As Annabelle sat it the darkness she tried to think of ways to get out of this situation. Well, at first she thought of all the different ways she could hurt the head bitch. She imagined running towards her and punching her stupid face, no magic but just pure muscle power; however, she’d probably hurt her hand, that is, if she even made it that far, which was very unlikely as the headmistress should create a magic shield against attacks. Then, once she got the violent thoughts out-of-the-way, she started more productive thinking, but that didn’t get her anywhere either. She had tried casting spells at the door, but it would not budge. She had tried using the spell that would let her stick her hand through wood, but that didn’t work either. It seemed like the door was warded against most kinds of spells. It was probably not unbreakable, but the spellwork required was probably too complicated for Annabelle to have even read about it yet. She didn’t even know if anyone could hear her on the other side of the door, for all she knew, the door could have been sound proof. They certainly could not hear her in the castle above her.
Eventually Annabelle fell asleep on the floor, where she had bundled up her cloak as a pillow, now that fireballs were keeping her warm. She slept uncomfortably. She didn’t know a spell that would turn the stone floor soft, even if she had once done that. She woke up in the morning by the sound of someone opening the door.
“Let me out!” Annabelle shouted angrily, as Octavia Sprytt walked into her cell. Behind her Annabelle could see one of the women who pushed her into it the night before.
“Be quiet, girl,” Miss Sprytt said, using her magic to force Annabelle down. “I warned you to behave yourself.”
“I haven’t done anything,” Annabelle replied, her eyes welling up with tears. She hated knowing her enemies could see her cracking. She didn’t want them to see her cry.
“You know what you did,” Miss Sprytt said coldly, waving her hand so that a tray of food appeared in front of Annabelle.
“Here are some things that will make your stay more…. comfortable” she said, tossing a bag at Annabelle, before turning around and leaving her. Annabelle threw a glass from the tray after her, but it missed.
Miss Sprytt turned, used her magic to repair the glass and smiled at Annabelle.
“Remember, Miss Brown, good behaviour is rewarded”
She turned on her heels and left the room, and the minion outside glowered at Annabelle as she slammed the door shut.
“You can shove your good behaviour up your ass!” Annabelle shouted at the closed door, banging her fist against it.
After throwing a tantrum and screaming curses at all the members of staff she hated, Annabelle sat down and started eating the food on her tray. She was rather hungry. She wondered if Eylion and Lydia had guessed where she was, and if they were planning to rescue her. It seemed as if the headmistress had no plans of killing her yet as she had been given a decent meal. She then remembered the bag Miss Sprytt had given her. She had said it would make her stay in the cell more comfortable.
She opened the bag, which had been enchanted so it was bigger on the inside. She found a change of clothes, a blanket, a sort of thin mattress that she supposed she was supposed to put on the floor, a glass bottle of some drink, some nibbles, and a book. Annabelle opened the book and a piece of paper fell out. She quickly picked up the piece of paper and read it.
Tonight after dinner. Be ready.
That was all it said. So Eylion and Lydia knew where she was, but how on earth had they been able to get the note into the book in the bag without Miss Sprytt noticing it. She supposed that Lydia would be able to open the door, maybe even Eylion. She knew that they couldn’t get her out now, not until they were ready to leave. They had to pretend they didn’t know where she was until they were ready to execute the plan, otherwise they would risk the security being strengthened. All she had to do now was wait, and trust that Eylion and Lydia knew what they were doing.
Waiting for dinner time drove her out of her mind. Sitting alone in a dark, windowless cell was really boring, and the book she had been brought really wasn’t that interesting. Annabelle had gone through every page to make sure there weren’t any other hidden messages, but there were none. She spent the day trying to rest on the mattress she had been given, as she hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before, and she probably would need to be well-rested for her trip with Lydia. They would probably have to walk most of the night to get as far away from the castle as possible.
When she couldn’t rest anymore she would get up and walk around in her cell just for something to do and so she could stretch her body. When she was feeling extra ungrateful, she thought that Eylion and Lydia could have tried to sneak some form of entertainment into the bag as well! Not having anything to do was driving her crazy and at times she’d find herself counting to sixty, making rips into her piece of paper for each minute. She had no idea how many hours she had been there or how many hours were left until dinner. It felt like she had been there for ages, and it made her even more angry knowing that the headmistress would probably leave her in there for even longer.
Then, just as Annabelle had laid back down on her mattress to rest som more, she heard a noise outside. Was it Eylion or Lydia coming to save her? Or was it the minions coming with her dinner? Annabelle got up grabbing her cloak, ready to leave if she was being rescued. The door opened with no trouble and Octavia Sprytt walked in. Annabelle felt a sinking disappointment when she saw her.
“Bring your cloak and come with me,” she said to Annabelle who had sat back down on the floor.
Annabelle looked up at her in surprise, her mouth open.
“Come on, girl. Hurry.”
Annabelle got up, not sure how she should react.
“What time is it?” she asked, confused. Was she getting out? Where was she taking her? To another cell? How would Eylion and Lydia be able to rescue her if they moved her?
“It is after the dinner, didn’t you get the note?” Miss Sprytt asked, still holding the door open. “Will you hurry up, girl! We don’t have that much time.”
“It was you? But…”
“Lydia is waiting for you upstairs. Now, move.”
Annabelle hurried out of the cell, and then she followed Miss Sprytt up the stairs and out of the dungeon. She wanted to ask questions, but she didn’t know what to say. Should she trust her? Would Lydia really be waiting for her?
The answer was waiting for her at the top of the stairs. Lydia stood there waiting for her, holding the satchel Alexis had sent her. She hugged Annabelle tightly.
“I don’t understand,” Annabelle said looking confused.
“No time to explain,” Lydia said, letting go of her.
“Annabelle!” Eylion came running down the corridor. She hugged her best friend.
“Well?” Miss Sprytt gave Eylion a demanding look.
“It’s done. They’ve been frogs for two minutes exactly, and they should remain so for at least forty-five minutes.”
“And the guards outside?”
“Anna, Tilly and Mina went to serve them dinner, they gave the signal. It should be all clear.”
“And I created the tunnel. Then we should get going,” Miss Sprytt said and nodded at Lydia.
Eylion hugged Annabelle one last time.
“I’m going to miss you so much. I hope we see each other really soon.”
Annabelle was lost for words and she felt herself starting to cry.
“Take care, Annabelle,” Eylion said before letting her go.
Then Annabelle felt herself change. She was shrinking, her entire body felt strange. She suddenly looked up at the three witches in front of her. They were all really tall. She looked at herself and saw that her hands were little, pink paws. Everything felt strange. Her vision was different, she suddenly had a wider sight and things looked lighter, and it was as if she could suddenly smell and hear everything. She felt like a super human, except she was in feline form.
“Meow,” she said, realising she had lost her ability to speak with her new form.
“Now, we will change,” Lydia informed her. “Annabelle, you will follow Octavia to the tunnel, I will come behind you. Then when we get to the tunnel, we will go through and you will follow me until I stop. Understand?”
“Well then, we’ll be off.”
The two older witches changed. Miss Sprytt became a big tabby like Eylion once had been, and Lydia was completly black with green eyes. Annabelle noticed that the two cats were bigger than her. She compared size and realised she was kitten size! Not new-born, but definately a kitten.
They hurried up the stairs and Eylion followed them. When they got to the entrance hall there were frogs everywhere. There were a few students who hadn’t turned into frogs, probably because they were late for dinner. Annabelle had to fight hard against the instinct to play with the frogs. She really wanted to pounce at them.
“Dang! Someone must have opened the door,” Eylion said as she came up behind them. She ran over to the front door and opened it.
“Take care!” she called after them as they ran out the front door and into the park area outside.
Annabelle followed the big tabby cat between tree trunks, that were so much more visible to her with night vision. They headed towards the big stone wall that surrounded the school. Once they got to the wall the tabby stopped next to a hole in the ground, Annabelle stopped too and turned to see Lydia coming after them.
“Meow,” Lydia said, reaching out a paw and swatting it towards Annabelle’s hindquarters. She guessed that meant “Go on!”
Annabelle jumped into the hole which was more than big enough for a kitten to get though, and went through the tunnel, appearing on the other side of the wall. She was quickly followed by Lydia who had to crawl through. They had done it!
“Meow,” Lydia said, signalling for Annabelle to follow her. There was no time to stop now, they had to get far away from the school while the staff were still frogs. Hopefully nobody would realise that they had gone for a while after they returned to human form.
They kept traveling as cats for over an hour before Lydia finally stopped in the middle of a thick forest and transformed them back to human form. It was pitch dark for a human, and for a moment Annabelle felt like she was going blind, until Lydia cast a small, blue, light globe. It gave them light, but it wouldn’t draw too much attention if anyone happened to fly over them on a broomstick.
“Finally,” Annabelle said as she stretched her legs and cracked her neck, adjusting to her new form. “I’ve been waiting for ages for answers. What the hell happened back there?”
Lydia smiled at her and pulled her into an embrace.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered into her ear. “There was no time for explanations.”
She kissed Annabelle softly on the lips.
“We knew they had taken you when you weren’t in your room, but we couldn’t just storm into the dungeon and rescue you, not if we wanted to escape the way we did. I hated leaving you in there.”
“But Miss Sprytt?”
“Alexis’s inside spy.”
“Nope,” Lydia said grinning. “You’ve got to give it to her, she’s a brilliant actress.”
Annabelle couldn’t believe it. How? Octavia Sprytt had been unpleasant from the beginning, she had punished students in her history class for trying to correct her lies, everyone hated her.
“But she was a total cow before we even knew we had to go to school! She was rude to Alexis. She punished the students in her class for telling the truth, she…”
“She kept up appearances, Annabelle. She did what she had to do in order to make Kendra Onbush believe she is one of her closest allies. I hope nobody suspects her of helping us today. We need a spy like her in there.”
“Did you know she was a spy?”
“Me? No, not until last night when we couldn’t find you. We were in your room when Octavia came to find you. She believed you were in danger and she wanted to check on you, but she was too late.”
“And then she just told you that she was a spy?”
Lydia laughed and shook her head.
“No, but I guessed. She seemed as shocked as we were to find you gone, and when she said something about you probably having been taken to the dungeon, I realised she was on your side. I could see the worry in her eyes.”
“Octavia Sprytt was worried about me?” Annabelle asked sceptically.
“And then we told her of our plans and we decided to included your other friends to help us.”
“This is crazy,” Annabelle said, sitting down on a log. “So many secrets. I almost feel like pawn in some sick game.”
Lydia sat down next to her and put her arm over her shoulder.
“I know how you feel. I have been a pawn in my great grandmother’s game for too long.”
“But not anymore,” Annabelle said.
“No, not anymore,” Lydia said smiling. “And you know what? It feels great! I can’t believe I am away from her and other members of my family, it feels like I have been rid of something toxic poisoning my life.”
“Yeah, and now we just have to find Andromeda,” Annabelle reminded her. “Ain’t that gonna be a hoot?”
“It is so far!” Annabelle complained.
“We’ve been locked in that castle for ages, and you complain that you have to walk freely in the open?” Lydia pulled her closer. “Just you and me, under the stars, nobody else…”
“Alright, that does sound nice,” she admitted. “But we’re still on the run, and we should keep going on a bit. While it is still dark, I mean.”
“Yes, but first we need a bite to eat,” Lydia said opening her bag. “You open your satchel, I can’t access anything in that, remember. You need to check the map the vampire gave you.”
Annabelle opened her satchel and retrieved the scroll of parchment that was the map. She tapped it twice with her finger and ink started flowing on the parchment, forming a map. She could see the red dot on the map which pointed to where she was, but the purple dot was on the side of the parchment and not on the map, which meant that they still had a really long way to go.
“We’ve still got a long way,” she said showing Lydia the map. She dragged her finger from the red dot to the purple like Christophe had shown her, and the map changed showing a larger area. “We have to go North-West.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Lydia said and handed Annabelle a sandwich.
“Lydia?” Annabelle said sounding worried.
“How do we tell which way is North-West?”
“Oh, Annabelle, what would you do without me here?”
They both sat in silence for a while, eating their sandwich and enjoying the view of the starry sky. It was so beautiful, and Annabelle felt so lucky to sit there next to Lydia alone. Suddenly she felt like maybe this journey to find Andromeda wouldn’t be so bad; after all, she would be with Lydia. She imagined the many nights in the future when she would be lying next to her on the ground, under a blanket, enjoying the starry night sky. No, that didn’t sound bad at all, she was actually looking forward to it.