Just a girl” she practically shouted. “Just a girl? I’ll have you know that I organised the Christmas Party all by myself. I’m also house captain, captain of the rounder’s team, head of the school council, sci. . . . .“
Impatiently Kavator cut her off “Well then I stand corrected. Maybe you can help us after all”.
It was Charlie’s turn to snigger as Mia huffed and crossed her arms. “No maybe about it.” she muttered under her breath, needing the last word.
Ignoring her, Kavator continued. “I suppose you must have a million questions Charlie.”
“Indeed I do” piped up Charlie.
Now that his initial panic was subdued, he was eager to know what on earth was going on. Flicking his blonde hair out of his eyes, he started with the first question.  
“Basically, what the heck are we doing here, in this place?” he gestured to the surrounding landscape. “In .. where is it we are again?”
 “Atronia” repeated Kavator, already sounding weary after only one question.
“That’s it. What are we doing here in Atronia?”
“There is a lot you need to understand” replied Kavator. “A lot you need to digest. This will all be very strange to you”.
 “Strange” scoffed Mia “Visiting a new city in your own country is strange. This is so far past strange it’s positively unbelievable”.
“You didn’t answer the question” Charlie pointed out.
“Ok, let me explain” Kavator continued, trying to appease the twins.
“Atronia is a kingdom that runs parallel to your own world earth. Over the years, our land has given you a thousand tales involving dragons, knights, kings, and trolls. Our worlds used to be completely separate, with neither having any knowledge of the other, until the head witch from the largest coven in Atronia accidently miscast a routine spell one day”.
Witches! Charlie shuddered. He remembered his earlier visions. So there were witches there. A cold chill ran down his spine as he recalled the evil glint in the woman’s eyes.
“Rehennin was attempting to make it snow one Christmas for the palace children, but in the joviality of the moment, combined with her strong overseas’ accent, she mispronounced some words, and instead of snow, suddenly a portal was opened, connecting our worlds for the first time ever.”
“What did she say that was wrong” said Charlie.
“If the story is correct, instead of asking for a flurry of snow, she summoned for a fury of blow, and the rest is history.”
Charlie smiled. “They do sound very similar.”
“Especially when you have a Hisscottglishen accent.”
“A hiss what accent?” asked Mia smirking.
“Hisscottglishen, It’s how they speak in a neighbouring Kingdom.” Explained Kavator.
“Oh” said Charlie.
“It’s a very funny name” said Mia rudely.
Kavator sighed before moving on. “Anyway, portals have been stumbled upon many times over the past few centuries by people from your world. They tend to appear every so often, and no one has been able to predict when or where they would open up. But nevertheless, people would return to your land with amazing stories of what they had seen here.”
“You mean the stories we read about at home are true” asked Charlie grinning.
 “All stories have a shred of truth to them, no matter how small that shred of truth is. Any story has to have come from somewhere”.
“Do you really go around burning down villages and eating sheep?” asked Mia snottily.
“Certainly not”, said the dragon. “Those tales are just made up by frightened men who were scared by us for no reason other than we are unknown to them.  In truth, we actually work alongside the king, fighting for him. It has always been this way in our land.”
“So why have you brought us here” Charlie continued. “And this still doesn’t explain what you mean when you say that I am the keeper”.
Kavator nudged Charlie’s pocket with his wide nostrils. Snot billowed out from them and engulfed Charlie in a slimy green mucous.
 “Ew” exclaimed Charlie wiping himself off.
“Sorry” sniffed Kavator. “Automatic reaction”.  He sneezed again, and this time both twins covered their faces. 
“This is why you are here” Kavator continued, referring to the glass he had just pointed out. “The sacred emerald.”
“This thing?” asked Mia as she pulled open Charlie’s pocket and peered inside. Charlie scowled and pushed her away, covering the emerald with his hand protectively. He looked up at Kavator.
“I kind of already thought that, but WHY?”
 “This emerald is out of the ordinary. It was sent to your world to keep it safe and out of the reach of darkness. It contains a powerful force that our king wanted hidden far away from here.”
 “What kind of power is trapped in it then?” asked Mia. “Is it dangerous?”
“Well that depends on what it is used for.”
 Kavator sat back on his hind legs and lowered his body to the ground. Charlie couldn’t help but think that he moved rather like a big lizard he had seen at the zoos at home. As his bum hit the floor he caused a small puff of smoke to rise up from the dirt. Charlie couldn’t believe it, did he actually shoot fire from his butt aswel?
“Sit down and make your selves comfortable” Kavator instructed, ignoring the haze. “This story is quite a long one.”
Charlie shrugged, and was the first to sit down, not far from Kavator. Mia followed suit. The grass was warm and rather comfortable. Charlie waited in anticipation, facing the dragon. He was dying to hear this story and learn just what exactly it meant for them.
 “Here are the events that started things in motion” said Kavator mysteriously.
Mia rolled her eyes and Charlie kicked her to stop her from being rude. Kavator didn’t notice.
“For as long as the kingdom of Atronia has existed, up until roughly twenty years ago, the palace leaders and the witches lived harmoniously side by side. They both were able to offer things to the other that were very valuable. The witches cast lots of spells for the king, and the king, in return, let the witches share his land and allowed them to carry out their rituals. They fought together in battle and made decisions together for the good of their people.
“The witches used to work with the King?” Mia scoffed. “Well that’s just stupid. He was just asking for trouble.”
“You don’t understand” retorted Kavator. “The witches used to be good. But that changed when the head witch Morvonia, started to change. We still don’t know why. The changes were slow at first, and so people didn’t really notice. She started off small, wanting more freedom to set her own rules for the coven. Then came bigger demands. She started carrying out spells that only benefited her own, and many were harmed in her pursuit of greed. Even killed.”
“What did the King do?” asked Mia eagerly. Charlie had never seen Mia so animated in anything before that didn’t involve her precious school standing. He found it amusing. And a weird.
Kavator shifted his position. “Well, just before the coven’s fall from grace, Morvonia had become so troublesome that she refused to take into consideration the kings wishes on anything at all. She carried out spells that the king specifically forbade her to do, until finally, it all came to a terrible end.”
“What happened?” Now it was Charlie’s turn to interrupt.
 “One day, when the king was away meeting the heads of the monarchs from the other lands, Morvonia started her boldest spell ever. We were informed about this by our spies, and went to attack. After a long drawn out battle, we won. But it cost the King dearly. Many men were killed, including the King’s own brother.”
Charlie and Mia gasped. “Did she kill him?” asked Mia.
“Nobody knows for sure. The King was distraught, and took revenge. He locked away their powers in the emerald and banished them from the kingdom forever.”
There was witches power in the emerald? No wonder it did such magical things.
Charlie was suddenly all too aware of the glass in his pyjamas, feeling its cold surface pressing heavily against his chest through the flimsy material of his top. It felt like a piece of heavy lead, pushing on his skin, weighing him down. His eyes widened. He reached in and removed it from its safe place.
Laying it on the palm of his right hand, Mia and he stared at the magical orb. As they studied it, Kavator continued, sounding solemn all of a sudden.
“The witches have been in hiding ever since. They have been known to have moved around from place to place, but they are always steps ahead of the king. It has been whispered that for the past two years they have taken up home fifty miles to the East of here, in the ruins of the ancient city of Derwent. But the king has had no desire to start up a war, and has let them be. And everything has been peaceful. Up until this week, that is”.
“Why, what has happened this week”. Mia shivered. She didn’t know whether it was from the cool breeze that was starting to sweep across the meadow, or from the ominous tone of Kavator’s voice.
“Yeah, what have the witches done to make the king want this back now?” said Charlie. He was fully engrossed in Kavator's tale. He couldn’t wait for the dragon to finish. He still didn’t know why they were here, but the more of the tale that Kavator told, the more intrigued he became. He was starting to think the witches wanted their powers back.
“The reason that you have been called here is because of the emerald. The King needs it back. The witches have kidnapped his only daughter, Shyla, and hidden her away, demanding their powers back in return for her return.”
Shyla. The name from the vision. It was all coming together.
“Well that’s easy to solve” Charlie said smoothly, confident that he had just found the solution to the problem. “Here you are, you can have it back”. He held out his arm towards the dragon, waiting for Kavator to take it.
However, the dragon wasn’t interested. He spoke again, and his words were not something that Charlie wanted to hear.
“If only it were that simple.”
 “Why not” Mia complained, not reading into the dragon’s words as well as Charlie had. She seemed oblivious to the idea that they were not going to get home any time soon. “This is what you need, and here it is. Take it.” She stood up, grabbed the glass from Charlie’s hand and walked over to Kavator with it. Again, Kavator let it be.
“Without its keeper, that glass is useless to both the king and Morvonia.” he explained.
“What do you mean” asked Mia sharply.
“King Jordain never wanted the witches to have their power back. To try and keep them away from it, he decided to hide the glass in your world.  He had hoped that he would never need it back again, but he couldn’t be sure. So he stated that if ever the power were to be released, it had to be done so by three people at the same time. This ensured that in order for the witches to get their power back, three specific people must be present. It also meant that if Morvonia ever did get her hands on it, she wouldn’t be able to unlock its energy on her own.”
Charlie felt he knew what was coming next and he didn’t like it.
“Three people?” Charlie asked.
“Yes, three people. The king himself, obviously, and the head witch” he continued steadily.
“And the third person is the keeper” finished Mia smugly.
“That’s correct.” nodded Kavator.
“No way”, bursted out Mia, guessing correctly. “Charlie, the keeper of the glass?” She laughed out loud.
“My brother cannot possibly be the keeper”. Her face was alight with amusement. “He isn’t a hero, he couldn’t even get third place in the skateboarding competition at school today” she teased.
“That’s not my fault and you know it” said Charlie defensively. “It was the visions fault. Without that I’d have come first place, guaranteed.
“You have visions?” asked Kavator slowly.
“Yes” admitted Charlie begrudgingly, annoyed at himself for letting the fact slip. “I suppose you think I’m weird now too, just like everyone else at school.”
“Not at all.” said Kavator slowly. “In fact far from it. I knew someone once who had similar talents. It’s rather interesting to learn of this fact. Rather interesting indeed”.
He was hiding something, but didn’t give Charlie a chance to question him before moving on. 
“Charlie indeed is the keeper.” he confirmed.
 “But I can’t be the keeper.” Charlie protested. “I haven’t got a clue about how to fight witches. How can I possibly help you?”
“Leave the fighting part to me. All you have to do is deliver the stone and repeat the spell that the others must and I will do all of the hard stuff”.
Charlie didn’t look convinced. And neither did his sister.  
“Well like it or not, you must save us now”. Kavator was beginning to sound impatient.
“And just why is that” said Mia, an indignant tone in her voice. Charlie stood up, wiping the grass from the seat of his pants. He also didn’t see why they should stay if they were going to be in such danger. After all, it’s not like they knew anyone in Atronia, apart from Kavator, and Charlie had to admit, so far, he didn’t really like the dragon too much. He didn’t seem very fond of kids at all.
“Well, unfortunately for you, you cannot go home until this matter is sorted” said Kavator simply. “The portal will not now open from this emerald until the King decides it so, and he is not likely to do this until his daughter is safe and sound.”
“That’s not fair” spluttered Charlie angrily. Charlie was never normally so opinionated with anyone but his sister, and Mia looked surprised.
“He can’t force us to do this.” he continued. He quickly marched over to Kavator. The dragon sensed their defiance, and got up from his position on the ground. He bowed his head and looked Charlie straight in the eyes.
“The King has no other option than to ask you for your help. One day you may understand. But for now, this is the way that it must be.”
As much as Charlie hated the fact he felt like a prisoner himself, if the dragon was right about them not being able to leave, had no other choice. They were trapped. And they couldn’t very well sit in that meadow forever.
“Besides” Kavator said, breaking the silence “King Jordain has assigned me the task of ensuring your safety. I work for the king, as do all of the dragons here in Atronia. I have defended him and his people many times over the years and I have never been beaten yet. You are safe with me, I guarantee it.” Kavator looked to the sky. The sun was getting lower.
“The days are shorter here than they are in your world.” he told the twins. “We only have twelve hour cycles.  It is getting late and we should get moving. There is only a short while before we will need to find somewhere to set up camp for the night. We can’t stay here, it gets very cold in open spaces.”
At the mention of the cold, Charlie and Mia both shivered. Charlie rubbed his arms as goose pimples popped up on his body. They were after all still in their pyjamas.
“And we also must stay under cover, away from watching eyes. We have most likely been here too long as it is, and the witches will be hunting for us.”
Charlie shivered once more, this time from fear rather than cold.
“What about our mother?” Mia asked, thinking about their lives back home. “She’ll call the police when she finds out we are missing. She may already have already noticed. She must be worried sick”.
Charlie remembered the clock that seemed to have stopped working when they had entered the portal.
“Do not worry about that” said Kavator. “Time will stay still for them as long as the emerald is here in Atronia. When it opens the portal back, time will resume as normal. It will be as if you never left. Your mother will be none the wiser.”
“Oh” said Charlie and Mia without anything else to say. There was nothing left to do but follow their guide. They had nothing to lose, and after all, the dragon seemed to be very trustworthy. At least Charlie hoped so. After all, if he were the keeper, as the dragon had claimed, the king wouldn’t want anything to happen to him that would put him in danger.
“We must go now.” said Kavator. He turned around, and the twins had to quickly jump out of the way to avoid being swept over by his tail. He started walking toward the pebbled track which led from the meadow into the dark forest, his huge body swaying widely from side to side as he walked.
Charlie took a few cautionary steps forward, with Mia following closely at his side. They shared a look that said it all, ‘let’s do it’, and both hurried their pace to quickly catch up with their guide. Moments later they had entered the trees and had left the meadow well and truly behind them.
They were so concerned with catching up with the dragon that they failed notice the dark shadow that was silently snaking its way through the trees after them, being very careful to avoid making any noise.

Chapter Five – Flying gold
Charlie and Mia were keeping their distance behind Kavator as they walked. Charlie didn’t feel comfortable around him yet, and besides, wanted to speak to Mia alone.
“What do you think of all of this then” he asked his sister. He wanted her opinion. He knew he was still stunned.
“I can’t believe it’s really happening to be honest. I feel like I’m in a dream. Its surreal.” Mia’s pretty face knotted up into a frown.
“I know right?” said Charlie. “I just hope we get back home. I don’t want to be here for the rest of my life.”
“Don’t think like that” scorned Mia. “I couldn’t possibly be here forever. I have a great life back at home. There’s no way I want to be stuck in medievalville for ever. I bet they don’t have any shopping malls here. How primitive”
Charlie thought back to his normal life. Apart from his mum, and James, he really didn’t have anything to miss. But like Mia, he still wanted to go back. His mum and James were enough.
The two returned to walking in silence. Charlie was intently studying the back of Kavator, amazed at how large he was, when a loud SQUAWK pierced the silence, forcing him dead in his tracks.
“What was that?” he said as Mia grabbed his arm. A dark shadow flickered over the path in front of them and they both looked up to the sky.
Kavator had also stopped, and turned around.
“Ah” he said smiling for the first time since Charlie had met him. It was a gruesome grin. Too many teeth to look inviting.
“The Golden Teller is here. This is good.”
“And just what is a golden teller?” asked Mia, her left eyebrow raised.
“The Golden Teller is the Kings pride and joy. It is the greatest of all the eagles and has a very special job to carry out. It journeys with one of the Aguathorn dragons around the kingdom and beyond, delivering news. It also acts as a very useful pair of eyes, one may say together they are the King’s spies.”
The eagle swooped down grandly and landed on the ground next to Charlie. Charlie jumped out of the way to avoid being stepped on.
“Is everything in this place going to make us look like miniatures” he protested as the large eagle towered above them.
“You haven’t seen anything yet” said Kavator. “Just wait until you see the snails.”
“Snails, what snails? I don’t like snails, or anything else that is slimy for that matter” blabbered Mia with a shudder.
Charlie ignored her as he turned his attention back to the eagle. The most remarkable thing about the creature was its feathers. They glistened gold in the afternoon light, sparkling luxuriously. Charlie thought they must be worth a lot of money. Think of how many computer games he could get from one of them.
“A bit like the goose who laid the golden egg” Charlie said in awe. He reached out to pluck a feather from the bird thinking of selling it when he got back home, but the eagle was having none of it. It screeched indignantly, and pecked Charlie’s hand away protectively.
Mia and Kavator laughed as Charlie fled from the attacking Teller.
“Not such a wise move” Kavator advised, an amused glint in his dark eyes. “The teller is very protective of its feathers. And rightfully so too. There are worth quite a penny and it would be plucked bare if it didn’t defend itself.”
Charlie glared at the bird, which was now contentedly ruffling its plume. How he would love to grab and handful and show the animal just who was boss.
“Whitlaw” Kavator said coolly as a smaller creature than he jumped off the eagle’s back. “Glad to see you.”
Charlie sensed the tension in the air. He didn’t believe Kavator was glad to see the dragon at all.
Whitlaw tied the reins around a hook on the eagle’s neck, and hopped his way across the ground on his hind legs, moving in away similar to an ostrich. Charlie took an instant dislike to this new dragon. There was something sneaky about the way his eyes darted around. And he wasn’t even really a dragon in Charlie’s opinion. He was more like a rather large lizard. At a third of the size of Kavator and only a foot taller than himself, he was nothing spectacular to look at. And it was the most putrid shade of yellow. With lumpy skin covered in boils, it looked like someone had just thrown up on it.
“No, it’s glad to see YOU” said Whitlaw with a raspy voice. “The King will be most glad to hear the news that you are here and well”. His voice rubbed on Charlie’s ear drums like sandpaper. It wasn’t a pleasant sound.
“Has there been any news of Shyla?” Kavator asked hopefully.
“Nothing new. As you would expect. The witches are keeping silent.”
“Hmm. How is the King?”
Whitlaw shook his head in dismay. “Not well I’m afraid. I don’t think he has slept more than five minutes at a time since his daughter was taken.”
“Well, you can tell him from me that we are well, and we should be there within three days. At least that will be some good news for him.”
“You know, you could make it a lot easier on yourselves if you just flew back with me” suggested Whitlaw.
“I know it would be, but no, it’s just too risky. The witches have their seeing globe. They would be upon us within the hour.”
“Very well” said Whitlaw, looking at Charlie and Mia for the first time.
“There are two keepers?” he questioned in a flat tone. “Don’t we just need the one?”
“An accident” replied Kavator. “It was just supposed to be the boy. But we can’t send her home until the portal is open so we are stuck with her.”
“Yes, stuck with her” Charlie elbowed his sister, relishing in the fact for once, it was he who people wanted around, not Mia. Mia pouted.
“These are Charlie and Mia….. Oh, you never told me your last name?” Kavator said.
“It’s Briggs” answered Charlie. “Charlie and Mia Briggs.”
On the mention of their surname, Kavator’s face turned to stone. The eagle started to get distressed and immediately began shuffling around in the dirt, making the loudest squawks that Charlie had ever heard. Whitelaw’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. He opened his mouth to say something, but Kavator quickly stepped in the way, stopping him from uttering a word.
“Easy girl” he said quietly to the eagle, and the bird started to calm down. For such a large creature, Kavator had a way of soothing the animal. The bird settled down, and proudly went back to pruning its feathers.
But Charlie was not about to ignore what had just happened when he uttered the name Briggs.
“Well you best be off” said Kavator to Whitlaw, and nudged him towards the eagle.
Whitelaw didn’t say a word, just hopped over to the bird, and crawled up onto its back.
“I will see you in a few days then” he said to Kavator, and shot Charlie a very strange look indeed, before guiding the eagle up into the sky. They both hovered there, only a few feet off the ground. “Take care Kavator. And mind what happened the last time you had care of a human from the other world! You wouldn’t want a repeat of that.”
“Just go” said Kavator crossly.
Seconds later, the Gold Teller and Whitlaw were gone, vanished over the tree tops.
“What on earth was that?” said Charlie.
“I don’t know what you are talking about” said Kavator as he turned to go. “We need to get a move on, it is getting dark.”
“That look you shot Whitlaw when I told you my last name” he said. “What was that all about?”
“There was no look” said Kavator sternly.
“There so was” butted in Mia, “I noticed it too.”
“No you didn’t”.
“And what happened when you last took care of people. You never told us anything about that. You said we would be safe with you.” pressed Charlie.
Kavator snapped. He turned around angrily.
“There was no look.” he growled fiercely, and flames shot out from his mouth. “Will the two of you just be quiet.”
Charlie was taken aback. And a little frightened. The dragon was mad, and he decided to drop the issue. He didn’t want to be barbequed to a crisp before his twelfth birthday.
In a calmer tone, that was still stern, Kavator continued. “You are safe with me. I can guarantee you that. Whitlaw doesn’t know what he is talking about. He is a fool that the King keeps around for… well I don’t know why he keeps him around. There are plenty who could do his job, and a whole lot better if you ask me. Now hurry up. I don’t want to be in the open space come nightfall. Even I cannot protect you from the packs of wolves that hunt around these parts.”
Turning his back on them, he walked on boldly.
Charlie and Mia dutifully followed, spooked at the dragon’s actions, keeping close together just for comfort. Charlie couldn’t shake the feeling that Kavator was not telling them the full story. There was more to that dragon than met the eye. And Charlie was determined to find out what it was. But for the time being he would keep quiet.
And what was that remark about wolves? No-one had said anything about wolves. Charlie groaned. This was going to be a very long journey indeed.

Chapter Six – First sight
Continuing through the forest, the small dirt track moulded into a clear path which wound its way through the tallest trees Charlie had ever seen. Their branches seemed to reach upwards forever. The flowers growing alongside the path were all luminous, the colours jumped out of the ground in pinks, blues, and yellows. Every so often, he caught sight of a pair of eyes peering at them through the bushes. Little woodland creatures were watching them, curious as to who this strange trio was.
As he trudged alone, one of these creatures darted out from its cover onto the road in front of them,  and Charlie had to quickly jump out of the way to avoid trampling it to death.
“Whoa” he cried as he bent down to see what it was.
“Pests” stated an uninterested Kavator as he sidestepped it and carried on his way. “The forest is full of them. They are nothing but a nuisance. They get into the palace and steal all of the food.”
Mia stopped following Kavator, and walked over to Charlie, interested in seeing what her brother had discovered.
“Oh my gosh” she gasped as she looked down at it. “It’s a tiny little person.”
“Pixie” corrected Kavator from further up the path. “They are not people. They are pixies. I’m telling you, just leave it alone.”
The twins continued to ignore Kavator, their curiosity too strong. Charlie was not going to pass up such an unusual experience. He scooped this creature up in his hands and brought it up to his eyes for closer inspection.
It looked cross, not at all pleased about the fact that he was being handled by this monstrous brute. It was jumping around like a little madman, stamping its feet and looking for a way to get down.
“If he’s not careful, he’s going to fall” said Charlie as the tiny man skidded to a stop at the edge of his hand. He was saying something, but his voice was too small for Charlie to hear, no matter how close he got.
“You had better put him down” said Mia, backing off a little. “He really doesn’t look happy.
“I think I should” laughed Charlie
“He’s going to pull a muscle.” and he bent down to return the pixie to the floor. The pixie ran back to the side of the path for safety.
How cute. But the pixie was certainly not cute. With a swift movement as quick as the eye he took out a thin pipe from his pocket, aimed one end at Charlie, and blew sharply into the other side. It delivered a thin spike right into Charlie’s foot. He looked down to the dart stuck in his big toe.
“Ow” yelled Charlie instantly as a throbbing pain spread up his foot to his leg. The pixie ran away under the nearest bush and was gone before Charlie could do anything about it.
Mia burst into laughter. “I told you he didn’t look too happy” she said though her grin. “You shouldn’t have picked him up”.
“I only wanted to say hello”, Charlie said. “What a mean rotten thing to do”. He looked down at his toe, and plucked out the needle.
“What did he shoot at you” said a highly amused Mia.
“I’m not sure” Charlie looked at the needle, and then discarded it into the bushes in annoyance.
“Come on, we better go catch up with Kavator. We’d better tell him about your war wound. They may have to amputate your foot.” his sister teased.
Charlie shot her a cross stare as they rushed to catch up with the dragon. “That’s just hilarious.”
“Hey Kavator” called Mia as she ran up to the dragon. “Charlie just got shot in the foot off that pixie.”
Kavator shook his head. “I did warn you that they were pests. They hide mostly, coming out only for food. There are skittish little things. I’m surprised that you actually were able to get close enough to one so that they could indeed get a clear shot. I say bravo to the pixie.”
“What?” asked Charlie indignantly. “I thought you were on my side.”
“Not when you don’t listen to me I’m not. Let me see the damage.”
Charlie showed him his toe, which was starting to swell and turn a funny shade of purple.
“Hmmmmm” thought the dragon. “I think it was most likely a poisoned dart. They use such weapons to protect themselves from attackers.”
“Poisoned.” Charlie suddenly felt very woozy. A rush of blood made his head tingle. He didn’t like the term poisoned.
“Oh yes” said Kavator, continuing. “It could be quite serious actually. In fact, an injury like that just may need medical attention”.
“What?” Charlie whispered, his voice little more than a gasp. Failing to notice the cheeky wink that Kavator shared with Mia, he swayed on the spot. Mia stifled a giggle.
“Dear me, and we have no way of seeing a doctor out here in the middle of nowhere. It may be days before we can get you help. You most likely will have to have that foot of yours chopped off. And that’s the best case scenario.” Kavator’s face feigned concern.
Well that was it for poor Charlie. He fell backwards into his sister and sunk to the floor.
At this point Mia couldn’t hold back her laughter anymore. She burst out into hysterics, tears streaming down her face. Her brother’s ashen face looked lost.
Then he realised that he had been taken for a fool.
“That’s just plain mean” he said crossly at the dragon. “I could have had a heart attack with worry. You shouldn’t lie about things like that.”
“Charlie has a fear of doctors.” explained Mia through her laughter. “He always faints when he gets an injection at school.”
“Do not.” Protested Charlie.  Pretending to be huffed, he secretly admitted it was pretty funny. He hadn’t thought that Kavator had a light hearted side to him. He seemed so serious all of the time.
But the fun was short lived, and Kavator got back to business.
 “That needle was nothing. The pixies dip their darts in a plant extract to fend off attackers. At your size, it won’t do you any harm, just cause a mild irritation. He was most likely just in a foul mood about being manhandled. It would be like me grabbing you up and prodding you with my tail.”
“I guess” Charlie agreed. He hadn’t thought about it like that.
 “What we do need to think about however, are your clothes” said Kavator to Charlie and Mia, looking over what they were wearing. “You are not exactly dressed for this. You wouldn’t have felt a thing if you had been wearing shoes.”
Charlie looked over at Mia, and then down at himself. They had been so concerned about their unusual circumstances that they hadn’t stopped to think that they were still in their pyjamas.
Kavator stayed quiet. “I have an idea” he finally said after a minute. He lowered his enormous belly to the ground. “Hop on” he said, flicking his tail down, to create a ramp for them to use to climb up on.
“Whoa, what about what Whitlaw said?” Charlie said, remembering back to what the dragon had mentioned about something happening to a human once while riding on Kavator.”
“You can trust me” said Kavator earnestly.
“Well Ok then” said Charlie. Hesitantly he walked to the end of Kavator’s tail and grabbed onto one of the spikes. It was cold, and very smooth. Underneath Charlie’s fingers, it felt like polished marble.
As he started to climb up, using the spikes as hand grips, feeling very much like an adventurous mountain climber, he began to feel a new sense of confidence. In fact, he was actually starting to relax.
“This is awesome” said Charlie with a big fat grin on his face “Hitching a ride off a dragon, what could be cooler than this.”
“Well how am I supposed to get up on there” Mia said haughtily as she crossed her arms. Charlie rolled his eyes as he continued to the top. Here was Mia’s stubbornness on its way. 
“You do gymnastics” Charlie yelled down at her. “If you can’t get up a little old dragon, then maybe they should kick you off the team.”
That was enough to get Mia’s butt into gear. She had never let her brother get the better of her. Charlie knew exactly what motivated his sister.  
“I’ll show you who’s the better climber.” she said as she scaled the dragon’s back.
 Charlie had already reached the top and was making himself comfortable as Mia struggled up. At last, she plopped down alongside Charlie, and grabbed hold of a rather large spike sticking out of the dragon’s back.
“You were saying?” Charlie smirked.
“Oh shut up” retorted Mia, catching her breath.
“You both ready? Or do you need to squabble just a little bit more?”
“He started it” said Mia. And she turned away from Charlie.
“Were ready” laughed Charlie.
“OK, then. Here we go. Hold on tight”. Kavator got up with a great swing and Mia clung on for dear life. The twins lurched forward with him, and then back again as Kavator stood up.
“Oh wow” said Charlie again “awesome. It’s like being on a camel. Remember those camels we were on in Egypt” Charlie said to his twin. But Mia didn’t reply. Eyes squeezed tightly shut, Charlie assumed she was busy praying for her life.
Kavator started to move forward. Three strides and Charlie began think his sister was onto something. It was an awful long way down. And there wasn’t much in the form of reigns to hold on to. He had to duck sharply as he came inches away from being hit in the face by a long spiky tree branch.
“Watch out” called Mia to Kavator over Charlie’s shoulder, finally opening her eyes.
“Sorry” the dragon called back. “I’m not used to having to worry about tree branches. I never normally have passengers on my back”.
They continued like this for another half an hour or so, with Kavator bounding onwards, and the twins every so often dodging something in their way. No more was said between them for a while.
Kavator was concentrating on making very good time. The twins had started to enjoy the ride, once they realised they weren’t going to fall off. And there was a peacefulness in the air that was only broken by the bubbling of water from the river they seemed to be following.
It was Kavator who finally broke the silence.
“We must see about getting some daytime clothes for you two” Kavator he spoke up. “We can’t very well have you dressed like this for all the time that you are here. The weather may not always be this kind. But it will have to wait until the morning.”
Charlie looked over to the top of the mountains that could be seen peeking out over the treetops, a little way in front of them. The sun was going down, bathing the mountains in a warm orange glow. It looked wonderful. Much better than the sunsets he had seen at home.
“Fortunately we are not far from the foot of those mountains” he said, referring to the range Charlie had just admired. “We have friends there. They protect the gateway. They stop anything moving between here and the other side. Tomorrow we will have them provide us with more appropriate attire and some good solid footwear. There are most generous, and will see that we have what we need”.
“Why do they need to stop things moving around?” Mia asked.
“Just a precaution. Some strange things have been going on in there this past year. But every time The King sends his army to look, he can’t find a thing.
“What strange things” Charlie asked tensely.
“Oh, large nests appearing from nowhere yet without any eggs in them. The disappearance of cattle from the local area. Burning patches of trees.”
 “Couldn’t we just go another way to the palace” pleaded Mia. “Charlie tell him.”
“I agree with Mia” Charlie said. “It does sound dangerous.”
“This is the most direct route to the palace. To take a detour would add days to our journey. We just haven’t got the time for such a delay.”
“But what use will it be to the king if we end up dead along the way? Shouldn’t we at least consider taking a different route?”
“You worry far too much” Kavator said to Charlie. “Like I said before, no one has seen a thing. Whatever is in there wants to hide.”
This didn’t comfort Charlie at all, but he didn’t say anything further.
That was until, without any kind of warning, Kavator stopped walking, and the pair fell forwards with a heavy jerk, nearly tumbling off the back of the giant dragon.
“Urggg” they both groaned at him, Mia rubbing a battered arm, and Charlie steadying himself back to his seated position.
“Sorry. I’m just not used to having passengers”
“Well try to remember in future” moaned Charlie. 
“We will stop here for the night” Kavator decided , ignoring them. “It is as good a place as any.”
Charlie could see the small clearing through the trees that Kavator was referring to. The twins took turns to climb off Kavator, Charlie first. It was not the most graceful of dismounts.
“It’s a lot harder coming down that going up” he called back up to Mia as he neared the end of the dragon’s tail. He jumped the last three feet and steadied himself as both of his feet hit the ground. “Watch what you’re doing” he shouted.
Too late. Mia got her foot caught around one of Kavator’s protruding spikes and lost her footing. Tumbling the rest of the way down she hit the dirt with a loud thud.
“If I fall to earth one more time today I swear I am going to scream” she huffed as scrambled to her feet, wiping the dust from her legs. She followed Charlie to stand in front of Kavator.
“Maybe I need to get some built in ladders back there” Kavator joked, surprising Charlie. So far he had not come across as being very light hearted, and even a small quip sounded unlike the dragon.
Kavator started walking into the trees and towards the clearing. Charlie and Mia followed. They continued, pushing through the bushes and the trees, the branches tearing into their arms and legs sharply.  
Out of the blue, Charlie felt a sharp tug at the collar of his pyjama shirt. His feet left the forest floor with a whoosh and he dangled helplessly in the middle of the air before swinging forward. Kicking his legs, it took him a few seconds to realise he was in the grip of Kavator’s jaws.
“Hey put me down” protested Charlie as Kavator lifted him the full length of his long neck and place him onto the safety of the top branch of a rather enormous gnarly tree. Dwarfing his bonsais that his mum had at home, it was the biggest tree Charlie had ever seen. Well the biggest apart from those Sequoias in California. Apparently you could drive a van through the trunk of one of those. His friend James had been last summer and had told him all about it.
“Just making sure you are safe for this evening” said Kavator as he did the same with Mia.
“Ahhhhh” she screamed , kicking her legs wildly as she was carried up the tree. “Put me down”.
Kavator obliged, placing her on a branch that was just above Charlie’s. She hastily wriggled closer to the trunk and found some smaller branches to grab hold of.
“You could have warned us you were about to do that” said Mia, composing herself. “Next time I’d appreciate a bit of a warning”.
“As you wish” said Kavator none perturbed.  
“Why are we not allowed to sleep on the ground?” Charlie asked as he swung his legs over the side and dangled them playfully. Less fearful than Mia, he was used to being at the edge of really high edges thanks to his skate board ramp.
“Well do you remember that pixie?” asked Kavator.
Charlie nodded his head confused. Surely the pixie wouldn’t be able to do much harm to them.
“Well, they aren’t the only thing you have to worry about” Kavator explained. “There are predators in the woods at night looking for food. Me, I am more than they could handle. But they would certainly take a pop at you and Mia. It is best if you sleep up there.”
Mia peeked over the edge. “But what if we fall out” she complained. “We’ll break our necks!”
“Well then I suggest you don’t roll over”.
Knowing this would not make Mia feel any better, Charlie looked up at Mia.
“Don’t worry, if you fall out, I’ll be the one to break your fall.”
Mia giggled a little.
“Fine” she conceded.
The twins quieted down and lay back as Kavator set about making up their camp. He tore off two extremely large leaves from a nearby tree with his teeth, and placed one each over Charlie and Mia. The leaves were big enough to cover them fully. “Not exactly as comfortable as your beds at home I’m sure, but at least you won’t go cold”.
Charlie agreed on the lack of comfort part. The leaf was hard and waxy and he wasn’t able to wrap it around himself. It just lay on top of him like a stiff piece of cardboard. The branch he was lying on was too scratchy, and he just couldn’t get comfortable.
“I will light a fire for the night” said Kavator from down beneath them. Charlie watched him disappear into the thick forest presumably to find sticks to start a fire with.
When it was clear that Kavator had moved far enough away so that he was out of earshot, Charlie spoke up. The sun had completely set and it had turned dark.
“Mia” he whispered. “Are you still awake”
“I doubt I’ll get any sleep at all tonight” she replied wryly.
“Can you believe all of this?” Charlie continued.  “I’m wondering if I’ve had a meltdown and am imaging the whole thing!”
“Well if you have then I have too. But I’m pretty sure that it’s all real. I still feel like me”.
“Yeah, me too” Charlie said.
They lay there without speaking. The forest had turned completely silent and there was a comforting calmness in the clearing. For the first time since they had left his bedroom, Charlie actually felt safe.
“Charlie” said Mia breaking the silence.
“Are you scared?”
Charlie was a little surprised by this question. His sister was normally the confident one, the one who could handle anything, the one with all the friends at school. She was involved with every club going. For her to imply she was scared while he felt brave was very unusual.
“I was when we arrived here” Charlie admitted. “But now I feel a lot more confident.  Kavator seems to know what he is doing, and I think that we can trust him.”
“But what about the witches, and wolves, and the predators he spoke of before?” she replied. “How are we supposed to get through this in one piece? We’re not warriors Charlie, we’re just kids.”
“I have faith” said Charlie, his voice full of confidence. “Kavator will keep us safe”
Charlie was about to say more, but he quickly closed his mouth as he heard Kavator come crashing back through the forest to where they were. Charlie peered down through the darkness and saw the dragon’s shadowy frame moving about beneath them. Out of the corner of his eye he thought he glimpsed a further movement, but when he turned his head to inspect, he couldn’t see anything. A simple trick of the eye. Not surprising, considering how tired he was.
He watched as Kavator opened his mouth and let a pile of sticks fall to a clear space on the ground, not far away from the tree where Mia and Charlie were lying in. He took his mouth down to ground level, opened it wide, and with a quick blast and a sort of a funny snorting noise, shot a straight line of fire right into the middle of the pile. The branches set light immediately, and a small fire was soon burning. It wasn’t very large, but instantly Charlie felt much warmer.
Kavator laid down on his stomach. Just like a dog, he curled his neck around his body and placed his head on the ground, eyes tight shut. Charlie watched him for a while, glad of the light from the fire, looking at the dragon’s giant chest breathing in and out. He hadn’t just been saying it to make Mia feel better, he actually DID feel safe knowing that Kavator was directly underneath them. He stifled a yawn and realised he was very tired indeed. He hadn’t a clue how long they had been awake for, but he knew it must have been a long time. He was exhausted.
Turning his attention away from Kavator, he settled down back onto the branch. He could hear Mia snoring quietly beside him, not too far away. It hadn’t taken her very long to get to sleep at all. Charlie closed his eyes and in minutes the crackling of the fire below lulled him off into a sound sleep. A sleep that took him a million miles away from his adventure in Atronia and back to his safe bedroom in Bedlingshire.
His sleep didn’t last long. And frankly Charlie was starting to get sick of his bloody visions. They had been far too frequent the last two days, haunting him wherever he went.
His bubble was back. Imprisoning him once again. Only there was a slight difference. He could just make out a faint line in the sphere’s skin that formed a rectangular opening. Would he be able to walk through this gap and actually enter this world. But how could he enter the future. That just went against all the laws of the universe.
He cautiously stepped out of his warm bubble, and instantly felt a cold damp air wrap its arms around him.
“Who’s there?” he heard a frightened voice call out from the darkness.
Charlie jumped and thought about going back to his bubble, not wanting to risk anything by interacting with someone in his vision, But something made him stay, and he bravely fought the urge to run. Whoever this was, she didn’t sound threatening. In fact, she sounded ten times more afraid than Charlie felt.
“Leave me alone” he heard the same voice sob through tears. “Whoever you are, leave me alone.”
Looking around, Charlie could see that the only illumination was a sliver of warm gold sneaking in from underneath the gap between the door and the stony ground.
“Don’t be frightened” Charlie said through the darkness. “I’m Charlie. I’m not here to harm you.”
When he didn’t get a reply he continued. “Who are you?”
After what seemed like forever, the female voice spoke up again.
“How did you get in here?” she asked attentively. “Are you one of them?”
“No. I’m just a boy. I don’t know how I got here” said Charlie truthfully. His visions were still a mystery even to him.
Waiting awkwardly in the dark for her to speak again, Charlie had a feeling he knew already who this must be. Could it really be the princess?
“I’m Shyla” she offered meekly. “I’m being held here against my will”.
So it was the princess.
“I know, I’ve been brought here to help you.”
“Really?”. Shyla’s voice filled the room with hope, and Charlie felt stronger than he had since he arrived. He would not let her down.
“Really” he confirmed boldly. “But I’m not sure if I can do it now.”
“What do you mean?” asked Shyla. “Why can’t you help me now?”
“It’s a long story” groaned Charlie not wanting to get into his jumps just at that moment. “I’ll explain later. But for now, is there anything you can tell me that may help once we get here for real?”
“For real?” asked Shyla sounding puzzled.
“Yes for real” Charlie repeated. “But you must hurry. I may be gone soon. I can’t control how long I get to stay.”
“I’m not sure that I know anything. All I know is that one minute I was standing drinking from a water fountain, and the next thing I knew a witch slipped a sack over my head and dragged me to here on her broom.”
She was stopped suddenly by the sharp clicking of footsteps coming down the hall. Descending into silence, Charlie could hear her shuffle away into a corner, and he himself raced back to the protection of his bubble. He wasn’t ready to face a witch, not quite yet.
The steps came to a stop right outside the door, replaced by the sound of a key being placed into the lock. Turning with a loud squeaking noise, the motion made Charlie shudder. It seemed to take forever for the dreadful sound to cease.
When it did finally stop, there were several agonising seconds of silence, before the heavy wooden door swung slowly open into the room with a creaky groan.
Charlie turned his head away from the sudden bright light that flooded the room, and blinked repeatedly. The light pouring into the cell was almost unbearable after being in the near blackness of the cell. He caught a glimpse of Shyla from the corner of his eye. Apart from her obvious beauty, she had the most amazing hair he had ever seen. A mass of blonde bouncy curls. Like heaven spun.
Ew he thought to himself. Since when did he get so soppy.
He didn’t have too much time to marvel at he though, because as he turned to face the door, in glided that witch, the one from his visions. He froze. Would she be able to see him like Shyla had. A feeling of dread buried its way into his bones. He held his breath sharply.
Looking at her he was mesmerised by her presence. A long black flowing cloak was draped over her shoulders, extending down to the floor, flowing around her feet like a veil. Feet that were sitting in pointy leather shoes finished off with a gold clasp on the front. Her long sharp fingernails looked positively lethal and her shiny black hair framed her face perfectly, wavy and thick.
But it was the eyes that chilled him the most. Piercing green eyes that once again seemed to read his soul.
She was looking right at him. So she had seen him?
But he needn’t have worried. She was oblivious to his presence. Bypassing him by the skin of a cat, she walked over menacingly to where Shyla was tied to the wall. Shyla sat with her shoulders pushed back, forcing a look of defiance onto her otherwise pretty face. A far cry from the frightening whimper he had heard floating across to him through the dark cell. Shyla knew how to put on a very good act. The witch paused in front of the princess, looking down at her with a cruel, wicked smile.
“Shyla dear” were the first words she spoke, words laced with a high pitched coo. A sharp chill danced down Charlie’s spine.
Shyla said not one word. Instead she coolly looked Morvonia in the eyes and held her stare with a forced nonchalance.
When it became apparent that Shyla was not going to play, the witch quickly changed her tune, and her voice went from false sweetness to a one that spat out venom.
“Shyla, your father has still not delivered on his promise. I am still waiting for that emerald. Maybe it’s time that I sent for my spies”.
“Morvonia” Charlie blurted out thinking he was safe hidden in his vision. But at his words the witch looked up quickly and scanned the room.
“What was that?” she said sharply. “Is someone else in here?”
Charlie clasped his hand over his mouth and held his breath anxiously. Surely she had not been able to hear him.
Morvonia walked around the room, and came to a stop inches away from Charlie.
Charlie’s heart started to race around inside his chest as he held his body deadly still. If Morvonia somehow managed to see him, he was surely going to end up tied to that wall just like Shyla. Or maybe even worse.
 Trying hard to push these thoughts from his mind, he continued to wait. Just as he was about to pass out from the stress, much to his relief, Morvonia simply shrugged and returned to Shyla.
Charlie breathed in a heavy sigh. He hadn’t been caught. That time. But he would have to be extremely quiet from then on. Just in case. He looked out past the open door and into the hallway. He could just make out an axe hanging on the wall facing the cell. It looked rusty, and no doubt anyone being cut by it would die of a horrid infection way before any injury killed them off. 
What interested him more though was he door itself. The hinges looked just like the ones on the shed that was in his garden at home. And he had managed to pop them once last summer when his mum had lost the key and his poor bike had been buried away inside it.
Turning back to the witch, he watched helplessly as she reached down and tightened the ropes that were imprisoning Shyla. A wince clouded the princess’s otherwise pretty features and Charlie wished he could do something to help her. She looked to be about the same age as Mia and he, and he felt some kind of connection to her.  
Charlie saw Morvonia straighten herself up again, towering over Shyla.
“So very sorry dear” she spat. Charlie didn’t think she was very sorry at all, and the evil glint of joy in her eyes plainly showed it. “Can’t very well have you escaping and running back home now can we? These need to be tight.”
Morvonia chuckled and then inhaled sharply. “I guess you mustn't be that important to him after all”. Charlie thought that an extremely twisted thing to say and looked at Shyla.
“That’s not true you wicked old hag” Shyla responded, obviously upset at the cruel words.
Morvonia's face darkened and Charlie felt the temperature in the room plummet to near freezing. He could see his breath turn to fog in the air in front of him. He was still amazed that Morvonia could not see him.
Even though Charlie willed her to be quiet, fearful of what the witch may do to the princess, Shyla continued.
“No one wants you back. Everyone thinks what you did to those poor men was despicable. My father should have burned you at the stake”.
At these words, Morvonia’s face twisted into something unrecognisable. Her cheeks became sunken and sallow, and he chin grew long and thin. All the anger and poison and bitterness trapped inside her shone out through her face, disfiguring her features into that of pure evil.  
Charlie prayed it to end, not wanting to see anymore of her glowing red eyes.  
A wind rushed around the room, causing her cape to billow out around her. Lightning bolts flashed repeatedly above them from a storm cloud that bizarrely appeared above them in the room.
“Your father is nothing more than a foolish man, just like the men he proclaims to protect” the witch snapped. He voice was no longer quite human. It had taken on a deep echoing sound.
Morvonia smiled slyly, her puckered lips spreading thinly like spiders legs across her jaw.
As the mini storm raged on above their heads Morvonia started to shriek, a mindless laugh that caused Charlie’s blood to run cold. This witch was bad enough without her powers. He dreaded to think of what she had in store for them all once she finally got her hands on the emerald.
Maybe returning the emerald to her wasn’t such a good idea after all. As the storm caused splashes of mist to hit against his cheeks, doubts started to enter Charlie’s mind about his quest.
Finally Morvonia cut her laugh off mid shriek and composed herself. Appearing to have finished with her furious outburst, her voice returned to back to the shrill tone it had been when she first came in. The storm clouds fizzled on for a few more seconds, before dying out and disappearing into thin air. The wind vanished and Morvonia’s face returned back to normal.
Morvonia was not finished with Shyla however, and took the opportunity to dig the knife in deeper.
“It’s such a shame that your never got a chance to know your uncle you know. He was a strong man, a good fighter. I bet the king has found him a great miss over the years.”
Charlie wondered what had happened to the Kings brother. He was sure it must have been Morvonia’s fault, the way she was tormenting Shyla.
“My father will stop you” protested Shyla, somewhat weekly. “There is no way you can get away with this”.
 “Stop me” said Morvonia. “Your father will never be able to stop me. Don’t you see, this has all been destined to fall into place. Try as he did, he couldn’t protect you forever. And here you are”.
She turned to face the door.
“Your father has made a very powerful enemy out of every witch within three hundred miles of his palace.” She said, her back to Shyla. Her voice echoed around the cell. “And now he shall feel just how vengeful a banished woman can indeed be”.
“I hope you rot in hell Morvonia”  Shyla yelled, he composure all but gone.
 “Silence” spat the witch. She twisted around quickly and lifted her hand out to Shyla. A flash of blue light shot out from her fingertips and shot directly towards the princess. It wound itself around Shyla’s throat and returned back to the witch, disappearing into the hand from which it had come from.  “You will do well to remember where you come from princess, as I do recall your mother was once herself part of this brethren before she firstly abandoned and then turned against us. I do wonder “she mused slyly, “just how much of the witches blood runs through those very veins of yours”.
Shyla looked up in horror. Charlie was stunned. Kavator had said nothing about Shyla being part witch. And from the look on Shyla’s face, it was news to her also.
Morvonia sensed this sudden development and laughed gleefully. “Oh this is just too good” she clapped her bony hands together. “You didn’t know did you? Well maybe you had better ask you father to explain. That is if you ever see him again”.
Charlie saw Shyla move her mouth but he didn’t hear a sound come out. Her eyes widened as she reached her hands to her neck. It dawned on Charlie that somehow Morvonia had managed to steal Shyla’s voice, with her flash of electric.  
Morvonia laughed again. A laugh that was starting to get on Charlie’s nerves.
 “Oh don’t be worried dear. “That spell is only temporary. I don’t have my full powers, as you know, so nothing I do lasts for very long.  I will return your voice to you when you realise your manners. You are after all a guest in my home and as such should behave in the appropriate way”.
With that, Morvonia turned away from the princess, her robe flowing out around her. She walked back out of the doorway that she had arrived through, and paused just long enough at the entrance to turn her head back to Shyla. Charlie couldn’t see anything other than a black outline against the light pouring in.
Calling from over her shoulder, Morvonia spoke bitter words. “Sweet dreams princess, let’s hope daddy hurries up, I’m growing bored of having to wait, patience is not one of my strong points, and you do not want to see what games I can play when I am bored.”
With that final statement left hanging ominously in the air, she exited the room to move into the hallway and slammed the door shut behind her. It closed with a heavy thud that resounded around the room. Charlie heard the key turn in the lock, sealing them in.
They were plunged into an empty darkness. Just as Charlie was about to comfort her, he was sucked back into his bubble, and pulled through the flashing sparkle of colour that signalled the end of his vision.