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Author link: www.marielongauthor.com
Zeke knocked on the Headmistress’s office door and let himself in. He noticed the room was still empty, and frowned. It appeared the Headmistress still hadn’t returned from her impromptu meeting. Looking toward the Headmistress’s desk, Zeke considered coming back later, instead of waiting here alone. But the last thing he needed was to invoke her wrath for not heeding her summons. After several moments, Zeke finally conceded and approached the desk.
What sort of urgent matter could have made her run off like that? he wondered as he took a seat in one of the high-backed chairs in front of her desk.
He scanned the room. His gaze locked on a side door that was open a crack. It was the same one that descended into the dark, narrow staircase the attendant had appeared from earlier. Curious, he rubbed his chin. He’d noticed the door to that hidden room many times, but never had he’d seen it opened. What’s down there, anyway? His heart pounded. He was venturing into an area of the Headmistress’s office he had never been.
He approached the door, slid it all the way open, and stared into the pitch-blackness to allow his wolf sight time to adjust. Once he could see the steps clearly, he noticed they spiraled down past his line of sight. He took a deep breath, filling his lungs with the cold, humid air wrought with the mixed scents of mildew and old stone. His ears perked at the echo of several mixed voices talking and chanting below him. He puffed out his chest, allowing his wolf’s courage to calm his mind, and then began his descent.
Zeke ran his hand along the rough stone walls as he travelled deeper into the unknown depths. A shimmer of light danced across the walls. His steps turned cautious. The darkness of the stairwell eventually opened up into a blue-lighted chamber.
He pressed his back against the wall and peered around the edge. A large room, three times the size of the Headmistress’s office, opened in front of him. A group of purple-robed men and women stood around a large table, staring at a thick, closed tome set in the middle. The Headmistress stood at the head of the table, looking intently toward the book. Zeke focused on the book—his eyes widened as he recognized the rose image on the book’s front cover.
His breath hitched, and a shiver ran through his body when he realized it was the enchanted tome of runes—the cause of all the trouble that happened around the school several months ago. His friend and fellow student, Perle Durand, had inadvertently obtained it from an evil sorceress. With Zeke’s help, however, they were able to contain the dark magic.
The assistants, in ritualistic sequence, cast a variety of spells on the book. The prismatic array of colors and visual effects from the attendants’ spells were strange and unfamiliar to him. He was a shifter, and therefore didn’t follow the traditional path of magic comprised of incantations and enchantments. Frozen, he remained at the base of the stairs, watching with interest, thankful that no one seemed to be aware of his presence.
The Headmistress uttered phrases in a language that sounded like gibberish to his ears. He had a hard time understanding the nature of his own shifter powers, much less other forms of magic.
The Headmistress extended her hand toward the book, and it slid across the table toward her as if her hand were a magnet. The book stopped in front of her. A wave of gasps and murmurs swept through the chamber from the wary assistants.
“At last,” the Headmistress said in a relieved voice. “I think we may have finally unlocked her secret…” She slowly placed her hand on the book.
Reflexively, as if reacting to her touch, a bright, orange-yellow glow emanated from the book. Suddenly, beams of golden light shot in all directions from the book. Everyone ducked and scrambled away from the table. The book rose on its own accord, hovering in mid-air, the beams of light continuing to shoot everywhere about the room.
“Look out!” a male assistant shouted as he dashed under the table.
The Headmistress rushed behind a narrow support column as a beam of light caught the hem of her dress, searing a small hole in the purple fabric.
Zeke stiffened. She’s in trouble! His wolf instinctively wanted to protect the Headmistress, but he was also aware of the unknown danger of the hovering book.
He crouched low and concentrated, allowing his body to expand as he shifted into his wolf form. His transformation complete, he focused on the chaos once more with his newfound senses. He tried to analyze the light beams carefully in case they moved in a specific pattern, but they were as erratic as his own nerves. With a grunt, he bolted into the room, using the incredible speed and agility his wolf form provided to dodge and duck around the incoming beams as he made his way to the column where the Headmistress was hiding.
The Headmistress widened her eyes. “Zeke! What are you doing? Get out of here now!”
The pang of alarm in the Headmistress’s voice gave him pause as he panted behind the column next to her. Part of him felt obliged to obey, but his wolf empowered him to remain. He shook his head slowly.
Protect the Headmistress at all costs.
“I said go! That is an order!” she barked.
His heart pounded faster. The urgency and forcefulness in her voice was enough to sway his wolf. She is the Alpha.
He launched himself away from the column toward the stairs, almost falling as his thick paws slipped on the polished stone floor. Scrambling to keep his balance, he raced back the way he came. He was almost to the staircase when a terrible shock suddenly struck him on his tail. A flash of pain seared through him hotter than fire, cutting sharper than any knife.
He let out a painful howl and felt his legs give way. He slid across the floor and hit the bottom step with a resounding thud. He tried to stand, but his body refused to obey his commands.
I… I can’t move! Why can’t I move?
His eyelids drooped as he fought to stay conscious. The screams and shouts of the attendants, the crumbling sounds of the stone walls, and the thundering of panicked footsteps echoed in his frazzled mind until he succumbed to the numbness sweeping over his senses. The world around him went black and deathly silent.
Note From Star:
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