The other day I saw this sign and I thought about Annabelle. :)
How are you holding up? I hope this letter reaches you and that you have the opportunity to write back, but I imagine that you would respond with some snide remark and then complain about the horrible rules you now have to live under. We haven’t known each other for a very long time, but I feel confident in saying I know you that well.
I know this not easy for you, and I wish you were still here at home where you belong, but we’ve got to do our best and believe that we will see each other again. I think, by now, you have realized that it might be longer than we first anticipated. Aisling and I both miss you very much, but it is our wish that you stay where you are and do your best to stay out of trouble. Do what they ask of you, don’t ask too many questions, and don’t draw attention to yourself. It would be best if you lay low, it is not your job to “take down” the order, you don’t have enough experience or knowledge, it’s your job to be safe.
Since I know you very well by now, and since I know Eylion, I expect you two have already gotten into a spot of trouble, and let me just say that you are lucky not to be within swatting distance and that you better pull yourself together right now, young lady. Do as you are told and stay out of trouble!
Now, lecture over, I will give you an update on things back home. Albert is doing fine. As you might have expected, Aisling has taken on that responsibility, and she takes very good care of him so you don’t have to worry. He gets enough to eat, plenty of exercise and lots of love. He’s a very happy horse, but I’m sure if he could talk he’d say he misses you a lot.
As you also might have expected, we were not the only people who were upset by the way you girls were taken, and there are a lot of unhappy and heartbroken mentors out there. A couple of days after you were taken, all the young wizards disappeared too, but this time people were prepared. However, unlike with you, we have no clue as to where they took them. It would have been easier if they had just taken you all to the same place, but your dear Headmistress is a little too old fashion for that.
Alexis has become somewhat of a leader among those who are unhappy, and there are many. We have tried to solve this peacefully through communication for a long time, before even you came along, but we’re speaking to deaf ears and so we’re taking it a step further. It’s time we formed a resistance to overthrow the order. This is not an invitation for you to do something stupid, by the way! I’m actually glad you witchlings are out the way so you don’t get caught in the middle, but I tell you this because we also fear you will be used against us and I want you to be aware of what is going on in the outside world. You just stay put and stay safe, we’ve got this. We have plans and Alexis is in charge, though sometimes I think my mentor has many more plans inside her head that she shares with me. It’s infuriating, actually, but I do trust her, and I think she is the best for the job.
So that’s what’s been going on, I hope that helps with all the questions you must be having. Be good. Oh and do you still have your locket? Don’t lose it! And destroy this letter when you’re done reading it.
I miss you, and I love you. Aisling says she loves you too.
Annabelle read the letter one last time, tracing her fingers over the word ‘love’ written in Gwen’s handwriting. She then took a deep breath before she put the letter in her paper bin and waved her hand over it causing the letter to burst into flames. It hurt, seeing Gwen’s words on the paper crumble together and turning into ashes. She wanted to see her so badly, she wanted to see all of them. Her eyes stung with bitter tears that ran down her check, hot and wet.
She hated the order! She wanted to mess things up for them so bad, yet Gwen expected her to do nothing, expected her to just stay out-of-the-way. Alexis had plans, she said, plans that she kept from Gwen. Annabelle gave a snort of laughter as she thought of the irony as Gwen complained to her that Alexis kept her in the dark, when that was exactly what she was doing to her. What was so important about her locket? Everyone kept saying that she had to keep it safe, but they never bothered to tell her why.
But she knew something that Gwen did not, because Alexis had mentioned to Christophe that Annabelle could go find Andromeda. Apparently she had not mentioned this to Gwen because Gwen was telling her to stay where she was. If she had known of this idea to find Andromeda, what would she say? Would she tell Annabelle to go? Probably not, which was probably why Alexis had only told Christophe, because she knew Gwen and Aisling would say no.
Annabelle got into bed and looked up at the ceiling of her four-poster. She wondered what Eylion’s letter said. Would her letter have the same information she got, or would Leda tell her more than Gwen had told Annabelle? Would Leda know of this plan of possibly running away to see Andromeda? She was her mentor, after all.
She wished she could see Eylion right away, but she couldn’t as the door to her room was locked, and it would only be opened when someone came to deliver her meals. She still had four days left of her confinement. It was so boring she had started looking forward the homework she was given every day to keep up with what the other girls were learning, just so that she’d have something to do. The punishment had sort of worked, because Annabelle had no desire to do anything bad for a while, because being confined to her room with no one to talk to was torture. She sighed and rubbed her temples.
“Just four more days.”
“We’re alive!” Eylion said as she saw Annabelle for the first time after a week a part. “I thought I would die in there!”
“Me too!” Annabelle said hugging her. “I’ve missed you! Let’s not do anything like that for a while, okay? I say someone else can get in trouble next time.”
“Well someone might have gotten in trouble while we were away, how would we know?”
They hadn’t. Being given an update by their friends over breakfast, they learned that the other girls had been exceptionally good for the week they had been gone. They hadn’t even questioned Ms. Spryt’s abysmal history knowledge.
“No one dared to!” Jean said frowning. “The day after you two caused trouble, we all got punished for laughing at your prank!”
“What? No way!”
Annabelle looked at the other girls who all nodded.
“We did! Everyone had to go to the headmistress office in groups where we all got six whacks with this enormous paddle. It really hurt! And all because we all thought it was funny when they talked backwards.”
“We felt that paddle too, didn’t we Annabelle? Is was this long and this thick.” Eylion measured with her hands. “But we never meant for anyone else to get in trouble for what we did,” she said sullenly. “We just wanted to cheer you guys up and to get the teachers back for being mean.”
“Oh it did cheer us up,” Tilly said grinning for ear to ear. “I’d take a paddling to see that any day! You two should get an award, it was brilliant.”
Eylion got up and took a bow. The others laughed.
“What is going on over here?” The sharp voice of Octavia Spryt rang in their ears as she came over to their table.
“What do you mean? We’re just talking,” Eylion said giving her a defiant look.
“Don’t talk back, missy. You two better be on your best behavior or I’m sure the headmistress will not hesitate to order you back to your rooms for another week.” She gave an evil smile. “I’ll be keeping an eye on you.”
No one said anything as she walked back to the teacher table.
“That hag!” hissed Eylion. “She’s out to get us, it doesn’t really matter if we behave ourselves or not. We ought to teach her a lesson.”
“Yes, but we’re not going to, not right now,” Annabelle reminded her. She leaned closer to Eylion and whispered in her ear so that no one else could hear. “I’ve been wanting to talk to you in private. About… ya know… the letter.”
Eylion’s eyes widened like she had totally forgotten about the visit they had both gotten from Christophe. She nodded.
“Oh and… we need to explore the passages further,” Annabelle said. “Maybe we can use them to our advantage.”
“What are you two whispering about?” Jean asked suspiciously.
“Nothing,” they both said in unison.
“Right…” Mina said. “I bet they’re planning something else. What are you two going to do?”
“Nothing,” they both said again.
“We’ve decided to be good for a while,” Annabelle said. “At least… we are going to try to be good. Besides… how come we have to be the ones to cause trouble? Someone else might pitch in a bit.”
“Here here,” Eylion agreed. “If we’re the only ones causing trouble, then all those hags have to do is remove us and the problem is solved. I think what we need is to team up and take it in turns to stir things up. And if there are more of us, it’ll be easier to get away with things because we can back each other up and cause confusion.”
Eylion looked around the table seriously as though expecting someone to say something. It was quiet for a while.
Jean broke the silence, but she spoke quietly so that all the other girls gathered closely together.
“I agree. We should group up. What if we ask around discretely and see who might be on our side? If we feel we can trust them, we can invite them to join us. We can create this network of trouble makers to make things difficult for the order. It will also help if we can meet and talk about what is going on. It’s not good to be alone in our anger and confusion. If we can talk about it with each other, it will be difficult for the order to brainwash us because we’ll constantly be on the alert and be critical to anything they say. If people are afraid to voice their concerns it will be so much easier for the order to get to them.”
All the other girls nodded in agreement around the table. Ms. Spryt who had been paying attention to them was walking in their direction again.
“We might know where we can talk in private, but Annabelle and I need to explore a little more to find out if it’s safe,” Eylion whispered quickly before Ms. Spryt came within hearing distance.
“Alright, girls,” she said as she approached. “I don’t like how close you are all sitting together, you look like you are up to no good. I think we better split you up.” She raised an eyebrow at them.
“We’re just talking,” Tilly said standing up looking angry. “Since when is it against the rules to just talk?”
“Watch yourself, girl,” Ms. Spryt said sternly. “Sit down, now.”
She pointed at Annabelle.“You. Go sit at that table over there.”
Then she pointed at Jean. “You, over there.”
Then she directed Eylion over to another table. When they got up looking angry, but having no choice but to obey, she said,
“I don’t want to see this group eating together for the rest of the week. If you all behave I might reconsider in the future, but for now this little group is banned at meal times. Now… go.”
It was around one in the morning that Annabelle heard a knock on her door. She hadn’t had a chance to talk to Eylion all day since they were separated at breakfast. She assumed that she’d come over at night to talk. She got out of bed, put on her cloak and opened the door to find Eylion waiting for her.
“Let’s go exploring,” she said, grinning.
“Just a minute,” Annabelle said. She quickly put a pillow under her duvet to make it bulge up a bit.“Just in case someone decide to stick their head in to check on me.”
They made their way through the corridors as quietly as they could. They were both bursting to talk about the visit from Christophe, but it wasn’t safe to talk until they had made it into the passages. They found the cupboard with the cleaning supplies, crawled behind the wooden crates and went through the tiny hole in the wall behind the old tapestry. It was so dark they couldn’t see a thing so they both conjured a tiny little ball of flames that they held in their hand. It was warm, but it didn’t hurt, it just tickled the skin.
“What if the teachers know about these passages?” Annabelle wondered out loud.
“It doesn’t look like it though,” Eylion said looking around. “You’d think if they did, Spryt and Lydia would have known to look further last time we were here. And it’s not exactly clean here,” she said looking up at a cobweb. “If they were using the passages, wouldn’t they have made sure they were cleaned?”
“You’re right. I just don’t want to get into more trouble just yet.” Annabelle looked around. “Should we walk the other way this time? We know we can get to the kitchen that way,” she pointed down the passage way.
“Yeah, but we got lucky. It split in some places, and I wonder what else we can find.”
“Well… okay… we know one way, let’s focus on one tonight as well. Let’s take it step by step and try to map out this thing.”
She pointed in the opposite direction from where they went last time. “This way, tonight?”
“Yeah, okay. Let’s go.”
As they walked through the narrow passage ways they talked about their visit from Christophe. Annabelle told Eylion about her letter and the little information she got out of it. She also told her about Alexis having mentioned finding Leda’s mentor Andromeda.
“Have you ever met her?”
“No, Leda doesn’t mention her that often. I have asked her where she is, but she always changed the topic.”
“So then Leda didn’t mention Andromeda in her letter either? I guess Alexis has hidden this idea from her too.”
“Actually… she did mention it.” Eylion stopped and looked at Annabelle seriously.
“What? Really? So then Alexis told her.”
“Well… I don’t know for sure, but maybe… maybe Leda was the one suggesting it? I don’t know, Annabelle, but in the letter she wrote to me Leda did mention the possibility of you going to find Andromeda.”
“You mean we.” Annabelle gave her a look.
“No, Annabelle… you.” Eylion looked at her with a sad expression.
Annabelle’s tummy made a lurch. She was going to have to go alone? Didn’t Eylion want to come?
“Eylion… what are you saying? Don’t you want to get out of here?”
“I do, but… someone has to stay here. Someone needs to make sure that the others don’t get affected by the orders propaganda and brainwashing. Before I even got the letter I thought about it and we could never have run away with the other girls. It’s too easy to find a large number of people.”
“But we could have run together. Just the two of us.”
“But then who would make sure the others were alright? It’s not like we have found any great rebel leader here. They were without us for a week… one week, and they did nothing. They didn’t even object to being fed lies. Jean is right, we need a group, and we need to find a place for our group to meet and talk. We need to keep the thoughts of resistance alive, and I think I need to be here for that. I think that is what Leda wants me to do. Well… I don’t think she wants me to get into trouble, but I think she wants me to make sure the order doesn’t succeed.”
“But… she wants me to leave this place? Alone? Didn’t she say that I should stay put? That’s what Gwen told me.”
“I think I need to stay because I know a lot and I can teach the others things, things the order will not teach them. And I think they need me to keep their spirit alive.” Eylion brushed away a tear that ran down Annabelle’s cheek. “I think Alexis and Leda want you to find Andromeda because you have an important role to play elsewhere and Andromeda can help you with that.”
“What role?” Annabelle asked, her voice breaking from crying.
“I don’t know, Annabelle. I wish I did, but I think you might be special, and I think our mentors are suspecting this. I think Alexis knows more than any of us, but she has so many secrets it drives me insane. This locket of yours…. I mean… what the hell?”
“Yeah, that’s what I’ve been thinking.”
“When you got it, Leda said they had it made for you, and I believed that because it is tradition to give a witchling something when she gets her powers, but it wasn’t made for you, was it? It’s old. Heck, you haven’t even been able to open it. It can’t be new.”
“Maybe it was,” Annabelle said thinking about it. “What if… what if the locket was made for me, but not by them? I’ve been thinking about it and I think they are suspecting something about me. Gwen said she didn’t know where I came from or who my parents were, but that was just a week after I got here. They could have found out more later, and I swear, sometimes when Alexis looks at me it feels like she is looking at someone she has known for a long time. She’s the one who keeps saying I should hide the fact that I didn’t grow up here. I know she knows more than she’s letting on, and it makes me so pissed that she’s hiding it!”
She banged her fist against the wall. There was a bang and a brick fell out and landed on the other side of the wall, leaving a hole.
“Shit! Do you think someone heard? Where are we anyway?”
“I dunno,” Eylion said looking through the hole. “Hey… it’s a library. With books!”
“Well duh…” Annabelle snorted.
“Let’s see if we can find a hidden hole in the wall that leads into it.”
They went a little further, checking the walls thoroughly so they didn’t miss anything. No lose bricks, no lever they could pull or anything like that. The only thing they could find was a little mark in one of the bricks closer to the floor, with a specific shape as if someone had carved it there.
“Wonder where this comes from, think it’s significant?”
Eylion crouched down to have a look. She rubbed the sleeve of her cloak over it to remove some dust. Then she looked closer almost pressing her face to the wall.
“What the… Annabelle, come down here!”
“What is it?” Annabelle crouched down too and looked closer as Eylion backed away a little to give her some space.
“Look familiar?” Eylion asked pointing at the mark.
“No… it can’t be. This symbol…” Annabelle stroked her fingers lightly over the mark in the stone. The symbol carved into the stone looked exactly like the symbol on her locket.
“Did you bring it?”
“Yeah…” she took off her locket and held it near the carved symbol in the wall, comparing the two.
“Well? What are you waiting for?”
“Place the symbol into the mark, maybe it is a key or something. I always thought that thing was kinda useless, it doesn’t even open.”
“Maybe it does open, but there’s a special way to open it.”
“Yeah, maybe, but for now let’s see if it can open this wall.”
Annabelle turned her locked to the symbol was facing the wall, then she pressed it into the carving in the stone. It was a perfect fit, almost as if the locket was a seal that had made the mark.
The mark and the locket lit up and a hole formed in the stone wall, it got bigger and bigger until it was big enough for a person to get through. Annabelle removed the locked from the mark and hurried through with Eylion behind her.
“Wow! Holy broomsticks!” Eylion rubbed her eyes almost as if she didn’t believe what she was seeing.
They were in a room and there were books, literally everywhere. Hundreds of old tomes, maybe a thousand, and only they knew about it. The order couldn’t possibly know, if they did they hadn’t made much of an effort to dust them off. The only place not covered in books were a little corner where there was a big oak desk and a reading area with leather furniture.
“So… this is the library,” Annabelle said looking around.
“I thought it would be bigger, I mean… considering the size of this castle.” She had to be honest, she did.
“Yeah, I see your point, but it’s still bloody fantastic, isn’t it?”
“Oh yeah, amazing, and I can’t believe my locket is the key. What’s up with that?”
“This is getting weirder and weirder,” Eylion said nodding.
“Maybe… maybe there is more to the library? I mean… look at that desk over there, it looks like this is a personal library, not a kind of library that a lot of people can use. I can imagine that a lot of people lived in this castle at some point, and wouldn’t many people want to use it?”
“Right, and why would you need a locket to enter the library? I don’t think there are many of your lockets lying around, I’m pretty sure there are few… maybe only one.”
“Fuck…” Annabelle sat down in an old chair and buried her head in her hands, a cloud of dust came of the leather. “What the fuck is this thing?” She looked at her locket? “Who owned it before me? Why do I have it now?”
“It probably belonged to a Glasegrove? Maybe the others think you’re from that family, which is why they don’t want you to tell anyone about your mysterious past.”
“Fuck them!” Annabelle shouted in anger. “Fuck those stupid…” She made a growling noise. She was so angry, it was hard for her to keep it together. “How could they do this to me? Why can’t they just tell the fucking truth? It’s my life, I deserve to know.”
Eylion sat down next to her and put an arm around her.
“On the bright side… this castle might actually belong to you.”
“Why would that be a good thing? It’s not exactly a happy place, the stupid order has it and they ruin everything. Why would I want to be a Glasegrove? By the looks of it, they’re all dead.”
“Well from a girl with no mother and the daughter of the town drunk, imagining your family super wealthy and walking the halls of their giant castle is not so bad. I mean… don’t get me wrong, I loved that bastard, but it didn’t help my reputation much.”
“We don’t know that I’m a Glasegrove. All we have is a locket that fits into a wall in some castle.”
“A castle owned by the Glasegroves,” Eylion added. “Well I think they were Glasegroves, since this is Glasegrove castle. Do people name their castle after their family name? Dang… why don’t we know more people who own castles?”
“The owner of the locket could have worked here or something. And we don’t know if I’m supposed to have the locket. Just because it’s mine now doesn’t mean that it was made for me, or that I am related to its previous owner. I just have it because of those bothersome hags at home.”
“Wow there, girl,” Eylion raised her eyebrows. “I know you’re angry at them holding back information, but they love you and you love them.”
Annabelle took a long deep breath and let it our slowly. “I know. I’m just tired of this.”
“I know you are,” Eylion said hugging her close.
“I’m tired too. You’re not the only one in a horrible situation. I’m not trying to say that you don’t have the right to be angry, but we are both locked up in this castle, and so are the other girls. None of us want to be here, and we all miss our mentors.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I just want to know where I’m from.” Annabelle yawned and leaned in closer to Eylion who rested her head on top of hers.
“And you will, one day. Right now we’re picking up clues that might be useful, and the fact that you have been given a locket that works as a key is this humongous castle seems like an important clue.”
She got up and brushed dust off her clothes.
“Let’s go to bed. You’re tired. We can explore more tomorrow night.”
Annabelle nodded in agreement and followed Eylion back out of the library. They used her locket on the mark to close the hole in the wall, and then they made their way back.
After following Annabelle back to her room, Eylion continued to her own. Annabelle climbed into her bed exhausted and with her head full of questions. How the hell would she be able run away from this place, not get caught and returned, and find Andromeda all on her own? And if she did get caught… would they kill her?
It was a cold and frosty December. The village was filled with Christmas decorations and music from the local pubs. One could even hear the Christmas cheer from the church at the top of the hill. There, behind the old village church, walked a young couple. They were chatting animatedly about their evening, their breath turning to steam as they spoke, and they paid no attention to anything else other than where they were going. He was tall and hansom, she was blond and beautiful, and they both looked absolutely delicious!
Without any warning the wolf jumped out from behind a tree, showing her teeth threateningly. The woman screamed, her boyfriend wrapped his arms around her and they slowly backed away from the wolf, both terrified. She was white as the snow around them, and with blue eyes. She growled, her mind was only on one thing… dinner.
Then, out of nowhere, came a second wolf; she was bigger, chocolate brown with patches of black. She attacked, not the humans, but the other wolf. She jumped on her and bit her neck, forcing the other wolf into submission as the two humans ran away. Even after they were far gone she held on tight to the attackers neck until she whimpered. It wasn’t harming her, but it was clear it was a struggle of dominance and the smaller wolf had no choice but to yield.
When the brown wolf thought it was safe she let go, still growling at the smaller one, who looked like a cub compared to her.
“What do you think you are doing, pup? Where is your mistress?” The bigger wolf changed form and turned into a tall lady with raven hair, with green flaring eyes. She was completely naked except for a small flat backpack almost in the same colour as her fur had been. It was designed so that she could wear it as a wolf without it being very visible. The other wolf just looked up at her, her ears pointing back. She tried to walk away.
“Oh no you don’t!” The lady produced a long leather collar and a leash that she used to tie the other wolf. “You’re coming with me, trouble maker.”
The white beauty struggled and growled, but the lady wouldn’t have it. She was strong, much stronger than a human, but then… she wasn’t. She took out an odd golden contraption from her backpack. It looked somewhat like a small flute, except it had a very odd shape; it sort of curled at the bottom and there weren’t any holes in it, just three buttons made of glass. She pushed down a button and blew into a thin mouth piece. The younger wolf howled, the noise was awful! A human would never notice, but she was no human… at least, not anymore. She could hear it, and she’d rather not. She tried to pull away.
The lady smiled down at the wolf, holding her still in a tight grasp. “I take it you’ve never heard that sound before? I knew you must be a pup. Well… you’ll get used to it… eventually.”
The wolf gave her a glare, she was growing tired of being called “pup”.
The lady started walking, dragging the unwilling wolf along with her. The wolf tried to stop once, but quickly learned that wouldn’t work as the lady gave her a swat on her flank.
“I do wish you would turn human,” the lady said. “I just isn’t the same swatting a wolf. Their backside is not made for swatting… but female human bottoms on the other hand…” She grinned to herself.
The wolf growled at her.
“Fine be that way, but you will turn back sooner or later. And you’ll be in trouble, my alpha is not happy with you!”
Suddenly the wolf changed into human form. She turned into a girl in her twenties. She was tall, but not as tall as the other woman. Her naked skin was milky white and she had long,natural blond hair and blue eyes.
“What do you mean your alpha? What’s an alpha? Why is your alpha not happy with me?”
“Ah look, there really was a girl in there, I was starting to wonder if I’d taken a real wolf. Would you care to explain your attack on these people?”
“They smelled tasty,” said the girl smiling at the thought. “I couldn’t control myself.”
“Well that’s obvious. Don’t you know anything, pup? You never leave the pack without having eaten this close to the full moon. Haven’t your mistress taught you anything? And I wasn’t aware that there was another pack in the area. Who do you belong to?”
“Pack? Mistress?” The girl was confused. “I was hungry,” she said. “I haven’t eaten since… since I woke up like this. I tried to control it, but I couldn’t anymore.” She looked sad. “I haven’t eaten in days. Their scent… it’s getting stronger.”
“Exactly when did you wake up like “this”?” asked the lady.
“About two nights ago.”
“And who’s your mistress?”
“Who bit you and turned you into a werewolf? There are rules, you know. You can’t just turn anyone, and once you do you have you have obligations. Who is this woman who has been so careless as to not make sure you’ve had a meal since you turned? Does she even know where you are? Pups are not supposed to go out on their own until they can control themselves.”
The girl looked confused. She had, by now, realized she was a werewolf. It was a surprise at first, it made her scared, but once she got used to the feeling she loved it. The cold didn’t bother her, and she was always out in the cold. She was lucky if she found somewhere warm to sleep, but now she didn’t have to worry about that anymore.
“I don’t know. I don’t remember being bitten. I remember being out at night and then… then… I can’t remember what happened after that. I just woke up and I had changed, my senses were different. My sight, my sense of smell. I’d walk around humans and I could taste their smell and I wanted to bite. So I tried to remove myself from society, because I couldn’t trust myself to not attack. But I lost control. I need to eat.”
“That you do, but we don’t eat people, young lady.” The lady gave her a stern look, but there was a hint of sympathy in that look. “Are you the wolf trying to break into the chicken coop at the Johnson’s farm last night?”
“I told you, I lost control,” said the girl defensively. “I’ve been so hungry. They weren’t people, they were chickens! And I didn’t get any of them because that stupid farmer tried to bloody shoot me! Maybe I should have gone for him instead…” She grinned mischievously.
“No, bad puppy!” said the lady swatting her. “We don’t eat humans.”
“Ow!” The girl glared at her, and before the lady had time to think she had turned back into a wolf and ran off, dragging the leash with her.
“Come back here right this instant!”
Yeah, like that’s going to happen. She ran as fast as she could, to get away, completely forgetting about the leash dragging behind her and getting stuck on a tree branch.
The brown wolf came running into the forest clearing where the white wolf was struggling with the leash. She was busy chewing the leather and growling.
She had to smile as she turned back into human form.
“Tsk tsk. Such a naughty little pup.” She grabbed a hold of the leash. “Come on, the pack is here to take us to head quarters. You get to meet the alpha wolf, she’ll be interested in talking to you about your misdemeanors.”
The white wolf pined.
When they got back to the road a black van was waiting for them.
“Cressie, who’s that you’ve brought with you? I don’t recognize her.” A redhead jumped out of the van. She handed Cressie a long black cloak to cover her naked body.
“I don’t know yet.” Cressie pulled on the cloak, careful not to let go of the leash. “But she’s the one we’ve been looking for. Caught her trying attack two humans.”
“It’s alright, Georgie. She’s not dangerous. Poor puppy has been abandoned, haven’t you?” She patted the white wolf, who was shyly trying to hide behind her. “She hasn’t eaten since she was turned. Not for two days.”
“Awe… poor, puppy. Right before Christmas and all. What’s her name?”
“I don’t know,” replied Cressie.
“You mean you haven’t asked her? Cressie! Where are your manners?”
“I have been busy trying to keep her from running away, thank you very much.” She looked down at the white wolf. “Well? Time to change back so you can buckle up. We didn’t bring a cage.”
The white wolf growled.
Georgie pulled out a blanket from the car. She held it out for her.
“Come on, puppy. Be a good girl. When we get back we can give you something to eat.How does a juicy steak sound?”
That did it. The wolf started changing form and was suddenly a naked blonde again. She tugged at the collar around her neck, pouting.
“Oh alright,” Cressie said, helping her off with the collar. She trusted that now she had been promised food, the girl wouldn’t run off again.
“That’s a good puppy,” Georgie said smiling, holding out the blanket to cover her naked body.
The blonde took the blanked and pulled it around herself.
“My name is Rouge… not puppy.”
Once in the van Rogue was introduced to the two other women. Jess, a young brunette who looked about Rogue’s age, and Freya, another brunette, who like Cressie and Georgie, looked to be in her thirties.
“Ah new pup!” Said Jess excitedly. “She’s so pretty! Are we going to keep her? Does that mean you’ll stop calling me pup?” She looked up at Georgie hopefully.
“Not a chance!” Georgie turned from the front seat to look back. “I was “pup” for a decade at least!” She smirked. “The pack is a hierarchy, little missy, and you’re a new born still.”
“No fair!” Jess sighed dramatically.
The van drove further into the forest and took a left turn off the road in between the snow covered trees. They stopped the car and got out. Cressie kept close to Rogue making sure she didn’t try anything funny, while the others covered the car in branches, hiding it completely from view. From there they continued on foot, walking on a path through the forest until they came to a big clearing. The trees around this clearing were huge, and looking up, Rogue could see a small village built in the tree tops. It had three decks with huts built in the trees and rope bridges that connected the village together. It was quite extraordinary.
“Wow… You live here?” Rogue looked up in amazement. She had never seen anything this cool before.
“Yep!” Jess said nodding happily. “It’s the best! We monitor the paths around this place to make sure no humans come close. So here, we can be ourselves. We can be humans or wolfs, and no one looks at you funny if you’re naked. If they try to come near us… we scare em off in wolf form!” She grinned.
“But we try to avoid doing that as we don’t the humans to think they have a wolf “problem”,” added Freya looking stern. “We don’t, for example, try to break into their chicken coop…”
It seemed that Freya did not quite trust Rogue yet and her tone seemed disproving. Rogue acknowledged to herself that, perhaps, she hadn’t been on her best behavior, but she wasn’t about to discuss this now. She looked away, embarrassed.
“What’s in there,” she asked to change topic, pointing to the biggest house in the tallest tree.
“That’s the main building where our alpha lives,” Cressie said putting her hand on Rogue’s shoulder. “And that’s where we’re going, pup. You have a lot of explaining to do.”
Someone threw down a rope ladder from the first deck and they climbed up. Cressie, who was the last one up, pulled it back up and closed the hatch they climbed through. From there, with Freya in the lead, they crossed a rope bridge, climbed a wooden stair case and made their way up to the third level, where the alpha’s hut was. As they made their way through the village many women turned to look at Rogue our of curiosity, but no one seemed surprised that she was completely nude and only wearing a blanket.
“Are there no men here?” Rogue asked Jess looking around at all the women.
“No, silly,” Jess said grabbing her arm. “Men can’t become werewolfs, only women can.”
Freya stopped outside a big door. She looked at Rogue and Jess.
“Alright, you pups stay here and wait. We’re going in to talk to the alpha.”
“Typical,” Jess mumbled as Freya, Cressie and Georgie went in. “They think they are soooo important. I’m sure Adalyn wouldn’t have cared if we came too.”
“Adalyn? Is that the alpha? Is the alpha like the boss?” Rogue tried to find out as much as possible about this woman as she was supposedly unhappy with her.
“Yep. Adalyn is the boss of the pack. She’s the most powerful wolf and she is responsible for the pack’s safety and welfare.”
“Is she scary?”
“Scary? Of course not! She’s wonderful. I mean… she can be strict, but normally she leaves discipline to the other elders.”
“Yeah… ya know… if people misbehaves.” She smiled like if the thought of someone else being allowed to discipline her was totally normal.
“So… all of the elders can just like… punish you!” Rogue raised both her eyebrows in disbelief.
“Well technically, yes. Usually they tell your mistress and she deals with it.”
“Mistress… that means maker,” Rogue said remembering her conversation with Cressie.
“Yes, when you turn another person she becomes your responsibility and you have obligations to her. You have to teach her how to be a wolf and how to control her new form. This is why pups aren’t allowed to turn anyone. Usually when you want to turn someone you have to ask the alpha for permission. I mean… it’s sort of a big deal. You have to be absolutely sure it’s something you want. All pups live in their mistress hut until they can become a mistress themselves. I live in Georgie’s hut, she was the one who turned me. Cressie got her own hut last year, she used to live with Adalyn.”
“Who did Cressie bite?”
“No one yet. She doesn’t have anyone special she wants to bite. She doesn’t have to if she doesn’t want to, but she’s one of the elders now so she gets her own hut and A LOT more freedom. She can do whatever she wants, within reason, of course. She doesn’t have a curfew, she can leave the village on her own, and she can discipline the younger pack members. Watch out for her… she has a mean right hand.”
“You mean she can spa…”
Rogue was disrupted mid-sentence by the door opening in front of them. Georgie stuck her head out.
“Well… what are ya waiting for, pups? Come in.”
Rogue walked in slowly followed by Jess. She shyly tried to stay close to Cressie, it felt safe to know she’d be able to hide behind her tall frame if she needed to.
In the middle of the room, in a big chair covered with animal fur , almost like a village throne, sat the most powerful looking woman she had ever seen. She was very tall, her dark hair was almost black and, although very beautiful, she radiated authority. She looked to be in her late thirties, but Rogue had a feeling she was a lot older. She had a feeling that werewolfs didn’t age the same way humans did.
“Come closer, child.” She smiled and her voice was calm and soothing, and it gave Rogue no reason to fear her. “Come sit next to me.” She scooted over a little, making room for another person next to her on her “throne” and patted the seat, signalling that Rogue should take a seat.
Rogue tucked the blanket around her shoulders more closely to her body as she slowly made her way forward, not able to take her eyes away from the alphas gaze. She sat down next to Adalyn, animal furs brushed again the skin on her legs and her bear feet. The alpha put an arm around her and warm chocolate brown eyes looked into her icy blue.
“So… Rogue is it?”
“From what I’ve heard of you lately, I’d say the name fits.” She smiled.
“My mother named me when I was still in the womb, said I was a real kicker.”
The alpha laughed.
“Good with names, your mother.”
“Yeah, she was.” Rogue smiled.
“So… Rogue. You have caused a lot of trouble lately, I don’t mind telling you. Humans are scared of wolfs in the area, I don’t think I have to tell you that this is bad for our reputation. They might even decide to take action.”
“I didn’t mean for that to happen,” Rogue said looking ashamed. “I didn’t know that there were others like me. I didn’t know what to do. I tried to remove myself from humans, but I got so hungry. Then I thought I could try to steal some of their farm animals. They’re so tame and I don’t know how to hunt.”
“But now we’ve got angry farmers scared for their sheep, cattle and chickens.”
Rogue nodded, and then, at that very moment, her stomach growled loudly. She blushed.
“This cannot go on, young lady. We wolfs need to keep a low profile. If humans get angry my pack risks getting shot when they leave the village.”
Rogue nodded again.
“I would like a word or two with you maker,” said the alpha suddenly looking stern. “She should not have left you on your own. She should take responsibility.”
“But… I don’t know who she is? And I don’t want her to take responsibility. She’s not my mistress and she can’t tell me what to do.” Rogue looked stubborn. “If I see her… I’ll… I’ll… well she better run away.” She pouted. Her stomach growled again.
“I’m hungry,” she said. She pointed at Georgie. “That one promised me food if I came here to talk to you.” It wasn’t the classy way to get a meal, but she hadn’t eaten in over two days, she would not leave this place with out food.
“You want us to feed you?” Adalyn raised an eyebrow, smiling.
“Well she did promise,” Rogue pointed out. “I did come all this way, and if you want me to stay away from humans, it’s best I leave this place with a full stomach.”
“Well you won’t be leaving this place for a while, pup,” said the alpha. “You can consider yourself under village arrest.”
“If I have been correctly informed,” she said looking over at Cressie, “then you are a very unusual wolf. “White as snow with blue eyes. Very beautiful and very recognizable, and right now the village is terrified of you. As long as they think there is a threat, you will not leave this village.”
“But… but… that’s not… you can’t…”
“I think it’s a fair punishment. And then once we find your mistress…”
“She’s not my mistress!” Rogue said angrily. “And she better not show up anywhere near here, if she does I’ll kill her! Or… maybe not kill, but she will feel my displeasure! This is all her fault.”
The alpha looked at Cressie.
“Cressie, you’re responsible for her until we can find her maker.”
“What? But… but I don’t know anything about taking care of pups?”
“I’m not a pup!” Rogue said angrily at her. She turned to the alpha. “And I can take care of myself, I don’t need a babysitter.”
The alpha ignored this.
“Everyone else have their hands full with their own. Most have two pups, Freya has three. You have none. You have the capacity and the space to take someone on. She needs someone to look after her and show her the ropes. She needs stability. I’ll send someone out to look for her maker. Give it a try until Christmas and we’ll see how you’re doing, and if we haven’t found her maker.. well… we’ll need to find a more permanent solution. Agreed?”
“No way!” said Rogue.
“Yes, ma’am,” said Cressie, grabbing the girl around her upper arm. “Come on, pup, let’s get some food in you.”
“You’re not the boss of me,” Rogue said to Cressie, shuffling food into her mouth. “Pass the ketchup,” she commanded Jess.
The brunette handed over the ketchup, and Rogue piled it over her fries and steak.
“You live under MY roof, little missy,” Cressie told her firmly. “And you will do as your told.”
“Oh please,” said Rogue rolling her eyes. “You don’t even want me around. I don’t have to live under your roof, I’m not picky where I live. Let’s just tell the alpha lady that I’m staying there, she’ll never find out if I’m not. I can be discreet.”
“Somehow I doubt that,” Cressie said looking stern. “And you’re not sleeping anywhere else, you are staying in my hut and that’s final. Adalyn’s orders.”
“Goody goody,” mumbled Rogue, signalling for the chef to bring her out another plate of food to fill her, seemingly bottomless, tummy.
“Get to bed.”
The two women were standing in Cressie’s bedroom, next to a big bed.
“Right now, young lady!”
“I told you, you’re not the boss of me! What if I’m not tired?” Rogue stomped her foot.
“It’s two in the morning!”
“I swear, if you don’t get to bed this instant, I will carry you to bed… AND I’ll spank you first.”
It was an empty threat. She didn’t really feel comfortable with the idea of spanking Rogue. Yeah, she had swatted her earlier, but that wasn’t hard and it was mostly to get her attention. She had spanked younger pack members before, but she knew them and they knew they deserved the punishment. Had she known Rogue, she would have already spanked her earlier today for being disrespectful, rude, and a complete brat. But Rogue was just so difficult. She was angry, and she didn’t want Cressie.
“You need your sleep. A wolf needs to be well rested to have maximum control. It’s good for you.”
“What do you care? You don’t want me anyway.”
“I don want? It’s you who don’t want me!” This last came out with a cracked voice. Tears filled Cressie’s eyes. She had reached her breaking point. “Fine! You know what, you can go and sleep wherever you want. I don’t care anymore. I’ve tried all day. I told Adalyn I wasn’t ready to take on a pup, but does anyone care what I want? No! So just leave me alone, little monster. I’ve had it!”
She threw herself down on the bed and started sobbing. Hating that she had lost control, hating that she couldn’t be like the other elders. She didn’t want to be an elder anyway… not really. She had told Adalyn she wasn’t ready, even though the title came with a lot more freedom and privileges. That wasn’t what she saw, she saw how loaded it was with responsibility.
“It’s okay to be scared,” Adalyn had said. “But you need to face your fears. You have so much to offer. You are going to be great, and one day, when it’s time, you will be alpha.”
Alpha? How could she ever fill Adalyn’s paw prints!
She suddenly felt something wet on her face.
She felt it again. A big wet wolf tongue was licking her face. Cressie looked up to see the white wolf over her. She nuzzled her head in Cressie’s side. Rogue. Perhaps she wasn’t completely heartless after all. Just an angry abandoned pup, confused and alone.
Cressie sat up and petted her. Rogue laid down on her back, showing her tummy, her tail wagging. Cressie laughed. These were things that came with becoming a wolf. You still had the mind of a human, but there were new wolf characteristics that came with, a love of tummy rubs being one of them.
“If I rub your tummy, will you please go to sleep?”
Rogue wagged her tail some more.
“Oh alright, this once. But in future, remember… no wolf form in the bed.”
Cressie rubbed Rogue’s tummy, and when the pup was almost asleep she took off her clothes and folded them neatly onto a chair. She then picked up Rogue’s pile of clothes that she had left on the floor. Then the naked woman changed form and became a chocolate brown wolf. She jumped into the bed and laid down next to the white wolf, nuzzling her head against her neck.
Over the next week Rogue got more familiar with the village and she made herself more at home. The first day had been scary because she didn’t know anyone and people didn’t really know if they could trust her or not, but now that she had lived there for a week, she could relax more around them and they around her. She didn’t want to leave anymore. She liked the village, she liked her new friends, she liked Cressie, and she loved the food. She thought to herself that Cressie was starting to become just as important to her as the food. And the village was preparing for a big Christmas celebration, all of the younger members of the pack were beyond exited. Tomorrow was the big night.
Cressie had learned that the way to get more control over Rogue was to first bond with her. She had to see past the anger and the distrust and see her for what she really was, and that was a scared, lonely pup who’s mistress had abandoned her before she had even taken her first step as a werewolf. She could not imagine what it must be like to be human one minute and then a werewolf the next, without even having any previous knowledge on this state of being. Cressie had learned from her mistakes the first day. Starting out this relationship with punishment and scoldings wasn’t going to work, she had to show Rogue that there were people who cared about her and who supported her. Showering her with affection seemed to be working great.
Cressie knocked on the door of the alpha hut and entered.
“You wanted to see me, Adalyn?”
“Yes, child, come in.” Adalyn got up from her chair and walked over to Cressie. She embraced her. “You’re come a long way since I first turned you.”
Cressie gave a weak smile.
“You don’t think so?” Adalyn with her arm around Cressies shoulder, walked with her back to her chair. She sat down, this time she didn’t scoot over like she had done with Rogue, but pulled Cressie down to sit in her lap.
“You were quite the handful as a newborn. I know it’s tough. Wolfs are not like humans, there is so much temper to calm. It requires a firm hand but also a lot of love. Don’t you agree?”
She held Cressie close to her.
“I agree,” Cressie said smiling. “At first I didn’t think I could do it, but I’ve showered Rogue with affection and she’s much more comfortable here now.” She was proud of her achievement.
“Yes, you have showered her with affection, little cub,” Adalyn said cuddling her close. “But what about that firm hand, hmm?”
“Eh…” Cressie hesitated.
“Cat got your tongue?”
“It’s just… well… she was so angry… it didn’t feel right.”
“Is she angry still?”
“Not so much…” mumbled Cressie. “She’s a lot happier now. We’ve bonded.”
“Do you love her?”
“What?” Cressie looked into her alpha’s chocolate eyes shocked.
“Do you love her, darling? It’s not uncommon that your first charge become your lover. My darling Esme was my first bite.”
“But… I didn’t bite Rogue… she just sort of came alone… and… we’ve become quite close.” Cressie looked down at her lap. “I guess… I guess I do love her, but… what if her mistress come for her?”
“No. Freya and Georgie found her maker. I’m sad to say it was Jane… she’s dead, Cressie” She looked sad.
“Jane?!” Cressie was shocked.
Jane was the same age as she, they had been pups together, but when Jane’s maker had died in an accident Jane couldn’t handle it. They had been lovers, and Jane was left a mess. When she told she wasn’t ready to be an elder, like Cressie, Jane had run away.
“Do you think she wanted to come back?”
“I don’t know, darling. But she took her own life. I think it was because she had lost control and bitten a human without her consent. I do wish she had come to us, we could have worked it out. I’m not sure we should tell Rogue, perhaps we should just leave it for now. But the fact still remains that Rogue is without a mistress and should you want…”
“I do!” Cressie said at once. “Please… I do want her. I do love her. She is a bit of a handful, but she has many good qualities. Underneath that toughness… she’s kind and caring and I think she loves me. It would be the best Christmas present ever!”
“And have you been a good girl this year?”
“Adalyn…” Cressie blushed.
“What? I thought only good girls got Christmas presents.” The alpha smirked.
“I think I’ve been a good girl,” mumbled Cressie. Adalyn always had a way of making her feel like a pup again.
“Look at the good job I’ve done with Rogue. She’s much better now.”
“Really?” Adalyn raised an eyebrow. “Then where, may I ask, is she?”
“Where is your pup, Cressie? Do you know where she is this very minute?”
Fuck! She had no idea!
“No, ma’am, but something tells me that you do?”
“I do, and it’s not in this village, I can tell you that…” Her alpha suddenly looked stern. “I told you that you were responsible for her, did I not? You say you have been showering her with affection, but have you at all given her any discipline?”
Cressie shook her head.
“That’s what I thought. Perhaps, I too have forgotten that my own pups sometimes need discipline…”
“But… I’m not…”
“You might have the status of an elder, little missy, but I am still your mistress. I still have an obligation to teach you right from wrong, and now it seems I must teach you what it means to be loving but firm.”
Cressie swallowed. It was so typical. This was why she had been asked to come. Not to get lots of praise, she was being reprimanded, AND now she was going to get punished because Rogue was breaking the rules. That’s it, coddling time over. When she found that pup she was going to make sure her bottom was as hot as the Christmas bonfire they were going to have later that night.
She heard the alphas calm voice.
“Cressie… I think it’s time you came over my knee.”
Rogue jumped through the deep snow, she felt a wonderful sensation of freedom. She hadn’t been out of the village since she got there a week ago, and she was starting to feel trapped. Playfully following her was a grey and brown wolf about the same size. Jess was easy to convince. Being one of the newest pups she was never allowed outside the village alone. Georgie was a fun mistress, but she hadn’t given Jess free reins either. The two pups had hurried out of the village when (they thought) no one was looking for a little play date in the snow.
The two wolfs rolled around in the snow, play fighting each other. Rogue proved to be stronger even if she hadn’t been a wolf long. She bit down on Jess’ neck holding here down like Cressie had with her the night they met. They both growled playfully.
Suddenly they head a shot that echoed through the forest. They both jumped up and looked around. They quickly spotted a rifle pointing in their direction. They ran as fast as they could, hearing shots behind them but not looking back.
They didn’t stop running even thought they seemed to be out of danger, not until their way was blocked by two bigger wolves. One was chocolate brown with patches of black, and one was grey and white. They shifted form and in front of them stood two tall women in the nude. The raven haired woman approached the white wolf and put a collar around her neck, the redhead did the same with the other.
“You two are in so much trouble,” said Georgie as she pulled the pining Jess with her.
Noticing that Cressies normally creamy white skin was red on her backside, Rogue licked her leg and nuzzled close to her.
“Don’t even try it, young lady,” Cressie said angrily. “You got me in trouble with Adalyn. If you think my backside looks red…”
The two miscreants were first taken to the alpha’s hut where they had to apologize for breaking the rules. They then told the alpha all about being shot at. Ten minutes later, one of the pack members with a law degree, left in a fancy looking suit to talk to some people about illegal wolf hunting.
Rogue was then escorted back to Cressie’s hut to face the music.
“I’ve been way too soft on you.”
“Cressie… come on…”
“No, Rogue. What you did was foolish. Adalyn warned you that people might be looking for you. She said we had to lay low and not to draw attention to ourselves, and look what happened? You get shot at! You could have been killed, do you get that?”
She tapped a hairbrush against her palm as she scolded her charge.
“I’m sorry…” Rogue looked down at the floor.
“You will be. You will be sorry and sore.”
“Please… Cressie… I’ll behave. You don’t have to… ya know…”
“Yes, I do. You’ve been needing a good spanking for a long time. It’s well over due. I ought to ban you from attending the Christmas party later tonight…”
“No, please! I’ve been looking forward to that… everyone is talking about it.”
“I said I ought to… but I’m not going to because… well mostly because I wanted to take you and I don’t deserve to have my Christmas ruined. We’re going to deal with this now and then you’re going to apologize and promise to be good in the future, and then we’re going to have a good time.”
“I can promise to be good now,” tried Rogue.
“Nice try, brat.” Cressie pointed her hairbrush towards the bedroom. “Get your naked butt in there this instance.”
Pouting, Rogue went into the bedroom. Suddenly very conscious of her naked bottom she pulled her hand back to cover it as she walked.
Following Rogue into the bedroom, Cressie pulled up a chair and placed it in the middle of the room. She sat down and beckoned at Rogue to come closer. Once she was close enough, she took the brats hands in hers and looked into her blue eyes.
“Tell me why you are being punished, Rogue.”
Rogue shifted nervously looking down.
“Because… because I broke the rules and left the village.”
“And what happened?”
“I got shot at…”
“That’s right. You were warned leaving the village in wolf form would be dangerous, were you not?”
“Right, then I think we can start.”
She pulled Rogue’s naked body over her lap. She rubbed her bottom gently, wondering how fast the milky white skin would turn red.
Smack! She gave Rogue the first swat and the brat yelped in surprise. Smack! The next made her kick out.
“Shush! We’ve only just started.”
She peppered the brats bottom with stinging swats and her bottom did indeed turn red quickly.
The naked brat squirmed over her lap and she even tried to cover her bottom with her hand. When this happened Cressie took her arm and held it to her back.
When she was satisfied with her warm up, she picked up her hairbrush and used that to paddle Rogue. That caused the brat to struggle even more.
SMACK! “Ow! No, please! I’ll be good! I’ll be good! Not the hairbrush.”
SMACK! “You had it coming!” SMACK! “I’ve been to soft on you all week!” SMACK! “I should have…” SMACK! “Turned you over my knee” SMACK! “the first night.” SMACK!
“Owww…. I’m sorry. I’ll behave, I promise!”
“You got me in trouble with my mistress. I’m supposed to be an elder and I got punished for your misbehavior!” SMACK!
“Take that up with her! If she decided you needed a punishment you must have done something wrong, right?”
SMACK! SMACK! SMACK!
“Ow! Okay okay I’m sorry…”
SMACK! “You’re right, Rogue, I did do something wrong. I neglected you… and for that I am sorry.”
SMACK! “Ow. You neglected me?”
Cressie stopped and rubbed her brat’s bottom.
“Yes, I neglected to give you the discipline you needed.”
“Oh… well… that’s okay… I forgive you…”
SMACK! SMACK! SMACK!
“Have you learned your lesson?”
“Yes… I won’t leave the village without permission. I promise.”
SMACK! “Good… that’s good. When you misbehaves it does make me look bad. It makes it look like I’m not in control, like I’m failing you… and we can’t have that, can we?” SMACK!
“Ow. No… I’ll tell Adalyn you’re very much in control. I’ll go over there and show her my butt! She can see for herself!”
“Okay… as long as we understand each other. Are we clear?” She gently patted Rogue’s bottom.
“Clear as crystal!”
“Okay, then we’re done here.”
She helped Rogue up and sat her down on her lap. Rogue winced as her bottom touched her thighs. Cressie pulled her arms around her.
“We need to have a talk… it’s Christmas, remember…”
“Oh… so our trial period is up…”
“Yes, it is. And… Adalyn wasn’t sure if we should tell you, but I don’t think I can keep this from you.” Cressie took a deep breath.
“What is it?” Rogue, nuzzled her face into Cressie’s neck.
“You’re maker is dead. She used to be a pack member, but she ran away a while after her mistress died. They were lovers, and she just couldn’t deal with the pain. We… the pack, we failed her. We saw her pain, but we didn’t see just how troubled she was. She ran away shortly after she was told she wasn’t ready to be an elder. We hadn’t seen her in a while when…”
“When she bit me?”
“If she wasn’t an elder… then… she wasn’t allowed to bite me?”
“No. And even worse… she did not have your consent. We can’t know for sure since we weren’t there, and you don’t remember, but we think she lost control. What we do know was that she took her own life, and we think it was because she had bitten someone. Please don’t think badly of her, Rogue… Jane… she was a good person. We were pups together. She was a good friend to me and I shall miss her dearly.”
“Okay… I won’t…”
“So now… well… Adalyn and I think that since we’ve bonded that I should become your mistress permanently, but only if you want to of course. We can’t force you to take me… but if you want…”
“I do,” Rogue said quickly. “Please… I’m not perfect, but I don’t want anyone else.”
“Good.” Cressie smiled. “But… there is more…”
“Good or bad?”
“Good… well.. I think so. I don’t know what you will think.” Cressie held Rogue closer. “I need to tell you this now, before we go through the bonding ceremony. I don’t just want to be your mistress… I have feelings… deep feelings for you. I need you to know this. I want you as my lover.”
“Well of course. I knew that.”
“Yeah, I want you as a lover too.”
“I will still be your mistress though…”
“Jess is Georgie’s lover, but Georgie is her mistress too. One of Freya’s pups is her lover too. I figured… we were going that way too. I was just waiting for you to make a move… but maybe I should have myself.”
She kissed Cressie on the lips, and Cressie lost her power speak. Rogue shifted on her lap so that she was sitting astride her. She kissed her again, this time she let her tongue slip into her mouth. Cressie’s hand felt down her back and then she grabbed her hot bottom. She stood up and carried her to the bed.
After they had made love, they got ready for the Christmas feast which was being held on the second deck in the dining hall. They walked down holding hands, everyone else was there already. Adalyn who stood in the center and as they walked in she looked at Cressie who nodded.
Adalyn held up her hands calling for silence.
“Today, is a very special day, not only are we celebrating Christmas, but we are also welcoming a new member to the pack.” She held out her hand to Rogue. “Rogue, if you would come here please.”
Blushing slightly Rogue approached the alpha.
“Rogue has been staying with us for a week now, and today she’s joining the pack. My own Cressie will be her mistress.”
There was a round of applause from the other women.
“Rogue, Cressie, please take off your clothes.”
“What?” Rogue looked nervous.
Adalyn grinned. “Don’t worry, pup. We all know you have a red bottom. It’s not uncommon around here. Cressie, do you still have some color left?”
The crowd laughed.
Someone brought Adalyn a golden cup filled with wine and an urn.
“Rogue, you go first. Turn into your wolf form.”
Rogue nodded and turned into the white wolf.
“Give me your paw, little one.”
Adalyn took Rogue’s paw in her hand and painted the underside of it with a black slighly thick liquid from the urn. Cressie then came closer and they placed Rogue’s paw on her chest just where the heart is located. It left a black paw print.
Once Rogue turned back into a human, Cressie did the same to her, leaving a black paw print on her chest. Then Adalyn took the golden cup and drank from it, she then handed it over to Cressie who drank and handed over to Rogue.
When the ceremony was over they all ate and drank together. Rogue and Cressie sat next to Adalyn at her table with the rest of Adalyn’s hut. Adalyn’s wife, Esme was great entertainment, telling stories of all the naughty things Cressie got up to as a pup.
When they feast was coming to an end they all went outside to howl at the moon.
Okay… I have posted this next part. If you find any mistakes, I am terribly sorry, but I am super busy these days with exams, but I took the time to quickly put together what I had. I’ll fix any mistakes if there are any. I just thought “Oh look 2 am and I need to work tomorrow morning, I should post my story”. So yeah, this is what you get. I’ll be extremely busy until mid-December, and then I will try to write an X-mas story like usual.😀 Enjoy. <3
Also… I know the lines are really close together and that’s annoying. I’ve tried to put some space between the dialogues, but every time I do, it just goes back to the way it was before!!!! So I’ll try to fix that, but right now it just looks that way. Sorry.🙂
Life in the castle had, so far, been alright; Annabelle and Eylion had managed to stay out of trouble, but that might have been because classes hadn’t started yet, or even more so, because they hadn’t been able to spend much time together. The day after they arrived they had a tour of the castle… well most of it; they were showed their class rooms, the great hall where they had their meals, and along the way Ms. Spryt, who showed them around, showed them all the places they were not allowed to go. Annabelle took extra notice of those as she was determined to explore those places with Eylion when they got the chance. They had done three days of kitchen duty, but they hadn’t got a chance to plan much because Ms. Spryt had wanted to supervise or making someone else supervise; she was true to her word about keeping an eye on them.
On the fourth day classes began. Annabelle had showed up for her potion lesson without reading the chapter they had been asked to read beforehand. Lydia, who was teaching the class, had raised her eyebrow, but after Annabelle had mumbled an excuse about being busy scrubbing pots and pans, she decided to let her off the hook.
“But only this once, young lady,” she had said sternly. “Next time there will be consequences.”
She had then, to Annabelle’s displeasure, proceeded to place Annabelle next to Clare Dupont, the girl Ms. Spryt had apprenticed. She looked haughty and not at all happy to be paired up with someone who hadn’t even prepared for the lesson. Annabelle also suspected Ms. Spryt for having warned her about fraternizing with trouble makers.
After break that day they had a history class, taught by no other than Ms. Spryt herself. Annabelle didn’t know too much about history in this world, but she knew a little. Ms. Spryt, started their very first history lesson with a lecture about life three-hundred years ago and talked about the vicious vampires who killed for fun and terrorized people. She also talked about vampires in this day and age.
“Today, Saunderdale is just a ghost village, thanks to those dark creatures,” she said seriously.
Although Annabelle knew very little about history, there was something not quite right about Ms. Spryt’s knowledge of history too.“Ah yes, you in the back, do you have a question? Get up, child. What is your name?”
Jean, who came in the carriage with Annabelle and Eylion stood up. Annabelle figured it was just like her to ask questions and participate, she had noticed that Jean seemed like a very clever and studious person.
“My name is Jean, ma’am.”
“Alright, Jean. Did you have a question?”
“No… well yes, sort of.” Jean hesitated. “This story of the Saunderdale vampires… well that just doesn’t make sense. The pact between the vampires and the elders of the order was made that year, and since then there has been little unrest. The local vampire clans are very peaceful and…”
Ms. Spryt came close to Jean, looking stern. “Jean, that’s enough. How dare you?”
“This is a place of learning; we do not have time for you made up ideas.”
“But it’s not made up ideas,” Jean tried. “It’s facts.”
“Jean, I warned you not to tell lies.”
“But nothing,” Ms. Spryt said sternly.
“Ma’am… I’ve heard Jean’s version too,” said a pretty, redheaded girl looking stubborn. “She’s telling the truth, my mentor taught me all about it, I read the history books and I’ve met friendly vampires before…”
The girl was a little short and when Ms. Spryt turned to her, she towered over her, her face reddening.
“And you might be?”
“Olivia Perkins, ma’am.”
“Right… Jean, Olivia… to the front of the class. I will not tolerate such nonsense in my class.”
Both girls looked confused.
“Now!” Ms. Spryt yelled and Annabelle could swear she saw little droplets of spit fly out of her mouth, making her grateful she was seated far from her.
Jean and Olivia both made their way to the front of the class. Ms. Spryt followed them, and to everybody’s horror, she steered each girl to the teacher’s desk and bent them over. She then took out a ruler from her drawer and gave each girl six hard strokes on their bottom.
Embarrassed, teary eyed and rubbing their bottoms the girls were instructed to go back to their seats, where they sat down gingerly, and Annabelle swore she would get back at Ms. Spryt for them. She would have to be punished, and it would have to be public and humiliating.
After history class, Annabelle hurried down the corridor. They still had one more class for the day, but hopefully she’d have time to talk to Eylion before it started. She saw her in a crowd of older girls making their way towards the potion lab.
“Eylion,” Annabelle called after her.
Eylion saw her and stopped. Another girl told her they should hurry or they would be late, but Eylion told her to go ahead.
“What’s up?” she asked as Annabelle approached her.
Annabelle looked around and lowered her voice. “I need to get my potion book and my little bottle of potion. Can you help me?”
“I… the teachers are being totally unfair. In History, that Spryt hag hit two girls for simply telling the truth. She’s a terrible woman, this school… they teach us lies.”
Eylion sighed. “I know… it happened in my class this morning too. They try to make an example of those who speak up so that we’ll stop questioning their teachings.”
“I want them to be punished,” Annabelle said angrily. “They need to pay.”
“You do realise that if you put a potion in their food, they will most likely guess who did it, right? We’re the only ones on kitchen duty.”
“Yeah, but it will might boost morale among the other girls. I don’t want them to give up and give in.”
“Yeah, I understand.” Eylion studied her closely. “Tell you what… we’ll do it tonight after lights out. Okay?”
“Yeah, I agree,” Annabelle said.
“Okay, hurry up for class. Don’t want to be late, do you? I’ll knock on your door sometime after lights out and we’ll try to find a way out to the grounds.”
It was a little after midnight when Annabelle heard a light knock on her door. She was wearing her night gown in case any of the teachers came snooping around, trying to catch people out of bed. She quickly jumped out of bed and opened the door to let Eylion in. She too was wearing her nightgown still, but she had her black witch’s cloak on.
“Put your cloak on, that way we’ll be hard to see in the dark, and if we pull up our hood no one will be able to tell who it is if they look out the window.”
“Good idea, why didn’t I think of that?”
“Because you’re still just a novice, my girl,” Eylion said winking, and for good measure she gave Annabelle’s bottom a slap.
“So… do you have a plan? I’m not sure what the best way out will be…”
“Well this isn’t the first time I’ve been sneaking around at night,” Eylion admitted. “I mean… a girl has to know her way around so she can sneak snacks from the kitchen. Which incidentally is the best way out.”
“But the kitchen is on the other side of the castle,” Annabelle pointed out.
“Yeah, but it’s going to be hard to sneak out the front door. First of all, because the lock is much trickier, and second, because they might have people patrolling that area, but I think I might have an idea… we could look for the hidden passages.”
“What hidden passages? Why haven’t I seen them?”
“Because, Annabelle… they are hidden,” Eylion said rolling her eyes. “This is a castle, there must be hidden passages, there just has to be. If not, then this is not a very cool old castle at all. Everyone knows that cool castles need secret passages.”
“Yes, but we don’t have all the time in the world,” said Annabelle impatiently. “How about, we head for the kitchen using the way we know, and if we happen to stumble across any secret passages… well that’s great, but we don’t have time to look for them now.”
“Oh alright, but it’s going to make it harder…” Eylion mumbled.
“That’s true, but I also have an idea, genius,” Annabelle said smirking. “You can transfigure into a cat. If there are people outside and we need to sneak past them, I think it should be you because you can become a little kitten and it’s much harder to see.”
“That’s not a bad idea. Why didn’t I think of that?” she said smacking her palm against her forehead.
“Look, this could go wrong, but we don’t have any other options at the moment, not other than waiting until we know the castle better, and I’m not that patient. I want pay back, and I want to do it sooner than later. We need to stir things up before people start accepting that there is nothing we on the inside can do. I think we should just wing it.”
“You’re right. Let’s just go,” Eylion said nodding. “No plan is my favourite plan anyway. It’s much more exciting.”
The corridors were dark and the castle was silent, it had a gloomy atmosphere. Their feet were cold, but the “school” hadn’t bothered getting them slippers for night time prowling, they only had their white stockings for school, and right now their feet were bare. Annabelle supposed that the castle could be a nice place to live if they lived there by choice and the place wasn’t tyrannized by the terrible power-hungry headmistress. It could have been a happy place, but enough food and their own rooms with a comfortable bed was not enough, the regime they were living under made it impossible to enjoy.
They had been walking the corridors for about five minutes and they were nearing the staircase on the fifth floor, when Eylion, who walked first, stopped abruptly. Annabelle walked almost right into her.
“What are you…”
“Shhh…” Eylion held up a finger against her lips. “I think I hear something.”
Annabelle focused, trying to hear approaching footsteps. She heard them too. Her eyes widened. By the sound of it, there were more than just one set of footsteps. They were coming closer and she knew that, whoever they were, they were coming in their direction.
“We need to hide,” she whispered as silently as she could whilst still being understood.
Eylion grabbed her arm and pulled her back down the corridor from where they came and tried the first door she could reach. Most of the doors in this corridor lead into classrooms. This particular door was a small door, leading perhaps into a cupboard or something. It was locked, but Eylion muttered a spell and there was a sound like a click from the lock. They opened the door and hurried inside. Inside there were buckets, mops and cleaning supplies.
They carefully moved a big wooden crate so as not to make too much noise but Eylion accidentally knocked a metal bucket over. It made a metallic clang as it hit the floor and the sound gave Annabelle the chills. They hurried behind the crate trying not to knock anything else over, and once behind, they crawled along the floor, behind boxes into a corner of the cupboard almost flattening themselves to the floor, trying to hide from view.
She knew that the sound had not gone unnoticed, and she laid still, her heart pounding in her chest like a drum, like it wanted to be heard. She saw Eylion crawling even further into the room, trying to get her to follow. She tried shaking her head, thinking there was no time, but Eylion kept waving her hand at her. It was then that she saw Eylion crawling to the side, almost as if she went through the wall, and she crawled as fast as she could towards her.
There was a small hole in the wall, almost unnoticeable, hidden behind a tattered dusty old tapestry that looked like it had been stuffed in this cupboard because it wasn’t beautiful enough for the rest of the castle, but then why not just throw it away.
Annabelle had just reached the hole when the cupboard door opened, her eyes widened and she thought she was done for, just as she felt Eylions hands grab her and pull her through before covering the hole with the tapestry again.
From the other side they could hear voices and the metallic sound of the bucket on the floor, like someone’s foot was poking it.
“Strange,” said a voice that was all too familiar, “that this should fall to the floor by itself, don’t you think, Lydia?”
“Ms. Spryt, I don’t think there’s anyone in here. Why would someone enter a cupboard?” Lydia’s voice sounded uncertain.
“Because, young lady, a witchling out of bed after lights out, wouldn’t want to get caught,” said Ms. Spryt, and it sounded like she was moving boxes, probably to look for anyone hiding. Had they not found the hole in the wall, she would have found them.
“I think you should give them more credit than that,” Lydia said, “ma’am” she quickly added, and Annabelle could imagine Ms. Spryt giving Lydia a stern look, like she herself had been on the receiving end of.
“I think your grandmother would be very interested in hearing how trusting you are of the girls, Lydia,” said Ms. Spryt.
“She’s not my grandmother, she…”
“Yes yes, great great grandmother, I know.” Ms. Spryt sounded exasperated. “The point is, your family is expecting you to do your duties for the order, and coddling the students is not helping. They will take advantage, my girl, give them an inch and they’ll take a mile. Especially those two nefarious creatures who are so loyal to Alexis Nightshade. Beware of them, Lydia, I told you.”
“I have only gotten to know Annabelle so far, but I think she seems like a lovely girl,” Lydia started.
“Then you have already let her fool you,” Ms. Spryt said cutting her off. “Enough of this, there’s no one here, let’s continue our patrol.”
Annabelle turned to look at Eylion, wideyed.
“Nefarious creatures?” Eylion said stunned. “How dare she!”
“So that’s what Lydia is doing here, she’s related to someone in the order and her family expects her to be loyal,” Annabelle said. “I knew she was too nice to fit in with that crowd.”
They both turned around to have a closer look around. They were in some sort of narrow space between two walls, a passage way.
“Guess we did stumble across a passage way after all, eh?” said Eylion grinning. “Lucky!”
The passage was narrow and dark, and the walls were made of stone. It was, if possible, even colder in there and they had to use magic to light the way. It split somewhere in the castle, and they had to choose left or right. They had no idea where they were, but there wasn’t any time to explore. All they knew was that by chance they chose the right way and ended up somewhere near the kitchen. If there was a goddess, she was on their side tonight. They decided that Eylion should go outside alone and transfigure into a cat. Annabelle had told her which tree and what the markings were, and after about ten minutes of waiting Eylion came back holding the hidden treasures in her hand. They would give Jean her ring back in the morning. Annabelle knew she would be glad; it was really special to her. And tomorrow night, the teachers would get what they had coming to them.
“Hey, girls. Get ready for some entertainment today.” Annabelle sat down next to Mina at the table.
“Yeah, it’s going to be great!” Eylion said grinning as she sat down next to Jean.
“Why? What have you done?” Mina asked, leaning forward across the table, her voice lowered.
“You just wait. It’s going to be super magical.” Eylion said pouring water into her glass, smiling happily.
They started eating their soup, looking up at the teacher’s table just waiting for the moment their prank was put into action. They knew they would get busted and that they would get into trouble, and that made them feel nervous, but at the same time they felt really excited.
The teachers started eating, continuing their conversation, and as they were talking they looked confused. Then…
“No gniog si tahw?!” Ms. Onbush yelled angrily. The room went quiet at once. Her harsh voice gave Annabelle chills down her spine, but it was also hilarious because it made sense to no one.
“Tahw?” Ms. Spryt asked confused, her eyes widening as she realized that she too was speaking nonsense. “No gniog si tahw? Ssertsimdaeh?!”
The girls roared with laughter. Apparently the prank had been appreciated.
“Ecnelis!” Ms. Onbush roared, but the girls kept laughing. “Siht did ohw tuo dnif lliw I!”
Annabelle concentrated on her soup trying not to laugh, but then again, if she did, she wouldn’t stick out as all the students were laughing. She looked up and caught Eylion’s eye from the other table, she gave Annabelle a little wink.
“Uoy!” Ms. Sprytt pointed at Annabelle and Eylion. “Ti dniheb eb tsum yeht, ssertsimdaeh!”
“Won, eciffo ym!” The headmistress roared, pointing at the door, before she, herself, left.
Ms. Spryt walked over to Eylion and took a firm grip around her upper arm and motioned for Lydia to bring Annabelle.
Annabelle had just enough time to see admiring looks from her fellow students, before Lydia took her arm and dragged her out of the hall.
“You’ve really done it this time, young lady,” she said as they walked down the corridor. Apparently she hadn’t had the time to eat the soup yet.
“You didn’t find it funny?” Annabelle asked innocently.
“No,” Lydia said firmly, though for a tiny second Annabelle swore she could have seen a hint of a smile on her lip.
“Not just a little bit?” Annabelle asked, and she was pulled up the stairs to the floor where the headmistress had her study.
“Annabelle, this is serious,” Lydia said seriously.
“Really? What are they going to do? Expel me and let me go home?” Annabelle asked.
Lydia stopped and looked at her.
“No. You don’t understand…” she started.
“What don’t I understand?” Annabelle said harshly. “You don’t think I know what’s going on here? You don’t think I know what this place is? This isn’t a school, it’s like a prison. None of us want to be here! We are all old enough to be in charge of our own lives yet we are made to be here, and they try to teach us lies, to brainwash us. Our mentors were much better, they taught us the truth.” She felt anger now and disappointment. She hated the fact that she liked Lydia. What was someone like her doing there? Surely she must have noticed how the order had taken a turn towards corruption.
“Lies,” she repeated more calmly. “They know it and you know it too, Lydia. There’s not an ounce of truth in the history lessons we have been given, and if we try to correct them we are punished and accused of lying. We might be young, but we’re not stupid. So I suppose you want to tell me to behave myself and do as I’m told, you want me to buy into their propaganda…”
“I want you to be careful,” Lydia cut in. “You can act up all you want, but they’re not going to send you back home until they are happy with your progress, until they feel they have gotten through to you.”
“And what if they can’t?”
Lydia gave her a sad look. “We should hurry. We don’t want the headmistress to look for us. Don’t tell anyone we had this talk.”
“So… you think this is ynnuf?”
“What?” Annabelle asked while Eylion let out a laugh that she unsuccessfully tried to pass as a cough.
The headmistress took a deep breath. “Funny! Do you think this is funny?”
They both look down at the floor.
“It was pretty hilarious,” Eylion finally said smirking.
Ms. Spryt interrupted. “You see, headmistress? I told you from the start, these two would cause trouble.”
“Yes, I see that now, Octavia. And what do you girls suppose we do with troublemakers such as yourselves?”
“You could expel us and let us go home,” Annabelle suggested. “It seems we’re not really cut out for school.”
“I don’t think so, girl.”
“No one gets expelled from this academy. You’re not leaving this establishment until I am satisfied with your progress here, and I have time… plenty of time.”
“If you think we’ll stay here forever…” Eylion started.
“My dear, I can keep you as long as I want. You won’t have to stay here forever if you show me that you can be a good girl and do as you’re told. But you will not leave this place until I say you can, so I suggest you start now.”
“And what if we don’t…” Annabelle said defiantly.
“I will not let untrained witchlings lose into my country. You can stay here and reform or… well… like I said, I will not let untrained witchlings lose in my country.”
Annabelle lay on her tummy rubbing her bottom. After a long lecture, they had gotten a sound spanking that would leave them sore for a long time. In addition to that, they were both confined to their rooms for a week, not even being allowed out for meals or to go to class.
If the castle wasn’t like a prison before, it was now; her room had become her cell and the door was kept locked around the clock, only opened when her food was brought up. It felt really lonely as she didn’t have anyone to talk to; the people who brought her food were usually other students she had never talked to before, and they were under strict order not to talk to her. She had no idea what Eylion was doing in her room, and she no idea what the other students might have been taught while she was away. She was sure that by now, no one spoke up against the teachers in fear of punishment.
The third night of her house arrest, she was sitting by her desk concocting plans on how to escape the school when she suddenly heard a “woosh” from the open window. She looked around and saw a bat fly under her ceiling. Then there was a “pop” and the bat turned into a familiar vampire.
“Christophe! How… how did you find this place?” She got up from her desk and hugged him, and he put his big muscular arms around her.
“Alexis had an inkling where they were taking you,” he replied, his bright green eyes twinkling with a smile. “I’ve been flying for an hour, looking into windows trying to find your room.”
“Is Alexis here?” Annabelle ran over to the window and looked out of the window. Ever since she had met Alexis she had had the feeling that she knew much more than she was letting on, but she was so secretive it was impossible to know, she didn’t even know if Gwen knew and she was one of the people most important to her.
“She’s in the forest, she can’t come near the castle, it is too risky. There are guards around the walls, including a protection spell which makes it impossible to fly over the walls with a broom. Luckily they hadn’t thought of bats, I don’t think the order is aware of the close alliances your mentors and their friends have with my clan and others.”
More secrets. What alliances? What friends?! Annabelle tried to hide a scowl and so far it went unnoticed by Christophe.
“We decided to come late at night, since it’s so hard to spot me in bat form after sundown, I was able to pass without much difficulty.” He ruffled her hair, clearly happy to see her. “So, Miss Annabelle, how’s school going?” He winked.
“It’s horrible! Christophe, we’ve got to get out of here! They teach lies, punish people who tell the truth, and… well I think… I think they will kill anyone who doesn’t reform. They hinted at something like that.”
Christoph frowned. “Yes, your mentors were afraid of that, which is why they told you to do as you were told.”
“They didn’t say we were in risk of being killed off if we proved difficult to brainwash!”
“They didn’t want to scare you, especially since they didn’t know if that was what would happen,” he said gently. “Though I must admit… they did have a strong suspicion,” he added in a murmur.
“Well what if it had happened and they hadn’t warned me?”
“You mean warned you to do what you were told and not to make trouble?”
“Yea… no, I mean, they could have warned me it could have gotten me killed, they only said that they were not nice old ladies with my best interest in heart, they said I shouldn’t give them a reason to harm me,” Annabelle pointed out.
“Harm as in, they could potentially kill you for trying to ruin their plans to expand their power over our world?” He narrowed his eyes. “You were told to behave yourself, were you not?”
Annabelle sighed. “Yes…” she grumbled.
“Indeed,” he said nodding. “I’m guessing you haven’t been behaving yourself then? Has anyone threatened you?”
“Sort of…” Annabelle said frowning. “They said they wouldn’t let us leave before we were ready, and then they said they would never let untrained witches loose into society… with the emphasis “never”. Unless we do give in to them, and we won’t, that could only mean two things, couldn’t it? Either they will keep us locked away forever or they would kill us.”
“Yes, that sounds about right. What did you do for them to threaten you?”
“Christophe, I have not been that bad… they are horrible hags,” Annabelle protested.
“Annabelle,” Christoph gave her a smile. “I’m only asking because there are four anxious witches back home who wants to know how you’re doing. I repeat, what did you do?”
Annabelle scratched her nose and smirked. “Well… we didn’t do anything that bad, honest. It’s just that Eylion and I were on kitchen duty, and because the teachers had been so horrible to all the girls who tried to correct their teaching, hitting them with a ruler for example, and since they told us lies about vampires and stuff, we thought it would boost morale among the students if we got back at them a little bit. So we put a potion in the teachers’ soup, so that they spoke backwards during supper in the great hall. It was a harmless prank, that’s all.”
Christophe chuckled as he shook his head.
“They all laughed and gave us smiles as we were dragged off, but I don’t know more than that because we were confined to our rooms for a week. I haven’t seen or talked to anyone since then.”
“I think you are lucky your mentors can’t visit you, you would be in such trouble!” He laughed. “But I suppose you got into enough trouble with the headmistress, yes?”
“Yes!” Annabelle said nodding. “Big trouble.” She smiled at him. It felt so great to finally have someone to talk to, it had been three days! And it was really great to finally be able to see someone from back home. She just wished she would be able to see the others too, she missed them so much. “So… are you going to tell them what we did?”
Annabelle sighed. “Well… I guess it doesn’t really matter since they’re not here anyway, but perhaps I should write them a letter so you can bring it back to them. That way I can make sure they know my motivation for causing trouble.”
“They will probably still want to kill you, but yes, that’s a good idea. I brought you a letter from home too, and I’ve got one for Eylion too. I suppose it will be easier to find her room if you know where it is.”
“Yeah, it’s on the South side of the castle, two floors up on the far right.”
“Good, easy enough to find, another thing, make sure to destroy your letter once you have read it. I know you might want to keep it and read it again later, but we can’t risk anyone finding it, okay?”
“Yeah, okay,” she said disappointed. She had wanted to keep it and read it again, it would be a great comfort to read their words and imagine them talking to her through the pages of the letter. She had no idea when she would be seeing them again. If they did manage to find a way out of the castle, they wouldn’t be able to just go back home. If they managed to free themselves they wanted to stay free. Her eyes welled up with tears thinking about everyone back home.
“Hey… it’s going to be okay,” Christophe said hugging her.
“No, it’s not. I just want to go home, and I want to sleep in my own bed and train witch with Gwen and Aisling. They don’t teach use many useful things here. All they do is lie and try to form us to be witches that are easier to control.”
He looked at her and used his thumb to wipe away a tear. “You’re going to run away, aren’t you?” It wasn’t really a question, it was a statement.
“I… I think so. Yes. We have to Christophe, we can’t stay here! But… if I do manage to escape… well it’s not like I can just go back home and forget about this place, if I go back home, they’ll know where to find me.”
He was silent for a moment, like he was thinking about whether he should reveal something.
“Okay… look, if you do decide to run away, and I’m not sure I would advise it because it could be really dangerous, but if you do decide to run away, Alexis told me that your best option would be to find someone called Andromeda. Do you know who that is?”
“Leda’s mentor,” Annabelle said at once. She didn’t know much about her; in fact, she didn’t even know that she was still alive. The only time she had heard her name mentioned was when Aisling told her the story of when she came from the North.
“Yes, that’s the one. Apparently she lives in a cave up in the mountain, don’t ask me why she decided to go primitive, but the point is… not a lot of people know this and so there you will be safe. If you are going to run away, wait until I come back with more information about how to find this witch. Alexis only just mentioned it today, I don’t know where this mountain is, but I’m sure I can find out. Please do not leave until I have a chance to come back, promise?”
Annabelle nodded and sniffled. “I promise.”
She said goodbye to Christoph before he went to find Eylion’s room to deliver her letter. After talking to him she felt like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. Now she had a goal. If they could only get out of this place, they would have somewhere to go, somewhere safe where the order would not find them.
“But… but… you can’t!” protested Eylion.
“Yes, we can and we will. So come along girls, there is no time to waste.”
“You… you haven’t given us any time to prepare,” Annabelle cut in. “We need to pack and we need…”
“You don’t need anything, girl. Everything including books and uniforms will be given to you upon arrival; anything you bring will be confiscated. The only thing you need to bring is yourself. Now come along.” Wynne pointed towards the door, her facial expression was impossible to read. She did not look angry or happy, if anything she only looked determined.
“But we need to tell our mentors,” Eylion said looking nervously around for Leda as if hoping she’d come and save her.
“They are not your mentors anymore. Get in now.” She placed a hand at their backs and pushed them gently towards the carriage.
Annabelle could see other women her own age in the carriage. They all looked really nervous, apparently they had not been warned either. Why hadn’t anyone told them when they would be leaving? They couldn’t do this. Who would tell Gwen and Aisling? Who would tell Leda? What if no one told them and they’d go out looking for them only to have to give up?
Annabelle and Eylion were pushed into the carriage where they sat down. Wynne slammed the door shut and locked them in. Annabelle felt like a prisoner.
“What do we do now?” Annabelle asked Eylion, she was on the verge of tears. She was scared and she wanted to go home. How long until they saw them all again?
“I don’t know… well… I know one thing…” she whispered.
“Are you still wearing the locket you got when you got your powers?”
“Yes, I always wear it,” Annabelle replied puzzled.
“Good! We need to find a way to hide it once we get there. Under no circumstances must it be confiscated, okay?”
“Okay… but what is so special about it,” Annabelle asked.
“I’m not sure exactly,” Eylion said. “But Leda told me that when we were taken I had to make sure that you still had your locket.”
“Why? Why didn’t anyone tell me?”
“Probably because they didn’t want you to know,” Eylion said giving her a look and rolling her eyes. “You know how they are.”
“I don’t know, Annabelle. You know how they always want to pretend to be the grown-ups and keep us in the dark. It’s what they do. The less we know, the safer we’ll be. But remember they told you they had it made for you? Not true. It’s a very old locket. Leda let it slip by accident, but she refused to elaborate. They have been keeping secrets from us all this time. I tried to talk to Leda about it, but she just pretended not to know what I was talking about and changed the subject. It made her irritable because she didn’t want me to dig and try to find things out.”
She looked around, making sure the other women didn’t listen to their conversation.
“We need to hide it before they take our things. One of us must create a distraction and the other must give them the slip long enough to find a hiding place. I say we hide it in a tree somewhere and mark the tree so we can find it again.”
“I think you should cause the distraction. That’s your area of expertise,” Annabelle managed to whisper. She had to focus to stay calm; all this new information was unsettling. She reached for her locket and squeased it in her hand. It felt warm against her skin.
“Yep! I knew my talents would come in handy one day.” Eylion tried to give her a smile, but Annabelle could tell that she too had to make an effort. They were both scared, they both wanted to go home to the safety of their mentors.
“I wonder how long it will take for them to realise that we’re gone,” Annabelle said, a single tear ran down her cheek. It was torture thinking of Gwen and Aisling looking for them and not knowing where they were.
“Yeah, me too… but… hang on… Annabelle!” She slapped her palm against her forehead. “I can contact them with magic, like that time in the forest when we got caught by the vampires.”
“Yeah, of course! Do it now please,” Annabelle said sitting back giving Eylion some space.
Eylion held her hands up and closed her eyes to focus. Smoke appeared in front of her and formed a ball in the air like before and it started glowing.
“Leda!” She spoke into the ball. The outline of a woman appeared. “We’ve been taken! We’re in a black horse carriage not far from the field. It was Gwen’s mother; she says they’re taking us to school. She’s locked the door.”
Out of the smoke came Leda’s voice though it was not as clear as it normally would have been. “We’re on our way.”
“I hope they make it, but Annabelle, I don’t think that they’ll be able to take us home. I think we will have to go with them, but at least now they know where we are and we can say goodbye.” Eylion put her arm around Annabelle.
“Can you use that spell when we’re at school to?” Annabelle asked her, thinking she had to learn how to do that.
“I don’t know, if the school is far away I might not be able to. It helps to know where the person is. It’s tricky to even do it from here. Leda is much better at it than I am; she is a very powerful witch.”
“I can’t believe they just took us without giving us time to prepare,” Annabelle said angrily. “I hate them.”
“Yeah, me too,” Eylion said agreeing. “Bloody hags.”
It didn’t take long before they could see them coming. They all came, zooming on their brooms, looking really angry.
Annabelle could hear Gwen yell, “Stop! Stop this instant!”
The carriage slowed down and stopped. Annabelle and Eylion looked out the window. They saw Wynne come down from the carriage meeting them.
“Just what do you think you are doing?!” Gwen yelled at her.
“Taking them to school, of course,” Wynne replied calmly.
“But… but you can’t just take them! We haven’t even been told when they had to go,” she said looking up to the window at Annabelle and Eylion.
“That’s not my fault,” Wynne replied calmly. “I was just told to pick them up and take them to school.”
“But…” Gwen tried.
“But what? I can’t let you take them back with you, Gwen. I can’t disobey orders. If I did, then someone else would come for them, you know that.”
“Just let us say goodbye,” Gwen asked looking defeated. Tears ran down her cheek.
“Gwen… I need to get going.”
“Please, do it for me. I’m your daughter.”
“Oh so now our blood ties are suddenly important,” Wynne said narrowing her eyes. “I thought you didn’t think of me as family.”
“I don’t. You were never there for me, you left me for weeks and weeks on end.”
“I always left gold for food. I don’t see what you are complaining about. I let you do whatever you wanted, what more could a child want?”
“I wanted a mother!” Gwen said angrily. “Please… I’ve never asked for anything. It’s the least you could do.”
Wynne took out a pocket watch and looked at it. “Oh alright… you’ve got two minutes, but no funny business. If you try to run off with them, there will be trouble. The head witch is not going to like that very much.”
“We won’t run off,” Gwen said looking at the girls longingly. “We just want to say goodbye.”
Wynne went round to the back of the carriage and unlocked the door and opened it. “Okay, you two, you’ve got two minutes. Then it is back into the carriage without any fuss, do you hear?”
They nodded and jumped out. Annabelle ran to Gwen who started sobbing as she hugged her. Even Aisling, who normally seemed so tough, couldn’t keep the tears in as she joined them.
“Annabelle, don’t lose your locket,” Gwen whispered. “Do you hear me?”
“They are going to confiscate our things,” Annabelle whispered back looking nervous.
“You must find a way to hide it,” Gwen said kissing her on her forehead.
Annabelle nodded wiping her eyes. “I will.”
After both girls had hugged them all and said their goodbyes, which took more than the two minutes they had gotten, Wynne ushered them back into the carriage. They both looked out the window waving as the carriage moved away. They watched them getting smaller and smaller as they got further and further away.
When she couldn’t see them anymore, Annabelle turned around looking miserable.
“Annabelle, what’s this?” Eylion held up a tiny bottle with pink liquid. She had found it in her satchel.
Annabelle smiled. “It’s a potion to make you talk backwards,” she whispered so the other girls wouldn’t hear. “Is there a book in there?”
“Yeah, there is,” Eylion said taking it out. “Now this looks familiar. I reckon we should hide this too!”
They both grinned at each other. If they were going to be forced to attend this school, they might as well have some fun there.
The school really was a long way away. Annabelle tried to recognize the way, but in the end she gave up. She had never been this long away from the cottage. She recognized the stone archway in the forest they had walked through on their way to the order’s meeting, but after that it was all new to her.
Inside the carriage the girls had started to talk and getting to know each other. The other girls were Anna, a tall blonde girl with piercing blue eyes, she reminded Annabelle of a younger Aisling; Jean, a browned haired, plain girl, but who seemed good natured and extremely intelligent; and the twins Tilly and Mina who like Eylion seemed to have mischief radiating from their eyes. They were complete strangers to Annabelle, but Eylion, who had been around this area longer, had seen them around in the village, but she didn’t know them either.
“Are we the only ones?” Annabelle suddenly asked, she was surprised there were only six of them.
“Oh no,” said Anna shaking her head. “I think there are over a hundred young witches coming, but they are taking us in small groups. That way they have more control over the people arriving. The lady in the front said they were going to take our things, I suppose it’s easier to make sure they get everything if we’re a smaller group.”
“Oh… damn,” Eylion said frowning. “That’s going to make it harder on us, Annabelle.” Deciding she could trust the other girls she said “We have some stuff we need to hide, maybe if we cooperate one of us can hide stuff while the others cause a distraction. Anyone want in? It can’t be something big though, just something small.”
“I do,” said Jean at once.
“Okay, hand it over to Annabelle before you leave the carriage. She is going to hide our stuff too. I’ll create a distraction, and you just play along.”
Jean nodded and looked at the others.
“Yeah, we’ll play along too,” said Tilly winking. “We need to stick together.”
After several hours the carriage went through a gate in huge stone wall; shortly after it slowed down to a halt. They all looked out the windows. They were in front of a big, formidable looking stone building with big towers on the sides.
“I don’t believe it… the school is a castle?!” Eylion said her eyes wide. The castle was surrounded by green grass and lots of trees. The stone walls they went through seemed to surround the entire area, keeping strangers out… and keeping witchlings in.
“How on earth did they manage to get this place? It must cost a fortune.”
“They didn’t pay for it,” Jean said. “This is Glasegrove Castle. It used to belong to some important family, I can’t remember their name.”
“Who are they?”
“No idea, they’re not around anymore. I have just seen a sketch of this castle in a book once. I’m sure this place has a big library, I’m sure there’s a history book about it.”
Wynne came to unlock the door.
“Alright, girls, out you get. Form a line in front of the carriage.”
Jean handed Annabelle a small ring she wanted her to hide and Eylion a small pocket knife. She whispered to the other girls.
“I say we run out of the carriage in a playful way. Annabelle I’ll chase you over to those trees, and then you hide our things in that tree over there. Do you remember the spell I taught you?”
Annabelle did. One of the few spells she mastered very well was a spell that allowed her to push her hand through hard materials. By using this spell she could stick her hand into a tree trunk to hide their treasures without anyone being able to tell.
“Yes, I remember,” she replied, nodding. “Okay, everyone… run out, don’t form a line.”
They ran out, deaf to Wynne’s protests. Eylion pretend chased Annabelle, laughing and Annabelle pretend hid behind a tree while sticking her hand into the tree trunk, hiding Anna’s ring, her locket, Eylion’s pocket knife, her potion bottle and potion book. Now the important thing was to remember which tree, because there were hundreds of them. She focused her magic and made a mark into the tree bark that only she would recognize.
“Girls, get back here this instant!” Wynne shouted. “I said form a line. Honestly, you’re not children!”
“Why are we being shipped off to school against our will then,” Eylion said cheekily as she returned towards the carriage.
“Don’t start,” Wynne said sharply. “Pull yourselves together. The headmistress will not be impressed with this kind of behaviour.”
They gathered in a line in front of the carriage, smirking at their own genius scheme.
“Now… you be good girls and stay put, I will go inside and get the headmistress and some of the staff. The driver will keep an eye on you; I suggest you don’t cross him.”
She went inside and the girls congratulated each other will a well done distraction. They had been lucky it was only the driver and Wynne, for when Wynne came back out, she was followed by seven stern looking women; in front, the headmistress who was none other than Ms. Kendra P. Onbush, the head witch of the order; and following her, six of her minions.
“Girls, welcome. I am Ms. Onbush your headmistress. You will address me as headmistress,” she said briskly, looking stern. “Is that understood?”
“Yes,” they murmured.
“Yes, headmistress,” the girls replied.
“That’s better. Now, I will call your names and when I do you will follow one of my members of staff into the castle. They shall take you to your own room where they will help you dress in an appropriate attire, remove all of the things you have brought with you, and then they will inform you of the rules. As this is the first day and we don’t have time to show anyone around to make sure you don’t get lost, you will stay in your rooms until someone comes and gets you for supper.”
“Now then… Anna Hier…”
Annabelle was the last person to be called. Alexis had spread the word that her family name was Brown; a very common name and Alexis had relatives with that name too. It was fake, of course, but no one seemed to be suspicious about it, which was good, because Alexis had said it was a bad idea to draw attention to the fact that she had only just come through the portal months ago, and that until then she had no idea she was a witch. However, Annabelle was nervous about attending a school for witches, because once they found out how little she knew they might get suspicious. She wasn’t really sure why it was a bad idea to just tell the truth, but she trusted Alexis’ judgement. Annabelle had always had a suspicion that Alexis knew something about her that she herself did not, because the first time she had seen her she had looked at her almost as if she recognized her. And now there was this mysterious locket they had given her; the one that they told her was made for her as a gift when it really was an old locket. Why had they given it to her? And what was so special about it.
“This is your room,” said the witch who followed her. Her name was Lydia, and Annabelle was glad she got her, she was a lot younger than the others and she didn’t look quite as stern. Eylion was dragged along by a really sourly looking old lady that Annabelle wouldn’t want to cross. Lydia had sandy hair, a little bit taller than herself, and looked like she was still in her twenties; however, Annabelle knew not to be fooled by her youthful appearance, at first she had thought that Gwen and Aisling were in their early thirties, but they were both nearing a hundred, and Leda had already passed a hundred. Witches live a lot longer than mortals, thus the physical aging process it completely different. Wynne and Gwen who were mother and daughter looked almost the same age.
Lydia unlocked her door and stepped aside letting Annabelle in first. It was about the same size as her room back home, with a big four-poster bed, a writing desk and her own bathroom. When she had imagined the school, she had imagined that the girls would have to share rooms and that it would be crowded and that they would have no privacy, but this wasn’t so bad. She’d still prefer to stay with Gwen and Aisling though.
“Right,” said Lydia. “Take off all of your clothes.”
“All of them?” Annabelle echoed. She didn’t really fancy getting naked in front of a stranger.
“All of them,” Lydia repeated. “Come on, I haven’t got all day. You haven’t got anything I haven’t seen, you’re the seventh girl to strip naked in front of me today and you won’t be the last.”
Slowly but grudgingly Annabelle began taking off her clothes. When she was completely naked Lydia asked her to hold up her arms and spread her legs so as to make sure she hadn’t tried to smuggle anything into the school. She felt like a criminal.
“Good girl, now this is your uniform,” she said pointing at a stack of clothes on the bed. “Put it on, and there’s another set in your cupboard for when this one needs cleaning.”
The uniform was a plaid skirt, a white blouse, a grey cardigan with the school’s crest on it, a maroon tie, long white stockings, black shoes and a black witch’s cloak.
“I have to wear all of this,” Annabelle said holding the cloak up.
“You may take off your cardigan in class if it is too hot, but you might want to wear it come winter as the castle can get really cold. The cloak you wear outside, but you might want to use that during winter too. The rest you will have to wear at all times, except for bed, of course. There are nightgowns for you in the cupboard.”
Annabelle put on the skirt, the blouse and the stockings. She then held out the tie for Lydia to show her, because she had never even seen one before. Back in her world people didn’t tie bits of fabric around their necks. There were many common things that people used every day in this world that Annabelle couldn’t even name, but Gwen and Aisling had been a great help. When she first arrived she had been fascinated by indoor plumbing which was not something she had seen before, but which she now could never live without.
“Now for the rules,” said Lydia once Annabelle was fully dressed in her new uniform. “There are quite a lot of them which is why we have a book of rules, you will find it in your desk drawer. I will, however, go through the ones that you will need to know straight away. Understood?”
“You must wear your uniform at all times…”
“Unless I’m in bed or taking bath,” Annabelle added.
“Yes, that’s right,” Lydia said with a smile. Annabelle was glad there was a person in this castle who seemed capable of smiling. “You must attend class unless you are ill in which case the school nurse will come and see to you. Breakfast starts at 8.30 am, classes start at 9 am. Don’t be late. Lunchtime is at noon. Then you get a break until 1 pm when classes resume. You will also find a schedule in your desk drawer. With me so far?”
“Yes,” Annabelle said nodding.
“Homework will be handed in on time. We advise that you do your homework before you do anything else on your free time. For now we will leave it up to you, but if you have a problem getting things done, we might make you stay after class to work on your homework under a teacher’s supervision.”
Annabelle was just thinking that she’d rather stay up all night working on it than stay behind, when Lydia said, “Curfew is 9.30, you will get ready for bed by 10 pm, lights out is at 10.30 and someone will come around to check that you are all in bed.”
“What? But… we’re not kids,” Annabelle started, but Lydia interrupted her.
“Even grown women need their sleep, Annabelle. We need you to be awake in class.” She gave her a stern look, but it was not unkind. “I think that’s enough for now. The book of rules is in your drawer, if you have any questions you can ask me or another staff member. If you break any rules you will have to be punished and you don’t want that,” she said seriously. “I’m going to go welcome the last group of girls; you will have to stay in here until I come to get you for supper, headmistress’ orders.”
“Can’t I go visit my friend in her room while we wait?”
“Why not?” Annabelle asked.
“Because that’s not what the headmistress told you to do.”
“No, stay here.” Lydia gave her a firm look. “I have to go now. I, or someone else, will come and get you when it’s time for supper. In the mean time you can familiarize yourself with the rule book.” She picked up all of Annabelle’s confiscated things and left the room.
“Fat chance,” mumbled Annabelle to herself and flung herself onto the bed. “Why would I want to do that!”
Annabelle didn’t have to wait long before she heard a knock on the door.
“Already?” She mumbled to herself, thinking it couldn’t have been more than twenty minutes since Lydia left. She opened the door and in came Eylion.
“Hello!” She said happily as she came in. “Quick! Shut the door before someone sees.”
“Eylion, we’re not supposed to leave our rooms.”
“You’re in your room, which by the way, was really hard to find! Mine is in a completely different part of the castle!”
“Really? I wonder why,” Annabelle wondered out loud.
“Well I have an idea… get this… we’re not in the same class!”
“What? We’re not going to be together?!”
“Nope… makes sense though… since… well I am a little older than you,” Eylion said. “But it’s stupid to divide people into different age groups, because we could still be on totally different levels.”
“Yeah… but I’m not even near your level,” Annabelle said frowning. “This is terrible! You were supposed to be there and help me if they asked me to do stuff I couldn’t do yet. I am so far behind all the other girls!”
“Hey, you don’t know that yet. You might be able to cope, and I can help you after class. We’ll find a way to make it work.” Eylion put an arm around her. “We’ll stick together. Oh and… if you want to spend time with me, I’ll be scrubbing pots and pans in the kitchen every day after supper for a week.” She winked.
“No way!” Annabelle rolled her eyes. “You have already managed to get punished!”
“Hey don’t blame me! You saw that grumpy old hag who showed me to my room, it was impossible not to get on her wrong side! I give her a little cheek about the uniform, next thing I know I’m bent over my bed while she whacks a ruler at me!”
“She spanked you!”
“Yeah! AND I’ve gotta work in the kitchen for a week!” She threw herself onto Annabelle’s bed. “You know… you could get in trouble too, then we could scrub stuff together and work out plans to make life interesting in here.”
“Hmm… tempting… but for now I think I’ll pass,” Annabelle said smirking.
“Yeah, I hate cleaning too,” Eylion said looking up at the ceiling.
They both laid back on the bed, and soon Annabelle could feel herself getting drowsy. It had been such a long and emotional day. She was so tired.
“What’s going on in here?!”
Annabelle opened her eyes. “Hmm… what?”
“I said no one was to leave their rooms,” Lydia said coming closer.
“I haven’t left this room,” Annabelle mumbled rubbing sleep out of her eyes.
“Honest, lady, she hasn’t,” Eylion said yawning.
Lydia narrowed her eyes at them. “Don’t move. I need to let Madame Odiosis know that I found you, Eylion.”
She walked out the door.
Annabelle looked at Eylion. “You’re in trouble now,” she said.
“Yeah… well what else is new?”
When Lydia came she was not followed by Madame Odiosis, but by Octavia Spryt, the witch they had met before the order’s meeting.
“Well, well, well, you two have been here for less than two hours and already you are causing trouble. I told the headmistress we should keep an extra eye on you!”
Eylion smirked, clearly pleased she already had a reputation.
“You two are on kitchen duty for a week!” Ms. Spryt said glowering at them.
“But…” Annabelle started.
“One more word from you, young lady, and you’ll sleep in the dungeon tonight!” she threatened.
“Cool! Can I come with!” Eylion said looking exited.
“Be quiet, girl! I’ve got my eye on you two. Lydia can I have a word outside?”
“Sure, Octavia.” Lydia followed her out.
Eylion turned to Annabelle. “Wow… she really is an idiot! I already had kitchen duty for a week!” She laughed. “Sorry, I got you in trouble too though.”
“It’s okay,” Annabelle said half annoyed half amused. “This way we might be able to sneak a potion into her tea.”
“Girl, you are devious!” Eylion grinned.
Lydia came back into the room looking stern and carrying a strap with her.
“Alright you two, I’m sorry, but we have to show you two what we do to rule breakers in this establishment. Bend over the bed. And be quick about it, we have to get down to supper.”
Eylion and Annabelle both swallowed nervously, but obeyed.
“You will each get six, and I hope that will teach you to behave in future.”
She pulled up their skirts and swiftly pulled down their white regulation panties. She gave them each six licks with the strap. They stung, but Annabelle thought they could be worse. Maybe Lydia’s heart wasn’t all in it; she would bet a lot that Ms. Spryt was the one who ordered the punishment.
When it was over, Lydia gave them both a soft pat on their bottom. “Okay, now pull up your panties and follow me down to supper. I don’t want any more trouble from you two, okay.”
“Yes, ma’am,” they both mumbled.
“That’s it, I need a new cauldron.” Gwen sat down by the breakfast table looking unhappy. The cauldron had a leak at the bottom and was no longer of use to anyone. “I have had this one for ages.”
“It shows,” Annabelle said looking up from her breakfast. “That cauldron looks positively ancient.” She took a bite of toast and winked at her mentor.
“It is not ancient,” Gwen protested. “I got this cauldron when I was just an apprentice like yourself,” she said waving her finger at Annabelle.
“Exactly,” Annabelle mumbled into her tea cup, smirking.
Gwen raised her eyebrow at her, half smiling, but trying to look stern. “Oh very funny, I can see you’re in a brat mood today.” She paused as Annabelle nodded and grinned. “It has great sentimental value, young lady. I bought this when I first started earning my own money from potion making. I will have to go to the village today and get a new one. Your’s is a little tiny for my potion making.” She studied Annabelle. “You should come too, you need new shoes.”
Annabelle frowned. “What’s wrong with the shoes I have?”
“They have holes in them, sweetheart. And I don’t think it’s any use patching them together. You’ve had them for quite a while.”
“But… I can’t afford any shoes,” Annabelle said looking down at her plate. She knew Gwen didn’t intend for her to pay for them, but she still hated the idea that she couldn’t buy her own things.
“Don’t be silly, Annabelle. I will buy new shoes for you,” Gwen said as expected. She gave her apprentice a reassuring smile.
“But… can’t I try to sell some of the potions I have made to pay a little myself?” She didn’t like idea of Gwen paying for her things, it made her uncomfortable. She already lived in her house and ate her food. Gwen and Aisling’s kindness often made her feel guilty because she could never repay them for what they had done for her. What they had given her and still gave her was priceless.
“I don’t think you’ll get much for them, Annabelle,” Gwen said. “They’re just simple remedies.”
“And prank potions,” Annabelle mumbled. She looked nervously up at Gwen. She knew how Gwen felt about her making potions without her being there.
“Prank potions? When have you been making prank potions?” Gwen said sternly.
“When you were out,” Annabelle said attempting to sound nonchalant. “But… It’s okay, Alexis supervised. I wasn’t doing anything on my own.”
Having Alexis around was having supervision, but at the same time it meant she could make potions Gwen wouldn’t have let her make and she could make them without someone constantly watching her. Alexis was more laid back and seemed more than happy to help Annabelle with some mischief. “Goddess knows I suffered her pranking when Gwen was your age,” she would say shaking her head. Having Alexis around was almost like having a grandparent spoiling you, or at least that is how Annabelle imagined a grandparent to be like, she had never had the experience herself.
“And you want to earn a living selling prank potions?” Gwen said looking at her sternly. “Is that why I am apprenticing you? So you can help trouble makers prank people?”
“I want to be able to pay for my own things,” she said looking sad. “It would make me feel more self-reliant.” This was true, but that wasn’t really why she was making prank potions. For the most part she just felt this rush of excitement knowing she was making something “naughty” that could get her in trouble, even if when she did get in trouble she wish she hadn’t.
Gwen sighed. “Very well… we will try to sell your prank potions, but I’m hoping that in future you will make a living by creating something useful.”
Annabelle nodded solemnly.
“And Annabelle… you have no need to feel guilty about staying here. You are an apprentice now and it is therefore my responsibility to teach you, feed you and clothe you. Okay? It is not uncommon. Leda does the same for Eylion.”
“But Eylion can make things that are worth more if Leda tries to sell it,” Annabelle said sadly.
“And so will you once you’ve had proper training.”
“But… I won’t because I’ll have to leave soon and I never got to repay you.”
Gwen got up and walked over to where Annabelle was sitting. She bent over and put her arms around her. “I don’t want you to repay me,” Gwen said hugging her and kissing her forhead. “I don’t know when, but when you get out of that school I want you back here with me and Aisling where you belong. You must promise to be safe and you must promise to come back, is that clear?”
“Yes, Gwen,” Annabelle said getting up too, burying herself in Gwen’s embrace. “I promise to come back.”
“Come to think of it… it’s good we are selling those potions, then I won’t have to worry about you trying to smuggle them into the school,” she said rubbing Annabelle’s back.
“Well… we don’t have to sell them… at least not all of them…”
“Oh yes we are, young lady. I can’t believe I just gave you that idea. We are selling the lot of them today. We’ll go after lunch you get some studying done first; in the meantime, I need to go out harvesting for a potion.”
Annabelle looked through her potion book for prank potions. It had been confiscated after her fiasco last attempt to make a potion on her own. Instead of making a potion that turned people into frogs for a short period of time the potion had blown up and Elyon had turned into a big fat toad. Luckily Gwen hadn’t thrown out the book, she had only hidden it from Annabelle, and Alexis was more than happy to tell her where she kept it. Though Alexis kept saying Gwen was a troublemaker when she was young, Annabelle had a feeling that Alexis had once been quite the handful too. “I’m pretty well-behaved,” she thought to herself, justifying her own trouble making.
“A potion that will make you talk backwards,” she mumbled to herself. “That doesn’t sound dangerous at all, but it does sound funny. They won’t know what hit them!” She grinned to herself and set up her little apprentice cauldron.
After three failed attempts Annabelle finally got it right. She poured her precious potion into a little glass bottle. It was pink and it gleamed in the sunlight from the window. She smiled to herself feeling a great amount of pride at having made something all alone without any supervision. She wasn’t supposed to do anything on her own, but that was hardly the point. She quickly hid the bottle in her satchel along with her potion book as she heard footsteps nearing the kitchen.
“Ready for lunch, Annabelle? I sure hope you have gotten some studying done so we can go to the villa…” Gwen stopped in her tracks and took a look around. “What in the world has been going on in here?”
“I eh… I had a little accident… well three little accidents,” Annabelle said as she backed away trying to get as far away from Gwen as possible.
The kitchen was splattered in sticky potion. Some of it was slimy, some of it was blue… the counter top had a nasty burn; all in all, it was just a real mess. She hadn’t really planned what to do next. When she started making the potion she had had plenty of time to finish it before Gwen would be back, but having failed three times she hadn’t had time to cleaning up and hiding the traces of her mischief.
“Annabelle, you know you’re not supposed to make potions without supervision,” Gwen said sternly as she folded her arms and looked at the state of her beloved kitchen.
“I… emh… yes, I know,” she said trying to sound ashamed even if she was still excited at having made something on her own.
“Look at my kitchen!” Gwen said sounding really angry.
“I know it’s a bit messy, Gwen… but… but it’s nothing a good cleaning spell can’t fix, right? I’ve seen you do it plenty of times,” Annabelle said making sure to keep her backside far away from Gwen for good measure.
“Cleaning spell? Oh no, Annabelle, you are on your own with this. You will clean this kitchen without any help from me. That should teach you not to disobey the rules.”
“But… but Gweeen…” Annabelle tried. “What about going to the village? I need new shoes, remember?”
“If you can finish cleaning before I leave for the village, which I doubt, then, yes, you can come. If not, then we’ll just have to get the shoes another day. And you just be glad that I feel too upset to put you over my knee, young lady! You better be on your very best behaviour for the rest of the day or I’ll swear you will have your backside properly warmed before bed. Now let’s have lunch in the sitting room, I don’t want to eat in this messy kitchen.”
“Annabelle, I’m leaving now. If by some miracle you’re finished you may come,” Gwen called before she went out the front door.
Annabelle sighed as she heard the front door slam shut. She was nowhere near being done. She had only started with a sticky puddle on the floor and it proved really tough to clean. Well… she hadn’t really tried to clean it yet, she had been distracted by how fun it was to touch and then time just went by and before she knew it, it was time to leave. If only Gwen had done her cleaning spell then she could have gone too. Why didn’t she know the spell herself? Why hadn’t Gwen taught her? Why hadn’t she read about it? She had read about spells. You could use words, but Gwen never did. Skilled witches didn’t need to use words, words were usually just an extra help. Annabelle had read about the oral spells, you didn’t necessarily have to say an exact incantation, mostly it was the thought behind the words that counted, but for people who don’t have too much control over their minds, like say an apprentice, they help you as a guide. In Annabelle’s book the incantations were always in some old language. Gwen had made Annabelle study it, but she didn’t really know it. She only knew single words.
“Well… it can’t hurt to try,” she said to herself.
She got up raised her hands and closed her eyes and focused on the job she wanted done. “Mundatio, cucina, saponem!” She wasn’t sure if she said it correct and if it would work. It sounded fancy, but all she had tried to say was “cleaning, kitchen , soap!” because she didn’t know much about this old language and how it worked; however, it was a clear instruction and her little incantation did something for suddenly her wooden scrub started moving on its own, in fact, several scrubs started moving around and cleaning the kitchen for her.
“Yes!” She did a little happy dance. She had no idea how she had done it, maybe it was the words, maybe it was how focused she had been to make the object clean the kitchen for her, all she knew was that she was going to the village with Gwen.
She knew that Gwen would have taken the broom, but she always flew so gracefully and careful that she’d have no trouble catching up to her if she grabbed Aisling’s broom and go after her.
“Gwen! Wait for me,” she called after her as she zoomed twenty feet over the ground.
Gwen turned to look back and stopped, hovering in the air.
“Annabelle, what do you think you are doing?”
Annabelle flew next to her and stopped too. “You said if I cleaned the kitchen I could come with you,” she said smiling.
“I said if you finished cleaning the kitchen before I left, you could come. And I most certainly did not say you could fly a broom, young lady!”
“But… but you’ll be with me now, so you can supervise me flying the broom, but I don’t really need you too… look!” She soared around her in a circle showing Gwen her flying skills.
Gwen closed her eyes and counted to ten. She took a deep breath. “Annabelle….”
“Are you upset with me, Gwen?” Annabelle asked frowning. “I just wanted to come to the village with you… I was really looking forward to it. And you said I needed new shoes…” She pouted. “I’m sorry…”
“Oh don’t you try that with me, young lady! It won’t work. You knew it would not be okay for you to borrow Aisling’s broom and come after me,” Gwen scolded her. “I have had it with your attitude and misbehaviour. You clearly haven’t learned your lesson.”
Annabelle bit her lip sensing she was in big trouble.
“I’m sorry, Gwen. Look… I’ll just go back home, okay … I deserve that. I won’t come to the village.” There was no one around and she thought it was better to calm Gwen down quickly or she’d might get a good walloping right there by the side of the road.
Gwen was quiet for a while, thinking.
“You may come,” she finally said, but she still looked stern.
“Really?” Annabelle grinned. “Thanks!”
“Yes, but only because we are almost there, and only because you need new shoes; it will not be a fun trip, we won’t be hanging around. We will do what we need to do and go straight home. And don’t think for one second that this means that you are not in trouble, because I can assure you that you are. Remember what I said earlier about anymore misbehaviour?”
Annabelle frowned. “Emh… ya… but…”
“No, butts, Annabelle; you were warned what would happen, and something tells me that you need a little discipline the way you have been acting out lately. Now land that broom immediately, we are walking from here.”
“No, Annabelle… we are walking.”
Once they got to the village they went to the potion shop where they sold their potions, and Gwen hadn’t been lying when she said that Annabelle’s potions wouldn’t sell for much, but Annabelle didn’t mind. It felt great knowing that she had earned the money herself with her own abilities. She didn’t have them for long though, because next they went to the shoemaker and as promised Annabelle handed over her money to Gwen, helping out to buy her own shoes. It was nowhere near enough, but “every bit helps,” Gwen told her.
“Gwen!” A lady hurried over towards them as they came out of the cauldron shop.
When Gwen saw her she gasped, but she quickly pulled herself together. Seeing her reaction Annabelle was willing to bet money that Gwen would have hidden if she had seen her first, but sadly this was not the case.
“Who is that?” Annabelle asked coming closer to Gwen. She felt unease as the stranger approached them.
“No one special,” Gwen answered. “Stay close.” She grabbed Annabelle’s arm and held her close to her.
“How are you, darling? I haven’t seen you for several decades. How is Aisling?”
“She’s fine,” Gwen said stiffly holding Annabelle’s arm even tighter. It was as though she needed her there because she felt uneasy around this person too.
Annabelle didn’t like her, even if the lady did smile at them. She was beautiful like Gwen. They were the same height, had the same build, had the same eye and hair colour, but Gwen always radiated warmth and kindness; the stranger seemed cold.
“Is this my granddaughter?” she looked at Annabelle who’s eyes widened.
“No,” replied Gwen.
“Great-granddaughter?” she asked again smirking.
“No, mother!” Gwen replied. “She is not related to you.” She seemed angry and defensive. “Why are you here?”
“Gwen, can’t a mother say hello to her own daughter? I haven’t seen you for such a long time.”
“And I’m supposed to believe that you have missed me or something?” Gwen said angrily.
“Well… missed is a strong word,” mumbled the lady.
“Why are you here?” Gwen repeated.
The lady sighed. “Well… if you must know, I am here for the head witch. She has asked to see me. It’s got something to do with that new school of hers.” She looked at Annabelle who frowned at the mention of the school.
“Are you going to the school, girl? You seem about the right age.”
“I don’t want to,” Annabelle said defiantly.
“Is not a question about wanting to, little girl.” She grabbed Annabelle’s chin with her thumb and forefinger and lifted her face so she could look her straight in the eyes. “It’s about doing what the order tells you to do.” She gave Annabelle a cold look and patted her cheek. Annabelle folded her arms and looked the other way.
“Quite the temper on that one, Gwen. She should learn to respect her elders.”
“I only respect elders who aren’t complete…” Annabelle started, looking furious.
“Annabelle, hush!” Gwen silenced her.
“But Gwen… she…” Annabelle tried looking at her mentor.
“I said be quiet. Don’t let your anger get the better of you. It’s not worth it.” She turned to her mother. “We have to get going now….” She hesitated not really sure what to say next. In the end she just said “goodbye” and walked off dragging Annabelle with her.
The trip back was very quiet. Gwen didn’t say anything, and Annabelle knew better to question her about her mother. She had even let Annabelle fly the whole way back. Annabelle guessed she was so upset she just wanted to get back as soon as possible and walking would take a lot longer. It did confuse her because Gwen always said it was for her safety that she wasn’t allowed to fly yet, but now suddenly because she was in this mood it was alright; however, Annabelle was not about to complain when Gwen so willingly let her fly. She was never allowed to fly, which reminded her of how much trouble she was in. Gwen had made it really clear that Annabelle was in for a spanking before bed. But that was also confusing, why should she be punished for doing something, when Gwen suddenly had a change of heart about the whole thing?
When they came back they went in the kitchen door, or correction, they tried to enter the kitchen door. They opened it and they both gasped as foam came out. Annabelle had completely forgotten that she had used a spell to clean the kitchen. It was now full of waist-high, soapy foam. If the kitchen was clean underneath, they could not see it.
Annabelle looked nervously at Gwen, fearing she was going to put her over her knee right there in the garden. Instead she just walked around the house to the front door and threw her broomstick angrily on the ground before walking inside. Annabelle picked it up and placed it up against the wall outside and followed her in.
“Did you girls have a good time in the village,” Alexis asked when they came in. She was sitting in the living room with a book petting the neighbor’s cat, Mr. Whiskers.
“It was fine,” said Gwen snapped before she hurried upstairs and into her bedroom and slammed the door shut.
“What’s got her broomstick in a twist?” Alexis asked Annabelle who looked sad.
“I… I’m not sure,” she replied. It wasn’t entirely true; she knew what had upset Gwen, at least parts of it, but she didn’t know if she was allowed to tell anyone about their encounter with her mother. “I think maybe it’s her week,” she said to relieve Alexis of her suspicion and only after she had said it was she reminded that Gwen was ninety-years-old, but then again she was a witch and not a mortal.
“Oh yes… that would explain it. She has always been a little cranky around that time of the month,” Alexis said nodding to herself. “Best to stay out of her way.”
“Yeah, I think that’s for the best,” Annabelle agreed.
“Alexis…” Annabelle approached the older woman, trying to look very innocent.
“What have you done?”
“How do you know I have done something?” Annabelle asked frustrated. So far her innocent act wasn’t going smoothly.
“Intuition, my dear; I have been in the game for a long time, young lady. Nothing will get past me.”
“ Oh… well okay… well see the thing is… there has been a slight accident in the kitchen.”
“What sort of accident, Annabelle?” Alexis put down her book and got up.
“Emh… I was supposed to clean the kitchen or I couldn’t come to the village… so I sort of made up my own cleaning spell and left.” She bit her finger nervously.
Alexis sighed. “Oh dear…”
“Yah… you can say that, alright. The whole kitchen is full of soapy foam! That might also be part of the reason Gwen snapped…” she looked down at her hands shamefully.
Alexis chuckled. “I had forgotten what life with an apprentice in the house was like.”
Annabelle breathed out in relief. She knew Alexis had a tendency to spoil her, but she knew that there was a certain limit that should not be crossed, she just wasn’t aware of where this limit was yet. Glad that Alexis didn’t think the soapy kitchen a punishable offence she followed her into the kitchen where Alexis put it straight within five seconds. The foam was gone and the kitchen was so clean every surface shone.
“I think I should make dinner tonight,” Alexis said opening the door to the pantry. “Knowing Gwen in this mood, she won’t be coming down anytime soon.”
Annabelle nodded. “Yeah, she seemed very upset.”
“And you…” Alexis said putting her arm around Annabelle’s waist. “You can go stand in that corner for ten minutes.”
“What?” Annabelle protested. Apparently, she had crossed the line after all.
“That’s right. You can think about the trouble you caused, little apprentice.” She swatted Annabelle lightly into the corner. “And you be glad I don’t put you over my knee.”
The next morning when Annabelle came downstairs she found Aisling sleeping on the sofa in the living room. She guessed Gwen was still in a terrible mood, but that wasn’t poor Aisling’s fault. Annabelle felt annoyed with her. She did not like the idea of Gwen making Aisling sleep on the sofa, not at all. If she had known she would have offered to share her own bed with her.
Gwen had not come down for dinner the previous night; Alexis, Annabelle and Aisling had eaten without her. Gwen had not followed through with her spanking threat either, in fact Annabelle hadn’t seen her since they had come back, and she was not stupid enough to tell Aisling that she had one coming, because she might decide to do it instead.
She went into the kitchen and found Alexis putting breakfast on the table. She had put on an apron and her new wooden spoon was sticking out of it. She really hadn’t been joking when she told Annabelle and Eylion that she would be carrying it around with her.
“Will you please wake up Aisling, dear? And tell her that if she doesn’t come I will wake her myself.” She pointed at her spoon while winking.
“Yes, Alexis,” Annabelle said and went back into the living room.
She walked over to the sofa where Aisling was sleeping. Poor thing, her feet were sticking out on the end because the sofa wasn’t long enough.
“Aisling,” Annabelle called her from the door frame.
“Hmmgrf…” Aisling made a grunting noise that meant “what is it you want now?”
“Alexis says breakfast is ready and if you don’t come now she’ll come and wake you herself… and I think maybe she will bring her wooden spoon…”
Aisling sighed. “Yes yes, alright… I’m coming.”
She raised her hand to rub her eyes. Annabelle only realized too late that something was wrong. SPLAT!
“What the… ANNABELLE!” Aisling got up her face splattered with cream.
“It wasn’t me, I swear,” Annabelle said backing away from her as Alexis came out the door.
“What is going on in here,” she asked sternly before taking one look at Aisling and laughing.
“Life with an apprentice, eh?” She chuckled.
“It wasn’t me, Alexis,” Annabelle repeated. “I swear!”
“You, my dear, are in big trouble,” Aisling told her before she went into the kitchen to wash her face off in the sink.
“But…but… “Annabelle stammered.
“Come on, brat. Let’s have breakfast,” Alexis said leading her into the kitchen and giving her a light swat.
Annabelle sat down by the kitchen table looking grouchy. Why wouldn’t they believe her?
She was joined by Alexis and Aisling who both filled their mug with coffee. Annabelle took a bite of toast, glaring at them both.
“Annabelle will you stop giving us the evil eye,” commanded Aisling. “I can promise it will not soften me up. You could say you’re sorry, you know.”
“But I didn’t do anything,” Annabelle replied angrily.
Alexis took a sip of her coffee, not a second after she spluttered it out again making a terrible face.
“What in the world…”
“What’s wrong with you coffee,” asked Aisling, sniffing hers.
“It’s salty!” Alexis said looking at Annabelle.
“Don’t look at me,” Annabelle said taking another bite of toast.
Aisling dipped the tip of her finger into her coffee and tasted it; she too made a face. “Yup, definitely salty. Care to explain, Annabelle?”
“Oh for crying out loud, I said I didn’t do it,” Annabelle said throwing her toast down on her plate.
“There is no need for a tantrum, young lady,” said Aisling sternly. She pointed at the door. “I think we’ve had enough of you for the time being, you can go to your room and stay there until I say you can come out.”
“Why? I’m not six-years-old, Aisling,” Annabelle replied getting up and stomping her foot, which didn’t really help her argument.
“Annabelle, I will not tell you again,” Aisling warned. Her face was getting red, which was never a good sign.
Realizing there was nothing she could do that would make them believe she was a victim of someone else’s plans; she left the kitchen before things turned nasty. She had not forgotten how hard Aisling’s palm was.
“This is just unbelievable,” she muttered to herself as she threw herself onto her bed. “So unfair!”
Someone was up to no good, but who on earth could it be. Eylion? She was a prankster alright, but she would never let Annabelle take the blame for it. And how come she had been sent to her room like some naughty kid?
“No, this is ridiculous, I’m not staying here,” she said to herself and opened her window. She and Eylion had once climbed down the gutters here, it was quite easy.
Making sure to put pillows under her bed covers first so it looked like she had gone back to bed, she went out the window and down to into the garden. She took a sneak peak in the kitchen window to see that Alexis and Aisling enjoying a new cup of “unsalty” coffee, before she got a broom out of the broom shed.
Getting on she soared towards the meadow and her favorite beech tree.
When there, she left the broom on the ground, climbed the tree and found her favorite branch and lay back against the stem of the tree. She let out a loud dramatic sigh. She knew if Aisling caught her she’d be in trouble, but at the moment she didn’t really care because she had told Aisling the truth and she had sent her to her room like some snotty little kid.
Annabelle looked up. A little grey tabby kitten was approaching her.
“Oh hi! Aren’t you a pretty little kitten! How did you get all the way up here by yourself, huh?” She picked it up and started petting it.
“Where is your mummy?”
Annabelle scratched the purring kitten behind the ear and looked around for a bigger cat. After a little while she spotted another, bigger cat on a branch above her, but it wasn’t grey; this was a ginger tabby cat. “Well… it happens,” she thought.
She turned her attention back to the little kitten and held it up towards her face. It gave her a little smack with a clawed paw.
“Eylion, for heaven sakes! Behave yourself!” Leda’s voice appeared out of nowhere.
“Eylion? Leda? What is going on?” Annabelle looked around.
The ginger cat jumped down onto the branch next to Annabelle and gave the kitten a stern look. If anyone ever wondered if cats can give stern looks…well… they can.
The little kitten stopped in its tracks as it was biting Annabelle’s finger. It looked guiltily at the ginger cat. Or what was the ginger cat, because now it was not. Leda was sitting where the ginger cat had been only seconds before. She picked a leaf out of her red hair.
“You? But… how…” Annabelle stared at her and then at the little tabby kitten. “Is this… Eylion?”
“It is indeed,” Leda replied. “We’ve been practicing animal transfiguration, but I’m afraid she insists on being naughty in any kind of form.” She held out her hand motioning for Annabelle to hand Eylion over. She then put the little kitten in the pocked of her witch’s’ cloak and climbed down from the tree.
Following her, Annabelle watched as Leda pulled the kitten out of her pocket again and put it on the ground. It immediately ran off; it seemed that Eylion did not want to turn human just yet.
“Oh will you come back here, young lady!” Leda yelled after her, but the little kitten had already hidden behind the tree.
“Oh very well… I suppose she can run around for a little longer,” Leda said shaking her head. She spotted the broom on the ground.
“Are you supposed to have that?” she asked suspiciously.
“Well… technically… no, but I had to get away,” Annabelle said frowning.
“Oh really? Was there an emergency? A fire perhaps?” Leda asked sternly.
“No… but… but Aisling and Alexis were being mean!” Annabelle said defensively. “So I had to get away quickly.” Not sure she had convinced Leda yet, she continued. “You see… I woke up this morning and Aisling was sleeping on the sofa…”
“Aisling was sleeping on the sofa?” Leda asked with wide eyes.
“Yes… probably because Gwen has been in such a foul mood. She could have just asked to sleep in my bed, I wouldn’t have minded.”
“Ah yes… well that might not have helped with Gwen’s mood,” Leda said smiling.
“Why not?” Annabelle asked confused.
Leda chuckled. “You are so innocent.” She stroked Annabelle’s cheek. “Why don’t you continue telling me why Aisling and Alexis are mean,” she said smiling.
“Oh righ, that… well… So Alexis asked me to wake Aisling up, but someone had put cream in her palm and she splattered it all over her face, and they blamed me! And then when we were going to eat someone had put salt in their coffee, and they blamed that on me too! But it wasn’t me and then Aisling told me that I had to go to my room, which is just not fair at all because I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t even get to finish my breakfast…” She pouted, feeling sorry for herself.
Leda shook her head and sighed. “You’ve all had an eventful morning, haven’t you?”
“Please don’t make me go back, Leda,” Annabelle begged. “I really didn’t do it, but no one believes me.”
“I believe you Annabelle, but we should still go back so we can sort this out. You see Aisling and Alexis seemed to have forgotten that they have another prankster living with them other than you.”
“They do?” Annabelle asked confused.
“Oh yes… I can sense the mischief of Gwendoline from a mile away.”
“You think Gwen did it?! Gwen?! Miss-I-love-rules-Gwen?”
“Oh you’d be surprised what she can do when she is in the right mood, Annabelle,” Leda said looking around for Eylion. “Now let me just catch my naughty, little kitten and we can go back and sort this out.”
After unsuccessfully trying to keep Eylion still long enough to turn her back into a human, Leda had picked up the kitten and stuffed her back into her pocket. Then she had taken Annabelle by the hand and led her back home by foot. When Annabelle tried to convince her to let her fly the broom back she said, “I think you’re in enough trouble already, don’t you think?”
When they walked through the front door and into the living room they met Aisling and Alexis, they were both soaking wet. When they saw Annabelle they both rounded on her, both seemed pretty angry.
“You are in a world of trouble, young lady. What is this, Annabelle? Do you feel like you don’t get enough attention? How many traps have you put around the house?”
Annabelle’s eyes filled with tears and she hid behind Leda. How could they think she was misbehaving when she hadn’t even been in the house? She sniffled.
“You two really are the limit!” Leda scolded. “Annabelle has told you over and over that she didn’t do it and you still blame her. Did it even occur to the two of you that there might be someone else in this house that is in need of attention? Aisling, why did you sleep on the sofa? Has anyone see Gwen today?”
“You think Gwen is behind all of this?” Aisling asked confused. “Why would she do this?”
“Why would Annabelle?”
“But… Gwen?!” Alexis cut in. “She hasn’t acted like this in several decades.”
Annabelle stepped forward. She wiped tears off her face. “I didn’t do it,” she said once again, hoping that this time they would believe her.
Aisling came closer and looked her in the eyes. She suddenly looked really sad.
“Oh honey… I… I am so sorry.” She put her arms around Annabelle and hugged her tight. “I could kick myself!”
Annabelle had thought about this carefully and made her decision.
“I need to talk to you about Gwen,” she said looking into Alexis’s eyes from Aisling’s embrace. “I think I know why she is acting so weird.”
“Oh really? Well do tell! I’m getting fed up with this behaviour,” Alexis said sharply.
“Well… you see… when we were in the village she met this lady. A very unpleasant lady,” Annabelle said.
“Who?” asked Aisling and looked down on Annabelle.
“It was her mother,” Annabelle said looking worried. “She was in a good mood… well not good because she was a little fed up with me, but she was normal until we met her in the village, and after that Gwen was acting really strange. I think she’s really hurting and that is why she is doing all these weird things.”
Alexis sighed. “So Wynne is back, is she? Well that would explain why Gwen is acting so strange. Well I know how to deal with it.”
“What are you going to do?” Annabelle asked.
“I’m going to give her what she needs and probably what she is craving.”
“What is that?”
Annabelle’s eyes widened. “You mean… eh…”
“Oh I think she has earned herself a trip across my knee,” Alexis said huffing. She looked over at both Leda and Aisling who both nodded.
“All these tricks?” Alexis continued. “That girl is asking for it!”
They suddenly heard a loud racket outside; it was the sounds of buckets being dropped on the ground and Albert neighing. They all hurried outside, Alexis was first. Annabelle was surprised how fast Alexis could move when she wanted to, usually she just sat on her bottom asking everyone else to get her things, blaming her old age even if, for a witch, she really wasn’t that old.
“Hold it right there, young lady,” they heard her yelling from the back garden.
They came round the corner and saw Gwen amidst the mess with Alexis holding her ear in a firm grip.
“Owww! Alexis! What are you doing?!” Gwen winced.
“We have been blaming Annabelle all day for these little tricks, and it turned out to be you. Would you like to explain why you’ve been acting like a little girl,” she scolded.
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” Gwen said stubbornly.
Alexis let go of her ear and pointed to the kitchen door. “Get in!”
“No!” Gwen replied defiantly. “I’m busy. Leave me alone, will you.”
Alexis swatted her backside hard.
Gwen gasped. “Ow! What do you think you are doing?”
Alexis swatted her again. She gave her back a push and swatted her all the way into the kitchen.
The rest of them followed them inside.
“Sit down, Gwen,” Alexis said pointing at a chair.
“No, I don’t think I will thanks,” Gwen said trying to leave the kitchen, but Aisling blocked her way.
“Gwen, that’s enough. Sit down right now,” she said looking angry.
Gwen turned around trying to make her way out the backdoor into the garden, but Alexis grabbed her arm.
“That’s it; I have had enough of this.” She sat down on the chair herself and hauled Gwen over her lap and gave her backside half a dozen sharp smacks.
“Ow! Alexis you can’t do this! I’m not your apprentice anymore; I’m too old for this!” Gwen protested.
“You might not be an apprentice anymore, but that does not mean that I am not your mentor still, and you are most certainly not too old to be given a spanking, young lady.”
“But… you can’t spank me in front of my own apprentice…” Gwen sniffled.
Annabelle was glad to hear it, because she didn’t want to be in the room when Gwen got her spanking.
“I understand that, sweetheart, but if this is the position that will make you calm down and explain what is going on, then so be it.” Alexis rubbed her back. “I will not dish out a full spanking… yet, but you must calm down and tell me what is wrong. If I let you back up, will you be willing to talk to us?”
Gwen sniffled. “Okay,” she said sadly, admitting defeat.
“Good girl. Let’s go into the sitting room and we can all have a chat.”
“Gwen, tell me why you are upset.” Alexis sat down next to her on the sofa, and Gwen seemed to be very interested in the floor.
“I’m not upset,” she mumbled.
“You’re not in a good position to lie to me, young lady. You are in enough trouble already. Come on… tell me.” She put her arm around her.
“It’s… it’s my mother,” she finally said putting her head on her mentor’s shoulder.
“She is back in town?”
“You mean you didn’t know?” Gwen said sounding almost accusing.
“Alright… I’m not going to lie… I was told, but only very recently and after you started acting so strange. Gwen, you could have told me that she was here, and if not me at least you could have told your wife.” She looked across the room where Aisling was sitting on the sofa with her arm around Annabelle. Leda sat in a comfy chair with Eylion still as a kitten purring on her lap as she was petting her.
“It’s not just that she is here… well mostly… I’ve always hated her guts, but she is working for that woman! She is part of that horrible group that will take Annabelle away from here.”
“And you see that as another betrayal?”
“Why does everything she does feel like a kick in the stomach? Why can’t she do something good for a change?” Gwen’s eyes filled with angry tears.
“Oh honey,” Alexis said stroking her forehead. “She has done one thing right?”
“She gave birth to the lovely young woman next to me. It’s the best thing she ever did or will ever do, and that she cannot see that herself is her loss, but I am forever grateful.”
“Don’t you dare say it’s not so,” she warned. “Her loss, sweetie, but my gain. Focus on the people who love you and are there for you, and forget people like her.”
“But… she is my mother… and I hate that!”
“No, she is not, sweetie. She just gave birth to you. Has she ever been a mother to you? No, she has not. You don’t owe her your tears and she is definitely not worth them. She does not deserve you as a daughter.”
“Gwen,” Leda joined in. “Who took you in as a young rebel? Who taught you? Who raised you to become the witch you are today?”
Gwen looked up. Her eyes were swollen. “Alexis…” she mumbled.
“That’s right!” Alexis said giving her a hug. “And you are like a daughter to me. I have had the privilege to have you in my life for almost eighty years, my girl. And I like to think that I have done my part to bring you up. I was not there from the beginning, but wouldn’t you say that I have been more of a mother than anyone else?”
Gwen nodded. She was still crying, but smiled weakly.
“We have a somewhat untraditional family. We don’t have our own by blood, but we take in those in need of a family. I’m glad to see that you followed in my footstep.” She winked at Annabelle.
“And Annabelle and Eylion… this is for life. Going away doesn’t change anything. We’re still family when you come back.”
Annabelle nodded and Eylion said “meow.”
Alexis gave a little nod towards Leda who understood. She stood up and put Eylion on the chair she had been sitting on. For a moment it looked like the kitten was going to jump off, but when Leda said “Sit!” it sat down again looking up at her.
Next thing the little kitten started growing and quickly transformed into a human being again.
“Done playing around, kitten?” Leda asked raising her eyebrow.
“Ya know… you should scratch me behind my ear more often,” Eylion said grinning. “It’s so calming.”
“Uh huh… get up,” Leda said.
Eylion got up and Leda sat down and hauled her over her knee. She gave her a dozen hard swats on her backside before letting her back up.
“Hey! What was that for?” Eylion said rubbing her backside.
“That’s for all the mischief you got into as a cat,” Leda said.
“What mischief?” Eylion said innocently.
“You smacked me in the face,” Annabelle said. “AND you bit my finger!”
“That’s right,” Leda said. “And it was also for biting my tail!”
Everyone except Leda laughed at this. She narrowed her eyes.
“Don’t think that just because you are the cutest little kitten anyone has ever seen, that you would get away with being naughty.”
“What about being the cutest human anyone has ever seen?” Eylion asked hugging her mentor looking up at her and batting her eyelashes.
Leda chuckled and put her arms around her. “I think we both know you don’t get away with mischief as a human,” she said patting her backside. She kissed her forheard. “Now take Annabelle with you for a walk.”
“But… oh…” Eylion avoided looking at Gwen. “Ah okay… Annabelle… let’s go climb some trees or something.”
Annabelle got up feeling anxious. She had really not appreciated being blamed for everything that Gwen had done, but she didn’t want her to be in trouble. Her stomach turned or growled more like.
“Oh dear, she hasn’t eaten more than a couple of bites of toast,” Alexis said, suddenly remembering that Annabelle had been sent to her room without getting to finish her breakfast. “Hold on, Annabelle, I shall make you a sandwich to bring with you.”
Annabelle nodded, but she didn’t have much of an appetite; however, she knew that there was no way she’d be allowed to leave without it.
“Annabelle, come here.” Gwen patted the seat next to her and she walked over to her and sat down. Gwen put her arms around her and Annabelle rested her head against her shoulder.
“I am really sorry that you got in trouble for what I did,” she said kissing her forehead.
“It’s okay…” Annabelle mumbled.
“No, it’s not. I didn’t mean it, but I should have realized that you’d be the first suspect for such pranks.”
“Eh… thanks,” Annabelle said looking up at her, rolling her eyes.
Gwen chuckled. “Ops… I mean… well… you know… I’m so much older and I don’t get into trouble very often… so…”
Annabelle smiled mischievously. “Well… I suppose I do cause a lot of trouble,” she said and quickly looked away remembering Gwen’s promise to warm her backside.
“And I should have believed you when you said you didn’t do it,” Aisling said. “I’m sorry, Annabelle.”
“Yeah me too,” Alexis said coming back into the room with a sandwich for her. “But you must admit… with the trouble you caused the day before we just assumed.”
“Yeah… but I said…”
“Yes, we know… you said you didn’t do it, and that should have been good enough.” She handed Annabelle the sandwich.
“Now… you youngsters, scoot! You go for a long walk; you both look like you could use some fresh air.” That was code for “Gwen is getting it good so we don’t want you in the house.”
The two apprentices said their goodbyes and went outside and started walking. They were walking down the road towards the forest, Eylion kicking stones and Annabelle nibbling on her sandwich, when they saw a carriage coming towards them. It was big and black and was dragged by two horses. There were windows, but no visible doors. There was probably just one door in the back.
Sitting in front was a man dressed in black, holding the reins and a witch wearing midnight blue robes. She looked familiar and when the carriage came closer Annabelle saw that it was Wynne, Gwen’s mother.
The carriage stopped in front of the two of them.
“You can’t go see Gwen right now,” Annabelle said quickly. “It’s not a good time.”
“I’m not on my way to see Gwen, little girl. We’re here for you,” she said smiling coldly. “Oh and you too. Eylion, right?”
They looked confused at each other and Annabelle looked into the windows of the carriage. Sitting inside looking nervous were four other girls.
“No!” Annabelle said at once, realizing what was going on.
“Yes, girl. Now come along, we don’t want to be late for school.”
In a very cold place in the far north of Norway two of Santa’s helpers were trying to get up a mountain one frosty morning. Because it was so far north it would be dark until late January, but down in the village people were already busy making Christmas presents for the children of the world.
“I’m glad we don’t live on the North Pole like people think,” said Glaze. “Then the sun would disappear in September!” She shook her snowshoe for excess snow and adjusted her headlight.
“Yeah, well it still sucks that we don’t get any day light until late January,” said Reigh, who was not a native to this country and certainly not used to the sun was disappearing for months.
She only just got the job this year and was placed in Glaze’s cottage. Glaze had not been happy with getting a roommate as she had never got along with one before, but she and Reigh had become friends within ten minutes of meeting each other.
”What did you write on your wish list for Santa?” Reigh asked out of breath looking up at her friend who apparently had much better stamina.
Glaze looked down at her and grinned. “I asked for a kite. Ya know, one of those big ones you can use for snowboarding and it just drags you along.”
“That’s all I want,” said Glaze. “What did you wish for?”
“I haven’t handed in my list yet,” said Reigh with a slight frown.
“Well you better hurry up, it’s almost Christmas,” Glaze said.
“I don’t know what to ask for. I already wished to get as far away from home as possible and that already came true.”
“Well you came to the right place,” Glaze said grinning. “I mean what better job than working for Santa? The pay is great and you get most of the year off. When I was first offered the job I was a little freaked out by the corporal punishment clause in the contract, but now I know it’s nothing to be worried about. It’s only for trouble makers.”
“Trouble makers like you, you mean?” Reigh grinned. She hadn’t been on the receiving end of a spanking yet, but Glaze was no stranger to getting her bottom spanked.
“Well… see… now listen here, young lady,” Glaze said waving her finger in Reigh’s direction.” I am not the one faking sick to get out of my shift.”
“You told me I should,” Reigh protested.
Glaze grinned. “But you agreed, so don’t pretend to be all innocent.”
Reigh laughed. She had needed this. At work they had worked hard since October to get everything ready for Christmas. It was really stressful so when Glaze had told her about her plan she had asked if she could come along before she had even checked her schedule. Today she had the morning shift at work and there was no time to find someone to trade with; instead, she had agreed to Glaze’s suggestion that she’d go to Santa and say that Reigh had a fever. She just really hoped that she didn’t get caught.
“Glaze, I’ve been thinking… do everyone have a corporal punishment clause in their contract?
Glaze thought for a moment. “No, I don’t think so. I think it depends who your supervisor is and how long you have worked here. We are junior workers and we work directly for Santa. Other people working under other seniors might have different arrangements. But Santa is cool, she won’t spank anyone for making a mistake or anything unintentional, it is punishment for rule breaking. When I’ve gotten spanked it was because I broke the rules intentionally because… well… because sometimes one has to break rules, ya know, but after I was forgiven. You see… the good thing about spankings is that there is no unpleasantness that lingers. You get punished and then it’s over and done with and you get a clean slate. Doesn’t that sound good?”
“Yeah, I guess…” Reigh said and she had to admit to herself that she liked knowing that if she ever did get punished then that would be it and she would get another chance.
They climbed up the last steep hill and looked down at the village, a bright spot of light in the darkness. Glaze dragged up the sled they had brought with them.
”I dunno if this is such a good idea, Glaze,” Reigh said sounding scared.
”What are you talking about? We are going to go super-fast!” Glaze said grinning.
”Well… yeah, that is what I’m scared of! What if we hit something and get hurt?”
”Hit what? There’s not a tree up here. There are hardly any trees in this whole national park. It’s all marsh covered in snow. Besides, the sled has breaks. Don’t worry, okay. I can sit in front and yell for you to get off if we are nearing a big boulder or something. Come on, we came all the way up here for this. It’ll be fun. Okay?”
Reigh took a deep breath. “Okay. We did come all the way up here. I’ll do it.”
”Great! Hop on, I’m steering.”
Glaze sat down in front of the steering wheel and scooted forward so that there was just enough space for Reigh to sit down behind her. They both adjusted their hat, mittens and scarf and Reigh turned off her head light so she wouldn’t blind Glaze. She put her arms around Glaze’s middle and held on tight.
”You ready?” Glaze asked turning her head and looked back.
”As ready as I’ll ever be,” Reigh mumbled, looking worried over Glaze’s shoulder into the darkness below. It wasn’t completely pitch-black and the snow reflected the little light they had, but she was still not sure it was safe.
”Alrighty then,” Glaze said and used her feet to push the sled towards the edge. “One, two… and… THREE!” She pushed hard and off they went.
The hill was really steep and they both screamed as they went down, Glaze using a whole bunch of Norwegian curse word of which Reigh only knew about half, and then they laughed as the hill levelled a little more out again and getting ready for the next steep hill which was a lot longer.
When they neared the village they had massive speed and Glaze pulled the breaks to slow down, only she couldn’t.
”Uh oh! It won’t work!” She yelled.
”What?! Are you F-ing kidding me?”
”No, the breaks must be frozen stuck.”
They both put their feet on the ground and tried to use them as breaks, but the ground was quite icy.
”Out of the way! Out of the way!” Glaze yelled as they rushed into the village. Several people had to jump to the side.
”There! By the stable, steer towards the hay balls!” Reigh shouted and pointed.
”Arrhhhhh!” They both screamed as they knew they were going to crash, but hopefully since they were heading for a hay ball and had managed to slow down a little they would avoid any injuries. Glaze turned the wheel just before they neared so the sled was more on the side and with a great ‘THUMP’ they smashed into the hay ball.
Slowly stirring and full of hay they both raised their heads and looked up at each other… and then they roared with laughter.
“What is the matter with you two?”
On the snow covered ground in front of them they could see a pair of black riding boots and looking up they saw the stern face of Mrs. Clause. She was holding the reins of her horse Greyfell and had apparently been out for her morning ride.
“Oh hey there Mrs. C,” Glaze said grinning. “How are you today?”
”Have you two any idea how dangerous that was?! And in the dark! Turn off that head light, your blinding me!”
”It’s always dark around here, Mrs. C,” Glaze said as she turned off the light.
”Don’t be smart with me, young lady. That was very irresponsible of you. And did you even think about all the people who fell over because of the two of you? It’s a miracle no one got injured.”
”It wasn’t our fault, Mrs. C. The breaks didn’t work,” Reigh tried.
”And you don’t think it would be a good idea to check the breaks before you sled down an entire mountain?”
They both looked down ashamed. “Sorry,” they mumbled.
”Now stand up both of you. There is something else I would like to talk to you about.”
They got up, brushed hay off their clothes and looked up at the tall Mrs. Clause who towered over them with her stern gaze.
”Glaze, did you not see my wife this morning telling her that this one,” she pointed at Reigh, “was in bed with a fever?”
“Eh… yes… it’s a miracle! She’s all better! Must be the adrenalin kick she got from sledding,” Glaze said not able to stop her smart mouth.
“What did I say about being smart with me?”
Both Reigh and Glaze looked down at their shoes unable to explain why Reigh wasn’t sick in bed, but Mrs. Clause carried on.
”Santa was quite worried, you know, but being a busy woman at this time of year she did not have the time to go see to Reigh herself and so she asked me to check up on her.”
Glaze scratched her nose something she always did subconsciously when she knew she was in trouble.
”And what did I find when I entered your bedroom?” Mrs. Clause asked. “An empty bed. No Reigh, no Glaze. So… this is why you could not work today, Reigh? In our most busy week of the year, you decided to skive off your shift at work so could slide down a mountain, risking your life and possibly injure other people? Did you even stop to think about the person who had to take over your shift?”
”I…” Reigh started, but she couldn’t say anything else. She was lost for words, feeling very ashamed of herself.
”It was my idea, Mrs. C. I told her she should do it,” Glaze said, trying to save her friend’s neck. “If anyone is getting punished, it should be me.”
”Oh you are getting punished, Glaze. Don’t you worry about that. You were the one who lied for her. I suggest you two come along. We’re going to see Santa.”
Looking worried they both tagged along.
They followed Mrs. Clause into the main building of the village. They went up the grand staircases, down the long corridor to the big, wooden double door with the letters S.C engraved. Mrs. Clause knocked three times.
”Enter,” they heard and Mrs. Clause opened the door, holding it open for the two miscreants who walked in looking down, then she followed them looking stern.
”Honey, what brings you here?” Santa said sitting behind her oak desk with a stack of paper. She was wearing a white blouse with a red bowtie, and her long, blond hair was plated from the top of her head and down over her shoulder to her chest. “And what have Glaze and Reigh done to accompany you?”
”How do you know we have done something?” Glaze asked before she could stop herself.
”I don’t know that for sure. So you haven’t done anything then?”
”I didn’t say that…” Glaze mumbled looking down at her feet again.
”Does this have anything with you lying to me this morning, telling me that Reigh was sick?”
”You knew?” Mrs. Clause asked shocked. “If you knew all along why didn’t you ask me to see if she was alright? And why didn’t you deal with it?”
”I have my reasons…” Santa said winking.
”Does this mean we’re not in trouble, ma’am?” Glaze asked smiling innocently.
Mrs. Clause snorted. “Oh you are in trouble!” She looked at her wife and pointed at the two girls. “They sled down the entire mountain and into the village! People had to jump out of the way.”
”It wasn’t our fault, the breaks were broken,” Glaze protested.
”You shouldn’t have been doing it to begin with. It’s dangerous. You could have been hurt. You didn’t ever wear a skiing helmet.”
”We’re really sorry,” Reigh cut in. “We won’t do it again, honest.” She felt scared. She knew they had crossed a line, but she really didn’t want a spanking. She had gotten some stern looks before, but she had never been in big trouble. Not like Glaze.
Santa got up and straightened her black skirt. She gave the two miscreants a stern look.
”I’m disappointed, girls. I don’t like being lied to.”
”We’re sorry,” Reigh said. “We won’t do it again, and I will go to work straight away. I can work late since I didn’t come this morning.”
”Yes, we’ll get to that. I don’t like being lied to and I especially don’t like you girls doing dangerous things.”
The girls nodded looking down.
”Are you going to put us on the naughty list?” Glaze asked looking worried.
Santa laughed. “Well… you do belong there don’t you, young lady.” She smiled.
”Are you going to… eh… ya know…” Reigh started.
”Spank you?” Mrs. Clause finished for her.
”Yeah…” Reigh said quietly looking nervous.
Mrs. Clause looked at her wife inquiringly as if expecting her to say that they would get spanked, but Santa did not.
“Not this time, Reigh. However the two of you should be on your best behaviour until Christmas is over. If I hear about anymore wrongdoing from the two of you…”
”You won’t ma’am,” Glaze cut in. “We will be super, awesomely, well behaved.”
Santa and Mrs. Clause exchanged a look. “You will, will you? Well I still think we ought to keep an eye on you.”
”Can I go to work now?” Reigh asked relieved now that she knew she wasn’t going to get spanked after all.
”Well… I already found someone to take your shift here,” Santa said looking at Mrs. Clause.
“But I hear someone has fallen ill in the stable?”
”Yes, in fact, we have several people missing,” said Mrs. Clause. “I think both Reigh and Glaze should come and work in the stable until after Christmas. Some of the work require skill and must be done by others, but all jobs are important. I am certain you two can manage the feeding, grooming and the mucking out.”
Both girls wrinkled their nose at the idea of cleaning out reindeer poop.
”Can’t we take a spanking instead?” Glaze asked.
“This is unbelievable.” Glaze was complaining as she was sweeping the floor with a broom. “First I thought we were lucky to not get out backsides tanned, but that was only because they had something worse in mind. I mean… come on! Scooping reindeer poop until Christmas? We weren’t that bad!”
”Well… I’m glad we avoided a spanking,” said Reigh frowning. “I don’t like the idea of that at all.”
“Meh… it’s not so bad,” Glaze said shrugging.
She tugged at her neckless. “Will you help me get this off? I need to put it in my pocket for safe keeping. I don’t want to risk losing it or it getting dirty.”
On the golden chain was a golden leaf. It was quite beautiful.
”Where did you get that?” Reigh asked.
”My mother gave it to me. She had a thing for Norse mythology. Outside Valhalla there was a grove called Glase where the leaves were of gold. She liked the idea so much she named me after it and I got this golden leaf when I was born.”
”Wow. That’s really cool. I don’t think my parents put much thought into my name at all.”
”You never asked?”
”I never knew them. I was taken from them when I was just a baby, but I had a name. I was actually born addicted to heroin.”
“Yeah… I don’t usually like to talk about it. My life hasn’t exactly been great in the family department. I wish I could say that my name meant something special though since it is part of my identity.”
“Yeah… I get it,” said Glaze. She wanted to say more, but went quiet when she heard someone coming.
Mrs. Clause came into the stable. “Well how are you getting along?”
”Oh super, ma’am,” Glaze said with a not-too-convincing smile.
Mrs. Clause raised her eye brow. “I hope you’re taking this job seriously. Santa’s reindeer are very important.”
”We are, ma’am. I have already started feeding them.
”Very good. Just don’t give Prancer too many carrots. I know he likes them, but they make him gassy.”
”Oh… yes, ma’am,” Reigh said nodding.
“Well… carry on. I’ll be in my office if you need me,” said Mrs. Clause, walking down the hall to her office.
Reigh and Glaze’s eyes followed as she walked, her tight riding breeches fit perfectly to her toned legs and firm bottom and she was carrying her riding crop in her hand, tapping it lightly against her leg. She turned the corner and they heard her office door slam shut.
Glaze turned to Reigh. “You fed Prancer too many carrots, didn’t you?”
Reigh blushed. “They were his favorite,” she said innocently.
“Why is it that Rudolph’s nose is so red?” Reigh asked as they climbed over the fence into the reindeer outside.
“So Santa’s sleigh won’t be hit by any flying aircrafts, of course,” Glaze said as she knelt down on the ground and held out a carrot out for Blitzen. “You wanna come out with us for a little while? A big, strong reindeer such as you should be able to pull me, right?”
Blitzen ate the carrot happily and then bit Glaze’s hat and and ran away with it.
“I think that means yes,” she said smiling. Then she ran after the mischievous reindeer.
“What do you mean out?”
“Well… I’ve seen people with skis being pulled by reindeer. Doesn’t that sound fun?”
“I don’t think that was what Mrs. C had in mind when she asked us to take care of the reindeer. If she finds out we’ll be dead meat.”
“She won’t. She’s in her office and she is really busy. She won’t notice that two reindeer are missing. Santa’s not leaving until tomorrow.”
“But she might notice that WE are missing,” Reigh added.
“Good point. We’ll do it after dinner tonight.”
“But then we’ll miss curfew and if we are going to be out after curfew then we need to make sure that people think we are inside.”
“Oh… right… the curfew. This is sooo much work!” Glaze said as she grabbed back her hat from Blitzen. “Okay… this is what we’ll do. We go to dinner like usual, then I say “Oh boy! I sure am tired! I think I need to go to bed early!” Then you will yawn convincingly and say “Yeah, me too! Working in the stable is hard work!” and then we will go back to our cottage, get dressed for a cold night out and sneak out the backdoor and no one will be any the wiser.”
“That sounds like a plan, alright,” said Reigh nodding.
“Good! So I’ll take Blitzen because his mischievous personality matches mine,” she said with a grin. “Who will you take? Just don’t say Prancer!”
“Hmm…” Reigh thought for a while. Suddenly she felt a reindeer muzzle interested in her bag of carrots. “I guess I’ll take Comet,” she said petting him and handing him a carrot.
“Good that’s settled then. When is dinner? I am starving!”
That night’s dinner was a pleasant affair all around. In the dining hall the kitchen staff had prepared a nice Christmas meal since Santa wouldn’t be present during Christmas. All the workers sat down after a long day at work. Glaze and Reigh who worked in the main house with Santa sat at her table. Santa held a speech praising all their hard work.
“Tomorrow is the last day,” she said. “Just one more day and you can rest, and tomorrow night I’ll travel around the world delivering gifts to the children of the world, and it will be thanks to the hard work of each and every one of you.”
People clapped and cheered. Then there was a toast.
After the main course Glaze yawned and stretched her arms and made her excuse to go to bed and Reigh followed, and when the two brats were out of sight, Santa put her hand on her wife’s hand and asked,
“Did you believe that?”
Mrs. Clause gave her a knowing look. “Not for one second. We haven’t even had dessert yet. Glaze wouldn’t miss dessert not matter how tired she was. Should I go after them and make sure they don’t get into trouble?”
“No, tonight we are going to enjoy ourselves. We can’t babysit them. If they are up to no good then they can get in trouble, and maybe they’ll get into it so deep that they learn something.”
Reigh and Glaze got dressed in a hurry and went out the backdoor before anyone else was done with their meal. They ran towards the shed where they kept their skis and continued to the stable for the reindeer.
They lured them out with the promise of a snack and walked them away from the village before putting on their skis. It was dark, but they had brought headlights and the stretch they were going to race on was flat and there wasn’t anything they could crash into.
“And now we race,” Glaze said grinning. “I bet Blitzen is much faster than Comet!”
“Nuh uh!” Reigh stuck out her tongue. “Come on, Comet. We’ll show them.”
Reindeer racing turned out to be a lot of fun. Comet and Blitzen were both pretty fast and they had no trouble pulling a person holding on to them. To Reigh’s disappointment, Blitzen was a little faster.
“How come we’ve never thought about this before?” Glaze gave Blitzen a cuddle. “Hey!” Blitzen responded like he had earlier… by snatching her hat. “Blitzen, I need that. My ears are going to get cold.” She tried to get it back, but fell over forgetting that she still had skis on.
“Want any help?” Reigh reached out her hand to help her friend who was struggling to get up, but it turned out that Glaze needed more than just a hand.
“Comet, stay…” Reigh told the reindeer and she let go of the reins so she could help Glaze up; however, Reigh was still getting used to using skis and by the weight of Glazes tug she fell over herself.
“Where did Blitzen go? He has my hat!” Glaze said when they both had finally got up on their feet.
“And where did Comet go? I told him to stay.” Reigh looked around. By now it was snowing a lot and it was hard to see much in the darkness, even if they had headlights. “What do we do now?”
Glaze shivered. “Well… we have to find them. I mean… Santa is leaving tomorrow. They need to get back to the stable and eat and rest properly.”
“Glaze… what if we can’t find them by tomorrow? What is Santa going to do without Comet or Blitzen? Are there other reindeer around here she can borrow?”
“Hmm… not sure… and if there are…well… they can’t fly, can they?”
“We’re gonna be in so much trouble!” Reigh frowned. “We’re gonna be the brats who ruined Christmas!”
“No, we’re not, we’re gonna find them… and hopefully before Santa finds out. I don’t think she’ll be happy if she finds out that we lost two of her reindeer the day before her departure.”
“We’ll get spanked!” Reigh said wincing.
“Forget spanked! We might get fired! I don’t wanna leave… I feel at home here. I don’t have anywhere else to go and nor do you. What will we do if we can’t work for Santa… she’s been so good to us. We shouldn’t have done it… we pushed too far and if Santa or Mrs. C finds out… they might kick us out on our ass. They might put us in the sleigh and drop us off in the nearest town with a suit case each.” A tear ran down her cheek.
“Don’t say that…we’ll make it right,” Reigh said trying to comfort Glaze. “Let’s find Comet and Blitzen. They can’t have gone that far.”
And with that… they went looking for the runaway reindeers, but if turned out to be easier said than done because they could hardly see anything with the snow coming down so fast. They couldn’t see any reindeer and they couldn’t see where they had come from, and on top of that, it was getting late.
They sat huddled together under a tree trying to stay sheltered from the snow, it was a blizzard by now. They were cold and their clothes were wet. It did not look good. They had no chance finding Comet and Blitzen in this weather and the cold was unbearable.
“We have to go back,” Reigh said shivering. “It’s dangerous being out in the cold with wet clothes and it’s going to take time finding our way back in this blizzard.”
“No, we can’t. I have to find Comet and Blitzen.” Glaze looked really worried. “How about you go back and I keep looking? This was my idea after all.”
“I can’t leave you alone out here. Glaze, let’s just go and find Santa and tell her what we did. Maybe Santa knows how to find them.”
“But…I can’t… I did something really terrible! I can’t go home until I find Comet and Blitzen.”
“Maybe…” said a voice behind them. “Maybe Santa already knows.”
They both turned around.
A tall, blonde woman with piercing blue eyes approached them. Her left eyebrow was raised and her arms were folded. Behind her came Mrs. Clause looking equally stern.
“Santa…” Glaze started, but Santa cut her off.
“I know you two naughty girls took Comet and Blitzen,” she said. “And… you’ll be happy to know they are back in the stable where they belong.”
“What?!” Glaze sputtered. “You mean we have been out here in the cold looking for them for nothing?”
“Well if you were going to steal two of my reindeer you should have gone with Dancer and Prancer, they are much more responsible. Comet and Blitzen are the reindeer equivalent of a brat.” She narrowed her eyes at the two brats in front of her. “But… something tells me that is why you were drawn to them.”
“And like brats,” Mrs. Clause added, “they respond better to a firm hand which is why the two of you couldn’t handle them.”
The brats lowered their eyes.
“Can we go home now?” Reigh asked. “I’m freezing my butt off!”
“Yes, of course,” Santa said. “And when we get back home, we’ll see if we can’t warm your butt for you.”
“Mhh hmm,” Santa nodded. “That’s right. There will be spankings this time. I gave you two a second chance to show me that you could behave and you blew it. Let’s hope a sore bottom will do the trick.”
The brats sighed.
“Yes, well we can discuss that when we get back,” said Mrs. Clause. “Let’s get these brats into the sleigh and out of these wet clothes before they catch pneumonia.”
The two brats followed to the sleigh where Santa took the reins and Mrs. Clause took the brats into the back. The weird thing about the sleigh was that the snow didn’t seem to hit it. It just went around. Nor was it very cold in the sleigh even if it was outside.
“Take off those clothes,” Mrs. Clause said. “You can put them in this bag.”
“But… we’ll be naked!” Glaze protested.
“It’s not like I haven’t seen your naked behind before, Glaze. I’ve brought a nightgown for you both,” Mrs. Clause said. “And we’ve kept it warm.”
“With magic?” Reigh asked eyes wide with amazement.
“No, with a hot-water-bottle,” Mrs. Clause said. She couldn’t help but smile at Reigh’s innocent and wide eyes.
The brats quickly got undressed and Mrs. Clause handed them a nightgown to wear before tucking them into reindeer hides in the sled with a hot-water-bottle to keep them warm.
“Alright,” said Santa. “Let’s get you two back home where you belong.”
The sleigh stopped outside the cottage and Santa helped the brats and Mrs. Clause out.
“Hon, I need to get some sleep. We’re really busy tomorrow,” she said putting her arms around her wife’s waist.
“Okay, sweetheart. I’ll probably stay with these two making sure they haven’t caught a cold or anything worse. Have a good day tomorrow, and make time for a hot, relaxing bath before you head out. You’ve worked too much lately.” Mrs. Clause kissed her softly.
Santa smiled. “Yes, ma’am. And maybe you’ll join me?” She winked.
“Hon…” Mrs. Clause blushed and nodded her head towards the brats who watched them smirking.
Santa coughed. “Well… I will leave you to deal with these two and make sure to put them to bed afterwards. They need to rest. I’ll make sure the reindeer are fed this morning.” She turned to the two trouble makers. “Now… you two better be on your very best behaviour from now on or I shall put you on the naughty list and I shall give you both a big fat lump of coal for Christmas! And maybe even a switch too! Is that clear?”
Both brats swallowed nervously and nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”
“Santa…Are we going to get fired?” Glaze’s eyes filled with tears as she voiced her fear.
Santa’s heart melted as she saw the regret in the brat’s eyes. “No, sweetheart. I couldn’t fire you. Here in the village we are all close to each other and what we have here is more than just a business. We’re one big family and it would take much much more than what you did tonight for me to ask you to leave this village. I know you Glaze and you’re a good person and I could never ask you just leave. You belong here and so does Reigh. Yes, there is naughtiness from time to time, but I know how to deal with that.” She winked.
“Okay…” Glaze sniffed. “I’m really sorry.”
Santa gave her a hug and then signalled for Reigh to join in.
“Santa?” Reigh whispered.
“Eh… maybe, seeing as it all worked out, you could tell Mrs. C not to spank us…”
“Nice try, brat. You have it coming. Now… I must be off,” She let go of the brats and giving them both a playful swat. “Happy Christmas!”
Santa went back to her sleigh and then she was gone. The two brats were suddenly made aware of how cold it was standing outside in a thin gown.
“Come on. Let’s get you two inside before you freeze to death.” Mrs. Clause took each of their hand and pulled them with her into the little cottage where Reigh and Glaze lived.
When they got inside, Mrs. Clause lit a fire in the fireplace.
“Ya know…” Glaze said yawning, “I am just beat… I think I will need to go to bed.” She started to make her way towards the stairs, but Mrs. Clause grabbed her arm.
“Not so fast, little one. You will get to go to bed soon enough, but first you will take your spanking.”
“Awww… but we’ve learned our lesson!” Glaze pouted, and next to her Reigh was nodding.
“No, you have not learned you lesson. You just don’t want to face the consequences for your actions. You knew very well that you were breaking the rules, yet you still proceeded with your plans. And right after the trouble you got into this morning! I told Santa you got off to lightly. You should have gotten your bare bottoms spanked soundly right there in the office.”
The brats winced. Mrs. Clause got up and placed a straight backed chair in the middle of the room and sat down.
“Glaze you can go first,” she said sternly. “Now!”
Glaze hurried over at the snap of her voice. Mrs. Clause placed her over her knees and put her arm around her waist holding her firmly in place.
“Now… do the two of you fully understand why you are being punished?” She rested her palm on Glaze’s bottom who winced.
“Because we borrowed Comet and Blitzen, ma’am,” said Glaze.
“And because we broke curfew, ma’am,” said Reigh.
The two brats couldn’t think of anything else.
“And perhaps because you put yourself in danger by going out in -20 Celsius without being dressed properly? People die in this cold, you know.”
“Oh,” said Glaze, “yah… that too. We’re really sorry.”
“Good, then we can start.”
Mrs. Clause started the spanking on top of Glaze’s nightgown which offered some protection, but not much. Neither Glaze nor Reigh had panties on as all of their clothes were completely wet when they took them off.
“Ow… it hurts!” Glaze complained.
“It will hurt even more in a minute,” Mrs. Clause said and pulled her gown up over the small of her back so as to bare her bottom. Then she started spanking her on her bare bottom in full vigour.
“Yaoch! I’m sorry!” Glaze squirmed over her lap, but Mrs. Clause kept spanking her reddening bottom thoroughly.
It was quite uncomfortable for Reigh to watch knowing that she was next. It felt like she had a lump in her tummy and when Mrs. Clause finally stopped and asked Glaze to stand up Reigh almost forgot to breathe because she was so nervous.
“Glaze, you can go upstairs and get the paddle and…”
“What? Not the paddle too!” Glaze hated that paddle. It was a paddle of black walnut, eight inches long and three inches wide, and it hung on the wall in the bedroom.
“Yes, you get the paddle too. Now go and get it and come back down and place yourself in that corner over there.”
“Yes?” Reigh fidgeted nervously with her hand.
“Come here.” Mrs. Clause held out her hand.
Slowly Reigh came over looking terrified and Mrs. Clause took her hand in hers and spoke softly to her.
“I know this is your first time and that you are nervous, but I would never give you a spanking you couldn’t handle. You can feel safe with me, okay?” She gave the brat a weak smile.
“Mkay…” Reigh said looking down at her feet.
“Right… I’m going to put you over my knees now and I’m going to spank you on top of your nightgown first and then on your bare bottom. Then you and Glaze are going to bend over the sofa and I am going to spank you some more with the paddle. And I want you to think about how you landed yourself in this situation and how you can avoid this in the future. There are rules and there are consequences for breaking those rules, but once you have taken your punishment you get a clean slate.” She gave her arm a tug. “Now come on, over you get.”
Reigh bent over and laid down over Mrs. Clause’s knees. As she did so she could hear Glaze coming down the stairs with the paddle.
“Here is the paddle,” she mumbled.
“Good girl. Now put the paddle on the table there and place yourself in the corner.”
Reigh could feel Mrs. Clause stroking her palm softly over her cotton clad bottom in a circling motion. Then she stroked her back too and Reigh calmed down a little. She did appreciate the soft voice with which Mrs. Clause had spoken to her and how she had explained what was going to happen so there would be no surprises. She did feel quite safe with her.
Then Mrs. Clause lifted her palm and it came down with a SMACK!
“Ow!” Reigh winced. It didn’t hurt too badly, it was mostly the sound that scared her, but she knew it was going to hurt a lot more.
Soon enough Mrs. Clause peppered Reigh’s bottom with spanks making her squirm. It wasn’t long before she pulled up her gown and spanked her on her bare bottom which hurt a lot more than when she had some protection.
Glaze managed to steal a peak while in the corner and saw a dark pink and squirming bottom. She felt for the brat knowing that it was her idea that got her in trouble.
“Perhaps remembering this will make you think twice next time, won’t it?” Mrs. Clause said focusing on Reigh’s sit spots.
“Yes, ma’am. I’m really sorry. I’ll be good.”
Mrs. Clause spanked her a little longer until she felt that it was enough. She stopped spanking and rubbed Reigh’s bottom for a while, calming her down.
“Okay, Reigh… you can get up now.” She helped the brat up.
“Glaze, come here.”
Glaze came out of the corner and approached the other two.
“Now… I want both of you to bend over the back of the sofa and put your hands on the seat.”
They did as they were told and Mrs. Clause adjusted them so they were a bit further apart. She then picked up the paddle and tapped it in the palm of her hand.
“You will each receive twelve strokes with this paddle. Then this will be over and done with and I expect better behaviour from the two of you in the future. Is that clear?”
“Yes, ma’am,” both brats said bent over the sofa.
Mrs. Clause stroked her hand over the bottoms in front of her, inspecting the colour and making sure there was no bruising. She then placed herself behind Glaze and tapped the paddle lightly on her right cheek.
SMACK! The paddle landed hard on Glaze’s bottom and she let out a gasp. SMACK! It came down on her left cheek and she squirmed almost as to shake the pain away. SMACK! SMACK!
SMACK! SMACK! Reigh got her first taste of the paddle, letting out a little squeal and a sob. SMACK! SMACK!
“One third done, are you starting to see the seriousness of what you have done?” Mrs. Clause asked as she once again inspected their bottoms for bruising.
“Yes, ma’am!” Both brats called out.
Mrs. Clause went back to Glaze. SMACK! SMACK! SMACK! SMACK! Then back to Reigh. SMACK! SMACK! SMACK! SMACK!
The brat’s bottoms were pretty red and sore by now and Mrs. Clause inspected them one last time before she would deliver the last round with the paddle.
“Hmm…” she said, “well don’t you two look festive. You’re bottoms are starting to look like two Christmas baubles. Let’s hope the message sinks in this time.”
She gave them their last swats.
“Glaze, I expect you to try harder to follow the rules and try to apply your creativity to something other than trouble making!” SWAT! SWAT! SWAT! SWAT!
“Owww! Yes, ma’am. Ah… I promise I’ll be good for the rest of the year!”
Santa snorted. “Well… at least we’ll have a peaceful week.”
“And Reigh…” SMACK!” “I expect you to stop doing everything that this one says.” She pointed at Glaze. SMACK! “She might have a lot of fun and clever ideas, but they almost always get her sent to bed with a sore bottom.” SMACK! “Is that clear?” SMACK!
“Owwwiiieee! Yes, Mrs. C.”
“Good girl.” She smiled. “Okay you two, you may get up now.”
Both brats got up and immediately started rubbing their bottoms. Mrs. Clause gave them both a good cuddle.
“Now… it’s almost time for bed, but I think you two can use a hot cup cocoa first”
“Oh yes please! You make the best hot cocoa there is, Mrs. C,” Glaze said grinning.
“I do, don’t I? Well I suppose while I make the cocoa I will give you two some corner time to have think about what has just happened.” And with that she sent them both into a corner each with firm instructions to hold up their nightgown so their red bottom would be on display.
Mrs. Clause and the brats had a hot cup of cocoa with whipped cream and marshmallows each (the brats drank it standing up). After that, Mrs. C tucked them into bed (both brats lying on their tummy!) before making a bed for herself downstairs, and when they all woke up the next morning their stockings on the fire place mantle were filled with candy and a little gift wrapped present.
“I wonder what it could be!” Reigh said excited. They wouldn’t get their “real” present until later that night, because that was tradition.
The two brats open their gift with glee and were shocked to find a little lump of coal inside. They both looked at Mrs. Clause with open mouths, but Mrs. Clause just chuckled.
“That Santa, she can be a real brat sometimes!”