Sample Chapters from ‘The Seventh Sorcerer’

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Chapter 3: The Hammerson Line

Learning of Tommy’s abnormality had been the first sign that anything unusual was happening around us. At first, we thought it was a simple oddity (an isolated incident, to coin a cliché) but the magnitude of the situation became clearer to us the next day when Marc added his piece to the puzzle.

The day started plainly enough with Home Group. Peter, James and I had thought up a number of lines to use on Hall, but were let down when Mrs. Worlker turned up to let us into the room. We remembered them when English came around, in Period One, but Hall handled us quite well that day. There would be no detention that afternoon.

Periods Two and Three weren’t elective blocks, but they were classes where we weren’t in our normal groups. For Maths, Period Two, the three year-nine classes had been sorted into three groups, one each for Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced Maths, and our placement in each of those depended on our results from the previous year. Peter and I were in Intermediate Maths, while James was all on his own in Advanced. For Period Three after Recess, the LOTE (Language Other Than English) block, all three of us studied French, a subject we all looked forward to dropping at the end of the year.

“What was Hall like?” asked Peter, grinning at Felicity when we caught up with the year-tens again at Recess.

“He wasn’t so bad, actually,” replied Felicity.

“He’s a bit scary,” Lisa said quietly.

“No he’s not,” said Harry and Simon together.

“That was him on a good day,” I said happily. “He hardly went off at us at all.”

“He’s already loaded us down with work though,” Harry complained, picking up a few things which had toppled out of his locker the instant he’d opened it.

“We didn’t get one thing for English,” said Peter sarcastically. “We’re talking; reading, an essay, an oral, and something else; what was it again?”

“That will do there, Pete,” said James.

“Oh yeah, the journ—”

“That will do there, Peter,” James repeated loudly.

If Harry and Simon’s sisters were giving our sisters ideas, it would not do for any of the girls to know of the existence of our journals, though I doubted very much that any of us would want Hall reading anything we wouldn’t want the girls to know.

“Need a hand there, Harry?” I asked, not a moment too soon, for Harry was losing the battle with his locker.

“Harry!” cried Peter. “Watch that thing!”

A thick History textbook had toppled from Harry’s locker and hit Peter on the head.

“Sorry ‘bout that,” grunted Harry, trying to gather his books.

“You okay Pete?” I asked, glancing down at him where he lay on the floor.

“I’m fine,” said Peter, grimacing as he sat up. “Give that here, Harry; you ought to put in a complaint about that stupid locker of yours.”

Period Four that day was Commerce, which meant we were all back together again, and also, as it turned out, back in the regular Room 12. Our teacher, Mrs. Annie, set us to filling out answers on a long worksheet about work and leisure, which was supposed to be an introduction to whatever the first unit was about. James, Peter and I worked through it quite noisily along with Harry and Simon, who were in front of us once again; we provided answers loudly so that the rest of the class could keep up with us if they chose. Mrs. Annie gained a fair amount of my respect as a teacher just by allowing us to do this.

Health, Period Five, was one of the more fun periods. Our teacher, aptly named Mr. Happy, had a way of drawing the whole class into a discussion of things we wouldn't have otherwise been interested in discussing.

Then our last period, History, was pretty boring. We spent the whole time doing front covers for our History folders.

“Ridiculous,” James mumbled. “What are we learning from this?”

“That Mrs. Worlker plans Home Group better than other classes,” mumbled Peter; Mrs. Worlker was our History teacher.

“What do we learn in History, full stop,” I murmured.

There would have been a mad rush out of History when the bell rang, if it weren’t for the fact that half of us had been cat napping.

“Why don’t you two come home with us,” I suggested to the twins as we entered the locker bay. “There’s something we’ve got that might very well interest you.”

“Yeah,” said Peter. “That’s what we were doing last night.”

“Okay,” said Simon, raising an eyebrow at Peter. “You’re getting us involved in what you were doing last night. Now I’m scared.”

“You’re an idiot.”

The year-tens turned up at that point, ending the discussion.

“What are you two doing now?” James asked Marc and Tommy.

“Going home,” said Tommy shortly. “Homework.”

“No he’s not,” said Marc. “He’s organising to come on the school camp.”

“I meant after that,” said Tommy, laughing slightly.

“Oh yeah,” said Peter. “I forgot about that. You wouldn’t have got a form last year, would you?”

“No,” said Tommy. “Shouldn’t be too hard to fix, though.”

“What about you, Marc?” asked Simon. “You helping?”

“No,” said Marc, “I’ve gotta go somewhere.”

“Where would that be?” asked Harry, retrieving his Jacaranda History Textbook which had just shot from his locker and had hit Hignat, who was standing about eight feet away, in the back of the head.

“Good shot,” said Peter, admirably.

“I’m just … hanging out,” said Marc uneasily.

“Hanging out?”

“Well … yeah,” he said. “That’s what I do, you know.”

“What are you on about?” asked Peter.

“Well … don’t laugh at this, okay?” When we all shook our heads, he took a deep breath and said, “Some people are trying to abduct me.”

“Why would people want to do that?” asked Nicole.

“Ask yourself that,” said Peter, grinning broadly.

“I don’t know,” said Marc. “Not exactly, anyway. Look, it’s too noisy in here. Let’s go somewhere else.”

“My forms can wait; I’ve gotta hear this,” said Tommy.

The twelve of us sought privacy in Hamster’s Stretch Reserve, a quiet little place in the middle of Chopville. There was a large clearing through which the river flowed, but there was also a forest-like part where trees and shrubs grew, and it was in amongst the trees where we sat and talked.

“So what’s your story, Marc?” Harry asked when we were comfortable.

“My story,” said Marc, looking around at each of us. “Well, Tommy, you’re not the only one who has dodgy connections with the Sorcerers. There’s this really big organisation set up by three of the Sorcerers, the bad ones, and my dad’s a member.”

The three ‘bad’ Sorcerers were the Hammersons, who were a family who lived in Chopville, and one of the two Sorcerous families. Of the six living Sorcerers – people with magic – we knew three were Hammersons and the other three were the Woodwards. The Hammersons were known to be very different from the Woodwards: About thirty years ago, the Hammersons had started a war with the Woodwards, and the war had almost destroyed the world. We Playmans and Thomases knew a fair bit about how nasty the Sorcerers could be because our fathers, who had been only a few years older than we were now when the trouble began, had been closely affiliated with the Woodwards. These days, elderly Dorothy Hammerson, her grown-up son Arnold and his teenage daughter Stella were some of the most feared and despised people in the world, and that was no exaggeration.

“How much do you know about this lot?” I asked, my stomach feeling like the world had abruptly dropped out from under it.

“I’ll tell you what I know,” he said. “Dorothy Hammerson is the ring leader. There are a whole bunch of branches that take care of different things. You guys already know people from one of those; that Hignat guy’s a member.”

“You know that for sure?” Peter asked, gaping at Marc. “That’s really no surprise, but still—”

“Pretty sure of it,” said Marc. “Stella Hammerson runs that sector; I think that’s the lowest branch. It’s for young members who want to become fully qualified but aren’t ready yet. My dad’s one level up. I don’t know what that sector takes care of, but it’s run by Arnold Hammerson.”

“Is that who you think is hunting you?” asked Simon.

“Yeah,” said Marc. “I don’t even go home anymore. I pretty much rely on my brother Lucien for support; he brings me food and everything.”

“Lucien Moran? He’s the school vice-captain, isn’t he?” asked Lisa.

“Yeah. One of them, anyway.”

“Where do you stay?” asked Jessica.

“Out here,” said Marc, gesturing at the foliage around us. “In the park.”

“You should have asked for a roof,” said Harry. “You could have stayed with one of us.”

“Really?” asked Marc. His face had lit up.

“I’ve got a spare room,” said Tommy. “My parents should let you in.”

“Oh blimey. Okay,” said Marc gratefully. “Thanks Tommy, but I’ll need to keep in contact with Lucien; he’s a member of the organisation too.”

“And he’s not after you the way the others are?” asked Peter.

“No,” said Marc. “It’s weird with him. He’s in the same group as my dad but he’s never given any work by them ‘cause he’s apparently more trouble than he’s worth; never obeys or does anything they tell him. He’s on my side. Funny thing is, they promoted him up from Stella’s level recently for no reason we know of. Dad won’t say why; Lucien doesn’t even know, or didn’t when I last asked him.”

“That’s weird,” said Lisa, shaking her head. “You’re sure you can trust him?”

“Yes,” exclaimed Marc. “Of course I can. Lucien’s on my side, and always has been.”

“I’d love to help you now, Marc,” said Tommy, getting to his feet, “but I’d better get back to school; they will kill me if I stay any longer.”

“Okay,” said Marc. “Where do you live anyway?”

“Er—wait for me here,” said Tommy, taking off towards Main Street before Marc could reply.

“What else can we do to help?” asked Felicity.

“You don’t really have to do anything,” said Marc, “but I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell anyone else about all this.”

Nobody stayed with Marc after that, which was probably not very nice, but the fact was we couldn’t think of anything else we could do for him. The twins did, however, take the time to find a good and very well-concealed hiding place for him, which meant he would have to call out to Tommy whenever Tommy returned. Nicole, Felicity and Jessica had left before we did, which meant Peter, James and I could talk openly to Harry and Simon as we walked home.

“So what are you guys gonna show us?” Simon asked us.

“Better not be X-rated,” said Harry, grinning at Peter.

“Don’t look at me when you say that,” said Peter.

“Yeah,” said James, “we always knew what you do in your spare time, Pete.”

We all laughed, even Peter.

“We’ve got us a spy network,” I informed them. “There’s no such thing as privacy in Jessica’s room.”

“That’s a little nasty,” said Harry, but he was grinning. “How’d you do that? Set up a hidden web-cam in her room or something?”

“No,” said Peter, but his face took on a mischievous expression as he added, “but that’s not a bad idea; broadcast Jessica and Felicity undressing on the Internet.”

“Be better if, say … Natalie stayed the night,” I said, still grinning, and trying to picture it in my mind.

“Anyone’s better than Felicity,” said James. We all laughed again.

“She’s still a girl,” said Simon, “and you know—”

“She’s my sister,” said James in a slightly strangled voice. “I’d never be able to look at her the same way again.”

We arrived home by about half past four, where we were greeted by Hilda and Violet, both of whom were wheeling themselves along in their chairs. Hilda was my grandmother on my mother’s side while Violet was Marge’s mother. The grannies didn’t always need to use their wheelchairs; they were capable of walking. But some days they felt a bit weak in the legs, and preferred to sit down more than to walk. We bid them good day before ascending the stairs to our bedroom and sitting around our computer.

“It hasn’t worked properly yet though,” I told Harry and Simon after we were all seated. “We tried to spy on them yesterday, but they were all in Nicole’s room. That’s the disadvantage; we can’t follow them if they move around.”

“There’s one thing I don’t quite get,” said Harry. “Why would you even bother with the cord down to their room? Those wireless things obviously can see through walls if they can pick up the signal from inside Jessica’s room, so why don’t you just put one in here and the other in Jessica’s room? I’m sure you could do that, if James was able to broadcast all the way from here to the school.”

I looked at Peter. Peter looked at me. The twins laughed loudly at our expressions.

“Wait here,” said James, standing up. “I’ll just go rip up the cord.”

“James,” warned Peter, “be careful. Don’t wreck the beam; we do want them to see each other still.”

“Just let me know when I get back,” said James.

“They’ll see each other,” said Harry confidently. “They were designed that way. They can see anything up to a thousand miles away, I think.”

“Holy Lord,” I roared happily. I hadn’t known about that. “I’m gonna purchase a few more of those when I get the doe.”

“They’re pretty easy to get a hold of for free,” said Simon. “Just ask one of the Sorcerers, they make them.”

“Don’t any normal people make them?” I asked dully.

“Maybe, but I doubt they’d work as well as these do,” said Harry. “Magic-infested technology,” he added proudly, “the future of mankind.”

“Probably,” said Peter. “Be quiet now guys, let’s see what’s up next door.” Luckily for us, the three girls were all in the same room together with our microphone, and thus far James hadn’t wrecked the wireless connection. What we heard didn’t turn out to be very interesting, though.

“Oh,” said Harry bluntly after a while, “they’re just doing homework.”

“Sounds interesting,” said Peter, “a History of Magic project.”

“Hopefully they find out a bit about doubling spells,” I said knowledgeably, “like what happened to Tommy.”

When James returned, we found out that Harry had been right about the wireless microphone.

“What’ll happen when one of them finds it?” asked Simon.

“They’d have to be pretty bored to be looking where we put it,” said Peter.

“Where did you put it?” I asked, realising that neither James nor myself had bothered to ask.

“In the gap behind the desk, between the desk and the wall,” he said. “It’ll be safe as long as they don’t go moving the furniture around any time soon.”

Peter shut the computer down after that, an action which was followed by the five of us staring blankly at each other.

“So,” said James, probably wanting to make conversation, “should we do some homework?”

“Best joke I’ve heard this decade,” said Harry sarcastically, “even though the decade’s only a month in.”

“What have we got anyway?” I asked, thinking.

“I’ve got an exercise to finish for Maths tomorrow,” said James. “Not to mention all that English.”

“No health, no commerce, no French,” Peter listed off. “Definitely no history.”

“Is that all we’ve had?” I asked, surprised, because I had been feeling as though I were waist-deep in it.

“And IT,” said Peter. “Nothing there either.”

“We’ve got Media tomorrow,” said Harry. “Maybe we can fiddle around with more of those wireless things. There are plenty of them in there.”

“Nothing to worry about there, either. Ah, year-nine’s a breeze,” said Peter dreamily. The rest of us all snorted.

“Won’t last long,” said Harry. “That Mrs. Annie, she looks like the sort who’ll weigh us down completely.”

“In other words,” Peter summarised, “the only homework we’ve got, apart from that maths of yours,” he glanced at James, “which you could easily get away with not doing, is just English.”

“What are we supposed to write in our journals?” asked Harry.

“Geez,” said James, “I hope the girls aren’t spying. Remember?”

“Depends how honest we want to be,” said Peter. “For one thing, I’ve learnt a great deal of stuff over the last two days.”

“We can’t write that,” said both twins at once.

“That’s what I mean,” said Peter. “Tommy will be mighty pissed if he found out, not to mention Marc.”

“We don’t really need to worry about Tommy,” I said. “I mean, it’s not something that preys on our minds all the time, is it? Marc might be something—”

“And we can’t write about Marc,” said Harry firmly, “since he asked us not to tell anyone. We dunno who might read it.”

“Besides, I’m not sure if it’s such a good thing,” said Peter, “but Hall would probably keep them on him.”

“That’s good,” said James, reassured.

“No it’s not!” Harry exploded. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s part of that secret organisation or whatever it is.”

“Look at it this way,” I said reasonably. “We know the Sorcerers can read minds. So, anyone who is a friend of Marc can be expected to be treated especially badly, but only by people who have connections with the Hammersons, which at school would be anyone we see hanging around with Stella Hammerson.”

“Okay,” said Harry, much more calmly. “When have we got English? Before Monday?”

“Yeah,” said Peter. “Period Three tomorrow.”

“I suggest we monitor him,” said Harry.

“Okay,” said James. “Problem one, what if he teaches the class like he’s taken a dose of Valium, like he did today?”

“We can make him notice us even more,” said Harry quickly. “It’s easy enough to get Hall mad.”

“He is mad,” said Peter, grinning.

“Problem two—”

“Don’t be so negative, James.”

“Just say he’s not at school tomorrow?”

“Then … oh James,” Harry cried out in exasperation. “Don’t worry about it. If he doesn’t turn up, then we don’t know, do we? So we write nothing. Simple.”

“Smartest thing I’ve ever heard you say,” said Peter.

“Oh shut up, Playman,” smirked Harry.

“Hey guys,” I said anxiously, “do you really think Marc’s in any danger?” The four of them looked at each other, then at me.

“Hope not,” said Harry. “I can’t understand, well, a couple of things. Why are they after him, for one? I mean, what’s Marc done to score special hatred from the Hammerson Sorcerers? And another thing, which might have something to do with it, but why is it that if his brother, what’s-his-name is a member, and he’s on Marc’s side, doesn’t do what he’s told, then why isn’t Marc the same? Why haven’t they got him on reserve like his brother?”

“I’ve got a possible answer for that,” said Peter. “I don’t know why Marc didn’t say this, but maybe they want to put him on reserve, but he keeps running away.”

“Yeah,” I said, “but Marc would have told us that.”

The five of us continued to stare at each other, hoping someone would come up with another explanation, but no such luck.

“I thought the army the Hammersons once had was disbanded,” said James after a moment.

“Maybe they’re gonna take on the Woodwards all over again,” said Simon, looking nervous. “That’s if they’re only reforming now. It sounds like they never actually disbanded.”

“But that doesn’t explain why they would be after Marc, does it?” asked Peter.

“Do we tell the girls this?” asked Simon.

“Tell them what?” asked Peter. “We haven’t thought of anything.”

“We have, actually,” said Harry. “About his brother, and about Hall—”

“We don’t tell them we’re thinking of writing about them in our journals,” I pointed out, “and in all honesty we should probably avoid doing that anyway.”

“Say nothing,” said James firmly. “Wait till at least after English, then mention our theories, the one John came up with about working out who our enemies are, and about Marc running away. Maybe we can ask Marc that one tomorrow.”

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