Competing Magic (Chapter Thirteen)

Updated on June 12, 2018

Chapter Thirteen

Madame Duncan cried out as the shadow puppets grabbed her and pushed her down. One was even pulling at her hair, making her take a step back. That was when Ezekiel saw her heel literally sink into puddle-shaped shadow.

"What's going on?" cried Maxwell. Confusion was etched all over his face. "Why are those shadow things doing that?"

Why would he ask something like that? Ezekiel wondered. Anyone with eyes could see that Madame Duncan had lost control over her own magic spells and that they were running wild now, attacking their own master. Ezekiel had heard about magic powers going out of control before. The magic power was more than the spell caster could handle and now there was no way for it to be tamed.

"Forget that!" Sarah shouted. She extended a hand and conjured red flames that twisted, danced and stretched until it transformed into a simple bo staff. "She's in trouble. We gotta help her!"

Sarah twirled her staff behind her before cutting it diagonally down on the head of one of the shadow puppets. Seemingly startled (Can shadow puppets be startled?), it let go of the violinist. Sarah saw a chance and didn't let it go to waste, striking at the other seven shadows with a burst of rapid jabs. Sparks flew from the staff and stuck to the shadow puppets, growing into bushes of bonfire. The shadow puppets let go just as Sarah hoped they would, letting Madame Duncan drop to the ground.

Jacques and Alice dove down to catch their sister and dragged her away by the the scarves that kept her bound.

"Come on!" shouted Henry. "We have to get out of here!"

"Oh, no you don't!"

The unexpected shout from out of nowhere sent a jolt to Ezekiel's chest. He looked around for the source of the voice, but couldn't find it. Judging by the sound along, Ezekiel could tell that the speaker was a man, maybe a little older than his father. He could not pinpoint the accent, though it sounded European.

"Huh?" went Verity. "Who said that?"

"Never mind that!" Sarah shouted. "Get out of here!"

Despite burning from Sarah's magical fire, the shadow puppets got back up and advanced towards Madame Duncan. Sarah kept herself between them and her, lashing out with her staff. This time the shadow puppets were ready and managed to keep away from the staff. One puppet found an opening and charged towards Sarah. It pushed her away before going after Madame Duncan.

"Come on!" Veronica said. She was the first to reach the entryway through the hall. Veronica ran in, and then stopped. And the way she stopped was really weird. It kind of looked more like she had ran into a window or invisible wall, or something. Even the way she stumbled back, rubbing her nose was like that happened.

With a sinking feeling, as he watched Maxwell, Verity, and Henry go through the same thing, Ezekiel realized that that was exactly what happened. Their way was blocked.

The shadow puppets caught up to them and wrenched Madame Duncan from the twins' arms.

"No!" shouted Alice. "Get away from her!"

Pink light beams shot out of her eyes, but a shadow puppet blocked them with its shield. Henry joined in the fight, unleashing a gale of yellow dust from his hands. But another shadow puppet tore through the wind gust and tackled both of them to the ground. Desperate to help the fallen pair, Maxwell jumped onto that shadow puppet and started punching and biting it before wrestling it down.

Ezekiel pulled out a mirror from his pocket. If there was ever a time he should be using this spell, it would be now. He started chanting the spell when a shadow puppet came in from behind and snatched the mirror from his hand. Stunned, Ezekiel watched as the shadow puppet threw the mirror to the ground and crushed the reflecting glass beneath its foot, grinding its heel against the fractures pieces.

"No!" Ezekiel shouted in horror. Now what was he going to do?

Behind all the confusion, Sarah picked herself up and conjured a fireball in her right hand. She got ready to throw the fireball like a pitcher in a baseball game, but then that voice, that mysterious voice, cut in.

"I don't think so," he sang.

After he said that, the monsters that Madame Duncan had caught roared and shrieked. They bought the attention of the shadow puppets who turned around just as Sarah was about to throw her fireball and unleashed their own fireball, one of purple flames, at her.

"No!" Madame Duncan cried out. Her voice echoed powerfully as if she had yelled in a cavern. Her eyes lit purple and lightning shot from those eyes to wrap around the purple fireball, shrinking it, and weakening it just enough so that when Sarah's red fire clashed with their purple fire, they broke each other apart before scattering as glowing, hot dust. And because she used magic again, now there was lightning dancing all over the courtyard square.

The voice laughed wickedly as the chaos unfolded.

"Yes! Yes! This is what you get for your interference all those years ago!" he taunted. "Now, I will finally have my revenge!"

Revenge? What was he talking about? Ezekiel wondered.

"Josephine!" Alice cried out, bringing Ezekiel's attention back to the musician.

The lightning that Madame Duncan had conjured were striking around her, causing explosions that tossed her about right and left. Above her, the shadow puppets fought through the lightning to reach her, no doubt to pull her into their world. Ezekiel couldn't afford to just sit still, then. He had to act.

He bent down and pulled out four shields from his shadow and tossed them toward Madame Duncan and used a levitation spell to move them around with his mind. As he commanded, the simple round disks of black shadow spiraled the woman to protect her from the lightning.

Some protection they turned out to be. They were completely destroyed, obliterated by the lightning and did little to slow them down. Madame Duncan saw them coming and tried to roll away, but a shadow puppet caught her by the ankles and would not let her get away. There was no way for her to get away.

"NO!" Veronica screamed as the lightning was about to hit Madame Duncan. Ezekiel didn't know when she pulled out her wand, but she had the long wooden spoon gripped tightly in her hands. The magic wand took in her feelings of desperation and unleashed a golden glow that overtook the purple that covered the walls earlier.

Out of instinct, Ezekiel cast a magic spell to protect himself. A black shroud wrapped itself around him and hung over his shoulders like a cape, repelling the golden glow and the effects it had.

Time, itself, was slowed. Everyone moved in slow motion. Even Veronica was affected.

Dazed, Ezekiel looked around. Sarah was in mid-leap, her staff kept low as she was charging towards a defending shadow puppet. While lying on the ground, Madame Duncan opened her mouth as if she was going to chant a spell, but then when her eyes rolled over to her siblings, she closed her mouth again.

"What are you doing? Just cast the spell already and get away!" But even as Ezekiel said that, he knew why Madame Duncan changed her mind. If she cast even more magic spells, things would only get worse, and then really will be bad for everyone. Rather than let the others get hurt, she was willing to take the full brunt of her mistakes.

As if he would let something like that happen! Taking advantage of how slow everything was now, Ezekiel ran with all his might, weaving around the lightning streaks and shadow puppets, towards Madame Duncan. He threw black magic bolts at the shadow puppets faces and tore Madame Duncan free from the one that had her by her ankles, before pulling the woman to safety.

Then a large lightning bolt streaked down from above and struck the ground. It banished the golden glow, and returned time to normal speed.

"NO! NO! NO!" The voice threw a childish tantrum. "Don't interfere! She must pay! Years of research, ruined! But not anymore! I will make her pay! And no one is going to get in the way of that! Let her be destroyed by her own magic!"

Whoever this person was, he was getting on Ezekiel's nerves. He wanted to just scream at the voice to shut up, but before he knew it, the shadow puppets were already over him and Madame Duncan. They were going to drop on top of them into a dog pile and probably sing Madame Duncan into the shadow that way.

Ezekiel raised his hand to defend himself and Madame Duncan, but he was too slow.

Sarah who had just begun her charge, lowered her staff even more and used it to lift herself high into the air after a jump up. She propelled herself over the shadow puppets, landing perfectly between them and Ezekiel. With a mighty yell, she swung a flaming fist up at the shadow puppets to her left. Above her head, a blue lance made of ice struck against the raised shield of a shadow puppet at the right. Their attacks were mighty, and would probably knock out even the strongest of soldiers. But their opponents were not soldiers. They weren't even human. And so, their attacks only managed to push the shadow puppets back a few inches.

The shadow puppets lunged at them so fast that by the time the children all realized it, they were tossed into the air behind the shadow puppets, leaving no one to protect Madame Duncan, who remained lying on the ground, unable to escape the cocoon of cloth her own scarves made. She was already lying atop a pool of shadow. All the shadow puppets had to do was push her in. And that was exactly what they did.

Ezekiel watched in horror as Madame Duncan slowly sank into the shadows. The others screamed out in vain at the shadow puppets to stop.

"Stay away!" Madame Duncan shouted at them. "It's dangerous, so don't come near here!"

Despite Madame Duncan's pleas, Sarah charged at the shadow puppets with her staff, only to be blocked by the shield-bearing shadow puppet that opted to break from the others to defend them. It easily deflected Sarah's blows, as well as block the magic spells that were being hurled by Verity, Henry, and Alice. Jacques grabbed and threw rocks. Nothing they did worked. Even when they were putting their all into saving Madame Duncan, it was nowhere near enough.

It was frustrating. Ezekiel was frustrated. He had never felt so aggravated before in his entire life. This day may very well be the worst that he had ever experienced. Here he was, the son of a great magician, unable to help someone who was in trouble right before his eyes.

Just her nose poked from the pool of shadow. But in seconds, even that would be no more.

"Josephine!" the twins shouted.

"No!" Veronica cried out.

Their screams and cries were drowned out by the laughter of the unseen man who interfered with their efforts. If he ever found out who that person was, Ezekiel swore that he would give him a good sock in the face.

Abruptly, his laughter stopped, and it was replaced with him shouting in frustration: "No! No! NO!"

The sound of broken glass cut in, and a Latino woman in a business suit burst in. She was followed by a bundle of cable wires, the sort commonly seen on telephone poles. It was Rosalyn Woods of the legendary Seven Star Mages.

"You will not interfere with my revenge!" shouted the voice. "Stop her! Attack!"

The chains that bound the monsters shattered and the monsters all burst with their fangs and crude weapons baring down on the children. However, Rosalyn Woods was not perturbed. Instead, she glanced sideways to the flying bundle of green cable cords and said something to it that Ezekiel couldn't hear. In compliance, the bundle flew towards the shadow puppets and struck each of them down in the blink of an eye. They were so fast, not even the shadow puppets could defend themselves in time.

And the shadow puppets weren't just struck down, they were sliced and diced into several small pieces that could not remain solid anymore and swiftly faded into nothing. The bundle then sunk its cords down into the shadow, fishing around within the infinitely dark depths until it found what it was looking for and reeled it in.

At the same time, while the cords went to work, Rosalyn Woods ran forward. She was a blur that appeared in front of Ezekiel in an instant. After she snapped her fingers beside her right ear, a giant metal foot stomped down, crushing the monsters beneath its weight.

"Silly, silly monsters," she said as she stared coldly at her fallen enemies. "Don't you know who you're dealing with? I command the earth and all that it has to offer, including metals like iron, iron that goes into the making of machines. I'm the Lady of Machines, Rosalyn Woods! Anyone who dares to bring harm to my friends will know my wrath!"

The monsters wailed and groaned beneath the weight of that foot of metal and earth. And that was all Miss Woods would listen to. She turned her back to the monsters and looked up. A scowl formed on her face, and she clicked her tongue in frustration. There was something shiny glinting in the sky. Some kind of sparkling confetti, perhaps?

No. It was a bird. A bird made of metal descended from the skies and landed on Miss Woods outstretched finger. It's eyes flashed red.

"No good, huh?" Miss Woods said in mounting irritation. After a moment's pause, she turned to Ezekiel and the others. Her face softened.

"Are you all okay?" she asked in a gentle voice.

Some of the others were unable to find a voice, so they nodded. Ezekiel didn't reply.

Behind them, the bundle of cable wires finally found what it was looking for and tore Madame Duncan out of the shadows. She was more pale than usual, and had dark circles forming beneath her eyes, but she looked otherwise okay.

"Josephine!" her siblings cried out. They ran to her side with worry etched on their faces.

While they barraged her with questions, she feebly tried to reassure them all with a smile. The twins reached for the scarves that had wrapped themselves around their sister with the intent of freeing her, but then -

"Jacques, Alice, please step away from her," Miss Woods suddenly barked.

The twins looked up to her in shock, but then retreated. There was a sharpness in Miss Woods' words that jolted even Ezekiel. Jacques and Alice stood aside while their magic teacher approached Madame Duncan and helped her to her feet. Ezekiel wondered what could be wrong, but then saw the answer for himself. If he concentrated hard enough, he could barely make out the wisps of purple smoke so faint that they were practically invisible gently waft from Madame Duncan's shoulders. Anyone with common sense would know that unexplained smoke with an unusual color was a bad sign.

All it took for Miss Woods to free Madame Duncan from the scarves was a slight poke with a small green spark. They went limp almost instantly.

"Do you think you can stand?" Miss Woods asked.

"Of course!" her old friend replied. "I AM one of the Seven Star Mages, after all."

"I'll take that as a 'no', then."

"Huh?"

Miss Woods clicked the heel of her shoe against the ground twice and a stretcher suddenly burst from below, as well as two bulky robots like what you'd find in a kid's TV show. Against Madame Duncan's protests, they gently put her onto the stretcher and wheeled her away.

The last Ezekiel saw of Madame Duncan that day was just as she disappeared down the hall. By then, her skin had become deathly gray and the dark circles beneath her eyes became blackish blue. Just seeing the price she paid in order to protect them all made Ezekiel sick to his stomach.

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