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Excerpt for Barben's Magic Quest The Magic Begins by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



The Magic Begins

Copyright Elaine Ouston 2018


ISBN: 978-0-6481647-9-1


Morris Publishing Australia

19 Caloundra St, Landsborough, Qld, 4550

www.morrispublishingaustralia.com




The right of Elaine Ouston to be identified as the

author of this work has been asserted by her.


All rights reserved

This book is sold subject to the conditions that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, hired out or otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permissions of Morris Publishing Australia.


This is a work of fiction. Names, character, places, incidents, and dialogue are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.




Prologue


As twelve-year-old, Katie Clark settled for the night in a hollow ancient tree, she shook her head in wonder. Yesterday she was a normal Australian girl on holiday in Ireland. All that has changed – now she has magic powers and has been asked to help a wizard save the world’s ancient forests. Katie finally fell asleep, exhausted by the most exciting day of her life.





Chapter One

Falling into danger


Katie charged up Torc Mountain as if a raging bull was chasing her. She had to be first to the lookout; she had to see if they were still there. Her feet flew over the loose stones and fallen leaves on the path, creating a whirlwind that made them swirl behind her.

Her heavy coat slowed her down, but the air was cold and she knew she would freeze if she took it off. Her heart was pounding from the steep climb. Flicking her long dark hair from her face, she raced on. She looked back for her cousins, Sariah and Jacob, and her older brother Mike, who were following her. Sariah was close behind, her red curls flying out behind her as she ran, but the boys were way back, sword fighting with a couple of sticks as they jogged.

Katie arrived well ahead of the others. She bent over with her hands on her knees to catch her breath. The dazzling scene of the lake view didn’t grab her attention this time. When she got her breath back, she peered over the edge into the trees below to see if they were still there. She wasn’t sure now if they were real, or if she had imagined them. They had flashed so quickly in front of her eyes.

***

It had all started that morning when they arrived at the picnic spot below Torc Waterfall in the Killarney National Park, just a few kilometres from the town of Killarney where they were staying. They climbed the path to the waterfall, and stood and stared in awe at the water tumbling over the falls many metres above their heads. The falls flowed into pools and then gushed down the stream below, creating many small waterfalls as it went.

After she and her cousins scrambled around the rocks at the bottom of the falls, Katie and her mum climbed the steep steps and path to explore the area above the falls.

A thick, tall, ancient forest surrounded them. The canopy above was so dense that the sun couldn't get through, so moss covered the tree trunks, and ferns grew thickly below, surrounding the trees. Katie gazed at the thick canopy above. Walking along the path was like walking through a tunnel of trees.

They stopped at a lookout with a view of the lakes and stood gazing at the valley and lakes below them. The sound of the rush of running water above and below filled the air. Bird calls were the only other sounds. The forest spread out below them like a path of green that led to the lakes. The lakes' surfaces sparkled in the sunlight as if they were sprinkled with diamonds.

Katie and her mum were mesmerised by the perfect scenery, until a gust of wind blew dust into Katie’s face. She sneezed and looked down to protect her eyes. At her feet, she caught a flutter of large, rainbow-coloured wings.

She kneeled to get a better look, the creatures fluttered wildly in front of her, too fast for Katie to see what they were.

Katie’s heart fluttered in time with their wings and she held her breath, awestruck by their beauty.

“Look, Mum, what are they? They’re so beautiful.”

But whatever they were, they vanished as soon as her mum turned to look at them.

“What, Katie?”

“Oh, Mum, they were large and their wings were so pretty, but they fluttered too fast for me to see what they were, they looked like…” Katie stopped; she didn’t want to say what she thought they were in case her mum thought she was weird.

“Probably butterflies, Kate. Come on, we’d better head back. It’s close to lunch time.”

Katie went reluctantly, but she couldn’t get the image of the creatures out of her mind. When they arrived back at the picnic site, she rushed to find her cousins, Sariah and Jake, and her brother Mike.

They were gathered around a stranger in a ranger’s uniform with her Uncle Steve and her elder brother, Aaron. She heard Aaron say, “I heard there was a problem in the forest here.”

“Aye, to be sure. We have had some weird goings on. Very old trees dying for no reason. We have to get in the loggers to cut them before they fall down and hurt someone or destroy other trees. But then, some that we think are dead suddenly start spurting new growth. It’s a puzzle, I tell ya.”

“I’m a forest ranger in Australia so I’ll keep an eye out and let you know if I see anything odd,” Aaron said frowning.

The ranger nodded. “I don’t have to tell you now how vital it is keeping the forest safe. With all the pollution in the air, we need the oxygen our trees produce more than ever. Be careful though, there is something strange here to be sure.” He waved goodbye and strode off up the path.

Katie stood listening, shifting impatiently from one foot to the other. When the ranger had gone, she rushed over to Sariah, Jake, and Mike. “Guess what? I just saw some kind of large insects and they had rainbow-coloured wings. They were beautiful. They were up by the lookout. Let’s go back and see what they are,” she said, shuffling her feet impatiently.

“Probably butterflies,” Sariah said and flopped down on the blanket.

“But, they weren’t. They were more like… oh… I don’t know. They weren’t butterflies though. Please come with me,” Katie pleaded. She wasn’t game to mention what she thought they were to them either. They would just laugh at her.

“Okay, let’s go, I’m bored hanging around here anyway,” Mike said.

Jake nodded. “Yeah, I’ll come too.”

Sariah rose to her feet. “Okay, but this had better be good.”

Debbie overheard the conversation. “Okay, but just to the lookout and then back for lunch in one hour,” she said.

***

Katie had just caught her breath when Sariah came up beside her, gasping for air. When her cousin had got her breath back she said, “Well, where are they? I didn’t come all this way for nothing.”

Katie leaned over the edge. “There was a gust of wind last time, and then a cloud of dust blew into my face and made me sneeze. Then they were there. Maybe the wind blew them up. But there doesn’t seem to be any at the moment.” She sighed with disappointment.

As if it was listening, a blast of wind rushed up through the trees. The same dust blew in both of their faces and they sneezed. Katie saw them first. “There. See, I told you. What do you think they are?” she cried.

Sariah bent down to get a closer look. “Wow. You are right. They are interesting.”

The creatures fluttered before them and then flew off down the path to the left. Sariah and Katie hesitated before following them.

The path was very steep and rough. Roots of the trees around the path stuck out of the ground and those and large smooth rocks helped to make steps. But the ground was uneven and dusted with loose stones between them. They slipped and slid as they climbed down.

The girls tried to watch the creatures as well as watch where they were going. That didn’t work out too well.

As the creatures flew off to the left of the path, Katie stepped on a slippery rock and went for a slide over the side, following their flight path. Fear gripped Katie’s chest, squeezing the breath from her body. She closed her eyes, gulped in air, and hoped she would land on something soft.

Sariah reached for her and slipped on the same rock. She grabbed for a tree branch to stop her fall, but missed. She fell onto her bottom and slid all the way down the path. The rough path scraped her back as she flew down over the roots, gravel, and rocks. “Ow, ow, ow,” she cried as she bounced her way down. She came to a stop on a ledge 2 metres from the ground. She peered over. In front of her, the river rushed past. The bank of the river was strewn with large rocks and gravel. Occasional ferns grew between them close to the bank. Looking up, she couldn’t see Katie. She called her name but the sound of the rushing river drowned out her call. She must have fallen all the way to the river bank, she thought.

Finding a clear spot below, she jumped down. Landing on her feet, she brushed the dirt from her jeans and rubbed her sore back. She looked around, searching for Katie.

***

Suddenly, Katie came to an abrupt halt. She heard the rustling of leaves and Sariah crying out in pain. Her eyes flew open. She looked around, hardly able to believe she was still alive.

Panic stole her breath again when she realised she was hanging in a tree. Her coat had caught on a branch. With her head spinning from the fall, she pulled herself onto the nearest large branch and unhooked her coat.

Below she could hear the sound of water skipping gleefully over rocks as it made its way down to the waterfall below. Beside her, a white powder covered the branches and leaves and drifted down below her. It stole into her nostrils as she moved. She sneezed again. Worried about her cousin, she yelled, “Sariah, where are you?”

Then she heard a sneeze below her. “Sariah, is that you,” she called. “Are you okay?” She held her breath, waiting for an answer.

Sariah moved in the direction of the voice, looked up, and saw Katie sitting in the tree. “I’m down here, Katie – on the ground just below you. Are you all right?”

Katie peered down through the branches at Sariah. Her head spun and she looked up again. “Whoa! Yes, I think so... as long as I don’t look down. I fell into a tree and my coat caught on the branches.”

The flutter of rainbow wings in front of her face stirred up a cloud of the fine, white dust again. “Oh no!” she cried knowing what was to come. After a fit of sneezing, she clutched the branch, overcome by dizziness. Shaking her head to clear it, she peered at the creatures, trying to see what they were, but they disappeared before she could get a good look.

“Sariah, I’m covered in white dust. It’s making me dizzy.”

“Yeah, I’ve got it all over me as well. I don’t know what it is, but I’m dizzy too. Try to climb down here. It's only about 3 metres.”

Katie started to look for footholds on the trunk, but every time she moved, her foot slipped. Her fear of heights stole through her body like icy water and froze her to the spot. “I can’t do it, Sariah. I’m scared of falling again.”

She looked up to see if Mike and Jake were looking over the edge. She soon realised they wouldn't be able to see her where she was, as the canopy was too thick above her. “I hope the boys went back to get help,” she called down to Sariah.

“Me too. Stay there for a minute and I will try to find a way for you to climb down.”

Katie could hear Sariah moving around beneath her. She wished her mum or Aaron was with her now. They would know what to do.

She longed to be back at the picnic spot. Scenes of sitting under the trees enjoying the picnic the hotel had packed for them ran through her head like the re-run of a favourite movie. She smiled as she watched it – until a face interrupted the cosy scene and turned it into a horror movie. It was their nanny, Wendy.

Katie shivered. “I’d even settle for that nasty, bossy witch getting me out of here,” she muttered.

If Katie could have seen into the future, she wouldn’t have made that wish.



Chapter Two

The search


Mike and Jake arrived at the lookout and looked around for the girls. They stared briefly at the view, but were more interested in why the girls weren’t there. They called them but got no reply. All they could hear was the sound of birds calling and water rushing over the rocks below. They inched forward as far as they could go and peered over the edge carefully. Below, the trees were so dense that they couldn’t see the ground. All they could see was an occasional glimpse of running water.

“What if they fell over the edge?” Jake said to Mike.

His heart racing, Mike called again as loudly as he could, “Katie! Sariah!” The wind caught his words and carried them off on a swirling trip behind them.

The boys raced up and down the path around the lookout, like puppies at a fence, calling out the girl’s names. Jake looked down the path to the left of the lookout, “There's a path here, but it's steep and rough. The girls would never have made it down.” He fell onto his stomach and inched carefully towards the edge.


Under his body, the rough gravel rolled like ball bearings beneath a conveyer belt – threatening to deliver him to a premature death. He clung to the long grass with one hand, pushed aside the leaves with the other, and peered down through the dense growth. He could see a small portion of the river bank below. There were no mangled bodies. Relief coursed through him.

“I can’t see them on the ground. Where could they be?” He slid back and scrambled to his feet.

“We have to find them. We better go down the path to see if they are down there,” Mike said, peering down the steep the path to see how far it went.

“No way! It's too steep. I'm telling you, they wouldn't have gone down there. We should go back and tell Dad we can't find them,” Jake argued.

A voice behind them made them jump. “The girls went up further – into the forest over the other side of the bridge.”

The boys spun around to see a stranger approaching them from the path. Mike’s mind swirled with confusion. Our parents told us not to trust strangers. Should we listen to this man?

“It pretty dark in that part of the forest and it's easy to get lost. You boys are smaller and fitter than me, so you’ll be able to follow them.” The man pointed up the steep path ahead.

The boys exchanged doubtful glances.

“I think we should go back,” Jake said.

Mike shook his dark head furiously. “What if the girls are in trouble? He’s right. We’ll be able to get to them quicker than anyone.”

The man smiled. “You go and find them before they go too far. I know where you’re parents are, I’ll go tell them where you've gone.”

The boys headed off up the path; reassured that their parents knew where they were.

“If we all get lost, maybe they’ll send a rescue helicopter, and we’ll get to ride back in it,” Mike said.

Jake snapped, “Yeah right, dork; as if that would happen.” Secretly, he hoped Mike was right. He had always wanted a ride in a helicopter.

Mike charged ahead and started following the path. He was determined to find the girls. Jake followed him closely.

“Please let them be okay,” Mike mumbled to himself. “Mum will be furious if something happens to Katie when I’m supposed to looking out for her.” He groaned as an image of his angry Mum popped into his head.

The man stood watching them go, a grin of satisfaction on his face. “Now I have you where I want you,” he said.



Chapter Three

Trapped on a rocky ledge


Katie was so engrossed in the movie in her head that she didn’t see them at first. The curious creatures she had seen before surrounded her again. There were lots of them now, all buzzing angrily around her, stirring up the dust.

She tried to focus and get a good look at them, but they were moving too fast. All she could see were rainbow wings fluttering in front of her face. They were larger than any insects she had ever seen.

She tried to shrink down to get away, but as she did, she stirred up the dust and started sneezing again. “Buzz off, you lot,” she said, brushing at them with her hands. “Sariah,” she shouted. “The huge insects are bugging me, what’ll I do?”

“They're harmless. Chase them away,” Sariah yelled. “There are no lower branches on the tree. You’ll just have to jump.”

As suddenly as they came, the rainbow creatures disappeared. “They’ve gone. I’m going to try to get down now,” Katie said. Anything is better than clinging to this tree with those weird things buzzing around me.

As she searched for a strong lower branch to stand on, she noticed one of them still hovering near her. She tried to chase it away. It wouldn’t go. It finally landed in her hair. She tried to brush it off, but it stuck there like spear-grass on woolly socks. She decided to leave it.

She looked down and saw Sariah looking up. She looked a long way away. Her dreaded fear of heights returned and her head began spinning. She knew she had to jump down. There was no other way to the ground. She took a deep breath and prepared to jump. Just as she was about to let go, the thing started buzzing around again, trying to get her attention. It landed on her hand. She brushed it off. “I’m going to jump,” she called and placed her foot on a branch below her.

As she stood up, she heard a loud crack. The branch broke under her weight. She screamed with fear as she started to fall with the branch. The heavy branch plunged rapidly to the ground. Sariah yelped and sprang out of the way. But something strange happened. Instead of hurtling downwards with the branch, Katie started floating, as if she was drifting down on a cloud. Sariah stared in amazement as Katie came slowly down and landed safely beside her.

Her eyes wide, Sariah asked, “How did you do that?”

“I don’t know,” Katie replied in a shaky voice.

Just then, the creature landed on her hand again. Curious, Katie drew her hand closer to her face and squinted.

She staggered backwards in shock. The creature had a tiny human-like body, gossamer wings, and bright blue eyes. Wow, it is a fairy, she thought.

Afraid of frightening it away, Katie whispered, “Sariah, look at this!”

Sariah leaned close and peered at the creature. It stared up at her impatiently. “No way!” Sariah exclaimed. “Fairies don't exist.”

“I’ve always believed in fairies. That’s what I thought they were all along,” Katie said.

Sariah laughed nervously. “It must be the dust making us see things.”

“Wait,” said a small voice, “I am real. We do exist, but only some people can see us.”

Katie and Sariah stared. The fairy was not much bigger than the length of Katie's hand. She had long blonde hair and a short dress made of light silky fabric. Her wings were the most incredible sight, every colour of the rainbow and cobweb fine.

“How come we can see you then?” Sariah asked.

“It’s because of the magic dust that covered you when you fell into that tree. The tree is our home. The other trees and the steep bank shelter and protect us. It is so hard to get to that no one has ever discovered us before. The magic dust is stored in a special gossamer sack.”

Glaring at Katie she added, “You fell through it, tore the fabric, and were covered in dust. You were lucky you did. The effect of the powder slowed your fall so you could land safely on the ground.” Indicating Sariah, the fairy said. “The other girl breathed it in as it fell on her.”

Sariah shook her head as if to make the image disappear. “Yeah, right! So the dust is making us hear things as well, Katie. We’ve got to get back up to the top path.” She turned and started searching for a way to climb up the 2 metre steep rock wall.

Katie stared at the fairy. “What’s your name?”

“I’m Elly, the Princess of the fairies. It’s my job to take care of you now that you both have magic powers. I have to teach you how to control and use them.”

“Magic powers! What do you mean?” Katie gasped.

Sariah’s heard her and came rushing back. “What are you talking about?”

The fairy’s wings fluttered wildly. “You must listen to me. I don’t have a lot of time. I must get back and help with the patrol of the forest. Strange things are happening here and we have to report any unusual things we see to the Keeper of the Forest.”

“Yeah, we heard about that from the ranger. Who is the Keeper of the Forest?”

“That is not important now. Please sit down so that I can explain,” she begged.

The girls squatted on a nearby rock. Elly hovered in front of them. “When you were covered in magic dust and breathed it in, you took on the powers of a fairy.”

Katie leapt up like an excited joey. “You mean we can fly?”

Elly sighed. “Not really… please sit down and listen to me. You’re too heavy and you don’t have wings, so you can’t fly. But you can float, just as you did when you fell out of the bush.”

All sorts of possibilities popped into Sariah’s head and she grinned like a cat with a trapped mouse. “Magic powers, eh? Boy, am I going to get my own back on the boys now. They’d better watch out. Can I turn them into toads or something?"

Elly's wings fluttered. She shook her head impatiently, “No, you can’t. Your powers can only be used to help yourself, or people you care about, in times of danger.”

Katie was hopping around in excitement like a child on Christmas morning. “So what else can we do except float?”

“I don’t have time to explain it all to you now. I won’t be far, so I’ll hear you if you call. Your powers will appear as you need them. Just remember that you can do almost anything now to save yourselves; and other people with you,” Elly said.

She started to fly away, but turned back. “There is one more thing. You will now be able to see the other magic folk and creatures. And you can call on most of them for help if you need it."

“You mean like eh... elves and leprechauns?” Katie asked.

“Yes, them, as well as… the others,” Elly said as she flew out of sight.

The two girls sat in silence for a while trying to make sense of what had happened. Finally, Sariah said, “It can’t be true. It must be the powder. I’m sure it must be dust from some poisonous mushroom. I’ve heard they can make you see things.” She went back to her search for a safe way to climb up.

Katie was still excited. She stood up. Magic powers, wow! She thought Sariah was wrong about Elly, but knew they had to get back to the path.

She looked around. Rocks and stones covered the ground. Beside her the stream that fed the waterfall rushed by as if it couldn’t wait to leap over the rocky ledges and into the valley below. Above her, she could hear the call of a bird. Looking up she saw a small, colourful bird sitting on the branch above her. “Hey, Sariah, they have Kingfishers here too. Look, isn’t it pretty with its blue feathers and orange breast. It’s just like the ones we have at home.”

Sariah barely glanced at the bird. She was so engrossed in finding footholds in the rock.

Katie watched the bird until it flew off, then sighed. “The boys must be back to our parents by now. Everyone will be here soon looking for us,” she said. But she sounded more confident than she felt.

She flopped like a rag doll onto the cold hard rock and closed her eyes to squeeze back the tears that threatened to fall. “I wonder where they are now,” she muttered.

As she spoke, she could suddenly see the two boys as clearly, as if they were in front of her. She saw them heading over a bridge that spanned the stream at its source. As they ran, they called the girls’ names. Katie shook her head in wonder. It was as though she was watching a movie in her head.

“Sariah,” she called, “They didn’t go back for help. They’re up ahead at the top of the stream looking for us!”

Sariah stared around her, peering upstream. All she could see were huge trees hugging the bank and leaning over, looking down at the stream as if admiring their reflection in the water. The stream twisted above where the girls stood and hid its source from view.

“How do you know? I can't see them and I’ve looked everywhere,” Sariah said.

“When I closed my eyes and thought about them, I could see them. It was weird, like... um... I don’t know… a dream or… something… I think...” her voice trailed off. She realised she couldn’t be sure of anything right now. It was all so strange.

Sariah shook her head. Wishful thinking is more like it, she thought. Now she was really worried about Katie. “It’ll be okay,” she said. “I’m sure the boys went to get our parents. Help me find a way up.”

They both prowled along the bank like caged lions, looking for a foothold, but the rock face was steep.

The cold, black cloud of dread crept into Sariah’s heart. A light misty rain was beginning to fall and she shivered. She tried to put on a brave face, because she could see Katie was biting her lip in anxiety.

“Let’s just sit down for a while,” she said. They slumped onto the cold ground, despair folding their bodies like a wet dishcloth. Katie snuggled in close to get warm.

Sariah closed her eyes. “I wonder if they’ll find us. I hope those boys got back okay,” she said.

Just as the words left her lips, she saw them. The boys were on a rough path that climbed into the forest on the other side of the bridge.

“No way!” she exclaimed. Her eyes flew open in shock.

Katie looked into Sariah’s startled eyes.

Sariah whispered in a very shaky voice, “Do what you said you did before.”

Katie tilted her head and frowned. “What?”

“You know... close your eyes and think about where the boys are."

Katie did. She jumped up. “I saw them again. They’re going into the forest.”

“I know. I saw them too.” Sariah was excited now. “Maybe there’s something in this magic thing after all.”

Katie’s face glowed with delight. “Cool! We’re both magic! I knew it,” she shouted. “Boy, it’s weird though.” Her heart hammered with excitement.

Then a thought popped into her head. “Remember how I floated down to you? Well... maybe we can float up onto the top of that rock and then we can climb up the path.” She rushed to the wall. Sariah raced to her side. They looked at each other in despair. They had no idea how to try to float. They cowered there like lost sheep.

The sun hid behind a cloud again, and the cold stole in around them like an icy blanket, making them shiver. Sariah took a deep breath and began searching the area for rocks they could use to make steps.

Katie looked around her. The shadows under the trees on the bank looked like monsters lying in wait. She shivered and hugged herself to stay warm.

Sariah gave up her search and gazed at the majestic trees that surrounded them. She replayed the conversation she had with ranger earlier.

“This forest is now protected, but they are having a problem with unexplained destruction amongst the trees. The government is very concerned,” he told her.

Her eyes stopped at a large stately Oak high above them on the other side of the stream. Its head towered proudly above all the trees around, looking down on them as if they were beloved children. What a shame it would be if that beautiful tree died, she thought.

Katie was deep in thought. Then her face lit up. “I know. I’ll call Elly. She said if we needed her, she’d come.”

“Get real, Katie. She won’t even hear us.”

Katie ignored her. “Princess Elly, Elly,” she called as loudly as she could.

Suddenly the fairy was there, hovering like a tiny humming bird. “What is it? Why are you still here?” she asked.

“Oh… sorry… but we can’t find a way up this steep wall,” Sariah said.

“What do you mean? Didn’t you listen to anything I said? You can do almost anything to save yourself.”

“I told Sariah we could just float like I did before, but... I guess... even though I… sort of believe it… I’m not sure how to do it. Will you show us how, please,” Katie pleaded in a small scared voice.

“Oh, come on then,” Elly replied. She flew to the wall at the bottom of the path and waited. Sariah and Katie walked slowly over to her. “Okay, all you have to do is wish you were on the top of the wall. Come on, follow me.”

She flew off and started to go up. The two girls looked at each other and shrugged. “Just wish, huh?” Sariah said.

“I floated before. I’m sure it’ll be okay,” Katie said with more confidence than she was feeling. She took a firm hold of Sariah’s hand and closed her eyes. “Okay. I wish I was at the top of this wall,” Katie said.

As Katie started to float up, Sariah said quickly. “I wish I was too.”

Elly laughed to see the amazed looks on their faces as they floated up to her. “See, I told you. You’ll get used to the idea that you’re magic. But call me if you need to. Wherever you are, I’ll hear you.”

Katie and Sariah landed safely beside the bush where Elly sat and turned to thank her. Still shaking with excitement, they both said. “That was unreal! Can we do that whenever we want?”

“Only if you have to save yourself or someone else, you can’t do it just to show off. You can wish for anything you need to keep you safe or to get you out of danger.”

She flew off the branch then stopped and hovered in front of them. “Oh, and I forgot to warn you. It’s best that no Ordies know about your magic powers. If you show them, they’ll try to steal them; or make you put them to evil use. Use your powers wisely and keep them to yourself,” she added.

“Ordies, what are they?” Katie asked.

“Ordies is our name for people like you. Well, before you became magic, I mean. It’s short for ordinary people.”

Katie frowned. “That’s really weird. Can we just wish ourselves back with our parents… I mean after we find the boys?”

“No, your powers aren’t strong enough for you to travel that far and you don’t have wings so you can fly. You can only travel a short distance and float like you just have.” Elly reached into her pocket and took out a delicate shining pouch. “I almost forgot to give you this. It’s full of magic powder. It’ll give someone else enough magic power to allow you to help them if you need to. Sprinkle it near their face. When they breathe it, they’ll briefly have limited floating powers. You must be careful, and try not to let them know how it happened.”

Sariah took the pouch. “You mean... if we have to arr… save someone else, and there’s no other way but to float, then they can float too, if they breathe this in?”

Elly laughed. “Yes, silly, that’s the idea. Now find the boys and get back quickly. It’s getting cold and your parents will be worried.” With a wave and a flutter of her rainbow wings, she was off.

“She’s right; we’d better get out of here. It’s well past lunch by now. Our parents will be furious,” Sariah announced, tucking the pouch in her pocket.

“We have to find the boys first,” Katie said. Sariah nodded.

They scrambled up the path to the top of the hill, grabbing tree trunks and branches to help them climb. The clouds still covered the sun and the forest was dark and cold. Katie’s face was freezing and she was sure icicles were about to form on her nose and ears. Visions of the frozen chickens in the deli freezer ran through her mind and she tugged her coat collar up as high as she could. She dug her hat out of her pocket, put it on, and pulled it down over her ears.

They set off up the path, but after a short while Sariah said, “Let’s try and see where the boys are again. We may as well use these magic powers while we still have them.”

Katie’s eyes flew wider in panic. “Do you think they might go away,” Katie asked, horrified that the powers might be gone before she had used them.

“Maybe, I can’t see them lasting forever.”

“I’ll ask Elly next time I see her,” Katie muttered.

“Let’s sit down here and check on the boys,” Sariah suggested. They sank down on the ground and closed their eyes. They saw them at once. “They’re deep in the forest near the big Oak tree,” Sariah said. She looked around. The thick forest surrounded her like a wall of green and towered above her, blocking out the sky. “The bridge and the ancient forest they are in has to be up there,” she said pointing up the path. “Or maybe… back the other way on another path...” Her voice faded as indecision turned down the volume. We’re really lost now. How can we use our magic powers to find them?



Chapter Four

Walking into Danger


The boys were concentrating so hard on the path that they didn’t hear the man creeping along behind them. He’d waited until they disappeared around a bend before setting off after them. They had no idea that he hadn’t gone for help and that they were on their own on a lonely path. The trail didn’t go anywhere near where the girls were. It went deep into the ancient forest.

The man smiled. His plan to get the boys alone had worked. When we get deeper into the forest, I’ll have them, he thought smiling.

***

Katie still had her eyes closed. She was concentrating on the movie in her head, with the boys as the stars. Then she saw something that made her jump.

“That man – he’s following them,” she said.

Sariah jumped. “What man?”

“A man followed us from the waterfall. I saw him when I looked back. He was watching us earlier too, from over the road as we left the hotel.”

“He’s probably just someone out for a walk, or maybe he’s helping them look for us,” Sariah suggested.

“He looks like he’s hanging back so the boys can’t see him. Remember what our parents said about being careful of strangers. They might want to kidnap us or something,” she said.

Sariah smiled. “You’ve always had a good imagination, Katie. I’m sure he’s harmless. Anyway, we have enough to worry about. How are we going to get to where the boys are? I can’t see the point in having magic powers if they can’t help!”

Katie moaned and rubbed her stomach. “I’m hungry. I bet we have missed lunch. We’ll starve if we don’t get back soon!”

“Yeah, I'm hungry too. I wish I had a big juicy hamburger,” Sariah said wistfully. As she spoke, something warm fell onto her lap.

She franticly brushed it off and leapt to her feet. “What was that,” she exclaimed.

They looked down. On the ground in front of them was a paper bag. Sariah picked it up and carefully opened it. She peeked inside and laughed. It was a huge hamburger. The aroma of it made her lick her lips in anticipation.

“No way!” she said.

“How’d that get here,” Katie asked, looking around. “There must be someone here,” she added. She shuffled closer to Sariah, and peered nervously into the shadows under the trees.

Sariah laughed, “You won't believe it, but I wished for a burger and I got one!”

“So … we can just wish for food and we’ll get it! Wow! I’m going to try.” Katie chanted, “I wish I had a... hot dog … no... I want chicken and chips… no... I wish I had a hamburger too.”

Giggling, Sariah watched. Whatever Katie wished for appeared, and as she changed her mind, it disappeared and her new wish took its place. Katie cautiously opened one eye and peered at the ground. She saw the hamburger bag. “Cool!” she said, snatching it up. She was as hungry as a crocodile at feeding time. When she finished, she licked her lips. “That was the best hamburger ever. It’s so cool that we can wish for anything we want.”

“Maybe not anything…” Sariah said.

“I’m going to try. I wish I had a bowl of ice cream with chocolate sprinkles,” Katie chanted. She opened her eyes and looked around. Nothing was there. “That’s not fair. Why can’t I have ice cream?” she said pouting.

Sariah shrugged. “Elly said anything to save ourselves. We already had food so we don’t need ice cream… I guess.” She stood looking around. “Maybe we could see which way to go to find the bridge they went over if we climbed a tree,” Sariah suggested. “Look at that big tree. It looks the tallest. Come on, let’s climb it, we could see a long way from the top of that.” She stood under the tree and looked up. “I’m hopeless at climbing. I wish I could just float to the very top like we did before,” she said. As she finished speaking, she started to float upwards.

“I wish I was at the top too,” Katie said quickly. “Boy… is this cool,” Katie added, as she started to float up towards her cousin. She held her breath and tried not to look down as a thousand butterflies held a wild party in her tummy.

Sariah soared straight to the top of the tree. She grabbed the nearest branch and pulled herself onto it. She turned to see Katie floating by like a lost balloon.

“How do I stop?” Katie cried.

Sariah grabbed her coat and hauled her onto the branch beside her. Katie looked down. “Whoa. I’m scared. I’ve never climbed this high before.” The butterflies danced a jig in her tummy. She closed her eyes tight. “I can’t look.”

Sariah’s heart was racing too, but she had to find a way to the bridge. She looked up at the sun. It was on its way down now. It’s way past midday, she thought. Looking down, she could see the path they had climbed. Over the top of the trees, she spotted the huge Oak tree she had seen earlier. “Look Katie, that’s the big tree where we saw the boys.” It was on the slope of the hill on the other side of the stream. Katie peered into the distance, careful not to look down. She searched for the bridge over the stream, but the trees were too thick.

Suddenly a deep voice said, “I don’t remember inviting you onto my branches.”

Katie clutched Sariah’s coat and searched for the source of the voice. She lifted the branches around her. There was no one there.

“Did you hear that?” Katie asked, wondering if she was imagining things.

Sariah looked down nervously. “Yeah, who was it?”

The branch they were on started to shake violently. The voice said, “It was me. You’re sitting on my branches and I don’t like it.”

Clinging on desperately, Katie cried, “The tree is talking!”


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