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Authors: Paul Kater

Hilda - The Challenge (34 page)

BOOK: Hilda - The Challenge
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The wizard-to-be looked at Hilda who was
already staring at him. They both had the same idea of who had done
that.

"Any signs of Grizbles?", William then asked
Drago, which got him an appreciative look from Hilda.

This seemed to surprise the black man. "No,"
he said after thinking about it, "not that I noticed anyway. I do
have to admit that I didn't pay much attention to that. I can go
back there-"

"No, Drago, don't. It is much further for you
than for us," Hilda interrupted him. "William and I will see that
we go over there tomorrow. I wish we could do that now, but we've
already done a long flight today, and then William went to do the
rounds after that-"

Drago's eyebrows flew up. "You let him do the
rounds?"

"Uhm, yes? Why not?"

"Calandra mentioned something about you and
him, and him not being a magical person, so I wondered..." Drago's
face changed into a frown. He wondered if he should better have
left that unsaid. "Uhm..."

"Technicalities, Drago, technicalities that
don't matter now, okay? Point is that she disappeared also
and-"

"Also? What do you mean 'also'?" Drago's
expression changed again. His face was like rubber.

Hilda told him about the flower-witch Fidelma
that had gone missing under mysterious circumstances. "First her,
and now Calandra. We suspect that this is all Lamador's doing. I
suppose you've heard..."

Drago nodded. "Yes. We all know about it.
Lamador is not exactly keeping this a secret, Hilda. And now I also
understand the question about the Grizbles..."

Hilda and William nodded.

"Good luck, both of you," Drago said, "I'm
afraid you will need it. Let me know if there is something I can do
to help."

"Thanks, Drago," said Hilda as the black face
vanished, leaving the crystal ball.

"Drago is a warlock. He and Calandra are
close friends," the witch explained to William as they returned to
the table, William sitting on his chair and Hilda sitting in his
lap again. "They are really close. Not like us, but good friends."
She started fidgeting with a button of her housecoat.

William knew that this latest news was highly
disturbing his little witch, and with reason. It unnerved him also.
He had no real experience with Lamador, save the encounter with the
huge image in Gerdundula's garden. He put his hand over the one
from Hilda that tried to amputate the innocent button. "That is not
going to solve things, sweetheart. We have to find a way to make
Lamador feel the way we do."

Hilda looked her man in the eyes. "Sure. And
how do you plan on doing that?"

William smiled and pulled her against him. He
whispered in her ear, and as he spoke, her face became stage to a
host of expressions that were chasing each other around it.

"That is the most outrageous, crazy, insane
and impossible thing I have ever heard," the wicked witch said as
he was done talking. "Damn it, it might actually work!"

As evening had come and they had found their
way to bed, Hilda lay on top of William and looked at him. "About
that plan of yours... are there more people in your old world who
think in such strange ways?"

He smiled as he slipped his hands under her
hair and slid them over her back. "Trust me when I say that this
plan is not at all considered insane there."

"Hmmm - oooh yes that's nice don't stop - I
mean, so you are one of the more sane and- aaaaahhhhh do that again
- coherent people that lived there?"

William grinned as she tried to comment on
two different things at once. He did not stop his handiwork though,
as she requested. "I'm not sure if many people would call me
coherent and sane back there, but I do know there were many who
were far less stable."

"Aaahhh...." Hilda lowered her head on his
shoulder and decided that this was a good moment to attempt a
change into putty.

"Are you somewhat comfortable?", William
asked, playing the innocent one.

"Uhuh...", she breathed heavily in his neck,
"as long as you go o-ohhhhh...."

He took the responsibility and went on. This
was one of the really good ones.

40. The plan
(1)

In the days that followed, Hilda and William
did the rounds together constantly. They had gone to look at
Calandra's house and indeed found footsteps of Grizbles. That made
it clear Lamador had his hand in Calandra's vanishing.

They enjoyed flying together, and it made
William more and more certain of his grasp of the broom. Hilda
thought up challenges for him to perform while they were in flight,
and some of them were pretty severe. He had to learn how to keep in
flight while doing magic that required lots of attention.

After the rounds they spent a lot of time on
preparing all things for the plan that William had brought up. They
had one and a half moon of time to put it all into effect, and
stage one was arriving very quickly.

"Are we all set?" William looked around,
trying to remember everything they had worked on. "Nothing
forgotten?"

"No, I am certain we have everything,
William." Following that, she went to check the closet where they
had stored their gear and made sure for the fourth time it was
empty. "See, told you." Secretly she was glad she had taken that
last look.

"Good." William picked up the two dice that
were on the floor and slipped them in his hidden pocket. He sealed
it so the two itty bitty objects could not fall out. "Then we're
ready to move out."

Hilda nodded. "House, be good, okay? We
should be back in three days at the most."

"Yes, yes, I know. You have not stopped
talking about it the last weeks so I know everything about it."

"As long as you keep your- ehm... don't say a
thing to anyone, okay?" William said.

"Don't worry. Who wants to talk to a house
anyway..."

The couple went outside, the brooms floating
along behind them. Hilda closed the door. "Okay William, better
step back a bit more."

She took her wand, said a spell, and the
giant amount of chains and padlocks materialised around the house
again.

"Holy Bejeebus," William said as he saw the
incredible size of it all.

Hilda grinned. She snipped her fingers, and
the sign appeared in her hand. "Hmmm... not all correct now," she
mumbled. She moved the wand over it and put it on the main padlock.
"Right, we're clear. Let's go."

The two mounted their brooms and flew off,
leaving the house encapsuled in iron. The sign said: "The witch
(and wizard) is out."

"I must say, William, that this is the
weirdest approach to a challenge I have ever taken," Hilda said as
they were on their way. "I hope I am not regretting this."

"What is your alternative?", William asked,
his face serious.

"Oh, shush you. I am still the witch in
charge, remember?" She threw her hair back and her eyes flashed
blue. Her laughter was music to William's ears.

"I love you, you wicked witch," he grinned
and pulled her close to steal a kiss from her.

"Hands off, you," she grinned, "I am in
charge of navigation as you don't know where we have to go. If
someone does the grabbing and groping, it's me." And she proved
that immediately.

The landscape beneath them slowly changed.
The hills slowly flattened, but the grassy areas remained, as did
the forest. The only change in those was the slightly more reddish
colours that came into the leaves.

"The trees will get more and more red, the
more we get west," Hilda explained. "It appears to be something in
the soil that makes them turn the colour of rust."

William nodded. He had heard of things like
that happening before. "So first we get to the kingdom of Lorn,
right? A friendly one."

"Yep," Hilda confirmed, "that's a piece of
cherry pie. And after that we have to make our way along the
borders of Ringeholm and Oxfern. Each of them don't like Walt and
his ways, flying is forbidden there, so we may have to do some
fancy flying to avoid the people who will be shooting at us."

"Yes, you mentioned those." William went over
her words in his mind. "They have the terrible bows that can take
out a flying witch."

"Yes. Not too bad because they are slow to
load and not very accurate, but still it is best not to get one of
those suckers in your eye. Or anywhere else."

William wondered about bows that were
powerful enough to fling a large arrow up several hundred yards
into the air. The prospect of meeting them filled him with
eagerness, awe andalso a healthy dose of fear.

Not long after that, they came past a long
thin silvery line. The River For Lorn, William remembered. "Very
nice view, it is like a silver strip."

"Yes, it's nice from up here. They drown
their death convicts in it," Hilda said. "But they drag them out
again after some days, otherwise the water will go bad."

"Oh. Uhm. I see." Suddenly the river looked
very different to William. Hilda did not appear to be affected in
any way. Well, the convicts probably deserved that fate, he told
himself and tried to forget the remark the witch had made.

The trees by now had turned completely
red.

"Hilda, would it be possible that we go lower
for a few moments? I'd love to see these trees up close," said
William.

"Sure, we're fine here," she smiled and dove
down, shrieking her laughter as the thrill got to her. William
laughed as he followed her.

The trees were red. No doubt possible. The
leaves looked like they were on fire, with many shades of red, from
burgundy to bright red. The trunks of the trees and the branches
too were more rust-coloured, brown-red, but everything about the
trees was affected by the substance in the soil that coloured all
plants.

"It is really amazing," said William as they
were gaining altitude again. "I've never seen trees that red, and
in my old world some trees would turn very red in the autumn."

"Yes, it's cute, isn't it? It could have been
cuter though," Hilda sighed.

William looked at her and grinned. He did not
need a link to her to know what she meant.

The witch looked at him. "What?"

"Purple," was all he said.

"Yes!" Her face outshone the sun for a
moment. "Now that would be wicked!"

They kept joking about trees and entire
forests in all kinds of colours, and that way they had crossed the
kingdom of Lorn rather quickly. Just before they were to reach the
twoneighbouring problem spots, they found a good spot to land and
have a quick lunch. There was water from a natural well, cool and
refreshing. Soon they were airborne again, Hilda in the lead as she
knew the route.

At first the trip went without a problem.
There were no large bows, no arrows coming for them, and the trees
turned back to normal tree-colours after a while.

Suddenly, after little over an hour, Hilda
said: "I see a few. Careful. I think they've seen us also."

"How can they distinguish us from birds at
this altitude?", William wondered out loud.

"They have wizards and witches down there
too, dummy. They use their magical powers to scan the skies."

William could slap himself. That was so
logical, he should have been able to figure that one out himself.
"And the no flying here? Does that have to do with some aerial
attack or so?"

"Yes. A dozen or so centuries ago Ringeholm
had dragons, they used to fly them around everywhere. Then an
insane Marshall assembled a small squadron of some three hundred
dragons and - oh crap, there they come."

At first William was puzzled and looked
around for three hundred dragons. Then it occurred to him that
Hilda had spotted something coming from the ground as she made a
swoop with her broom.

William looked down and also saw something
coming at them. "Holy Bejeebus!" He yanked his broom to the side as
something the size of a small tree was on its way to him. It missed
him by at least twenty yards, but the sight of that thing coming
was highly impressive.

"Okay, it is obvious to see why these things
are hard to load up," he muttered, "but a direct hit of one of
these babies will take you out of commission permanently."

Hilda maneuvered her broom closer to his
again. "See what I mean?"

"Oh yes, and you did not exaggerate one
word," William said. "Perhaps flying a bit faster would be an
option."

"No! Don't even think of that. Going fast
usually gives them even more reason to believe we have hostile
things in mind and we don't. At this moment the arrows are shot by
ordinaries, and that is how we want things to be. When they suspect
bad things, they bring in the magical people, and I don't want
first hand experience of what they do with these things."

William understood from her words that she
did have second hand experiences. It was better not to ask now, he
decided.

"We're now halfway over Ringeholm," Hilda
told him. "The number of arrows will get a bit worse from here on,
so watch me and also watch for yourself. They seem to move the bows
around, nobody ever knows where they are except their
soldier-bosses."

They spent an uncomfortable hour avoiding
trees that were flung at them, and William was less and less eager
to have a look at the bows that were capable of such a feat. He
just wanted get away from this area as soon as possible and
preferably in one piece, together with Hilda.

Finally he noticed that Hilda relaxed. "Are
we in the clear now?" His arms hurt from holding the broomstick, as
the jolts he had it make were quite radical at times.

"Yes, a few more minutes and we are in
Herald's kingdom," she said. Hilda too was glad they had this
behind them. Her arms also hurt, and she felt pity for William who
was hurting much more. She knew that through the link. "If you
want, we can land when we're there. Plenty of safe spots."

BOOK: Hilda - The Challenge
8.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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