Chapter 10

Sizzle & Burn

Ventille stood atop the spiral staircase with a sly smirk spreading across her porcelain features. Her skyblue cloak billowing around her majestically gave a definite air of authority. Flynn froze still, watching the elder Adept descend the spiral staircase with an elegance he never knew possible. Her gloved hand caressing the banister as she sauntered down the final steps.

Never breaking eye contact, Ventille smiled her sinister smile and gave a taunting little wave of introduction. Her sharp cheekbones and pursed red lips would have been beautiful if it wasn’t for the cold calculation behind her piercing blue eyes.

At the bottom of the spiral staircase, she finally spoke, cutting the silence with her sweet voice, “Hello there little boy.” Flynn knew she couldn’t have been more than a few years older than himself, but he was in no position to point this out. 

She looked Flynn up and down, and obviously wasn’t impressed by what she saw. She let out a pitying giggle, “You common folk are so adorably plain.” Looking around the dim chamber she continued, “I can’t believe that people actually live like this – it’s so cute.” Despite her beauty and sweet demeanor, Flynn couldn’t help being terrified by the cruelty in her voice. He unconsciously gathered the satchel closer to his chest, protecting the Relics within.

Tilting her head curiously, Ventille’s calculating eyes studied Flynn deeper, “What are you hiding down here?” As charming as her voice was, her tone was absolutely sinister. Flynn knew that he couldn’t trust a thing that came out of those sweet looking lips. 

Gracefully gliding across the chamber, she approached Flynn without concern. Her false smile disappeared and her voice was now laced with venom, “It seems that you have some interesting toys down here.” 

Her eyes lit up when she registered what the spilled contents of the bureau actually were. Having no interest in the sharp blades, all of her attention was focused on the Resting Relics. She greedily eyed the looking-glass in Flynn’s hand, along with the burnt torch and the scaly mask scattered on the tiles of the chamber. 

“You’re hiding Relics down here, aren’t you?” she asked in disbelief.

The hazy stones embedded in the Relics absorbed all of her interest. Seeming to recognise the Power of the elder Adept, the stones began to shimmer milky white in response to her presence.

Flynn gathered the Relics closer around him, trying his best not to let the fear show in his eyes.

Any false sweetness disappeared from the Adept’s voice as she suddenly became stern and formal, “I represent the Coven of Redcloud and I declare that these Relics are now property of the illustrious Supreme Enchantress Lunasa.” 

Never letting her eyes drop she continued officially and full of pride, “If you have any objections, you must address the Coven in due accordance.” 

Flynn was frozen with fear but managed to stammer, “Th-th-these aren’t yours,” in a pitiful attempt to sound brave he continued, “They’re m-m-mine.”

Ventille let out a menacing giggle that sent shivers down his spine. “I think you know that’s not true.”

She grasped the jewel hanging from her neck and muttered in concentration as it began to glow crystal-blue. A twirling cyclone rose from the ground in front of her and swept across the room in a menacing display, only to return to spin silently by her side. 

With hair whipping around in the breeze, she made the situation quite clear, “Everything here is now mine, and you know there’s nothing you can do to change that.”

Successfully emphasising her point, Ventille returned her focus to the Relics. With her attention on the Relics, Flynn took the opportunity to pick up a weapon to defend himself. He spun around to the fallen cabinet and grabbed one of the jewel encrusted daggers. He lifted it in front of him as menacingly as he could muster – But the only response he got from the Adept was her mocking laughter. 

“These are mine!” Flynn managed to say without stuttering – The dagger  gave him a vague sense of security.

Ventille’s sly smile quickly turned into an intimidating snarl of her lips. In a fluid motion, she clutched the jewel hanging from her neck. Once again, the amulet glowed crystal-blue. A gust of wind came whipping out of her outstretched hand aimed directly at Flynn. 

The gust ripped the dagger from his grip and flung it away. The sharp blade flew across the chamber in a perfect arc, driven by the heavy gust. With a thud, the blade buried itself deep into a wooden cupboard at the far side of the cellar. 

Still clutching the jewel around her neck, Ventille muttered more words under her breath. The cyclone twisting by her side swooped towards Flynn and swallowed him up entirely within it’s swirling gusts. Trapped inside the whirlwind, he couldn’t see much through the whipping winds surrounding him. Everything outside his new prison was a blur, until Ventille approached the enclosure to peer inside at her captive. 

Up close, her grimace began to fade and was replaced by another fake-friendly smile. Staring into the cyclone she scolded, “Please don’t do that again. I don’t tolerate aggressive behaviour.” Continuing in her sweet voice, she tried to convince Flynn of her good intentions, “Besides, I am simply returning the Relics to their rightful owners – the Coven.” 

Flynn knew this was a lie and couldn’t help himself from blurting out, “That’s not true – You want the Power for yourself!”

“Excuse me?” Ventille faked innocence.

“You said it yourself – you want all of the Power just like the Forsaken Enchantress Ivy!”

“So you were spying on us?” She shook her head with disapproval, “Your parents were sneaky snoops too and look what happened to them.”

Flynn was speechless while Ventille continued to taunt, “Well at least I assume that’s who those sad commoners were.” She lowered her head in pity, “But don’t worry, you’ll be joining mommy and daddy very soon.” 

Flynn watched the blue-haired Adept turn to collect the Relics from the chamber floor. Suddenly she stopped, turning towards the spiral staircase. Ventille looked quite bothered by the interruption at the top of the stairs.

Flynn couldn’t see anything clearly through the winds, but he could vaguely hear another voice calling from above. It was faint through the roaring gusts of the whirlwind surrounding him, but he heard someone calling out, “Ventille! Are you down here Ventille?” 

Ventille turned and screamed, “Go away Bubbles!” 

Not discouraged easily, Bubbles continued calling from above, “Are you alright? What’s all that racket?” 

“None of your business – Leave me alone!” Flynn knew that Ventille wanted the Relics to herself, “Run away like you wanted to. I don’t need you down here.”

Flynn tried to shout out, but it was useless. His shouts were swallowed up by the heavy gusts swirling about him. He tried to scream louder over the whipping whirlwind, but it was no use. Ventille turned away from Flynn to direct her full attention towards the nuisance at the top of the stairs. 

“I said – Go away Bubbles!”

She grabbed her amulet and sent a gust of wind shooting up the spiral staircase. The iron door slammed shut – Only to be opened again, quickly followed by the bothersome voice calling down again, “What’s happening down here Ventille?”

“Nothing Bubbles! Go AWAY!!!”

Clutching her amulet tight, Ventille put all of her concentration towards creating another cyclone. Her piercing blue eyes glowed bright in her efforts. However, her attempt to summon a second cyclone proved too much for her abilities. Wanting to keep Bubbles away from her discovery, she had no choice but to briefly release Flynn from his whirlwind prison. 

Flynn fell heavily to the floor as the winds loosened their hold on him. Paying no attention to him, Ventille redirected the cyclone to veer around the chamber towards the door at the top of the staircase. The pleading calls from above went silent again after the thick, iron door slammed shut from the force of the cyclone. Remaining in place, the whirlwind swirled about keeping the door securely shut.

Sprawled on the floor, Flynn shook off the disorientation from his windy prison. Meanwhile, the iron door rattled on it’s hinges as Bubbles tried to get back in, but Ventille was intent on keeping the nosy Adept away.

Now free from the whirlwind, Flynn scrambled to his feet, shakily standing up. He knew that he had little time to act before Ventille turned her attention back to him and seized him within the whirlwind again.

Never taking his eyes off the Adept, he stumbled backwards towards the weaponry scattered across the tiles of the chamber. He groped behind him knowing that his survival depended on finding something to defend himself with. Blindly grasping for one of the blades, he felt the coolness of steel under his fingers. 

By this time, Bubbles had given up her futile attempt to open the door. Silence fell throughout the chamber. Only the swirling whirlwind could be heard as it came back down the staircase. Ventille burst into a fit of joyous laughter knowing that she had the Relics all to herself now.

Clutching his new weapon, Flynn swung it around to see what he had chosen from the deadly arsenal. Disappointment crossed his face when he saw that he picked the least threatening object in the entire chamber – the silver net. Even the creepy mask would have been more effective for defense. He had hoped to grab one of the thick blades, but instead he held onto the Queen’s Web, feeling quite vulnerable again. 

Flynn knew that he didn’t have time to pick up another weapon, so he prayed that the net would do more than just tangle her up. After all, it had Powers now, so maybe it would transport her to another dimension, maybe it would liquify her, maybe it would make her disappear into a puff of smoke. Maybe it would… 

But he had to stop thinking about what the Relic might do – there was no time for that nonsense. He knew that he only had a brief moment to toss the net over the Adept before she turned her binding winds back on him. At the very least the net would stall her while he picked up one of the other deadly weapons behind him.

With her back still turned, Flynn ran towards Ventille and quickly flung the net over her head before he turned back towards the bureau. He lunged for the assortment of blades, only to stop short when he heard the Adept let out a wretched shriek. 

Flynn turned towards the screeching Adept just in time to see her collapse onto the floor, writhing in pain. Ventille’s cyclone twirled about, blindly destroying the chamber in response to her agony. 

The cyclone scattered anything that wasn’t tied down to the ground – including Flynn. He was flung across the chamber, crashing into the bureau as whirling winds of desperation ravaged the entire chamber. However, no matter how much the Adept struggled, Ventille’s winds could not release herself from the net. 

Shielding his face and closing his eyes tight, Flynn turned away from the horrific sight of Ventille thrashing about inside of the net. However there was no avoiding the terrible shrieks that came from behind him nor the intense smell of burning flesh wafting through the air. 

Gathering his courage, Flynn peeked through his fingers to see the other Relics in the bureau emitting a dim glow in recognition of the Power surrounding them. It was then that he caught the reflection of the hand mirror Relic.

Within the mirror he could see the Adept still struggling while the binding net burned deeper and deeper. The more she twisted about in agony, the more the net restricted tighter around her.

Flynn covered his eyes again from the revolting sight. Eventually, time silenced the cries of pain and were replaced by the hissing steam of scorched bones. Once again peeking through his fingers, Flynn saw that the Adept had been reduced to a pile of charred bones scattered on the floor. 

Standing up, Flynn couldn’t help himself from staring at the gruesome scene in front of him. He suddenly found himself fixated on a singular thought replaying itself in his mind. Something that he could never have imagined would happen in his lifetime. Something that both terrified and thrilled him at the same time – Flynn had killed a Witch!

Chapter 9

Ivy the Forsaken

With the mantra of his mission repeating in his mind, Flynn dashed back to the Depths to collect the journals and Resting Relics. Since the invasion, the once scenic pathway was now littered with deep trenches and jagged debris so speeding down the gravel path proved to be a challenge. 

Despite a few stumbles along the way, Flynn managed to avoid injuring himself and eventually arrived at the Glasshouse unharmed. Ignoring the open flames surrounding the entrance, he jumped over the remains of the destroyed doorframe and turned down the first hallway leading to the Depths. 

A rapid sprint down the darkened corridor led Flynn to the barricaded iron door. He bent down to heft up the heavy wooden plank, but then froze when he heard the sound of voices outside the Glasshouse – The Coven was still here!!! 

He quickly ducked down into the shadows of the hallway as best as he could, praying not to be seen. The wait seemed like ages as the voices approached right outside the doorway. But before they entered, a twirling whirlwind came bursting through the already broken entrance. 

The gust whipped around in place as if deciding which way to go. To Flynn’s relief it ignored the darkened corridor that he huddled in and continued spinning further into the Glasshouse instead.

After the whipping whirlwind sped away, it was soon followed by the two arguing voices. Holding his breath in fear, Flynn ducked down deeper into the shadows to avoid their attention. He needn’t have bothered though, the two bickering women passed right by the darkened corridor without a moment’s glance. Their loud voices echoed against the coloured glass walls as they followed the whirlwind deeper into the Glasshouse.

Keeping low to the ground, Flynn left the cover of the shadows to see what these intruders were doing in the Glasshouse – why hadn’t they left with the rest of The Coven? He tip-toed behind them, making sure the bottles in his satchel weren’t clinking, but his need for stealth was entirely unnecessary due to the racket the intruders were creating. 

Between the whirlwind overturning everything in it’s path and the intruders shouting at one another, there was no possibility that Flynn would be noticed. Nonetheless, he kept his distance, leaving a few rows of plants to separate them. 

After passing through a number of domed conservatories, the young women came to an abrupt halt. Flynn stopped quick and ducked behind the fronds of a thick gingerpalm. Peeking between the bulbous fronds, he watched the intruders argue.

One of them, he recognised. The young blue-haired Enchantress that was splashing in the fountain earlier – Ventille. Her demeanour had completely changed now that she was no longer in the company of the Supreme Enchantress. 

She was no longer the demure, well-composed lady she had been in front of Lunasa. Now Ventille behaved brash and immature as she berated the smaller Enchantress tagging along behind her. 

“Stop following me Bubbles!”

Obviously used to this bullying behaviour, Bubbles seemed unfazed and continued in a pleading tone, “Come on Ventille! We have to go.” Everything about Bubbles was soft: her voice, her cheeks, her sensibilities. She was easy prey for the mean-spirited, but her way of fighting back was by letting the insults wash over her with no damage done. Words were just words to Bubbles.

Ventille knew that her harsh words rarely achieved the desired effect on Bubbles. So instead, she directed her whirlwind to increase it’s destructive pace to drown out the bothersome voice of reason behind her. Ventille followed in the cyclone’s chaotic wake, quickly trailed by her pesky shadow. 

Racing faster to keep up, the soft girl continued in a lecturing tone, “The Masters have left. So have all of the other Adepts. We have to go too.” 

“Well go ahead then.” Ventille snarled.

“But—”

“I’m not keeping you here.” Ventille interrupted, “I never asked you to come along anyways.”

Persistent as she was, Bubbles didn’t have a snappy reply to this. So she just repeated herself, “But we have to go Ventille.” 

“You may be happy to be an Adept forever, but I’m destined for something greater.” Ventille spat back.

“You’ll be destined to scrubbing latrines for disobeying the Supreme Enchantress.” Bubbles said very matter-of-fact.

The blue-haired Enchantress turned sharply towards Bubbles, “I won’t be scrubbing anything ever again once I find what I’m looking for.”

Bubbles’ eyes went wide in disbelief, “You can’t be serious!”

“Of course I’m serious – I’m gonna get myself a little souvenir from IvyHold.”

“But everything here is Curs—”

Ignoring Bubbles, the elder Adept cut her off, “Just imagine what Powers still linger here in IvyHold. I mean, Ivy was the most Powerful Enchantress of her time – her pillow probably holds more residual Power than most Enchantresses could ever dream of possessing.” Ventille became excited, “She’s bound to have left something behind. I might even come across one of Ivy’s Relics.”

“Ivy was Forsaken!” Bubbles cautioned.

“You’re such a child Bubbles.” Ventille snapped back.

“The Supreme Enchantress said…”

Ventille interrupted, “You know that Ivy used to be the Supreme Enchantress don’t you?”

“Ivy was Forsaken!” Bubbles shouted back, surprised by her own outburst.

“Yeah, you already said that.”

“Well she was.” The soft Adept’s voice was much stronger now.

Ventille snapped back, “Ivy was only Forsaken because simple Enchantresses and Adepts like yourself were terrified of what she could achieve. Power breeds fear and everybody was afraid of Ivy.”

“You should be afraid of Ivy too.” Bubbles found her courage and was now shouting back at the elder Adept, “I’m telling you, everything here is Cursed – Everything!”

“Nonsense!” Ventille lashed out, “Only babies believe in that.”

“Well I’m not going to be part of this.”

“Like I said before, I never asked you to be a part of this.” Ventille was well practiced at cruelty. She continued to taunt, “Look at Little Baby Bubbles. She’s going to be a pathetic Adept forever.” Swishing her cloak dramatically, she turned her back on Bubbles and continued further into the Glasshouse, “Not me though. I’m going to rise above everybody – even The Coven.”

Bubbles gasped in shock. Eventually she managed to respond, “You’re sounding a lot like Ivy the Forsaken now.”

Ventille burst into a maniacal fit of laughter, “You don’t even realise how much of a compliment that is.” Her skyblue cloak rippled behind her as the whirlwind increased in speed along with her passion, “Ivy had courage. Ivy had Power. Ivy became a Legend!”

“Then she was Forsaken – Never to be spoken of again.” Bubbles reminded.

“We’re speaking about her now aren’t we?”

This flustered Bubbles a bit, “But we shouldn’t be. She was Forsaken!”

“I won’t be though. Once I find Ivy’s Relics, I’ll finish what she began.”

Bubbles would hear no more of this treasonous talk. She turned in a huff and stormed off. Not expecting the Enchantress to turn around so suddenly, Flynn jumped back startled. Quickly composing himself, he ducked away before he was spotted.

Watching Bubbles storm out of the conservatory reminded Flynn of the reason he was here to begin with. He became caught up in the petty drama of these two Adepts, when he had more important things at hand. His mission was to save his parents – and to do that he must retrieve the Relics, get the journals, then escape IvyHold to find the Lost Explorer. These were the only things that mattered now. 

Resting Relics, Journals, Lost Explorer…

Resting Relics, Journals, Lost Explorer…

Resting Relics, Journals, Lost Explorer…

He silently repeated his mantra.

With his mission on his mind, Flynn left Ventille to continue creating havoc by herself. Cradling his mother’s satchel to prevent the bottles from clinking, he followed Bubbles back towards the Depths. He followed from a distance, careful to give the Adept plenty of space. 

Anxious to find the Relics and get out of here, Flynn had to restrain himself from rushing ahead. Luckily Bubbles never turned back on her way towards the exit, otherwise, she may have seen him. 

After what seemed like an eternity of following the soft Adept ahead of him and listening to the loud clatter of the cyclone behind him, Flynn was able to slip down the long corridor leading to the spiral staircase of the Depths. Heart pounding and mind racing, he threw caution to the wind and dashed down the dark hallway. 

His boots clattered across the stone tiles and bottles clinked within the satchel, but Flynn took no notice of the noise he was creating. In his haste to retrieve the Relics, he was making quite a racket, but Ventille’s whirlwind was loud enough to cover up any sound that he made.

Once at the end of the corridor, he hefted up the thick beam barricading the door. With a heavy thud, the beam crashed into the wall, then clattered onto the floor. With nervous sweat pouring down his face, Flynn pulled the creaking door open and slid down the spiral staircase into the Depths. 

Once at the bottom of the stairs, Flynn rushed across the chamber, straight to the bureau full of Resting Relics. Ignoring the echoes of destruction coming from upstairs, he put his attention towards his mission. 

Resting Relics, Journals, Lost Explorer…

Resting Relics, Journals, Lost Explorer…

Resting Relics, Journals, Lost Explorer…

Now standing in front of the bureau, he flung the oak doors wide open. Mentally prepared to grab the Relics and go, Flynn froze momentarily. There was much more in the bureau than just Resting Relics. 

Not expecting to find so much clutter, Flynn eyed the vast array of random objects lining the shelves. Momentarily forgetting his need to rush, Flynn laughed out loud when he saw his mother’s blue medicine chest which he no longer needed sitting in the bureau. His laughter stopped abruptly when all of his attention was drawn towards an assortment of heavy weaponry lining the entire lefthand side of the bureau.  

His glance first fell upon a series of jewel encrusted daggers glimmering in the dull light of the chamber. Then he spotted an impressive double-barrelled crossbow hanging above a collection of well worn throwing blades. Next to these was a heavy cudgel leaning against a thick copper shield. 

Scanning over the other deadly tools, Flynn recognised the Queen’s Web from Tarantu’s Hovel. It didn’t look as threatening as the rest of the weaponry, but he supposed the glowing stone embedded in the silvery net had it’s own sort of Power. 

Finally his attention was captured by a gigantic battleaxe leaning heavily in the corner of the bureau. This thick handled, double-edged blade was the definition of excessive.

Flynn shook off thoughts of heroically wielding the massive axe when he remembered why he was looking in the bureau to begin with – The Relics. Peeling his eyes away from the heavy weaponry, Flynn looked over at the other side of the bureau where the Resting Relics were displayed.

The deadly arsenal he had been looking at was offset by this motley collection of objects on the right side of the bureau: a singular padded glove, a burnt out torch, a miniature hammer, a shiny copper orb, a faded looking-glass, and a scaly mask with huge bug-like eyes. 

Each of the random objects was embedded with a milky-white stone similar to the glowing stone within the Queen’s Web. Even dormant, these stones drew Flynn’s attention with an hypnotic allure that was hard to snap himself out of.  

Looking at the strange collection of Relics, didn’t instill a very confident feeling within Flynn. He knew that his mission was to gather the Relics, but he also knew that he would need more than a padded glove, used torch, or looking-glass to help get him out of IvyHold safely – let alone survive in the Outside world. There were members of The Coven upstairs, so he needed something a bit more threatening – Something big and sharp preferably. 

His eyes were immediately drawn back towards the double handed battleaxe when heroic visions returned to his mind. Armed with the massive axe, he could definitely defend himself from the Adepts creating chaos upstairs. On second thought, he could take on the entire Coven with this axe. He could become known as Flynn the Legendary Witch Killer.

He eagerly wrapped his hands around the well-worn leather grip to lift the deadly weapon. Once slightly raised, it felt a lot heavier than he anticipated. Suddenly, the weight became too much, throwing Flynn off balance. In an attempt to set it back gently, the axe came crashing down. 

The thick blade and heavy handle of the axe brought down the entire contents of the bureau along with it. Flynn pulled his cloak tight around himself, cringing from the deafening clatter. 

With Relics scattered all over the floor of the chamber, Flynn scurried frantically to pick up the fallen objects. Rummaging through the jumble, he gathered up as many of the Relics as he could. One by one he threw them into his satchel. First the padded glove, then the copper orb followed by the tiny hammer. It wasn’t until he picked up the faded looking glass, that he noticed the deafening silence surrounding him. 

Frozen in place, Flynn could no longer hear any destructive sounds from the whirlwind up above. The terrifying realisation quickly sunk in that he was no longer alone in the Depths. In his hand, the misty reflection of the faded mirror Relic showed a cloaked figure descending the spiral staircase.

 

Slowly turning to face the elder Adept, Flynn saw a sickly sweet smile spreading across her face. Flynn may have found what he was looking for, but apparently so had she.

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. It was at this point that he felt the extra weight of the Webling’s burning eye in the pocket of his cloak. Remembering his recent victory, Flynn grabbed hold of the orb, giving himself a boost of confidence.

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.