The sisters ran back into town, the adder stone held to Amber’s face. They had explored the town with the adder stone before, but things were different today. Remnants of the adults’ spells and charms lay scattered about the streets, appearing through the stone like ripped nets and broken chain. Amber couldn’t help but exclaim in wonder when they came upon the first wooden bear.
The creature was veined with glowing magic. It ran in streams up and down the creature’s wooden fur, tracing exotic patterns over the bear’s form. Beneath the bright layer of runes, however, was a more subdued layer, like a fine and subtle tapestry flesh against the animal’s skin.
“That’s it,” Amber said, passing the stone to Ash. “Do you see it? The layer of magic covering the bears?”
“Oooh, pretty,” Ash said. “We made that?”
“Guess so. I think if we pull it off the spell will come undone.”
“Can we do that?” Ash asked.
“Well,” Amber said, taking the stone back. “We can try. Willow!” she called, running ahead to where Willow and a few of the Black Moon Society had wrangled up a few of the bears with what appeared to be a whip made of fire. The creatures were snapping at where the bands of fire were burning into the wood, but they appeared to be secure – for now.
“Are these guys stuck?” Amber asked, looking at the burning whip through the adder stone. Surprisingly it looked much the same, though words seemed to float in and out of the fire in writing too small to read.
“Glad to see you girls are alright,” Willow said. “Yeah, we’ve got these ones tied up. Jack was heading out to round up the rest and push them in this direction. What’ve you got in mind?”
“Um, well, it’s not much of a plan,” Amber admitted. “Can I get up close to it?”
“Sure,” Willows said, drawing another whip of fire out of her hands. The girls watched her in amazement. “I’ve got your back.”
Amber had to tear her eyes away. “Okay,” she said, edging up to the bear. The creature shook as she reached out, and she had to stop herself from scurrying away. Hesitantly, Amber placed her hand on the bear’s fur. Like before, she could feel the warmth of the magic, but this time she could see it as well. She scrunched her fingers in tight, bringing some of the magical netting into her hand. It felt soft and light, and if she hadn’t been using the adder stone she wasn’t sure she would have noticed she were holding anything at all. Giving it a slight tug, some of the weaving slipped through her fingers, slick as silk. Amber let go and tried again, grabbing a bigger handful as she twined the threads about her fingers to secure her grip. Again she pulled, and this time some of the magic came away from the surface of the bear. It only gave a few inches, however, before the tension was more than Amber could overcome. Even so, she spent a few moments struggling to pull the magic away and eventually passed the adder stone to Ash so she could use her other hand to brace against the bear. Amber grit her teeth, putting all her strength into it. But the magic refused to give.
Amber let go and backed away, giving her hand (prickling with static from the magic) a rest and taking a moment to catch her breath.
“Maybe you should try, Ash,” she said. “Maybe the fact that you’re the floramancer would help. Could you see what I was doing?”
“Yep,” Ash said, lowering the adder stone from her eye. “I was watching. I’ll try!”
Using the stone as her sister had to ensure her grip on the magic weaving, Ash also set about trying to pull the magic away, struggling as Amber had. Willow watched the girls silently, waiting until Ash had also given up before stepping in.
“You girls have the right idea, I think,” Willow said. “But brute force won’t cut it. Try exercising a bit more precision – maybe try to rip rather than pull. If you’ve got a magical item to channel your intent, it could help.”
“We don’t have anything besides this,” Ash said, holding up the adder stone.
“No, we do!” Amber said. “The dowsing stones. They might work – and they’re sharp. Ash, do you have them?”
“Yeah!” Ash said, brightening at the prospect. Digging around in her pocket, she produced the two arrowheads.
“Great,” Amber said, taking one. “Here’s goes nothing.” Holding up the adder stone, she turned back to the bear.
Just then Jack returned, walking two cat-size bears on rope leashes.
“Whoa, neat,” he said, admiring the group of bears Willow and the Black Moon Society had bound together. He noticed Amber and Ash. “What’s going on?”
“Amber and Ash are going to try to unwind their spell,” Willow explained. “Now hush, given them some space.” She turned back to the girls. “Try to together,” Willow said. “It might work better if both of you acted at once. Since both of you made the spell, it might take both to break it.”
Amber nodded, turning back to the bear and taking a fistful of the magical weaving. Making sure her grip was secure, she passed the adder stone over to Ash, and transferred the arrowhead to her freehand. Ash did the same.
“You ready?” Amber said, focusing on the magic in her hands. It was the strangest sensation; though she couldn’t see anything, she could feel the magic that was there, however faint the sensation. A warmth spread through her hands as she concentrated on it, and then extended outwards, encompassing the arrowhead as well. She couldn’t say how, exactly, she knew that, but it was as if the tool had become an extension of her. Amber grinned, suddenly giddy from all the magic she was learning – or maybe it was just the adrenaline.
“Ready,” Ash said, her tool also in place.
“Alright, then. Set…”
“Go!” Ash cried.
Amber jabbed the stone forward. The arrowhead stopped, apparently suspended in mid air. Amber grit her teeth, pressing against the magical strands. Ash was also struggling with the stone, continuously losing her grip on the invisible weaving and jabbing blindly once more.
After a minute of silent struggle, Amber closed her eyes. Looking at it wasn’t helping her anyway – she had to feel what she was doing. And, surprisingly, it helped.
Without her sight to distract her the magic felt more distinct and tangible between her fingers. The dowsing stone also felt more alive in her hands, almost buzzing with energy. She mentally reached out, extending her will through the stone, and pressed both into the spell.
The magical weaving parted effortlessly before her.
“Ah!” Amber said, letting go as she opened her eyes. “It ripped, I felt it! Ash, try it with your eyes closed.”
It took the younger sister a little longer to catch on, but the moment her stone also snipped through the magic, the bewitched bear shuddered. Amber and Ash stepped back as the creature shrunk down to half its size and then grew rigidly still. Willow reached down to pick the lawn ornament up, undoing her own strands of binding magic.
“Well done,” she commented. The sisters beamed. “That’s one down and…”
“Like, a hundred!” Jack cut in.
“-A hundred to go,” Willow chuckled. “You girls think you can handle it?”
“Yeah!” Ash said, jumping up as she punched the air with her dowsing stone. “That was awesome! We can handle it.”
“As long as you keep the bears still,” Amber added.
“Finish these ones up,” Willow said. “Then you can go around looking for the others that escaped. Jack can help keep them distracted for you. You can make the fire rope, right, Jack?”
“Oh,” Jack said, surprised to have been volunteered. He looked down at his hands, which he brought together with a small burst of flame. When he brought them apart, he held two ends of a flaming, red cord. “Uh, sure, I can do that.”
“Get going, then!” Willow said, waving the girls to the next beast. “You’ve got a lot to clean up.”
It was early afternoon before the girls had tracked down all the bears and helped restore the town to its previous state of undishevelment. Much of the work required more heavy lifting (and not nearly as much magic) as they had hoped, though truth be told the girls were a little magicked out at the moment.
In the time since the girls had released – and subsequently undone – the spell, Nan had become aware of the all the commotion and come down to the village to give the girls a stern talking to. Amber even offered to turn the spell book over to her for safe keeping, but the old woman declined.
“It was your mother’s and now it’s yours, for better or worse,” she sighed. “Keep good care of it. And let this be a lesson to you in wielding magic you don’t understand.”
“Can you teach it to us?” Amber asked. “We can bring the book over to your house, and you can tell us what all the spells mean.”
“Perhaps not all of them,” Nan pondered. “But yes, I think that’s a good idea.”
“Hey, um…” Jack edged a bit closer to Nan and the girls. “Maybe, uh, I could come? And learn something from the book, too.” He scratched his head, looking away. “Probably some really cool fire magic in there or something.”
“I dunno,” Ash said, narrowing her eyes at Jack.
“Sure,” Amber said, stopping her sister. “You can come.”
“Good,” Jack said with a nod. “You owe me after keeping me from delivering my papers, after all!” The boy scampered off before either of the girls could object. Ash sighed and rolled her eyes, but Amber just shook her head with a chuckle.
“Thanks, Nan,” she added, double checking they had all their things – and all the loose pages of the spell book – before they left. “We’ll be much more careful with this – I promise.”
“I think I’m just going to sleep all day,” Ash said with a yawn as they were walking back to their house. “Just fall down on the floor and sleep.”
“Might have to clear some space in the living room first,” Amber teased. “We’ve still got the spell’s mess to clean up before dad gets home.”
“Oh, no,” Ash groaned, slapping her hands to her face. “I forgot about that! That’s going to take forever!”
“We’ll have to air out the house, too,” Amber said, remembering all the candles, incense, and exotic spices the spell had required. “At least he won’t be back until-”
“Now!” Ash exclaimed, the girls freezing as they came around the last corner before their house. Their dad’s car was parked in front of the cabin. The sisters paled.
It was a long walk up to the front door.
“Home,” Amber weakly called as she pushed open the front door. Their dad wasn’t far away, standing before the mess they had left on the kitchen table and living room floor. Peter turned to his girls, surprise, confusion, and disappointment apparent on his face.
“You were supposed to stay close to the house while I was away,” he said, and both the girls looked at the floor. “I was just about to head into town to look for you two.”
“We’re sorry, dad,” Ash said. “We… we were just…”
Peter put a hand on each of his daughters’ shoulders, then leaned down and pulled them both into a hug.
“I was worried about you guys, okay? You scared me. The house was unlocked – I didn’t know if anything had happened to you.”
“We’re okay, dad,” Amber said, squeezing him tightly back. “I’m sorry. We shouldn’t have gone.”
Peter gave them another squeeze before reluctantly letting go. “Just don’t do it again, okay? Now, as for this mess…” he turned to look back at the living, which was still overrun with candle wax, chalk drawings, and small piles of herbs.
“Oh!” Amber said. “We’ll clean it up! We were just about to, I promise! We just didn’t think you’d be home so soon.”
“Yeah,” Peter said, straightening up. “Came back early. It… didn’t work out, I’m afraid.” Peter rubbed his head wearily. “What is this mess, anyway?”
Ash looked up from where she was starting to pick up the living room floor, and gave their dad a mischievous grin.
“Magic!” she declared.