Hey, everyone! I’m back with Part 9 of Magic Binds, which I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for. Of course, you all should know that Jax was only just introduced, so he plays an important part, so he can’t die…yet.

Enjoy!

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At the top, Jekal was waiting with a girl about my age, with shoulder-length black hair, sea-green eyes, and the same golden-brown skin as all of the others. Many boys and girls like that were milling around, some sharing newly killed food or freshly picked herbs, others sharpening weapons, and a few more just talking around the magical fire.

“Are these the ones, Jekal?” she asked him sharply, pointing at me.

He nodded. “Yes, Jessica. Jax was bitten, although he and the girl managed to kill the serpent–or at least delay the annual feeding.”

The girl, Jessica, walked cautiously around me, examining how we looked. She eased Jax off of my back and called a nearby group of boys to carry him away. They made a ‘seat’ with their arms to hold Jax as they started walking him to another tree.

“She seems a little…not the type,” Jessica said suspiciously. “Say she’s not the one?”

“Tell no one,” Jekal breathed quietly. “They must not know or her head will be mounted on the wall before they even have proof.”

I didn’t like that, but I kept quiet. I had done enough for one night.

Suddenly, my legs buckled as my exhaustion crashed down on me. Falling to my knees, I heard wild screaming just before my vision went black.

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This is where I left off. Continue!

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I woke up lying in a mound of feathers, in a sheltered tree hollow. The entrance was covered by hanging moss, but anyone could tell that it was gathered and arranged by a person. This arrangement dappled the bright sunlight trying to shine through, covering the soft, leaf-covered floor in little golden spots. The floor underneath the leaves was wood, and so was the ceiling, although the walls were still the same as ever, with little niches carved into it that stored several plants.

At first, I wondered why I wasn’t in my bed back at the cabin. And where was Simus?

Then, everything came back to me. I jumped up, ignoring the sharp pain in my left leg. I limped over to the other feather bed in the corner of the room, where Jax was lying, unconscious.

“Oh, Jax,” I whispered. “You saved my life, and if you die now it’ll be all my fault. I guess you should have left me for the serpent instead, and not have to be lying here, injured.”

He opened one eye groggily. “Don’t forget dying.”

“JAX!” I screamed joyfully. “You’re alive!”

He winced. “My leg is protesting.”

I grimaced. “So is mine. Does it have anything to do with being left-handed, I wonder, to always hurt my left leg?”

“You’re left-handed as well?” he asked. “That’s great! Someone to join me. It’s always so lonely being the only left-handed one.”

“I know,” I agreed. “It’s hard, but my mentor, Simus, is also left-handed, which helps.”

He tried to sit up, but cried out in pain. “Jax, let me help you,” I offered, aiding him in sitting up against the soft wall.

“Thanks,” he grunted, shifting into a more comfortable position. Finally, he decided that it was the best he could get so far, and looked up at me, eyes shining. “Tell me more about your apprenticeship.”

I smiled. Here was someone to talk to that was actually interested in what I learned.

I began, telling him everything, from before the Warlords up to the moment we met in the caves. I had no idea why I was spilling this entire story to a person I hardly knew, but he seemed trustworthy.

His eyes were wide by the time I finished. “Wow,” he whispered. “All that? Must’ve been hard.”

“Not particularly,” I replied. “The worst of it was that I made a few more enemies than usual, and a HUGE target for magic-seekers, witch-hunters, blood riders, and more. Who knows who else is out there, even my own mother is after me–”

I broke off. The truth about my family was the only thing I had held back.

Jax didn’t seem to believe it. “No way. What mother would abandon her own child, then turn against her after leaving her to suffer for so many years?”

I sighed. “Mine, apparently.”

He seemed to realize it was a touchy subject, and didn’t press further. “What do you learn in the magic trade?”

“Well,” I began, “I started with the basics. Shields, simple strikes, invisibility, agility, speed, strength, light, summoning the elements, that sort of thing.”

“Whoa.” Jax stared at me, wide-eyed. “That’s awesome. Can you show me?”

“Sure.” I raised my hands, folding my sleeves back to make sure they didn’t get in my way. “I’ll start small; tell me what you want to do.”

Jax was a little indecisive. “Invisibility,” he finally suggested.

I nodded, and started to chant. “Invisibly I can’t be seen, silent like the night. Make me how I surely mean, camouflaged in light.”

Flicking my wrists for a finishing touch, I watched the golden string of magic spiral around me, making me disappear like mist in the sunshine, right before my eyes. It was the first time I had attempted a spell on myself, and I was glad it had gone successfully.

“Whoa,” Jax repeated, looking around. “Where did you go?!”

“I’m right here,” I murmured, smiling. I watched him jump as he realized I was right next to his bed, where I’d always been.

“That’s so cool,” Jax muttered, his eyes shining. “Can you make yourself visible again?”

“Yeah. Sure is handy to be invisible, though,” I replied wistfully as I performed the counter-spell. “I’m tired of staying unseen, so bring me back to life. Make me how I’d always been, shining like a knife!”

I leaned against the wall, drained in my effort. I was visible again, but the strong use of magic had cost me a lot of energy.

Stumbling back to my bed, I collapsed down. “What’s wrong?”Jax asked, concerned.

“Magic uses a lot of energy,” I said, yawning. “Especially when it’s the first time you’ve used it on yourself.”

He said nothing, and I drifted off to sleep.

“We’re almost there!” Simus’s voice reverberated in my head, echoing louder and louder until I could see the picture clear in my mind. “Just a little bit farther!”

Simus, Delrany, and Stoob were trekking through the same desert they were in earlier–or was it a different one? Anyhow, Simus was pointing to a glimmer of light in the distance, a faint but visible cluster of glass buildings. “The city of glass,” Delrany murmured, staring in awe at the glaring glass the the sunlight was attempting to penetrate. “That’s where the Dream Castle is?”

“Not the actual castle,” Simus corrected. “Just the way to get to it. And the information we need to get out with an extra person.”

“What do you mean by that?” Stoob asked cautiously.

“There’s a rule in the Dream Castle: once you come in, you can only get out with the same number of living things that came in. So we either leave someone behind, or we find a way to get Misveri out with us.”

“We’re not leaving anyone behind,” Delrany declared defiantly.

“I know we’re not, which is why I have to visit The Owl and figure out how we’re going to do it.”

“The Owl?” Stoob asked. “Who’s that?”

“Just a friend of mine with the biggest library in the known realm,” Simus replied proudly. “If anyone could find the answer, it’d be him. Ask him anything in the world, he’d know it.”

“Wow,” Delrany muttered. “That’s a lot of knowledge.”

By this time they had reached the gates of the city. Two sentries stood on either side of the huge, double glass doors, both holding a glass weapon I couldn’t identify. “State your names and business,” the one on the right said in a robotic voice.

“Simus the necromancer, Delrany the Teenage Army recruit, and Stoob-ni-Ssup the Forest Cat. We are here seeking the aid of The Owl and to visit the Dream Castle,” Simus stated.

“Very well.” The one on the left spoke up. “You may enter.” Both sentries stepped back as the glass gates began to swing inward, revealing the glass pathways marked with red lines for who knew what reason.

The three stepped inside reluctantly, and the gates swung closed behind them. Staring at their surroundings, they failed to notice a small, shadowed figure slip in behind them.

But I noticed. I tried to warn them, but the figure was up behind them in an instant. It grabbed Stoob, lifting him up, but Stoob yowled in protest, causing Delrany and Simus to turn. Before they could help, however, the figure stuffed Stoob into a sack and melted into the shadows of a dark alleyway.

Simus and Delrany gave chase, but they couldn’t find the catnapper. They were finally forced to give up, panting, in the shelter of the shadow of the tallest building in the city.

“We’ll never find them,” Delrany cried desperately. “The city’s huge, and the catnapper could be out of the city by now!”

“It’d be madness to leave the city at this hour,” Simus reassured her. “And Stoob will be alright. It takes more than a catnapper to bring him down.”

Suddenly, they heard a loud, muffled BOOM from above. They looked up, and I followed their gaze, watched as they jumped up in horror.

Before our eyes, the top of the beautiful glass building exploded, shattering the windows and breaking off chunks. Glass shards and debris rained down, and dust clouds crowded the air, making Delrany and Simus cough. It seemed that wasn’t enough, because the damage had just begun.

The top broke off as if a giant knife had sliced through it, and started sliding off–straight towards Delrany and Simus.

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