Looking back, I’d always known I was special.
I knew it was something—like a beginning—in preschool. A scaly, purple monster had cornered me on the playground and screamed, “WHERE IS THE DAIDEM? WHERE IS IT, WORTHLESS CONJURER?” I had squealed “I don’t know!” over and over again while the other preschoolers hollered their heads off. It was when the monster clobbered me with the tip of his lightning bolt when I woke up in the orphanage, where the nurse convinced me there were no purple lightning monsters, although there was still a burn that had never healed on my left shoulder.
And I couldn’t forget that time when I was eight. Tracy and her friends, Jenna, Casey, and Jackie were discriminating me as usual. Then Tracy said the thing that finally made me crack—“Hey Caroline? How come you’re an orphan? Oh, I bet your parents noticed you were so ugly that they could hardly look at you—“ the floor cracked. Tracy toppled in. When she and her friends were dug out, Tracy alleged that I had broken the floor. I wasn’t blamed because they didn’t believe her.
And maybe the weirdest of all… once an owl flew straight toward me, not as though to attack, but like if you spot your friend in the New Year’s Eve crowd in Times Square. The owl never made it, though. One of the boys in the orphanage threw a rock at the owl. Twitching on the ground, injured, the owl vanished on the spot, not before I realized it was wearing glasses.
It was finally explained on my tenth birthday. I think we should start off at the beginning.
I got up and I tried to blink the yellow mist out of my eyes. It was always there, at least, occasionally. No one else could see the yellow mist but me. I’d asked Tara if she could see it, then Nick, then Amber, but they all thought that my vision was impaired. I shook my head to clear it out and stared out the window. I had to shake my head again.
It was the owl.
Trying to tell myself that it hadn’t been there, I had tardily gotten dressed and left the dorm before I realized that today was the big one-zero. I could hardly believe it. I was ten! I didn’t believe it was so possible to be a two-digit. It was one of those things I didn’t believe existed, like Phoenixes and Unicorns and Cyclopes and Dragons. Boy, was I wrong.
Being in an orphanage, your B-day is NOT celebrated EVER. The director just walks by you and says ‘Oh, Happy Birthday, Tracy’. I thought this was a regular greeting, so I had said it to Crystal every morning, which convinced her that her birthday was every day until I found out a birthday was the day you are born.
After having my lonely breakfast at a table by myself, partly because of the invisible yellow mist and the cracked floor, I went back to my dorm to imagine what my birthday would’ve been like if I had a family. While doing this, I fell asleep.
A voice was whispering in my ear. “The diadem,” it said softly. “The Diadem,” the voice kept repeating the word, and I didn’t like it. I tried to run away, but icy hands were clutching at my chest. Around me, a storm swirled. The eye of the storm opened up a little, and I saw, up above me, there was a circlet with a jade in the center. Instead of the storm carrying the circlet along, it stayed firm in the sky. Soon, it was covered by another cloud.
The voice started to speak again. “That is what I seek,” the voice said. It had softened a little, and I realized that it was a woman was speaking. “But only you can get it for me. I might even let you live if you do….do….do….”
I woke up again and
was standing over me, looking thunderstruck. “There’s—there’s someone here to see you,” she said weakly. Indeed there was a visitor. An old wizard sort of man with a nose like a bird’s beak. He only had one eye. Sitting perched on his shoulder was the owl. The very owl, the one that had been out my window that morning, the owl that had been hit by a rock. Tracy
“I shall have to break the ice!” the old dude said cheerfully. “You, Caroline Dawnrunner, have been accepted at the Ravenwood School of Magical Arts.” “Dawnrunner?” I asked in a small voice. “Magical?” “That is right.” The old man smiled. Tracy threw me a jealous look. She was one of those people who fantasized about being special. I knew she wanted my fate so badly. Tracy also wanted a last name, too. Or at least a foster family.
The old man took out a scroll. “Headmaster Merle Ambrose and owl assistant, Gamma, warmly welcome the newest addition to the Ravenwood School of Magical Arts. Here you can choose from two out of seven magical academy courses, one of which a school of Focus. The Headmaster will have to ask you to step through this portal if the student wishes to attend.” I was about to defiantly tell ‘Merle Ambrose’ that I didn’t appreciate this prank and that portals didn’t exist, but then I saw white swirling fog in front of me, and if I concentrated hard enough into it, it seemed like a mansion library. Tracy was silently crying behind me. I stepped forward, about to enter a world of excitement and mystery and wizardry, but I hesitated. “Do not be afraid, Caroline Dawnrunner!” Gamma the owl chirped. “You will merely be teleported to the Headmaster’s office, where he will enroll you!”
Tracy was definitely not expecting the owl to talk, because her screams practically absorbed the entire south side of Hartford.
“Quickly, young wizard!” Ambrose yelled urgently over the noise. “We do not want to raise awkward questions among the people of Earth! Please step inside the portal!” I looked behind me, and saw that the director had broken the door off its hinges, the caretaker was shaking a finger at me, and Tracy opened her mouth, probably to tell some far-fetched tale of wizards and talking birds. Taking a deep breath, I stepped inside the portal, and the thing before that was probably the right idea.
If you have never been inside a portal before, you are the lucky one. I really envy you, as you don’t have those horrors in your past. Portal-traveling is just like how they describe Apparating in Harry Potter (and now that you think about it, I could compare my life to this book), only worse. I felt as though an invisible force was grabbing the air out of my mouth, my eyes felt like I’d opened the airplane emergency door, someone had slipped an office rubber band around my neck…and as soon as it had started, it stopped.
I was lying on the Heads’ office floor, gasping and panting. I finally got the strength to get up, and Ambrose was waiting for me. “Thank the light you were able to get up,” he said. “I feared I would have to call a surgeon.” I laughed feebly, and then I looked around. There were hundreds—no, thousands—of books, all very stacked untidily, surrounding me by the dozens. One million bazillion trillion billion zillion jillion forms were piled neatly in the corner with a quill and ink bottle smack on top. And of course, a perch for Gamma. Ambrose’s voice jolted me awake as though I had been electrocuted.
“I believe we must consult your School of Focus,” the old man said calmly, staring straight into my large green eyes. “Please look at the Book of Secrets.” He indicated a pedestal-d book I hadn’t noticed before, which I walked up to. I looked at page 319, then ’20. They were both blissfully blank. I was about to look up and ask what I was supposed to be seeing when one word formed on 320: MYTH. The yellow mist appeared again, and I had a funny feeling my good friend the Headmaster could see it too. “Hail, Caroline Dawnrunner, Novice Conjurer,” Ambrose acknowledged. “Sweet,” I muttered. “I don’t know what a Conjurer is.”
Ambrose replied, “I will let you take the Ravenwood Tour tomorrow. In the meantime, you must meet your parents.” “My parents are dead,” I said simply. “In case you haven’t noticed, I used to live in an orphanage.”
“Your parents are not dead,” Ambrose responded. “Nine years ago, Wizard City had to evacuate onto Earth because a hurricane was sweeping throughout the Spiral. When the disaster was over and buildings repaired, the inhabitants of this colossal hub rushed back home. You must have been forgotten in the frenzy.” I didn’t ask questions. “I’ll meet my family,” I said vapidly. The room suddenly disappeared, then a different room appeared. I only had a seconds’ glance at a look of delight across a man’s face, then I was swept up in a mass of blue-and white cloth. A female voice said, “Oh, Caroline! You’re all grown up now! I wish I could’ve—” “Let her breathe, Kim,” a man laughed.
I was looking at my parents. Two unfamiliar but kind people. We didn’t say anything. We just stared at a completed family.
Y Y Y
“Wake up, Caroline!” my Mother called the next morning. I shot up, put on my robes, and gathered up my wand and spellbook. I ran down the stairs and skidded to a halt in front of my Mom and Merle Ambrose. “Ah! There you are, Caroline!” he said cheerfully. “I was wondering if you could help me with something today.” “Fire away, Mr. Ambrose.” I said, saluting. “There seems to be a bit of a … problem down on Unicorn Way. I was wondering if you could take care of it?” I was already out the door.
Oh, how I loved running in Wizard City! The sweet air filled my lungs, birds chirped, the fountain in the middle of the Commons made a nice noise, and the day was too beautiful to be real. I ran until I reached Unicorn Way, where I stopped to take it in. There really didn’t seem to be a problem, and I wasn’t sure where to go, so I just walked through the huge doors in front of me.
Inside the doors was a scroll with a pencil floating in midair. What could I do? I signed it.
Suddenly, I was inside a sort-of-deserted arena. Suddenly, I realized I wasn’t alone. The person across from me was really beautiful. She had brilliant red hair, serene blue eyes, and pretty light green clothes that looked just like mine, only mine were blue-and-yellow. “You’re dueling for the first time to?” she asked me. “Umm…” I couldn’t answer, because suddenly, I was standing in a circle. After thinking a few seconds, I realized that I was probably locked in a wizard duel. I took out my card deck and threw my Bloodbat card into the center. It attacked the girl for 105 damage. Then she took out her card, which was an Imp. The Imp only did 65 damage. I felt confident I would win.
We kept using the same exact cards over and over again, until my opponent only had 25 health. It was her turn, but I knew I would still beat her. But instead of taking out Imp, she took out Fairy. The Fairy healed her for 420 health. I was suddenly conscious of my 75 health.
“Good game,” I murmured afterwards, shaking the dazzling girls’ hand. “Yeah, you too,” the girl agreed. “I’m Rebecca Duskglade. How about you?” “Caroline Dawnrunner,” I replied. “Say, could you help me with something?” “What?” Rebecca asked. “Is there anything dire happening around Unicorn Way lately?” “What? Oh! Yeah!” Rebecca’s face became serious. “Someone’s been corrupting all of Lady Oriel’s sprites! Ceren Nightchant thinks that it’s the skeleton Rattlebones, we can go kick his butt!” “Sounds like a good idea!” I accepted.
Rebecca and I walked into Rattlebones’ keep. “This place looks empty,” I remarked. “Not so!” a voice hissed. I jumped and looked behind me (both at the same time; NOT a good combo). It was an armored skeleton, obviously Rattlebones. “The corruption of the fairies is only the beginning of Malistaire’s plans. Soon, all of Wizard City will fall, and there isn’t anything anyone can do about it!” I was scared. I remember feeling helpless, afraid, as though all hope was lost. But that wasn’t true. I remembered when I was eight. “Hey Caroline,” Tracy taunted. “How come you’re an orphan? Oh wait you’re not, you’re a wizard. You’re a big scary wizard. You’re a big scary wizard who’s going to beat me up. But are you really that tough?”
I thought, “I am tough!” with all my might. Suddenly, there was a rumbling in the distance. “Do you feel that?” Rebecca asked nervously. I opened my mouth to say yes, but suddenly a crack appeared in the floor. The crack deepened and widened. Rattlebones said, “What—” But instead of finishing the sentence, he fell into the split. As soon as he did that, the fissure disappeared.
Rebecca and I were silent for a few moments. We had no idea where that came from. I just thanked God for helping with the scary skeleton. “Uh…we should go talk to Lady Oriel,” Rebecca said.
Y Y Y
“Well done!” Lady Oriel cried when we finished our story. “You have defeated the evil skeleton known as Rattlebones. I do hope his master does not attack Unicorn Way!” “It was our pleasure, ma’am,” I grinned, giving her a wink. Rebecca and I marched off to the exit, leaving our Seraph friend to shed tears of joy.
“Psst! Caroline Dawnrunner! Rebecca Duskglade! Can we talk? In private?”
I looked around. It was one of the sprites. “Uhh…sure,” Rebecca and I agreed in unison. “Great,” the fairy said happily in her small voice. She plucked a leaf off of a hedge. To our surprise, a square of the hedge moved. It started with the leaves on it rustling. You might say, oh, it’s the wind, but there were only a few leaves rustling—creepy. Then, corners started coming around the leaves that deepened; it was a panel. Then the leaf-panel shuddered—and started to sink inside of the hedge. Then it disappeared entirely, and there was a large gap in the hedge.
“Jump right on in,” the sprite said cheerfully. I didn’t really think the gap looked safe, but the sprite wasn’t exactly trying to kill me, so I thought, what the heck? and jumped right on in.
I landed in an entirely new place. It was a grove with a couple of trees, a birdbath, and all blue sky except for a hole that led back to the hedge maze. Rebecca landed beside me with a soft thump. The sprite followed us, but as she went through the gateway between the two realms, the fairy transformed—I was now looking at the Blind Justice symbol (or the Balance fairy, as you may call it). “I am Brill, the Phantom of Memories, and I have a mission for you,” the fairy declared. “Eh…right,” Rebecca muttered. I just stared, too amazed to speak. “What is this mission?” “Well…” began Brill, “I, as the Phantom of Memories, should probably show you a memory first…”
I was standing in the middle of a hospital. I looked around, and I knew immediately that I didn’t want to be here. It was pitch-dark. A door creaked open, and I jumped back.
A tall figure loomed in the doorway, light pouring in so I could only see an outline. He stepped out of the shadows, and I noticed he looked evil in some way. It was probably because he looked like a bad guy, or because he was wearing black. The expression on his face was deep with worry, and he rushed to a hospital bed. That’s when I realized it was occupied.
A woman with light ginger hair was resting. She looked the exact opposite of the man. She looked like a caring person, with deep beautiful features. She wasn’t Lindsay Lohan beautiful; she was more of a mini-goddess. She wore fine green silk and had wonderfully blue eyes. She reminded me strongly of Rebecca Duskglade, who was standing right next to me. But there was something wrong. It was like the woman was really sick.
Her eyes fluttered open, and the woman stretched out a hand to the man, who took it, and she whispered, “Malistaire.” The man, who was probably Malistaire, replied, “Sylvia.” The woman, who was obviously Sylvia, rasped, “Tell Ambrose. Tell—tell him that—“ she faltered, and it seemed as though life was dwindling out of her with every breath. “What is it, Sylvia?” Malistaire inquired, seeming even more worried than before. “Tell him it’s no longer safe,” Sylvia said faintly. “Anyone can have it now. All the monsters can get it…tell him to take it and hide it. Hide it where it can’t be seen by the sky nor the ground.” “What, precisely?” Malistaire asked, getting more vexed by the second. “The… the d-d-dai—“ With a gasp, Sylvia had left the gloomy, dismal hospital ward. “Goodbye, Sylvia,” her visitor said softly.
For a few moments, Malistaire sat there, tears streaming down his face. Then suddenly, something like madness overcame him. He ripped a jade circlet off of Sylvia’s head, and with a roar of anger, flung it away. It skidded across the room and the great jade in the middle broke in two. He stormed out of the room, looking livid, and didn’t seem to have noticed that the jade had repaired itself.
We were all back in Brill’s realm. I felt groggy and tired, like I always do when I’m waking up in the morning. “Eh…eh…what was…that thing…that Sylvia was wearing?” I croaked. “And…was…that man…the…Malistaire Drake?” Rebecca asked. She looked even more worried than before. “Malistaire?” I asked. “Like…the guy Rattlebones is working for?” Rebecca opened her mouth to explain, but Brill got there first. “A few months ago, the Necromancy teacher of Ravenwood suffered a terrible loss. His wife Sylvia Drake died. Struck with grief, Malistaire Drake sunk the Death school and sought to take over the Spiral. His brother is currently the Myth teacher.”
“And they just let his brother teacher keep teaching there?” I asked incredulously. “He is innocent and extremely upset,” Brill proclaimed, “because of what his brother did. In fact, I believe you met Cyrus Drake just yesterday, Caroline Dawnrunner.”
I suddenly had a flashback—no, I was looking at myself, Brill had set it up. My flashback-self was sprinting really fast, so I had to run to keep up. Finally, I could slow down, because flashback-me was in Ravenwood and going to Myth class.
“Oh, you’re late, Miss Dawnrunner,” my teacher said coldly. “Detention, I think.” Several kids snickered. One kid laughed and howled, “Detention on the first day of school! What is your name?” “And, let’s see, I believe you can stay in with Caroline, Mister Spelldust.” Mr. Drake added. The boy scowled.
I returned to Brill’s realm, feeling, once again, as though I had just woken up in the morning. “He was really mean,” I concluded. “Anyway,” said Brill, “I hope you saw the circlet resting on Sylvia Drake’s head.” “What?” Rebecca and I asked in unison. Sighing, Brill showed us the memory of Sylvia’s death again (for your reference, please scroll the page up).
“Oh yeah, the thing that Malistaire took off of Sylvia’s head? That circlet?” Rebecca asked. “Yes,” Brill responded. “This is the Diadem of pure life. I need you two to recover it for me before anything can happen to it.” I suddenly remembered the dream I’d had the other day. “Someone wants the Diadem!” I blurted out. “Someone’s going to steal it and use it—” “Exactly,” Brill interrupted. “That is why I need you to retrieve the Diadem before the Cold Master gets it.” “The Cold Master?” Rebecca and I asked together. “Good luck, young wizards!” Brill farewell-ed.
Rebecca and I were back in the Hedge Maze with a seemingly impossible quest. Well, you try to find Sylvia Drake’s Diadem with no lead at all!
That was the first part of the story! Leave comments!