Chapter 7

The Coven

Flynn awoke with an intense ringing in his ears and spots in his vision. Rubbing his eyes, he blinked the spots away, but the buzzing in his ears continued. Unsure of where he was, Flynn peered at the prickly branches surrounding him. Slowly he began to recall the chaotic events that had set IvyHold ablaze. 

Scanning his surroundings he noticed an eerily calm aftermath to the invasion. It may have been peaceful now, but the recent carnage in IvyHold was evident by the ruins of crumbled walls, smouldering rubble and craters pockmarking the entire landscape. The stillness was only disturbed by the high-pitched buzzing in his ears.

Flynn sat up to check himself for any injuries or broken bits. Blinking heavily, he realised that aside from his muffled hearing, he was relatively unharmed. That’s when thoughts of his parents came flooding into his mind. 

Were they alright?

Where were they?

They were in the house!

The house was under assault!!!

He must find his parents NOW!!! 

Kicking up a storm of sand, he dashed through the Sunken Oasis racing towards home. Ignoring the ringing in his ears, he skipped across the stepping stones at the Moonfalls, and rounded the corner to his home. 

The contents of his satchel were clinking and clattering when he came to a sudden halt. His stomach dropped at the sight in front of him.

Time stood still. 

Frozen with disbelief, Flynn stared down into a massive crater where his house once stood. The gigantic pit was totally scorched and clear of any rubble or debris. Completely pulverised, there was nothing left of what he once called home. There was no Mom, no Dad, no signs of life.

All hope disappeared when this reality dawned on him. In his despair, everything seemed to have stopped, even the buzzing in his ears. With IvyHold torn apart, his home obliterated, and his parents gone, there was absolutely nothing left in Flynn’s world. 

With his entire life collapsing around him, an impossible sound of laughter broke the silence surrounding him. Amidst all of the wreckage and carnage, the cheerful giggles were a piercing contrast. How could anybody be happy enough to laugh at a time like this?

In disbelief, Flynn was drawn towards the joyous laughter coming from down the laneway in Fountain Park. He made his way along the gravel pathway past the statues – or whatever rubble was left of the statues. Moving quickly, he stayed under the cover of bushes lining the path. 

Approaching the curtain of ivy that surrounds the central courtyard of Fountain Park, Flynn swept the tendrils aside. He could not have imagined what he was about to see. 

The merry laughter came from an elegant woman sitting on the edge of a broken fountain. The entire courtyard surrounding her was in absolute ruins. She sat with great ease amongst the smouldering piles of rubble, scattered paving stones and open flames raging throughout the courtyard. 

One of the many fountains was ablaze – it’s once cooling waters now transformed into burning flames spouting from the centre of the fountain. Flynn had no idea what kind of enchantment this was, but the figure laughing demanded all of his attention. 

Regardless of the chaos, she sat there, lounging on the edge of the broken fountain. Flynn couldn’t take his eyes away from the enchanting vision splashing her slender hand through the rippling waters.

Hauntingly beautiful, she wore a thin golden crown adorned with a slim crescent moon upon her raven-black hair. On her lap she stroked a long staff tipped with a deadly sliver that was also in the shape of a crescent moon. Her dark cloak reflected the firelight in unnatural ways – she was absolutely mesmerising to look upon.

Sitting next to the alluring figure was another much younger woman whom Flynn hadn’t even noticed until now. Quite stunning herself, she was draped in a skyblue cloak that matched her feathery, powder-blue hair. She laughed cheerfully, trying to avoid the enchanting woman splashing her with the cool waters that were flowing from the shattered fountain. 

The whole situation felt so incongruous – All of this beauty in the middle of the ravaged scene that was once the courtyard of Fountain Park.

After enough splashing, the blue-haired girl was completely drenched. Still laughing, she stood up while clutching a shining amulet strung around her neck. Directing her gaze at the ground in front of herself, the young woman went into deep concentration. 

A serious look crossed over her face when the amulet began to glow. All of a sudden a twirling whirlwind rose up from the ground in front of the young woman. She stepped into the swirling gust and her skyblue cloak dried off completely. The whirlwind wisped away while the blue-haired girl took the opportunity to smile at her handiwork.

Suddenly it dawned on Flynn. 

These elegant women were Witches – in IvyHold!!!

Flynn nearly gasped aloud, but managed to withhold his shock. He had been so hypnotised by their beauty that he never considered the obvious.

“Well conjured Ventille.” the elegant Enchantress said in her smooth, rich voice.

The younger lady, Ventille, took the compliment with a nonchalant shrug, although unable to hide her excitement at being acknowledged.

“You are too kind Empress Lunasa.” she said, remembering her etiquette. “That basic charm was hardly worth your notice.”

The flattery was brought to an end when Lunasa’s attention was suddenly drawn to a disturbance across the courtyard. Approaching through the ivy curtain on the opposite side of the courtyard was a crowd of even more witches – an entire coven it seemed. 

Flynn couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

The scene before him was nothing he could have ever imagined. Witches everywhere – bouncing about IvyHold in celebration. The coven laughed and joked while crossing the wide courtyard. Young and old, elegant and hideous, there were all sorts of Enchantresses parading across Fountain Park. 

A select few held ornate staffs, while others were adorned with amulets strung around their necks on thin copper chains. None were nearly as captivating as the raven-haired Supreme Enchantress with her crescent moon crown, but each of them did possess the definite allure of Power.

Obviously bothered by the inconvenience of the incoming procession, the younger Enchantress Ventille rolled her eyes at the spectacle coming their way. She spoke in a disgusted tone, “I do apologise my Supreme Enchantress.” She spoke with venom in her voice, “I will never understand why they choose to act so common. Why can’t they all behave as regal as yourself?”

The Supreme Enchantress Lunasa responded with understanding, “Today was an achievement Ventille. It is well deserved excitement. Some of us are just able to hide it better than others.”

Eventually, the final few Enchantresses emerged from the ivy curtain, towing along a series of gold-linked chains attached to two golden orbs. Floating just above the ground, the large orbs throbbed with the hum of Enchantment. The coven continued parading through the courtyard when one of the orbs came to a jolting halt, snapping the chains attached to it.

There was a minor commotion as one intimidating Enchantress shouted at two of the younger ones, “Orphelle! Talana!!! What happened to your links?” She scolded the younger girls with obvious disdain, “Keep your concentration or you’ll be scrubbing out the Forge for the next few moons.”

The two young Enchantresses looked mortified as they began to mend the broken chain. Busy at work they didn’t notice that the loose orb began to rock back and forth.

Then it began to quake uncontrollably.

Then it began to glow from within.

Accompanied by a furious buzzing sound, the orb began to bulge and expand well beyond it’s constraints which quickly got the attention of the rest of the coven.

Immediately, the entire coven stopped their joyous celebrations and surrounded the orb. It wasn’t just a snapped chain, now they were trying desperately to contain whatever was inside. Each member of the coven frantically focused their Powers on the orb. 

Flynn was unable to see what was within the orb, but it was taking all of their concentration trying to regain control. 

The strain was evident on all of the Enchantresses involved. The coven struggled to keep control of the situation when the raven-haired, Supreme Enchantress stood up from the fountain in a fluid motion. With an elegant twirl of her staff, she approached the orb with visible irritation.

“Enough of this nonsense!” She called out. Pulling back the sleeves of her shimmering cloak one at a time, she cleared a space around her, “Must I do everything here?”

A vague hint of concern crossed her face while casting her pure concentration on the troublesome orb that was on the verge of bursting open. First raising her face, then her hands to the sky, she summoned her Powers. When she lowered her intense gaze at the orb, a flashing glow lit up all of IvyHold for an instant. 

When the light subsided, it was followed by what can only be described as a reverse-popping sound. The absence of sound was as loud as any bang Flynn had ever heard. He covered his ears with his hands to keep out the emptiness until the disorientating vacuum of sound evened out. 

When normality returned, Flynn looked up to see the bulging orb lay silent in the middle of the courtyard. He saw the Supreme Enchantress Lunasa let out a deep exhale, visibly exhausted from the effort. 

Composing herself, she stood tall and quickly reprimanded the rest of the gathering, “What are you waiting for?” she called out, “Finish securing the prisoners. We must transport them immediately, otherwise we will face the same issues while midair – not an ideal situation.”

The coven jumped into action, casting various charms on the silent orb. During the commotion, a few Enchantresses went to check on the second orb that had been silent all along. 

Lunasa scolded those few, “Leave that orb be. He is of no concern to us now. We need all of our attention focused on this troublesome one. She still poses a serious threat.” She motioned towards the other harmless orb with disdain. “He is of no danger to us now. We will return for him once she has been secured for transportation.”

The entire coven rallied around their Empress and focused their energies on the orb. Working together, they cautiously began their task of transporting the troublesome orb from the courtyard under Lunasa’s supervision. 

Flynn watched in horror as they disappeared from the courtyard, leaving nothing behind but the silent orb.

Chapter 4

IvyHold

Moonlight streamed into the darkened room when Flynn awoke with a throbbing headache and a soreness in his ribs. Terrified and confused, Flynn sat up in a panic. Groping around in the half-light, he was soothed by his mother’s voice which calmly chimed, “It’s alright my Love. Just lay back down and get some more rest.”

Flynn did as he was told without thinking – his head hurt too much when he sat up anyways. It took him a moment to understand that he was safe and sound, nestled in his bedroom back in IvyHold. The sight of moonlight streaming through his bedroom’s arched window high above comforted him.

Even more comforting was the familiar scent of lavender and mint drifting towards him. This was further reassurance that his mother, Dawnella was sitting next to him, “Get back to sleep Flynn.” she comforted, “You need your rest.”

Even though he had countless questions running through his mind, Flynn could not resist. His eyes became very heavy and he felt himself begin to drift off. Then everything went black once again as exhaustion overtook him.

~ – ~ – ~

The full moon continued to shine bright over the massive fortified walls of IvyHold. Moonbeams shining through the skylight illuminated thick tendrils of ivy crawling across the window frame. The tangled vines of ivy blowing in the nighttime breeze, cast strange shadows throughout the room.

Flynn began to toss and turn, trapped in his deep, dark slumber. His restful dreams had gradually turned into nightmares full of Witches and Weblings. Haunting images passed through his dreams as the moon made it’s way across the sky.

The strands of ivy slowly slithered through the window – creeping their way into the room. They crept down the wall, over the wardrobe and onto the hardwood floor in the far corner of the bedroom. As the morning sunlight rose and crawled across the room, so did the tendrils of ivy.

Flynn may have been in a deep slumber, but the creeping vines of IvyHold were awake and alive as always. By late morning, they had made their way across the floor and climbed up the bedpost to where Flynn was tossing and turning in his fitful sleep.

As the morning pressed on, Flynn awoke from his terrible spider-filled nightmares in a state of panic. The comforting aroma of lavender and mint let him know that his mother was in the room. Her presence helped to ease his troubled mind.

Rolling over in bed, Flynn noticed that his mother’s familiar scent was masked by another, less pleasant odour. Sharp onion and sweet garlic wafted through his room. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he could now clearly see his mother in her floral-patterned cloak. She was busy taming the overgrown ivy by spraying a bottle of thick brown liquid directly at the encroaching vines. The crawling tendrils quickly shrunk away from the pungent spray.

Dawnella continued spritzing the thick potion over the squirming ivy, forcing it to retreat from the room altogether. Once the ivy was banished from the room, Flynn began to rise from bed with a clearer head. Dawnella placed the spray bottle upon his bedside table, and sat down on the edge of his bed, “No need to sit up son,” she comforted, “Lay back down.”

Already sitting up, he stopped short when his head began to swim. Taking his Mom’s advice, he quickly sank back into bed until the dizzying swirls faded away.

“You need to rest son,” she soothed, pulling out a small vial from within the sleeve of her cloak. “Here, drink this.”

Flynn grabbed the vial eagerly and was about to take a sip when a thought struck him like lightening, “What about Dad!?!” Overtaken with concern he nearly dropped the vial, “Is Dad okay? There were Clouds and Enchantment and Weblings and… and… the Witch.”

Dawnella placed a comforting hand on her son, “Flynn, you know we don’t use that foul word,” she scolded, but not as stern as usual, “however, considering the situation I will excuse you this time.”

“But what about Dad? The Witc– I mean Enchantress was attacking him!”

“Your father is perfectly fine,” she assured him, “He told me there was a bit of a scuffle, which he handled. The only thing wrong with your father is that he’s furious with himself that you got caught up in the crossfire. Aside from cursing himself, he’s in full health.”

“Is he here?”

“No, he isn’t. He went back into the Outside. But you know that he can take care of himself.” Flynn nodded as his mother continued, “You two can catch up when he returns this evening.”

Relaxed with the knowledge that his Dad was alright, Flynn suddenly remembered the vial that Dawnella had given him. Lifting it to his lips, he drank deep, knowing the sweetness that awaited him.

His mother reached out to prevent him chugging the entire vial, “Not too much Love,” she lovingly scolded, “Save some for later.”

He felt the benefits of the potion straight away. His headache disappeared and his ribs felt blissfully numb, but he also felt the drowsiness that consumed him. His eyes became very heavy as he drifted back off into a deep, restful sleep that the milktree sap always induced. Recently, Flynn had become very used to everything fading into darkness.

– ~ – ~ –

Once again, the darkness was not so pleasant. His peaceful slumber quickly returned to nightmares of himself within the Spider Queens Hovel. The entire Hovel was infested by Weblings with hungry looks in their burning eyes. Flynn tried to run away, but his boots were as heavy as lead – making it impossible to take a step.

All alone in the nightmarish Hovel, he struggled to lift his feet until the fear became all-consuming. Just when he thought that it couldn’t get any more terrifying, a massive Webling emerged from the shadows. Nearly the size of the entire room, it’s wispy legs carried the gigantic beast forward. The giant Webling took it’s time, moving slowly, knowing it’s prey was unable to flee.

Again, Flynn tried to run away in his nightmare, but his heavy boots remained impossible to budge. The musty stench of the beast intensified as it’s flaming eye stared at it’s soon-to-be meal. Flynn began to punch and flail hopelessly, but the Webling’s toothless mouthed clacked greedily, ignoring Flynn’s swinging arms.

It slowly gripped him in it’s sticky clutches and busied itself, wrapping him up in it’s thick webbing. Flynn fought against the tightening grip of the webbed cocoon to no avail. Once it’s victim’s legs were tightly wrapped up and secured, the spider opened it’s mouth wide to begin it’s meal.

Thrashing in bed against his nightmare, Flynn woke up suddenly drenched in sweat. Flailing and struggling against his bad dreams, he came to recognise that the webbing he dreamt of was only tendrils of ivy wrapped tightly around his legs. Now awake, Flynn stopped struggling and composed himself. It took a moment to convince himself that it was all just a bad dream.

Sitting up in bed, he swatted the tendrils off his legs. Relieved, Flynn took a deep breath to gather himself. Once he was ready to get up, he grabbed a handful of the wriggling tendrils still on the bed and ripped them down from the wall – roots and all. Bright rays of sunshine beamed through the arched window above letting Flynn know that it was quite late in the morning at this point.

He had no idea how long he had been in bed, but he figured it must have been a long time. The ivy very rarely reached all the way to his bed. Usually he woke up when it was still crawling down the wardrobe. Mom was obviously way too busy to tame the wild ivy tendrils this morning, so he decided to get up and do it for himself.

With effort, he stood up and slumped across the room to the wardrobe. Despite a full night’s sleep, he was exhausted from the tossing and turning caused by his bad dreams – they had been especially vivid last night.

Tearing fresh tendrils of ivy from the oak cabinet, he reached inside to put on his well-worn, evergreen cloak. He wrapped the cloak tightly around his thin frame for a sense of comfort. Feeling better, he reached into his wardrobe again to grab his boots. They felt incredibly light when he lifted them up. The boots had been so very heavy in his dreams that he half expected them to still be that heavy in reality. Pleasantly surprised, Flynn managed to shake the nightmare from his mind while he buckled up his boots.

He clomped across the hardwood floor to the far corner of his bedroom. Stepping up to the ornate looking glass, he inspected himself in the misty reflection. He saw that the lump on his head wasn’t nearly as bad as he imagined it would be. The milktree sap must have worked it’s wonders while he was asleep.

Satisfied with his healing progress, Flynn left his ivy-covered room to enter the ivy-covered hallway which led to the ivy-covered kitchen. It should be noted that ivy was absolutely everywhere in IvyHold. As the name implies, IvyHold was infested with the crawling vines. Not just the dwelling that Flynn shared with his parents, but the whole fortified Hovel was wrapped up in the ever-growing tendrils.

After years of living in IvyHold, Flynn had become used to the pesky vines. He was no longer alarmed by the creeping ivy, merely irritated by it. Even though they were a nuisance at times, the vines of IvyHold did provide a very important function – Protection.

To be more specific, they offered protection from the dangerous Outside World. The towering walls of tightly bound ivy managed to keep the creatures of the Western Reach out of IvyHold. Flynn understood the necessity of this, because he knew that the Outside World was terribly dangerous – especially in the lawless Western Reach.

Although IvyHold kept him and his parents safe within it’s walls, it also ensured their loneliness. They were the only three residents of the massive compound, so IvyHold’s ability to keep things out meant that Flynn and his parents could feel quite lonesome at times. But after his recent adventures in the Weblands, he saw the importance of the safety that the fortified Hovel offered. He now realised that he preferred isolation to the company of the hostile Outsiders of the Western Reach.

Brushing aside a hanging curtain of ivy, Flynn continued down the hallway of his home. He stumbled through the kitchen and into the spacious dining area where breakfast was waiting for him. A heaping plate of boiled nettles and fried spuds sat on the table. It was cold by now, but Flynn had a deep hunger in him.

Usually reluctant to eat the tangy nettles and bland spuds, Flynn dug into his breakfast eagerly – he was starving! After stuffing his face with several desperate mouthfuls, Flynn began to push the nettles and spuds about on his plate while rubbing his aching head.

That’s when he noticed the vial of milktree sap sitting atop a tiny note across the table. He lifted the vial and the torn sheaf of paper to read:

Good morning Love!
Hope you are feeling better today.
Meet me in my Garden after your brekkie.
        P.S.
Save some of the Milktree sap for later.
You’re going to need it.

Laughing, he uncorked the vial and took a big swig of the milktree sap. Unable to help himself, he swallowed down the entire vial in one big gulp – the sweet taste was just too good to stop. He knew there wouldn’t be any left later when he needed it, but he didn’t care about that now.

Flynn savoured the rich flavour of the sap while it washed away the tart nettles and powdery spuds. Finished with his brekkie, he pushed his chair back from the table and made his way outside.

The dreamy drowsiness of the potion began to kick in, but Flynn had a renewed supply of energy after all of his rest. With a spring to his step, he was ready to start the day’s work. Sweeping aside the ever present ivy, he passed through the doorway and made his way to Mom’s garden.

Chapter 3

The Alter Chamber

Ever since they crossed the threshold, the precious Relic slung over Brady’s shoulder began to buzz with even more intensity. Countless spiders sealed up the entrance behind them as they entered the foyer. This fresh curtain of webbing caused the natural daylight illuminating the interior to dim down. However, the glow of the silver net was burning so bright that there was no need to light a torch within the darkened foyer.

Lit up by the intense glow of the Relic, the narrow entryway looked as crisp and clean as ever. Opening up to a spacious parlour, they looked around the well maintained Hovel. The buzzing net illuminated the pitch black parlour with it’s intensified, eerie glow. Brady grabbed his son’s shoulder and led the way through the foggy gloom.

“Welcome to Tarantu’s Hovel Flynn.” Sensing his son’s growing discomfort, he added soothingly, “Remember, there’s nobody living here. We’re only going to recharge the net. Then we can leave.”

The silver net brightened up dark corners to reveal spiders scurrying to and fro. They were working intricate patterns into their webwork, creating decorative webs that adorned the entire parlour. A fresh cloud of fog swirled around giving a mysterious feel to the breathtaking scene. There wasn’t a single speck of dust or a loose strand of web anywhere – it was absolutely mesmerising.

“Her spider’s keep a tidy house, don’t they?” Brady chuckled, “That’s all they know.” Flynn thought about these spiders housekeeping for a Master that was long gone – he couldn’t help feeling kinda sad and lonesome.

Side by side, they made their way through the parlour towards a banquet table which stood in the middle of the room. It was constructed entirely from the spider’s densely packed webs. Flynn gawked at the interior, fascinated by the attention to detail. Every single item in the room was expertly crafted from sturdy webbing. The recharging Relic cast it’s shimmering glow across the table, shining over silk-strand plates, woven goblets, and wispy utensils all made of their webbed handiwork – Everything! Even the ornate candelabra in the middle of the table was made entirely out of spider webs.

Flynn stopped to examine the silken candles. He couldn’t understand how they could possibly hold a flame without bursting into fire as normal webbing would. But this was the Hovel of an Enchantress after all – it would be strange if logic wasn’t defied in here.

Suddenly the room began to darken a bit. Flynn looked up to see his father entering a short hallway on the other side of the room, taking the light of the Relic with him. Not wanting to be left behind in the foggy gloom, Flynn dropped the silken candle and ran to catch up with his dad. The hall had two doorways, one on either side. Both doors were sealed up by webbing like the front door. Brady paused and considered his options.

Choosing the door on the left, Brady thrust his hand into the webbed covering like he had at the entrance of the Hovel. Instead of punching through the door, he jammed his fingers with a heavy thud against solid webbing.

“Oww!” Brady shouted out, shaking his sore hand.

“Are you okay Dad?”

“Yeah, I’m alright. It just surprised me.” Brady shook off the unexpected pain.

Inspecting the webbing, Brady noticed that it was much thicker; similar to the dense furniture in the parlour. The hallway was too narrow to get a good swing with his blade, so he cleared Flynn out of the way and took a step back. With a jump start, he heaved his shoulder into the webbing. A dull thud echoed as the webbing gave way a bit. Brady rammed into it again and then a third time; the webbing slowly caving in. A fourth shouldering and the webbed door tore open with a wet, ripping sound.

Brady stepped through and ushered Flynn into the room before the spiders began to diligently seal up the doorway again. The billowing fog followed them into Tarantu’s crisp and clean bedroom. Like the rest of the Hovel, the bedroom was decorated minimally, but with extreme attention to detail. An ornate 4-post bed and a lavish wardrobe dominated the room.

Brady was more concerned with the fog though. He watched the clouds enter the room with suspicion, “There was no fog in this room.” he thought out loud.

Flynn was too busy looking at the delicate web hangings draped from the bed posts to be concerned about fog in the room. Running his fingers along the impossibly soft bedsheets, Brady pulled him back.

“Come on Flynn. There’s nothing for us in here.” There was a definite note of caution in Brady’s voice, “The other doorway must lead to the alter chamber.”

They both backed out of the room without turning. Flynn knew that his father was preoccupied with thoughts that he wasn’t saying aloud. Walking backwards, they passed through thin strands of webbing of the rebuilt doorway. Once in the hall, Brady drew his machete and held it at the ready. Now Flynn knew his father was worried, which made himself worry – this was not looking good. He felt for the orb within his pocket and rubbed it for a sense of security. The burning eye was a reminder that he was well able to protect himself.

They waited in silence, facing the bedroom while the spiders mended up the doorway. Flynn didn’t know what his father was worried about, but he knew enough to trust his father’s instinct and not to bother him with silly questions at tense times.

Once the bedroom was sealed up tight and secure, Brady sheathed the blade and turned his attention to the other door in the hallway.

“Let’s get this finished up, so we can get out of here.” Brady said in an encouraging tone.

Facing the door, Brady was about to punch through the webbing when he remembered jamming his fingers on the previous door. Not wanting to hurt his fingers again, he lowered his shoulder and charged straight at the webbing.

However, this webbed curtain ended up being much thinner than expected. It was quite similar to the thin veil covering the entrance of the Hovel. So Brady went barrelling right through the doorway, and disappeared into a dense fog that enveloped the chamber within. With too much momentum, he tripped over his own feet and nearly fell on his face. Managing to regain his balance in the middle of the chamber, he narrowly avoided a collision with the centre alter.

Losing sight of his father in the haze, Flynn ran into the alter chamber before the spiders sealed it up again. Groping his way through the cloudy haze inside the chamber, he could hear the recharging Relic buzzing furiously. Lost and disorientated, Flynn followed the increasing sound as his only guide.

Stumbling blindly he eventually saw beams of light slicing through the fog, casting strange shadows throughout the chamber. The intense glow was coming from the net still slung across his father’s shoulder. Running over, Flynn joined his father by the alter just in time for the full recharge to begin.

Brady pulled the net off his shoulder and held it in both hands before him. The Relic was now emitting a brilliant halo of light that made both of them squint in the foggy chamber. Looking away from the brightness, Flynn caught a brief glimpse of the skeletal remains on the alter. They were a delicate frame of bones surrounded by silken candles snuffed out long ago. Her silver staff was laid across her chest with a brilliant Moonstone adorning the tip. The Moonstone of the staff began to glow in response to the proximity of the Relic.

Suddenly, the blinding glow became unbearable. Flynn covered his eyes from the glare, but wished he had covered his ears instead after a popping sound exploded in the chamber.

Immediately, everything fell silent and dark as night. Once the ringing in his ears stopped, the only sound Flynn could hear was the increasing fog swirling about. That was soon followed by the tiny tapping of spiders scurrying around once again. In the darkened gloom Flynn looked down to where his father’s hands were. He saw a faint, shimmering hue emitting from the net which slowly faded away into pitch black.

Brady slung the recharged Relic over his shoulder in the darkness, pulled a torch from his pack and lit it. In the dim glow, Brady became very alert of their surroundings, “Let’s go Flynn. It’s done.”

But Flynn wasn’t listening to his father. Tarantu’s bones laying on the alter took all of his attention. At first he thought it was just the brightening torchlight, but there was actually a powerful aura emitting from the frail skeleton. It seemed to be buzzing as intense as the Relic had been before, but in total silence. Not knowing why, Flynn reached out to place his hand on the bones. He was being drawn to them – he couldn’t help himself.

He could almost feel the Power – the glorious, surging Power that was calling to him. It was just within his reach, when he was pulled away by his father’s firm grasp, “Don’t touch the bones Flynn!” Brady shouted.

Flynn was still in a daze; his eyes glazed over with the promise of Power.

“They’re Cursed Bones,” Brady explained.

These words broke Flynn out of his trance, “Cursed Bones?” he asked, never hearing that before.

“Yes, Cursed! Come on now. We have to go!” Brady grabbed his son’s cloak and tugged him along. He never did that, so leaving must have been urgent.

Flynn took one final glance over his shoulder at the Cursed Bones on the alter. Being dragged along, he swore that he heard the bones let out a soft giggle. Flynn was totally creeped out. He hoped that it was only his imagination running wild. But after he stumbled into his father who had stopped abruptly, Flynn knew that he must have heard the giggle too.

Brady turned sharply away from the doorway and faced the far corner where the foggy haze was thickest. Flynn wasn’t sure if it was just the torchlight dancing through the mist, but he thought he saw subtle movements in the darkened corner.

Brady held the torchlight up towards the clouded corner. Convinced of a threat, he pulled out his thick blade once again.

“Show yourself!” he called out in a voice that boomed throughout the chamber.

Flynn prayed that his father was mistaken and that nobody came out of the haze. But as much as he hoped they were alone, they weren’t. Slowly, a figure emerged from the misty corner letting out another ominous giggle. The alter chamber was now filling up with a dense fog as she advanced. The gathering clouds parted like curtains, making way for the slim figure’s grand entrance.

By the vague torchlight, Flynn could make out a young girl floating her way towards them. She may have been around his age, but the casual way she drifted across the room exuded an air of maturity way beyond her years. Draped in a powder-blue cloak, she pulled down the hood to let her wavy, brunette hair fall to her shoulders. Her sharp fringe cut straight across her brow framed an intense gaze.

Flynn wasn’t sure if it was just a trick of the light, but it seemed that her eyes glimmered an icy blue. She didn’t carry a staff like most Enchantresses, but there was no doubt that she possessed the Powers. This was proven when she casually materialised a fluffy cloud in the palm of her outstretched hand. The cloud solidified into a glowing orb that began to float in front of her. She raised an eyebrow tauntingly before she asked, “Wanna play?”

Before they could answer, the cloud burst into a blinding flash. Momentarily lighting up the entire chamber, the orb dimmed to reveal that the Enchantress was no longer there. Brady pivoted back and forth, searching for the Enchantress in the afterglow of the orb. A tiny giggle behind them revealed where she had disappeared to.

She stood directly behind them, blocking the doorway – the only way out. This close to her, it was clear that the Enchantress was not much older than Flynn himself. She remained silent, but her menacing smile said enough. She may not have been the Spider Queen, but there was a new Enchantress running this Hovel now.

Wanting to protect their new treasure, Brady tucked the Relic away into his satchel. Speaking calmly, he broke the tense silence, “We are just on our way out.”

He sheathed the machete and peacefully waved his hands in front of himself, “Our business is finished here,” he continued in a calming voice, “You can have the Hovel all to yourself again.”

Another giggle was followed by her sweet voice, “But you challenged me.” She giggled again, then continued in a more aggressive tone, “You told me to ‘show myself’.” Giving a deep curtsy, she presented herself in a mocking fashion, “Here I am.”

Flynn could see that this Enchantress was not in the habit of backing down from a fight. He slowly stepped behind his father for protection.

Shielding his son, Brady showed no sign of fear as he replied, “Well, it was lovely to see you,” he remained respectful but firm, “Now we must be on our way.”

Not budging, the young Enchantress responded with a taunting giggle. Then, out of nowhere, she sent a billowing puff of cloud shooting in their direction.

Always alert, Brady pushed Flynn aside, then rolled out of the way himself. The magical cloud crashed into the wall behind them with a heavy thud. Ripping some of the webbing aside. Flynn was knocked to the ground as he watched his father leap up, ready to fight.

The Enchantress raised her arms and the entire chamber was swallowed up in a thick wall of clouds. Flynn could see nothing, but that didn’t stop his father. Pulling out his machete, Brady bounded directly into the cloudy haze without hesitation.

Flynn could only make out dancing shadows in the mist as they battled throughout the alter chamber. Electricity surged in the air as magical sparks clashed with the sharp blade. Flynn had no idea what to do, especially as the shadows came closer. Standing up, he backed out of the doorway into the clear air of the hallway. He prayed that his father would soon emerge from the gloom, but there was no let up in the confrontation. He felt for the orb in his pocket and clutched it tight for a sense of security.

With renewed courage, Flynn stood up tall and came to a decision. He took a step towards the chamber entrance in hopes of helping his father. He was about to charge into the haze when a heavy cloud came bursting towards him. He ducked just in time to see the barrelling cloud smash into the webbed wall behind him. Turning back towards the foggy chamber, the last thing Flynn saw was a second cloud coming straight for his head. Unfortunately, he wasn’t as quick to react to this one. The thick cloud smashed right into his face, lifting him off his feet. After flying through the air, Flynn collapsed to the ground in a crumpled heap.

Then – nothing.