Excerpt from ‘The Seventh Sorcerer’
We made room for everyone to get out of the house. When everyone was out, we stood outside the little house, looking around through the blinding darkness for Moran, but he didn't seem to be anywhere. A few people tried to climb the mountain of snow to see if he'd escaped out of the hole, but it was too steep and slippery for most of us to reach the edge of the hole. Harry, Simon, Marc and Jessica were the only ones who managed to get up to the top.
“He did come out here, didn't he?” asked Natalie. “You didn't see him anywhere on the stairs?”
“He couldn't have gotten past us,” said Tommy, as though the idea were ludicrous. “We covered the whole width.”
“Shut up for a moment,” hissed Marc's voice from high above us. “Someone's down there.”
We all looked nervously around, not sure where Marc's idea of ‘down there’ was. I listened hard and heard what he must have heard: two voices were approaching. Both were very distant, the sound distorted by the fact that I was still stuck in the hole, but the stillness of the air made their voices clearer than would have been normal for the distance. I realised who they were, and I was no longer terrified, but furious.
“That's not Moran,” I said, clenching my fists. “That's Hignat and Wilwog.”
“No,” moaned Peter. “Not now. Go away.”
“I think we should move,” said Lucien quietly. “He must have made a break for it.”
Lucien turned around and opened the door again.
“So, he must have made a break for it, eh?” repeated a mocking voice.
We all looked wildly around, and eventually we spotted him, standing up on the edge of the whole on the opposite side to where Marc, Jessica and the twins were. As far as I could tell, he was alone.
“Why would I want to make a break for it?” he asked. “That would make me a coward. What have I got to be scared of?”
“Us!” shouted Stella.
“Why would I be scared of you now?” he asked. “You don't have any magic anymore, and I do. So tell me, girl—”
“Because I've got two crystals in my pockets,” yelled Stella, “and you know what I can do with them!”
“You mean could do with them,” said Moran smugly. “Allow me to show you a little trick I've learnt; a little something that you two girls, pathetic as you were when you had the power, could never have mastered.”
I saw his outline throw something down into the whole, not too far from where Tommy stood; he yelped and got out of its way. Whatever it was, it was sure making a racket for its size. It was as though it had hundreds of stone legs, and all of them were rubbing against the ice.
“Shame it has to be so dark,” he said. “Not at all like the normal weather patterns for this time of year. In fact, I'm getting a little sick of this weather. How about I make it a bit warmer?”
I was prepared for a very weird sensation. I wasn't sure how quickly this was going to happen and I wasn't sure how hot Moran was planning to make it, but I had a feeling Moran was enjoying toying with us first before killing us. The temperature did rise; it rose quite a bit for a few seconds, then finally came to a steady temperature and stayed there. It felt to me as though it was now about 45 degrees Celsius, but maybe that was because I was used to the cold by now, or because of all the layers of clothing I was still wearing.
But seconds later, an even worse disaster began to unfold before our eyes. The snow was starting to melt, and I knew that in minutes, it would be a full-on flood. Worse, we were stuck in the middle of a great big hole with nowhere to go.
“That's a little better,” said Moran, “and it's a bit lighter, too.”
It was a bit brighter. Now I could see Moran and the thing in the snow that he was staring at. If that was Fewul, I thought, it sure didn't look very powerful. I had expected something large, like a dragon, that would instantly begin destroying everything in its path. Fewul obviously had nothing to do with that sort of destruction; perhaps it specialised in a much smaller, more effective method of destruction, though I couldn't imagine what that might be.
But I was wrong once again, as though it was becoming normal for me to be wrong about anything having to do with magic. Fewul was growing very quickly indeed. Behind me, four of the girls screamed, I heard Lucien yell, the twins collapsed and fell painfully back into the hole, and Peter took a few very quick steps backwards, then tripped over Harry and Simon. I was nearly flattened by James, who'd obviously lost the use of his legs, but I managed to shake him off, and he knocked Stella over instead.
“Get up,” said Lucien quickly. “Get up, boys! We have to be ready for anything!”
“I think he broke my back,” I breathed.
“Me, too,” gasped Stella, trying to roll out from under James. James realised what had happened and quickly got up again. Stella staggered back to her feet, clutching her dodgy arm. I would have gone to help her up under normal circumstances, but at that stage I was a bit preoccupied with the thing in the snow.
“Don't get too excited,” said Moran lazily. “Come!”
Fewul, whatever it was, stopped growing. It had more of a solid shape now; it looked like a gigantic black teddy bear, though less friendly. It stood about a head higher than Moran, and about five times his width. It was definitely the thing I'd seen in my dream, though exactly how I'd dreamt of what Fewul and Mr. Moran looked like before I'd ever seen them was anyone's guess. It rose into the air and settled itself on the edge of the hole beside Moran, looking down at us with its perfectly round head.
More screams sounded behind me, and a moment later I realised why. A horrible, biting chill stole over me as icy water filled my socks. I looked down and around me, and saw that the hole we were standing in was filling with freezing water. Huge chunks of ice were breaking away from the mountainous heaps of snow around us and melting before our eyes.
Screams above me made me look up. Marc and Jessica, who were still outside the hole, were being swept away by what I guessed must be an icy current of near-freezing water, pulling them towards the lowest point it could find. If it wasn't this hole—and it looked like it wasn't—it could only be the Jade River.…
But I had no time to dwell on this. An icy wave caught us and many of us were swept off our feet. The first wave was knee-high, and was soon followed by a second one that was waist-high; the waves were bitingly cold and pushed us backwards with incredible force. I collided with several people before a third wave struck, submerging me completely. The back of my head smashed into the brick wall of Marc's house, and stars popped in front of my eyes. I was completely dazed and lay there shivering, knowing that it wouldn't be long before I passed out.
The next thing I knew was that I was being swept along by a strong downward current. Then I landed hard on my back, colliding with what felt like tiles, and a moment later, a person landed hard on top of me. We were still submerged completely under icy water. I staggered to my feet, fighting a ruthless current that threatened to pull me down again, and managed to free my head so that I could look around.
We had been pushed all the way down the stairs and back into Marc's house, and it was Katie who had landed on top of me. As we staggered back to our feet, waist deep in water, we both tried to get back up the stairs. But the current was relentless, pushing us back into the house, sweeping us into the living room. In a moment of sheer terror, I realised that if we got trapped in the tunnels, we were goners.
There were a few people in here, struggling to get back into the hallway, but the water was rising quickly. Soon the whole house would be flooded. I knew we had only one option. I grabbed onto the walls and struggled forward against the current, managing to get to the door of the living room. Then I heard a terrible scream behind me, which was quickly stifled and died away. Looking around, I saw Katie fall under the water, and a moment later I saw her whole body shoot, like a bullet, into the fireplace and out of sight. Harry, who was crouched on top of a bench to stay out of the water, yelled out to her, calling her name desperately, but I knew it was too late.
“We've gotta get out of here, Harry. Come on!” I shouted.
But I couldn't move. The water hadn't frozen around me, but the icy cold had done enough. The muscles in my legs, which had been screaming in protest ever since I'd been forced down the stairs by the current, no longer wanted to respond to my commands. All I could do was hold on to the door frame for dear life as the water rose steadily around me. Now I stood in water up to my chest.
Then a fresh wave broke over me, sending me under. The chill over my face again was enough to cause me to involuntarily let go of the door frame. I felt my feet fly up from under me, and a moment later, I found myself being swept irresistibly into the fireplace. It was like shooting down a water slide, except that this time I was right under the water. I struggled with all my might, knowing the end was nigh, but it was useless. The current was simply too strong, and the walls were too slippery for me to gain a purchase there. My brain was whirling in panic. I couldn't breathe, and I had no idea where I was.