The Book: Part Nine
There was silence in the darkness.
“Oh this is no good at all,” the Grand Master complained. “I can’t see what I’m writing here.”
“Can’t you use the little candle on the podium?” Beacon Bearer Clive suggested.
“It’s burnt down,” the Grand Master replied from the dark. “We’ll have to light the torches again.”
“We can’t have a secret meeting in the light!” a voice form the darkness shouted.
“Well we can’t have a meeting without the book of words either!” the Grand Master shouted back.
“Why can’t we just skip the book part?” Brother Placid Hands asked.
“Because we can’t!” the Grand Master hissed.
Silence returned to the darkness.
“Well?” the Grand Master asked. “Can we have light?”
There was light.
The flimsy door was torn off its hinges, and the torchlight from the catacombs flooded in.
“Much better,” the Grand Master said as he looked down at the book. “Thank you.”
“Give me the book!” a gnarled old voice commanded from the back of the room.
Only then did the Grand Master look up. All the other members of the society had already turned to see Edna striding in through the open doorway. Maria followed in her wake, casting a glare at the restrained John as she passed.
“This book?” the Grand Master asked, holding the tattered old tome up.
Edna breathed a sigh of relief.
“At last!” she said happily. “It’s about time we got some luck!”
“I’m afraid this book is mine,” the Grand Master said lightly.
There was a cough from the hooded Neopets.
“That is to say, ours,” he hastily corrected himself.
Edna smiled politely.
“Not likely,” she chuckled.
With a flick of her wrist the book flew out of the Grand Master’s hands and into hers. She touched the cover lightly, not daring to open it.
“I am Edna, one of the most powerful witches ever to live,” she told the room in general without looking up. “I suggest you run.”
Most of the Circle of the Crimson Circle didn’t need telling twice. They bolted out of the door, leaving only the Grand Master on the podium, Maria behind the old witch, and John lurking in the corner.
“Suit yourself,” she said mildly.
There was a cackle, and a crack of magical power. A Mortog sat where the Grand Master had been. It croaked in confusion.
Edna was about to turn to give the same treatment to John, when she found the book snatched out of her hands.
The Lupe held it out, opening the book and flicking through the pages.
“Now, they may not have known what this is, but I do,” John threatened as he backed away. “I’ll curse you to oblivion if you try anything.”
Edna merely cackled at him. She turned a sideways glance at Maria.
“You are going to learn a very important lesson today, Maria,” she said quietly. “Words are powerful things. In the right hands, they can be good; in the wrong hands, they can be evil... either way, they are powerful. The key thing to remember, though, is that words are just words, no matter how you use them.”
She approached John menacingly, rolling up her sleeves. She picked up a nearby log the society had been using to light torches.
“Extum Finite!” John cried out, attempting to cast a spell.
“EXTUM FINITE!” he cried louder.
There was still no response from the book.
“What really matters is actions,” Edna continued, “because they can speak louder than words ever can.”
With that, she brought the log down over John’s head, knocking him out. The book fell out of his hands.
“What happened? Did the book refuse to give him its powers?” Maria asked as she ran forward to stand by Edna.
“He didn’t think he could cast the spell,” the old witch replied.
“What?” Maria asked.
“I’ll explain in a moment,” Edna told her. “Right now we have to fix things.”
She turned around, her cloak billowing in a sudden wind. The book seemed to float in front of her, pages flapping wildly. Then, it opened, and a whirlwind of energy escaped. All the colours of the rainbow surrounded Maria, swirling in all directions. She could feel the tingling of the magic, and her feet leaving the floor.
Slowly, the wind died down, and the colours faded. Once more, Maria found herself in front of the Money Tree, Edna beside her. It was morning. The sun was out and the inhabitants of the city were going about their normal business.
“What did you do?” Maria asked.
“Kept the balance,” Edna replied. “No one will remember last night; they’ll all just get on with their lives. It’s better that way. The other witches will remember, the Soup Faerie might be a bit confused for a day or two... but everyone else will be none the wiser. That nasty example of a Lupe... John, did you call him? The Defenders of Neopia will find him occupying a cell about now, with a signed confession to pretty much every unsolved crime there’s ever been... and they’ll feel strangely compelled to believe him. The members of the secret society will forget all their secret plans and develop a strange aversion to the colour black, while the big one on the podium will find a new life at the bottom of the pecking order in the Meridell swamps.”
“You did all that, that quickly?” Maria asked in awe.
“It’s a very powerful book,” Edna said, tapping the cover.
“What did you mean, back in the caves?” Maria asked.
“Full of questions now, are we?” Edna cackled. “Tell me the flare spell again.”
“What is it with that spell and you!?” Maria exploded. “Why are you so obsessed?”
“Just humour an old lady,” Edna said stealthily.
“Fine... Inferno Astus, Clostus Fume. What difference does that make?” Maria asked.
“All the difference. Because you said Astus Meraray, Clostus Fume the first time, and Astus Meraray, Clostus Inferno the second,” Edna replied honestly.
Maria tried to remember; had she said three different spells? How was that possible?
“Well...” she tried to explain.
“A real witch knows that the words you use don’t matter; it’s just the intent you put behind them. The book never told you the spell. You told it to yourself. Besides, dear, a real witch knows she is a witch. She doesn’t need training or a book or even a pointy hat... she just is. You’ve got magic in you, just not enough,” Edna explained.
“So I’m not a real witch?” Maria asked, tears brimming up in her eyes.
“Be honest, dear, did you ever want to be? Or were you just running away from Krawk Island? From your old life?”
Maria was speechless... but she knew, deep down, Edna was right. All she had wanted was an escape. Becoming a pirate meant you had to make port on the island, but becoming a witch had meant she could go wherever she wanted. It was the freedom that she had desired what seemed like a lifetime ago, nothing more.
Besides, she told herself, I could never live like Edna... not in a million years. Her tower was so... dingy.
“I... can’t go back,” Maria whispered.
It was true; her old life was closed to her, but so was the new life she had planned for herself. She was caught in the middle, with nowhere left to go.
“Who said you had to?” Edna asked. “Neopia Central is a big city... you’ll find your place in it eventually. Kauvara will help you get on your feet; I’ll see to it. It’s the least we can do, after you helped us find this.”
She waved the book in her hand.
“What are you going to do with it?” the barmaid asked.
“Something that should have been done a long time ago,” the witch replied.
Deep in the darkness of the Haunted Woods, the witches gathered.
They were all there, from Lisha to Morguss, from Kauvara to Jerdana. All of them knew what had to be done. They didn’t dare speak it, but they knew their fates hung in the balance. Something was wrong with their magic, and they were going to fix it... forever.
In a circle, around a roaring fire, they passed the book. Each one tore a page, each one placed the page on the fire. The pages sparked, sending out coloured flames of blue and green... even some black flames appeared at one point. Only the crackling was heard. In silence they passed the book, watching the flames consume the paper slowly, and completely. Finally, Edna placed the empty cover on the fire. It wrinkled in the heat, the crimson circle at last fading from view. All that was left was ash, and the woods would claim that in time, as they did to all things.
The book was gone; the job Esmeralda failed to do millennia ago was complete. The Faeries would never know. They would never suspect a thing. Only the witches and the barmaid would ever know.
The secret was safe.
“It’s done,” Edna whispered at the others. “The magic is saved.”