The cellar was situated far below the living quarters of the house. I obediently followed Grimalkin down the long spiral of stone steps. Inside, the flagged floor was empty save for a table pushed back against the near wall. About a dozen torches in wall brackets lit the area. It looked like it had recently been swept. Grimalkin closed the heavy wooden door behind us, and then turned the key in the lock before removing it and tossing it onto the table.
‘Why have we come down here?’ I asked, my mouth suddenly dry.
‘For one thing we have plenty of space,’ she replied.
‘But not only that – down in this cellar, nobody will hear you scream.’ I took a step backwards. Grimalkin took one towards me.
‘There’s nowhere to run, Thomas Ward,’ she said, her voice quiet and filled with malice.
‘You impaled me once with your staff. I owe you for that – and I always pay my debts. Nothing less than your life will suffice, so draw the sword and defend yourself – if you can!’
It was true that I had once driven my staff through her shoulder, pinning her to a tree. Then, I had acted in self-defence – she had hunted me down, ready to take my life. But since then we had fought together side by side; I’d thought that we were now allies, and that Grimalkin had come to Kenmare to help us bind the Fiend. Had it all been a lie? I wondered. Was her need for vengeance so great? Had she rescued me from the fort just so that she could put an end to me in this cellar herself?
I was scared and my knees trembled. I barely managed to get the sword clear of its scabbard before she attacked. Drawing two blades at once, Grimalkin ran directly towards me. I raised the Destiny Blade and managed to deflect the one in her left hand, twisting away so that the other blade missed my left ear by less than an inch.
Before I’d recovered my balance properly, she whirled towards me again. In a panic, I chopped down at her head, but she parried and smiled grimly before stabbing towards my left shoulder. I wasn’t fast enough, and I felt a sharp pain as the blade cut into my flesh. How badly was I hurt? I glanced at the wound and saw blood dribbling down towards my elbow.
To check the severity of my wound was a foolish mistake – one that almost cost me my life. The moment I glanced down, Grimalkin took advantage of my lapse and launched an all-out attack. I stumbled under her onslaught, but somehow her blades missed me.
I rolled away and jumped to my feet. She approached me again, her eyes glittering, her mouth open wide, as if she was going to take a bite out of my flesh. Those teeth, which she had filed to deadly points, were one of the scariest things about the witch assassin.
I was beginning to despair now. What chance did I have against Grimalkin? How could I hope to beat the most deadly assassin the Malkin clan had ever produced? I realized that I had just one faint hope. Somehow, in the heat of battle, I had to concentrate my mind and try to slow down time itself. That gift, inherited from Mam, had saved my life on more than one occasion. I had to attempt it now.
Before I could carry out my plan, Grimalkin charged. A sudden anger surged through me. What was she doing? I didn’t deserve to die in this cellar. And if she killed me now, the Fiend would be waiting to torment my soul. With a surge of new-found confidence, I stepped forward and swung my sword at her with all my strength, forcing her to lean back quickly, then step to the side. I attacked again, and this time switched the sword from my right to my left hand. It was a trick taught to me by the Spook when we practised with our staffs. That’s how I had wounded her last time.
It almost caught her out again, but she dodged away to safety and then came forward once more. I took a deep breath and started to focus, drawing on the power that lay deep within me.
Concentrate! Squeeze time. Slow it. Make it halt!
Grimalkin was moving towards me, her approach almost taking the form of a dance. She was balancing on her toes and flexing her knees, skipping away to the left, raising her arm to deliver a fatal blow to my heart. But her movements were slowing, and I was faster. My blade intercepted hers and dashed it from her hand.
Gleaming in the torchlight, the assassin’s dagger spun over and over, slow as a feather, falling gently towards the flags. But then it halted. It was immobile, frozen in space, hovering above the floor. I had actually halted time!
I reversed the movement of my blade, slashing it back towards the witch’s neck. Grimalkin was helpless; I had won.
I watched my sword slice towards her unprotected throat. But then I noticed something else. Grimalkin was frozen in time, helpless, but she was also looking me in the eye – and smiling! She was smiling at me while my blade was inches from her throat!
As the sword came in contact with her throat blood spewed from her head. She was dead. Grimalkin the which hunter of the Malkin clan, had been slain. I thought she was my friend, I thought we shared the same goal to destroy the fiend once and for all!
How could I be so foolish! She just wanted revenge the whole time. My farther always said.
“People never let go of things no matter what they tell you!” And this was certainly true in this case. My new sword, the destiny blade was covered in her blood. It’s two ruby eyes started to glow, it was the only light in the whole cellar. I used it to guide my way out of the room, and then I explained it all to the spook.
“So that was it, Grimalkin the fierce which assassin dead like that lad… It was a pity, I must admit she was a powerful ally lad.” He said shaking his head.
“Do you think she can come back?” I said picturing in my head what she’d do if she did. I hadn’t only injured her, I had killed her.
“I think that’s likely lad, but maybe in some other form than Mother Malkin. Mother Malkin tried to take you by surprise, someone like Grimalkin wouldn’t dear take you by surprise. She’d want a fair fight, just like how she gave you that shirt before she fought you. No, but that’s just another enemy to worry about.”
“Come on lad! Help me raise the sail.” My master said.
I waddled over towards the small ships sail and with his helped to raise it. I was worried, worried about Alice. Where was she? Was she not coming?
“We’ll have to just leave without her lad!” The spook impatiently said.
“No, we can’t. She’ll think we left her for dead!” I replied with a hint of anger at the thought that he would leave her in the blink of an eye.
“Well there’s no point waiting here.” He sighed.
“Please at least just give her ’till sun down.” As soon as I said that a shadowy figure appeared out of the corner of my eye. Past the docks and under a lonely tree it slowly approached us. It was a somewhat human figure that seemed to be shielded from the sun by some mysterious object. It stood before us and revealed their face. A grim face appeared of a girl with high cheek bones. She was covered in blankets presumably to shield her from the salt water. Even though Alice wasn’t a full fetched malevolent, salt still burned her a little.
“I don’t like this. I don’t like it at all.” She said wearily.
“The salts fine gal don’ worry about it.” The Spook said in a rush to get off.
“It’s not the salt I’m worried about. It’s invaders! As we all know the country’s under attack and I don’t want to be held hostage again. Not much we can do about a whole ship of armed invaders!” She said shivering even though it was boiling out here.
“Well your right girl, sea’s full of invaders ready to try to take our land. Best hope we don’t run into any ‘eh? Anyway hope on already or we’ll lose the wind!” The Spook gestured Alice to climb onto the ship.
“Don’t like this, don’t like this at all.” She repeated herself.
The sun was high in the sky, Alice could melt covered in her woollen blankets. The ship wasn’t the smallest ship I’d ever seen, bigger than some fishing vessels but big enough to transport 3 people to our destination Romania. Lots of malevolent witches to deal with their. I worried that the Spook was getting a bit old to deal with them all but Alice should be able to help us if we are in desperate need. The wind was strong and the country was slowly disappearing out of eye. As suddenly like a stick snapping storm clouds emerged from the sky in the direction we needed to go.
“Any chance we could go around the storm Gregory?” Alice asked.
“No chance of that. On One sides the land of the sirens and on the other a mysterious rock formation appeared. Any sailors that travel through their end up dead. They call it Dead Mans Waters. The water’s so shallow you could walk in it! No, the only was is straight through into the eye of the storm.” The Spook replied. Alice sighed. The wind started to pick up, faster and faster we went. Like a horse closer to the finish line. The seas started to pick up, waves higher than our boat were emerging; some waves Five times higher than our boat itself! But that didn’t matter, luckily for us the wind veered away from all of those by itself, no one needed to intervene. But where exactly was the wind taking us? We were sure about to find out. The rain fall was really heavy at this point, it sounded like gun fire with the rain hitting our ship. Alice’s blanket was now soaked and she through it off as all it was doing is letting more salt water touch her. At the exact moment that lighting struck in the exact direction we were going, another vessel appeared. But much, much bigger. It was going directly towards us.
“What’s that!” I screamed pointing towards the vessel who had definitely seen us by now.
“Ohh no, it’s what I warned you about!” Alice said nervous. Salt was her last concern at this point.
“Come on lad help me try change the sail!” I went over to the sail with the Spook and we tried turning it. It wasn’t working! No matter how hard we pulled it was like arrow.
Aiming directly towards the increasingly bigger ship. Their flags had an unknown symbol on them. It must have belonged to a country or group of people unaware to us. The ship almost 10 times bigger than us was on a corse directly towards us.
“It’s gonna go right through our boat!” The Spook shouted. How have they not seen us? Is this intentional? Hundreds of thoughts raced around my head. Who were they?
Next thing I remember waking up on their ship of all things. They must have picked us up out of the water. I was tied to a seat with some rope. I looked around me and saw a lot of foreigners walking about the ship. No familiar faces, until I looked to up. What I saw shocked me. Right at the took of the mast of the ship someone was tied. They had a familiar face and it seemed as if there mouse was stitched shut. It was Alice. She couldn’t move at all. You could see marks of her probably trying to fight back. You could also see marks of the rope cutting into her skin. They must have found out she was a which when she fell into the salt water. Suddenly a similar face appeared, it was the Spook. He was talking to a man looking pretty pleased with himself. Had he would us a way to escape? Had a told them who we were so they could let us go? Or something more sinister.
“He master!” I called out politely. The ship was previously filled was a lot of chatted and laugher but now it was just silent. All eyes were on me. Even Alice managed to change her view to me. The Spook merely looked at me for a second, and turned his back. A man with a club walker over. I panicked my head had been through enough today already, One whack would render me unconscious. I tried undoing the knot behind my back but it was useless without being able to see. He came closer and closer until eventually I got hit.
I woke up in a cold room that I could only describe with One word. Miserable. It was damp dark and cold. I could barely see but for a torch outside my room. I was in a prison cell. I looked around me it seemed Alice was in the same cell as me. Lying on the ground bleeding. Their were major wounds around her chest were she was bound to the mast.
But good news her mouth was unstitched!
“Alice are you alright?” I called out to her. She merely nodded in reply. It was quite clear she wasn’t alright and needed urgent medical help. She opened her mouth but something was missing. Her tongue. It wasn’t there! They must have cut it off in hopes she can’t curse them. I wouldn’t let this sadden my too much. My Dad always said:
“You can always hold onto hope even if you think there is none! They key to success is controlling your emotions.” I studied the room around me. It seemed to be made of concrete with iron bars on One wall. Through the iron bars were 2 guards. No armour no weapons, probably just to keep an eye out. Though they may have hidden weapons somewhere on them. I heard a familiar voice, it was the Spooks! Followed by laugher of several people including his own loud loopy laughter. It was good to know he was still alive, but it seems Alice and I weren’t going to be for longer! Had he found us away to escape? Away to get back to Romania or better even The Country? On the boat it didn’t seem so. The ships direction did change but not in the direction we were going before. I’ve always had the ability to tell which way was which. The room had Two small piles of way in it, presumably for us to sleep on. In one of the corners of the room water was dripping, slowly. A rheumatic tap, tap, tap on the concrete floor. Luckily for us it seemed some keys were hung on the wall opposite us, presumably ones for our cell door. But it was out of arms length. There were also constant guards guarding us, that sure wouldn’t help. How were we gonna escape. Where even were we?
And what’s up with the Spook? Shouldn’t he have rescued us by now? Think Tom think! Ok so, what do we have. Hay, water, Alice and I. What are our options. Hay is unless we want to make a fake body of ourselves but we will be constantly guarded. We need that water to drink but we could spare some and rust the iron bars. But by then we would have died of starvation and the guards would have noticed. I have nothing in my pockets or anything as they have already searched me, I assume it’s the same for Alice.
Alice can’t use any spells with no tongue and I didn’t want her to become and closer to becoming a full malevolent which anyway but she does have super strength. Since she isn’t yet a malevolent which we will be able to touch iron without it draining much of her power. So she could bend the bars to let them escape. But then again we come to the same problem. The guards. It seems the only way will be to do it when they are distracted or when they leave. If they ever leave.
“Any ideas Alice?” I whispered into her ear. She nodded back.
“HEY! What are you Two talking about!” One of the guards must have overheard us. He walked towards the bars and lent on them.
“Don’t make either of our jobs harder. No funny business. Especially from you witch.” He said calmly. We both nodded. She opened her mouth in an attempt to speak and must’ve forgotten that she’s missing her tongue. We had to get out. We had to escape. But how? Suddenly, like a gust of wind. I had an idea. It was absolutely crazy, but I had an idea. It seemed as the guards were distracted and weren’t focusing on us. A perfect opportunity to explain my plan to Alice. Instead of talking to raise the guards attention I got her to read my lips. She was missing her tongue and couldn’t talk so I used my newly acquired lip-reading skills to read her lips. Lip reading was a skill I had picked up over my time knowing Alice. She would use mirrors to contact me when in desperate need.
Most witches just lip read to tell what they were saying. Now, it was the waiting game. We had to wait for the perfect moment to start our plan to escape, we had only one chance. If we messed up, it would all be over. The guards sat down together at a table, backs to us to plan what appeared to be some sort of card game. The perfect opportunity had arrived, we had only one chance. I rapidly but carefully started ripping off my sleeve. I was trying to be quiet in order to not alert the guards of what I was doing. This probably didn’t matter as they were almost yelling at each other having a laugh.
Stage 1 of my plan was complete now for stage 2. I reached over to the end of the bars tip toeing like a mouse over to the nearest whole in the bars to the keys. The keys were directly opposite be but out of arms length. This was when the ripped sleeve came in. Using my sleeve as a lasso it would only be a matter of time until the guards were alerted by the click clack of the keys. Meanwhile Alice was also ripping of her sleeve for when the guards were alerted. I kept reeling out my sleeve trying desperately to get the end to get a grip onto the keys. They weren’t held onto there at all. They were just sitting on a flat surface. My goal was to move them closer to I could reach my arm out and pick them up to get us out. Slowly the keys came closer the edge. Until finally the keys edged over and fell onto the ground. The sound from the keys hitting the ground echoed around me, the guards were well and truly aware now. I reached my hand out to grab them just as they turned their heads to look at us. There jaws dropped, they would be punished if they let their prisons escape so easily. Now it was a guessing game of what key opens up the cell. There were a total of 5 keys on the key ring, I managed to try two of the keys in their but alas, fortune was not on our side. By this time the guards were on the other end of the cellar, there was nothing they could really do to stop us from opening the door.
The third key was a yellow rusty key, not matching to the bright shiny metal door that we had the task to open. But besides that fact, it worked. The door was open, all that was stopping us from escaping was two guards and whatever lied ahead. I expected them to yell out to their friend up stairs but they were probably too scared of being punished for us escaping to do that. Two tall men, both over Six feet towards over Alice and I. Luckily Alice had ripped off her sleeve and jumped up onto one of them tying it around his eyes. He started taking a few steps backwards looking around until finally he over balanced and fell onto the ground like an apple out of a tree. The other was a bit more difficult he had seen what had happened to the first one so he had an idea of what to expect. I quickly ran over to the corner of the room were a sufficient water supply had built up from the leaking corner of the room and scooped a big load up with my hands. But as I ran back over the water started to vanish almost immediately, would I have enough? As I got closer and close the water became shallower and shallower. Luckily I still had about half by the time I got to him, he was looking at me very confused while struggling with Alice climbing over him. I through it at his face as if I was doing the same with salt and iron to a boggart. He only closed his eyes to protect himself from the water for a few seconds. But just enough for Alice to tie another one of her sleeve over his eyes too.
“The prisoners! There escaping!” They both wailed. As soon as they said that stomps could be heard from above, people were coming. We had to escape now. I grabbed Alice by the hand a pulled her towards the door. There were stairs directly on the other side that led into a dinning room. The room had 2 big windows on different walls that looked brand new, just like the cellar. The other walls both had closed doors, one was the way to the exit, but which one. One the doors started rapidly shaking, as if someone on the other side desperately wanted to get in. Was it the Spook? Was it the enemies? Who knew but I didn’t want to stay and find out. Alice was already at the door when I turned back. She turned the knob and tried to push it open. It was locked. We were locked. The other door was still violently shaking, was that locked too? Luckily I still had the keys on me so it was the guessing game once again. I tried the first Four keys but to no avail. The only key left was the same one that opened the cellar key. There was no way this old rusty key would open that door. Well it was worth a shot! I placed the key into the door and held it steady and slowly twisted it. Click. It was open. How could this key open two doors? Why would they use the same lock twice? Then I realised, this wasn’t any old key. It was mine! The Spooks brother was a blacksmith and he made me a key that would open practically any door, it had saved my life several times and it proved to save it again! It was so rusty from the marsh with Bill, another spook who mainly took care of water witches. He put salt in a moat around his house to prevent witches from entering. It seems that entering it over and over had rusted the key. The door actually lead to outside, we were practically home free! That was until whoever was trying to open that door caught up. Alice and I took a step outside and heard a familiar voice. I looked to my left and what I saw shocked me. It was the Spook! Finally he was back!
“Hello lad.” He said grimly leaning against a wall.
“Finally your back! Come on we gotta go!” I said excitedly urging him to follow me.
“I think I’ll be staying lad.” He said calmly confused at my shocked expression.
“Back in the country, I was never really understood. When I was a priest no one talked to me unless I talked to them first. And then when I became the local spook it got even worse. Sure having an apprentice was great and all. But your just a boy. The people here, there friendly. I’m sorry lad, but the tables have turned. We may now be on opposite sides and I wish you the best of luck”. The spook walked back into the building without a second glance. I dropped to my knee’s. What now? The Spooks had betrayed us! All this time I thought he was helping us. But he joint their side the second he had an opportunity. What a coward.
With that Alice tugged me up by my shirt and pointed to the rattling door. It was no longer rattling, it was wide open. The Spook opened it with his key for the many men at the other side who were going to no doubt, chance us down. Alice and I ran as fast as we could. The men following us were big and out of shape so speed wasn’t a concern. Our main concern was getting off this island. Alice may have not be able to talk but she could still perform some magic. After several hours of running a village came in sight. Not a rather large one but most importantly, one near the sea. Surely someone had a boat that they could let us use to get back to the country. The men were out of sight and hopefully gave up. But we didn’t know that for sure, not at all. Why did they even want us as prisoners? Do we have something they want? The sun was starting to set, night fall was upon us. We had to find a way out. Alice and I walked along the shore looking at various buildings with signs in some foreign language until we found one in our language. Eventually we stumbled upon a house with the sign in Greek. My Mother Mam had taught me how to read Greek her native language basically from birth. It read “Fishermen Bait Shop”. He would be closed now and gone back to his home so Alice and I looked around until we found a pile of sacks full of wool to sleep on. In the morning we looked around and got stared at by many people. This village was very small so everyone probably knew each other. Finally we saw a man walk into the shop with a fishing rod on his back, pants that went all the way up to his stomach with fabric connecting it to his shoulder. We walked in behind him and a bell rung upon our entry. He turned around looking surprised that someone had entered so early and started speaking in a foreign language. I couldn’t understand so I had to speak in Greek.
“Hello sir? Sorry I only speak Greek.” I said in Greek. Upon me saying this the man raised his eye brows. Probably surprised anyone knew Greek in the village.
“Ohh well, hello! What could I get you?” He replied.
“We are looking for a ride back to our country. You see we are lost.” I said slowly in return.
“Well I don’t know how many boats go out that far for fishing. And if they do it’s gonna cost you a heck of a lot to get a ride then.” He said slowly.
“Well we don’t have any money I’m afraid, could you get us in contact with whoever goes out that far so we could strike a deal?” I replied.
“Sure, but I don’t think they’ll speak Greek… Just wait right here, if a customer comes in just say ‘Pah Stalla Ata’ witch translates to ‘He is out’.” With that the man left us together. Just Alice and I waiting for his return. I don’t know how long it took but no customers arrived. It seems this places climate changed rapidly as I swear it was hotter at night than now. When the man arrive he a smile on his face and another man wearing similar clothing but broader and taller came in.
“Well good news! I found someone who would be willing to take you out on a trip back to your home country for a small price!” The first fisherman said.
“Great! Just how much would that be?” I said in return, waiting for him to translate back to the other person.
“He says 1 gram of gold.” The man replied. So it seems they share some similarities to our country, like using grams too.
“Do you have anything we could pay use to pay for this?” I said to Alice. She nodded in return. I searched my pockets desperate to find something. All I found was my key. The key that had saved my life hundreds of times before. It can open any door. Well it was worth a shot.
“Would this do?” I said holding out the old and rusty key. The men looked disappointed.
“It can open any door.” I claimed trying to sweeten the deal. At this the man translated and as soon as he finished the man slimed and nodded. It seemed the people here hadn’t discovered this type of key
before so it would be worth a pretty penny. At that I gave it to him and we all sailed back to the country. I’m now living with Bill at this marsh as my training isn’t over yet. John Gregory is now our enemy and we will definitely meet again. Weather it’s on the battle field or not was unknown
– Tom Ward