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Authors: Paul Kater

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BOOK: Hilda - The Challenge
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"Door!", he yelled.

They shot straight up, being followed by a
big jet of water that did its best to soak them. From far and
further below a voice yelled something and then laughter followed
them. It mixed with Hilda's laughter.

At an altitude where the water could no
longer follow, the brooms stopped their crazy ascent.

"Aaaaaahhh!!", Hilda screamed, throwing her
head back.

William clasped his ears at the sound but
laughed loudly, as the thrill of the race had cranked up his
adrenalin level to new heights.

Hilda looked at him, her face shining from
the excitement. "How was that?", she asked, looking deliriously
happy.

"That, Hilda, was the best rollercoaster ride
I ever had in my life," William praised her, "this was beyond
awesome."

The wicked witch knew she was smiling way too
much at him, but she could not help herself. "Come. We're going
down." She was sparkling with the rush of the flight.

William nodded and pulled the hood over his
head. Then they spiraled down to the lawn where the brooms touched
down next to the fountain.

Walt stood with his hands on his back,
already waiting for them at the side of the lawn. "Hilda, dearest
wicked witch, I almost had you this time!", he gloated, twitching
his toes and wiggling his eyebrows.

"Hi there, king," Hilda greeted him. "How's
life? Still not sick and tired of the music?"

Walt laughed. "No, that is still all fine,
thank you. I see you brought someone. Who is this friend who does
not want to show his face?"

Hilda told him that the man in blue was a
powerful wizard from faraway places who was travelling and passing
by this kingdom. "So I thought I'd show him around a bit while he's
here."

"Very nice. Very nice indeed. And does this
wizard have a name?"

Hilda looked at William and whispered: "What
do I say?"

William bent over to Hilda. "Tell him that we
do not share our name, as a matter of precaution."

She nodded and repeated William's words.
"See, people this powerful are always careful, king."

"Oh, certainly, I understand. And careful he
should be, yes. I can see the power sparkling from his clothes,"
Walt said. "Well, it was wonderful to see you again. Next time
you're getting wet, Grimhilda, believe me. I am getting
better!"

"Hah, we'll see when it happens, king!" Hilda
swung herself on the broom again and magically helped William to
get on his mount in a graceful way. "See you next time."

William just raised a hand, and they were off
again, in the air, heading for the few clouds that had gotten lost
in the blue sky.

They flew along at a moderate pace. William
had put down the hood. "That was fun. Really."

Hilda looked at him. And smiled. "I'm glad
you enjoyed it."

"May I ask you why he called you Grim
Hilda?"

"Grim..." Hilda wondered for a moment what he
meant. "Oh! He is using my official name. Grimhilda. Hilda is only
for friends."

William looked at her. "For friends. Do you
consider me a friend?"

Hilda's face lost all cheerful expression,
and adopted something that looked to William as guilt or sadness,
but he could not determine it exactly as she turned her face
away.

"I'm not sure yet," she said. "I did not want
to tell you my real name when we first met. My official name, I
mean. I needed you. I really needed you, as I was desperate. And I
really hate feeling like that. You were the only one who could help
me. A witch usually does not need help. Doesn't ask for help." She
fell silent for a while, and William let her be silent. His
experience with women was not that broad, but he could quite
adequately pick up someone's emotions and feelings.

"Where are we going now?", he asked, helping
Hilda again without her noticing it. He tried to get her into a
more cheerful mood again.

"We're going to make sure the shepherds see
us," she decided. "Scare them a bit, so they know it's me." She got
an evil grin on her face that she shared with William. "If you
liked what we did with Walt, you're gonna love this."

Hilda threw the brooms in a sharp turn and
sped them up, setting course to some spectacular green hills. They
passed over lakes and a forest with stunning black trees.

"Fun place," she said as she pointed down at
the forest. "All kinds of really wild animals."

William took her word for it.

They flew in silence. Hilda's head was
churning with more and more questions and puzzles, while William
was enjoying the feeling of flight, the scenery and the incredibly
clean air that they were going through.

When they came close to the area where the
sheep and their managers were, Hilda dropped the brooms to just out
of view of their targets.

"Best if you put the hood back on, William,"
she advised him. "We'll be going low. Also prepare for quick
movements, and whatever you do, don't let go of the broom. Just
follow that, and we'll have fun."

William loved the sparkle in her eyes. There
was a real sparkle: it shone light blue and was shaped as a
five-pointed star. He grinned and pulled the hood over his head. "I
am ready. Let's roll, Hilda."

She cast a boyish, mischievous grin at him
and they flew again, following the slope of the mountain. They came
over the top, slowly moving forward, without a sound. The first
herd of sheep was less than a hundred yards away.

Hilda did not want to scare the animals, just
the people, so she made the brooms go higher. She located four
shepherds together and pointed. William nodded and braced himself
for anything. Suddenly his broom swept away from Hilda's.

She sent William to approach the people from
the left, as she aligned her broom quickly so she'd be charging at
them from the right. One or two of the shepherds would probably see
them coming, but there were too many sheep around for them to run
away.

Both brooms suddenly dropped to a mere few
feet and picked up speed. William heard a soft buzzing sound coming
from his broom and wondered if this was normal as he had never
heard it before. He did not know that Hilda made it happen, and her
broom made the same sound.

Not two but three shepherds saw a shape
coming towards them, tearing through the air just over the sheep.
It approached with an eerie buzzing sound. One pointed at it and
said something to the others. As one they turned and wanted to run,
seeing a similar shape shooting towards them from the other
direction. They were locked in with sheep and tried to rush through
them, but the animals could hardly move through the massive body of
fellow-woolbearers.

"Down!", one of the men yelled, and the four
ducked as well as they could, getting mouths full of wool and other
parts of sheep.

Hilda and William reached the four that felt
under siege. They both screamed, Hilda for fun and William for fear
that something might go wrong after all, as their speed did not
drop.

The two shapes missed each other in what
seemed the width of a very thick hair. In fact, Hilda had made each
broom shift just enough that nobody would have been touched, had
the four remained standing. She was wicked, not evil. She just
wanted certain people to think the latter.

9.
Gerdundula

The two brooms met up over the top of a
nearby mountain. Hilda kept them there for a while, clearly in view
of the shepherds.

"And this is reassuring to them, you said?",
William asked, his hood down again and still swallowing his heart
back to where nature intended it to be.

"Yes, it is. They are truly witch-fearing
people, and this little show once in a while makes them understand
that they don't fear for nothing. They also know that they won't
get hurt when the wicked witch is around."

They saw the group of shepherds frantically
waving their arms, pointing at the two flying people. Obviously
there was quite a discussion going.

Hilda nodded. "Okay, they're in the shouting
stage. Work done, onwards then." Slowly the brooms lifted to the
skies again. "We're going to the village now. See if things are in
order there."

The flight to the village went smoothly,
passing over a few hills, back in the direction of Hilda's house,
more or less, as the location of the settlement was only a few
miles from there.

William asked Hilda about the village.

William heard what she said and knew that she
was not making things up. "You can be a very dangerous woman,
Hilda," he remarked.

"Yes. I know." Hilda nodded. She looked at
him, her face serious for a moment before a grin took over. "Maybe
best to put the hood on again, William. We could go low again. I
never know in advance, in the village."

He nodded. From under the hood he watched her
for a while, until the village came into view.

Hilda's eyesight proved superior, the
salesman noticed. She said something that sounded a lot like "Oh
fuck", and then their brooms plummeted to almost street level.
There was a man whipping a mule.

Hilda raced over him and grabbed the whip.
"So, why is this?", she asked, tossing the whip to William who
caught it with one hand.

"It is eating my vegetables, and what's that
to you?", the man said. He looked as if a bath was something to
beware of, his clothes probably would dissolve if ever they got
seriously wet.

"Is this your mule?", Hilda asked.

"Yes, so?"

"And when did you feed it last?", the wicked
witch asked without being impressed by the man's fists that he
waved at her.

"I feed it when it works. And it does not
work for me," the man unleashed his simple logic.

"Oh, right, very smart," Hilda nodded. "This
mule is old. It can't work. And you should know that. You also
should know that you should not try to sell stolen vegetables."

A small crowd had by now gathered, seeing the
witch and the silent figure in blue hover over the dirty man.
"Stolen vegetables?"

"They are not stolen!", the angry mule-abuser
yelled.

"These vegetables are from a witch's garden,"
Hilda said, pointing at the basket. "I know her. And she is not
into selling her things. So you have stolen them." Her wand
appeared.

The crowd gasped, as they knew that wand and
what it could do.

"And what do you think you can do with that
stick?"

The dirty man was quite fearless, Hilda
thought. Or entirely stupid. With a wry grin she thought of the
people from William's funny world. He'd fit in there. "I'm going to
fill in for my witch sister," she said.

The wicked witch held out her hand to
William, who put the whip in it. "Offensio," she simply said, and
the whip jumped down to its previous owner. With precision and
system it started to beat the man that had previously used it on
the mule.

"Someone take care of the mule," said Hilda
and then she made the brooms take off again. As they hovered over
the local pub, they watched how someone did indeed untie the mule
and take it away. Hilda nodded.

The majority of people in crowd was watching
the two shapes over the pub that hung there in apparent
silence.

"They are wondering who you are," she
said.

"How do you know? Can you hear what they
say?"

Hilda grinned. "No. I know them and I know
how they think." Then she looked serious again. "We should go check
on Gerdundula."

The brooms swooped up and set course to the
south.

"Gerdundula?" William did not believe his
ears.

"Yeah. The witch whose veggies that guy had
stolen. I must find out how he got them. It's not like her to let
someone take her stuff. She's... rather possessive."

After a stiff flight, William's seating area
was getting a bit numb despite the air-cushion, they reached a
rather bizarre area. The trees around it looked as if they were
made of metal. They were red and wide.

"Looks quite impossible to walk through
there," he remarked to Hilda.

"Yup, that is what they're made for," Hilda
confirmed. "As I said, she's kind of possessive."

After passing over the metal forest Hilda
landed the brooms. "Walkies from here on, no flying allowed," she
elaborated.

William was grateful for that. At least he
could stretch his legs a big.

Hilda saw his face. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. Not used to sitting on a broom for
that long," William explained.

"Oh, heh, that's just some getting used to.
Come." Hilda marched ahead, to a large and aggressive metal wall
thirty yards high. She stared at it. "That's odd."

Before William could ask her what would be
odd, Hilda stepped forward and disappeared through the wall. He was
still convincing his mind that he had seen this happen, when she
came back.

"Coming with me? It's just an illusion..."
She took his hand and dragged him along until they were on the
other side of what looked as a thick wall and was nothing at
all.

Behind the walk-through wall lay a large
garden. It had patches with fruit trees, patches with vegetables,
and a small patch on which a simple wooden hut was erected.

"I don't like this," Hilda mumbled. She
walked to the hut, wand in hand and William close behind her.
"Gerdundula, where are you," she whispered.

William sensed something or heard something
and wanted to warn Hilda, but he was a second too late. The door in
the hut flew open and a dark brown shape cam charging out of it,
crashing into the witch who tumbled to the floor. William, just far
enough behind Hilda, was ready for the thing, whatever it was. The
salesman was not a fighter, but the thrill of the broomstick-ride
and the tension that hung around this place had worked him up quite
well. He had a good swing at the brown shape and hit it full in
where one would expect a face.

BOOK: Hilda - The Challenge
6.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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