Recap: Polly, while impersonating the princess, has been kidnapped by an enchanter and his trainee, and taken far, far away from her home… where she meets the very princess she was impersonating. It is revealed they all are being threatened by a malevolent magical being known as a jadess. Can she get along with the arrogant enchanter long enough to figure out how to survive with a jadess after them? And … why does the jadess want Polly? Chapter 1 is here...
Chapter 9B: Jadess Attack
I was stitching ribbon to my grey wool dress by the firelight one night when there was a loud bang. I dropped my sewing and looked around. Paulina met my eyes, her face looking white and scared.
“Blast it!” Casper yelled, and dashed out of the room, his coat flapping. I stood up just as the floor heaved beneath me, making me fall forward.
“The jadess is trying to break into the Peak!” the Enchanter called back over his shoulder at Stefan. Stefan shot up and chased after.
“Wonderful,” Paulina muttered, collapsing on the floor as the Peak heaved again. I judged it was in no danger of falling down as long as Casper’s magic was still holding it, but it still was nerve-racking to have walls shuddering all around you. And it certainly made it hard to walk.
“How can we see what’s happening?” I screamed to Paulina, trying to crawl towards her.
“Let’s go on the roof!” she shouted back. “I know there’s a trapdoor somewhere.”
Somehow we managed to get across the entrance hall, up the stairs, all the way to the third floor. The floor was heaving even more up here. The hallway’s ceiling was made of glass, and obviously had no trapdoor, but Paulina pointed to a panel behind the red drapes in the sitting room. We scrambled up to it and opened it, and a narrow ladder came down. We climbed it.
The roof tiles slid beneath my feet as I crawled out, and the house seemed to swing back and forth below me. I would have fallen all the way down to the ground if Paulina hadn’t held onto me. Then we settled down onto the tiles and wrapped our arms around our knees.
All around the house, at the fences and at the gates, a sickly greenish glow was vibrating, pulsing and contracting against the house. The house seemed to be resisting and pushing back. Through the green, flashes of sharp white lightning were shooting out towards whatever was maintaining it. Below I saw Casper, looking larger than ever, and glowing. The white lightning was coming from him, in hard, furious bursts. Beside him I could see Stefan, his dark face in a grim line, though I did not know how I could see his face so clearly, since he was so far below.
The greenish magic must’ve all coming from the jadess’s hedge wizard. He seemed to have put himself in a pretty good place, because Casper’s white lightning couldn’t find him. Casper’s face was hard and furious. His lightning failed again, and he cursed.
Something exploded and a ball of fire filled the whole yard. I threw myself down on the roof, and I felt Paulina fall down beside me. The roof tiles bit into my hands. Curse it! I gasped. What am I doing up here? But I couldn’t go down.
Stefan and Casper had thrown themselves down too. For a moment the fury of the attack on the Peak increased, and I could barely hang on. Then the battle stabilized and I sat up again. The air crackled with the currents of magic.
Lightning stabbed out again. It seemed to be what triggered the fireballs, as flames shot out again and we ducked down. Casper was up on his feet again first, his eyes harder and darker than I had ever seen them. He was really angry.
I felt power flow over me like a sheet, ruffling my hair. The greenness retreated a bit. Little explosions went off everywhere, sending a rainbow of sparks into the air, and what looked like flames went screaming through the greenish haze. Wind started blowing in gusts.
“He can’t get at the hedge wizard!” Paulina screamed at me. I screamed something back, but the wind grabbed my words away.
Stefan was concentrating so hard sweat ran off his forehead in great beads. He looked like he was trying to hold back the haze, while the Enchanter was trying to stop the attack.
“Oh, blast that hedge wizard!” I cried as another explosion nearly knocked them both down. My fingers were in my mouth, horrified, as I bit down.
Then everything became blurred and whirled round and round, a roiling cloud of crackling magic, snapping and yowling like fighting cats. I could not see anything, but I could feel something was turning, and I hung onto the roof as hard as I could.
Suddenly, all was quiet. I looked down below and saw the green haze retreating. At first I could not see Casper, but I realised it was because he was no longer glowing.
He had the jadess by the neck. I knew it was the jadess because she was changing so quickly, from one woman into another, in an attempt to distract the Enchanter and thrash herself free. I could tell she was too angry to be using her most dangerous powers, but I realised if she regained control we were sunk.
“You decided you had to come and watch, huh?” Casper said, grimly hanging onto her struggling figure. She spat.
“Tell me just this one thing, and I will let you go,” he continued. “Why did you pretend to be the princess for so long?”
She stopped struggling and smiled bitterly for a moment. “To get my revenge.”
Then she twisted sharply again and blurred. Away she melted in his hands, leaving Casper staring at where she had been.
“That confounded hedge wizard must’ve summoned her,” Paulina said from beside me. “Come, let’s go down again.”
I caught sight of myself in a mirror on our way down. I was a mess! My fair locks had worked their way loose from where I’d tied it back to fall around my face, large streaks of dirt ran up and down my new dress, and my face was smudged with whatever roof tiles were made of. I sighed and tried to straighten my skirt.
When we came down to the entrance hall we found everything in disarray. The fantastically shaped lanterns that had hung from the ceiling were in pieces on the floor, with Casper in front of them, staring at them ruefully.
“I had to quit maintaining something,” he said. “I couldn’t hold everything. And I couldn’t let the Peak go, because you girls were on the roof.”
“Oh!” I said. “You saw us?”
“Blast you!” Casper replied. “Do you know how foolish you were?”
Stefan came to stand beside him as we picked our way through the lantern’s mangled wires and coloured glass. It was odd to think it wasn’t real, only made by magic.
“We can repair it tomorrow,” Stefan told him. “I assume that’s why you didn’t let go of them completely.”
Casper nodded, his mind plainly miles away. I looked at him questioningly.
“She couldn’t get you by force,” he said thoughtfully. ”She’s going to try another way. Get that Rajah under control, I’d bet anything. Then she could lay her hands on me so easily, and through me you…”
“We’ll keep an eye on her,” Stefan said confidently. “Our magic is stronger.”
“Yes,” Casper replied. “If only her hedge wizard wasn’t so blasted creative.” He looked at Stefan. “He was using misdirection charms on his attack, so I couldn’t find him. That’s a new idea, I never thought of that before. A spell upon a spell.” And he made his way, his usual swagger looking slightly tired, thoughtfully upstairs.
We followed him soon after.