The Shadow Speaker and the Black Labrynth

Chapter 1: A Disappearance

The snowflakes fell, tiny white dots of light, spiraling slowly to the ground. When each one hit my face, I felt a tiny sting of cold, and then felt a drop of water slide down my cheek. The falling snow, the cold air, the barren trees, and the thin coating of snow already covering the ground, they all added to the enchanting effect. 

When the streetlight turned to the white picture of a person mid-walk, me and my friend Lila crossed the street and walked down the long block of Fort Washington Avenue that ran to Fort Tryon park. A M4 bus drove down the street, kicking up slush in its wake. To our right, a black-painted fence separated the sidewalk from a slope that led to an area with 4 ping-pong tables, though none of them were currently in use. Me and my Mom sometimes played at the ping-pong tables when it was warmer, and when they weren’t covered in snow. We walked around Margaret Corbin circle, crossed the road that ran through the park, and stepped into the park. 

Fort Tryon park felt like an entirely different universe from the rest of New York City. All of the civilization and skyscrapers weren’t present here, making the park an outpost of nature in the huge city. Three paths led from the entrance into the park, one forward, one to the right, and one going left. We took the path going forward, our feet crunching down on the soft bed of snow. To our left was the heather garden, which was filled with flowers of all sorts in summer, but now there was only a big mass of snow. We walked down the path and climbed up the steps to Linden Terrace, an overlook over the Hudson to New Jersey. However, the thick clouds and dense fog made it so that the river wasn’t visible, but the ghostly sounds of car engines drifted up from the invisible highway below. The only thing separating us from the dropoff that seemed to be the end of the world was a low, stone wall.

“So, what are we doing here again?” Lila asked me. I shrugged my shoulders.

“My parents said it would be good if I could spend some time with friends,” I replied. “I was pretty bored at home anyway.” 

“If we’re out here, let’s at least do something fun,” she said. “Up for a snowball fight?” Though I wasn’t, I agreed. Without a signal to start, we began to clump the fluffy, white snow into our hands, and lobbed them at each other. An icy sting hit me straight in the face as I flung my own snowball half-heartedly towards her, and I heard Lila giggling with pleasure. As I was beginning to shiver, and my hands were starting to feel numb, Lila gathered together the largest amount of snow yet. Picking it up, she started chasing me around the area, and she eventually caught up with me. 

I ducked, knowing that the next moment, I would probably be covered with snow, but the blow I had been expecting never came. Even after I had jumped away, Lila had continued to stare at the spot where I had been standing, her brows creased. Deciding to take her by surprise, I threw a snowball that hit her straight in the chest. She stumbled backwards, but soon regained her balance, and stared towards me. However, it was more like she was looking through me. 

“Where are you?” Lila asked, looking around wildly.

“Uh, here?” I said, not sure what was happening.

“Oh there you are,” she said, and proceeded to throw another snowball at me.

We walked home in silence, broken only occasionally by the sound of a bird chirping or a car driving down the street. Finally, Lila spoke. “It really seemed like you disappeared there. One moment you were there, and the next, you weren’t.”

“It must have been the darkness,” I answered uneasily. 

“Yeah, it must have been,” she answered, but I could tell she didn’t believe me. To be fair, I didn’t really believe myself either. 

It had been growing dark at a surprisingly fast rate since 3:30, and now the streetlights had turned on, casting an eerie glow through the fog. Looking up at the moon, I suddenly shivered.

Once we walked up the steps to the building we both lived in, we took off our gloves and jackets. Lila’s curly black hair sprang free, eager to be free of the confines of her rocket ship hat. Hats and scarves both made me itchy, so I only took off my coat and gloves. The doorman gave us a quick wave before we walked up the steps. My apartment was on the 3rd floor, while Lila’s was on the 9th. We bid each other farewell, and I turned out of the staircase and opened the door to my apartment. 

The smell of garlic and ginger simmering on the stovetop immediately hit me as I stepped into the short hallway leading to the kitchen, and my nose burned.

“Great timing,” my dad shouted over the noise coming from the fan. “Dinner’s almost ready!” I took off my boots, putting my jacket and gloves on the overflowing bench in the hallway.

The stir-fried rice and vegetables were very flavorful, though I didn’t have much of an appetite. Mom and Dad kept shooting strange glances at each other, but just when I couldn’t stand it any longer, they looked at each other, nodded, and smiled.

“Earlier today, we received a letter inviting you to…” Dad paused to look down at something in his lap. “Samuel J. Hurston’s boarding school for talented children.” 

Jumping in, Mom said, “We think it would be a great fit for you given your talents.” When I didn’t answer they continued. 

“The great thing is that they’re accepting new students even in the middle of the school year. A bus will be picking you up at 8:30 am tomorrow. They will even supply all the textbooks, and give you clean uniforms each day. They say that all you need to bring is a backpack with some independent reading books.”

“A boarding school?” I asked, incredulous. “One that’s accepting students in the middle of the year?” This was unheard of. I noticed even as I said this, that my Mom and Dad’s eyes were glazed over strangely, and their lips weren’t moving in sync with what they were saying. Something about the way they were speaking to me wasn’t normal either.

“We just want you to try this until February break,” Mom said, coming over to rest a hand on my shoulder. However, her hand felt cold and lifeless to the touch. Defeated, I left the table without finishing my plate and walked into my room, slamming the door behind me. 

A tear rolled down my cheek as I sat down on my bed, covered with the constellation sheets that I had always loved. 

“Why are they sending me off to boarding school?” I thought indignantly. “I won’t even be able to see my friends, or sleep in my own bed.” Without brushing my teeth or getting into pajamas, I turned the lamp off, tucked myself in, and fell fast asleep.

The next morning, I rubbed my eyes and sat up in bed, my awareness gradually increasing until I could see my surroundings clearly. Checking the digital clock on my night table, I was shocked to see that it was already 8:20. I hurriedly stood up and opened my window shades, staying in the clothes I had worn yesterday. Walking out of my room, I found oatmeal already in bowls on the table, with apple and pear slices in the oatmeal. The meal was finished in silence, with the only sound being the clang of the spoons against the bowls. I knew I should try to protest going to this boarding school, but every time I tried to open my mouth and say something, my body wouldn’t let me. Sighing, I took another bite of my breakfast. 

The bright yellow school bus arrived on 190th street exactly when the clock turned to 8:30. 

“Time to go,” my mother said, with a bright smile on her face. 

“As if it was a good thing,” I muttered, but tied my shoelaces and put on my coat all the same. Hoisting my backpack onto my shoulders, I opened the door to the apartment. I had decided to bring some books with me, just in case the books in the library weren’t good.

“Bye,” my parents waved to me, almost celebratorily. 

“Bye,” I waved back. 


Chapter 2: A School of Magic

After closing the door, I trudged slowly down the carpeted hallway, made my way down the stairs to the first floor, and walked out of the 2 sets of automatic glass doors leading outside. Even the doorman wasn’t the one who always waved to me, and the air seemed especially cold. I reluctantly climbed into the normal looking school bus and made my way to the back, where seats would probably still be unoccupied. Most of the kids on the bus were about my age, and looked like they’d had a similar experience to me, considering their downcast heads and looks of despair. 

“At least there are other kids like me,” I thought sullenly. I finally arrived at the seats in the back of the bus, but saw someone I wasn’t expecting. 

“Lila?” I asked, my mouth open.

“Dakota!” she screamed with joy. 

“I… I didn’t realize you’d be coming to the school,” I said, trying to suppress my happiness. At least there would be someone at the school who I would know. 

“I really do hope we’re in the same classes,” she replied. I sat down in the seat across from her and took out a book. Then I buckled my seatbelt on. The bus started with a jolt, and then sped down the street. 

As I read my book, I lost all sense of time and direction, becoming absorbed in the text. Every time I read a book, I felt like I was in the shoes of the character. When everything seemed to go against the protagonist, I felt upset that the book wasn’t treating them fairly, and when they eventually triumphed over evil, I felt a great surge of relief. 

Finally, after who knows how long, the bus stopped, and the sound of many footsteps awoke me from my trance. It took me a moment to gather my bearings, but eventually, I realized everybody was getting off the bus. As soon as this thought occurred to me, I hastily hoisted my backpack onto my shoulders, keeping my book in my hand, and stepped off the bus with the other students. I immediately noticed that it was much warmer than when we had gotten on the bus, probably by about 30 or 40 degrees. The other thing that struck me was the location of the school. Though the building itself was a dull, red, brick building, it was nestled in a pass between two snow-capped mountains, with many more receding into the distance. The sky was clear and blue, and the sun was reflecting off the snow blanketing the area, so that it was almost blinding me. All the other students’ expressions gave away that they were just as surprised as I was. 

A teacher at the front of the crowd of students shouted, “Everybody follow me!” in a futile attempt to control the mob of students. Everyone was looking around in confusion, and the same thought kept ringing in my head.

“How can it feel like 70 degrees when snow is all around us? And by the looks on everybody’s faces, it seemed like everyone else was thinking the same thing!” I decided to dismiss the thought, as the cluster of students walked toward the school. Then a peculiar feeling hit me, like I was being watched. However, when I looked around, the only people I could see were the other students and the teacher. When the teacher held the door open for us, everyone surged in. 

Disappointingly, the inside of the school was just as plain and normal on the inside as on the outside. The door opened into a large room with long tables stretching down the length of the room, and chairs pushed in so that the seats were a few inches from the bottom of the table. At the far end of the room, five large chairs had been placed on a wooden stage, raised onto a level a few feet above the tables. In the middle chair, a tall man with combed black hair in a tuxedo and tie was sitting straight up, as if the back of the chair was burning hot. He stood up as we entered the room, assuming a commanding look, and as he surveyed the students in front of him, I thought he looked specifically at me for a few seconds, before his eyes moved on.

“Sit down,” he finally said, gesturing with his hand, “We have much to talk about.” Once all the students had obediently pulled the chairs out from under the tables and sat, the man continued. “You’ve probably heard that this school is one for exceptionally talented children. It’s instead a school of magic, where young children who have magical powers are sent to expand their abilities. You all are users of light magic called Servants of Light.” A small smile touched his lips, like he couldn’t believe anybody could possibly fall for his lie. “No doubt that you may be questioning if I’m just toying with you. Let me demonstrate.” Suddenly, a bright ball of fire appeared in the center of the room. It’s flickering flames were enchanting everyone, with their bright bursts, and hot cinders falling lifelessly to the floor. As quickly as the ball of fire appeared, it vanished. Everyone turned back to the man, their eyes wide with wonder. “That’s enough of that,” he said, “I haven’t even introduced myself. I am the principal of this school and you may call me Professor Frost. Now Ms. Brown over here will escort you to your dormitories so you can pick up your textbooks and supplies before supper. That is all.” As soon as Professor Frost stopped speaking, Ms. Brown began to walk briskly towards a door on the other side of the room, and everybody had to jog to catch up to her. The door opened into an elegant spiral staircase, but I wasn’t paying any attention to our location. I was thinking about what Professor Frost had told us. 

“It couldn’t be a magic school,” I thought. “What he did must have been some sort of trick.” After walking down a plaintive hallway, entering another stairway, and taking a few more turns that made me feel like we were going in circles. I was completely disoriented. Finally, Ms. Brown led us into a large, homey room with velvet couches and a fire going in a fireplace. Several other students were lounging on the couches and reading thick, leather-backed books. A tall red-headed kid with eyes the color of grass in jeans and a t-shirt stood up.

“New arrivals?” he asked, gazing questioningly at us.

“Yes, Steven,” the teacher replied. “Now please welcome them in and show them to their bedrooms. Also give them their schedules and inform them of the school rules.” 

“So this is w-w-where your d-dormitories are, um, and, um, your b-bedrooms are right up the st-stairs to the left. Y-Your schedules sh-should be on your beds, along with your t-textbooks and m-materials,” he stuttered.

“Thank you,” I said, and walked up the staircase.

“Can you really do magic?” one kid asked timidly.

“W-well, sort of. I’m not v-very good at it,” he shrugged his shoulders apologetically. On my bed I found a piece of paper along with a stack of textbooks reaching up to the ceiling, with titles like Color Changing, a Guide to Simple Magic. I sighed. 

“I guess this really is a magic school, “ I thought to myself. Next, I looked at my schedule. Meals were at 7:00 am, 1:00 pm, and 6:00 pm. The classes were Channeling Your Energy, Magical Defense, Magical Creatures, and Arithmetic. Eventually, I flopped onto my bed and began to read. I didn’t notice when the boy who had shown us to our dormitories approached my bed, until he cleared his throat.

“Um, it’s almost d-dinner time,” he said. 

“Oh!” I jumped up, startled. He laughed.

“Y-you seem to really like reading,” he said.

“Yeah, I guess so,” I replied.

“I’ve already led the other st-students to the dining hall,” Steven said. There was an awkward silence as we walked down the staircase.

“So, uh, how do you know your way around here?” I asked.

“Oh! I guess it just comes from b-being around here for a w-while.” Eventually, we reached the room where we had met Professor Frost. It looked very different, filled with people and plates heaping with food. This time, the five chairs at the front of the long room were occupied with five teachers, Professor Frost in the center as earlier. Since I didn’t see Lila amidst the crowds of students, I went to sit by Steven.

I piled some roast chicken, rice, and asparagus onto my plate. Before we could start eating, Professor Frost stood up, and instantly, everybody’s attention was directed at him.

“Today, some new students have arrived at our school. I hope they will learn magic quickly, and choose to use it well. Enjoy your dinner.” I gobbled up my dinner quickly, since I had missed lunch. After dinner, everyone headed drowsily back to their rooms, Steven leading the students in my dormitories to them. As we headed up, I spotted Lila talking to a girl on her right.

“Hey. I see you’ve made some new friends,” I said.

“Yeah. They’re great. Well, see you around,” she said, and then quickly hurried up the stairs to a girl waiting for her.

“That was a nice, long, conversation,” I thought sarcastically. In bed, I shut my eyes and took deep breaths, but after a long time, I still wasn’t asleep. I finally got up, and switched on a lamp in my room. Next, I looked at my school schedule. On the back, there was a map of the school! I searched it, and immediately found the library. Holding the map in one hand and a small flashlight in the other, I hurried down a hallway that I knew would lead me right to it. I emerged into a large, dusty room, filled to the brim with books. I suddenly heard a voice behind me.

“What are you doing here!” it shouted. I flinched.

“I was looking for the library,” I squeaked, not daring to turn around.

“Well, you’ve found it.” The person finally walked into the room and turned around. It was an old, short-haired woman, her face wrinkled. Her high-heeled shoes clacked with every step.

“I’m the librarian here, Ms. Nettle,” she said in a booming voice. “Anyone at any time is welcome in my library, as long as they treat the books with care.” Too scared to speak another word, I shuffled over to one of the shelves, picked a book, and sat down in a chair. Then I began to read. It passed late into the night, and finally, I got up and walked back to my room. This time though, I fell asleep as fast as a rock dropping to the ground. 


Chapter 3: First Day

I woke to the sound of birds tweeting outside my window. Sitting up, I gazed out the window. It was a bright sunny day. I opened my door and walked down the stairs, still in yesterday’s clothes. Steven, who was sitting near the fireplace, smiled when he saw me. 

“L-let’s go down to breakfast. Our first cl-classes starts in 30 minutes.” I followed Steven into the dining hall. Some students had already come in, but we sat down at the corner of one of the tables. We began to eat our scramble eggs.

“I have Channeling Your Energy first. How about you?” I asked Steven.

“Same!” he said excitedly. “B-but the class definitely isn’t my f-favorite. Well, l-lets go.” Occasionally checking our maps to guide us, we found our way to the classroom. It was a perfectly normal room with desks facing the front of the room, where there was a blackboard and a strict looking teacher with glasses impatiently pacing back and forth. I recognized her as the same teacher who had led us into the school. I looked around for a seat next to Lila, but again, she was surrounded by her other friends. Sighing, I sat down near a window on the left side of the room.

“Now, we may begin,” the teacher said sharply. “I’m Ms. Brown, and I’m your teacher for Channeling Your Energy. Today, we’ll attempt a simple magic exercise, where you’ll attempt to change the color of a rock.” As she spoke, she wrote the words she was saying on the blackboard with a piece of chalk. I winced. I had never liked the scratchy sound of people writing on chalkboards. After Ms. Brown had finished writing, she went around dropping plain, grey rocks onto everybodies desks, creating a clang every time one dropped. Finally, she made her way to the front of the classroom again. “All you must do is to concentrate on the energy inside of your body, and focus on using it to change color to change the rock. I will demonstrate.” Without warning, the rock on my desk rose up into the air, and bright stripes in the colors of the rainbow wound around it, before plopping onto my desk again. “Now try with your rock,” she commanded. I closed my eyes and tried concentrating on my body, focusing on the energy, but it seemed like it keeped me away when I tried to use it. Suddenly, I felt it rise up, and destroy the rock in front of me, without even opening my eyes. “Boom!” The walls and floor trembled, like a giant was stomping outside. 

“What did I just do?” I wondered. “Nothing like this had ever happened before.” 

Before I could think about this further, Ms. Brown shouted, “Dakota! To the office! Now!”


“Now!” she interrupted. I reluctantly got up and left the room, her voice and the explosion still ringing in my ears, like a rocket was lifting off beside me. Before I went, I heard Ms. Brown complementing Lila on turning the rock purple on her first try. 

“She can do . . . magic, too?” I wondered. “It seemed like me, Lila, and the teachers could, and the older students believed in magic, but. . . was it really possible? All my life, I had never seen anything like this before. And now, could we both really do magic? Do our parents know about this?” I sighed. I had the feeling I wasn’t going to get answers anytime soon. Checking my map, I found the office and I quickly got there. Upon finding that it was empty, I sat down on a chair across from what I presumed was Professor Frost’s desk. 

The office was small, with peeling grey paint on the walls, and a closet on one side. There was a desk with papers strewn all around it, and a chair tucked under the desk.

I had nothing else to do, so I looked at the papers strewn across his desk. Most of them were illegible, but one showed a list, with some items checked off and others not. The one item that was checked was Get the Shadow Speaker, and an unchecked item was Find Aquarius. 

However, I wasn’t able to read the rest, because I immediately sat down when I heard footsteps coming down the hallway. While I was watching the door, I heard a sound similar to the wind in an elevator shaft. Looking over my shoulder, I saw Professor Frost there, as if he had appeared out of thin air. On second thought, he probably did actually appear out of thin air.

“Ms. Brown told me what happened in class today. Though you didn’t follow the directions, destroying the rock shows what great power you hold inside of you. I see this potential, so I am offering to personally train you in magic.” I thought for a moment before answering.

“I don’t know. I just learned about my powers yesterday. Maybe in a few more days, when I’m more used to this,” I said. Professor Frost clearly wasn’t expecting this answer, since his eyebrows shot up, but other than that, he seemed unperturbed.

He merely said, “Of course. It’s only understandable that you need a little more time to adjust to  the environment here. I’ll check in again tomorrow.” With that, he ushered me out of the office and into the hallway. 

It was towards the end of the Channeling Your Energy class, so I headed to the Magical Creatures classroom to get there early. The classroom was filled with cages, with an assortment of creatures inside. The teacher was a burly man with a large mustache and beard. The rest of his black hair was braided and fell down his back, which was covered in a large coat. He looked like a viking out of a movie. His back was turned, and he appeared so immersed in his work that he didn’t notice when I came in. I sat down in a chair where the desk in front of it had a cage where 5 toads were staring grumpily at me. I didn’t notice anything special about them until one burped, and its skin changed from dark green to violet. Eventually, the other students in the class filed into the room, Steven among them. The teacher turned around and introduced himself. 

“I’m Mr. Boulder, your Magical Creatures teacher,” he said in a deep voice. “Today, we will be studying these colorful toads here.” He lifted the cage off my desk. “You’ll work in groups of 3 to study these toads and write an informative essay about them. Feel free to make any drawings or diagrams of the toads as well.” Mr. Boulder opened the cage and went around dropping a toad on some students’ desks. Steven walked over to me, carrying a toad in his arms. With him came a dark skinned kid with glasses and a notebook.

“Th-this is Malcolm,” Steven said. “Is it okay if he w-works with us? He has a knack for remembering things.”

“Sure”, I said, and waved. He nodded to me and sat down. Suddenly, Steven’s toad croaked and jumped out of his hands, turning yellow upon contact with the table. For the rest of the period, we studied the toad, and ended up writing what I thought was a very nice essay on our toad. We additionally discovered that our toad loved belly rubs, had a sweet tooth, and burped a lot. When we gave our essay to Mr. Boulder, Steven also handed him a sheet of paper that I hadn’t noticed before.

“Who drew this?” he asked, raising his bushy eyebrows.

“I did,” Steven said shyly. 

“Well, nice job on the artwork,” he said. Steven’s cheeks reddened. 

As we walked down the hallway to Arithmetic, I said to Steven, “I didn’t know you could draw so well.” I had gotten a glimpse of the toad drawing as he gave it to Mr. Boulder, and it was incredible. Every feature was drawn perfectly, even the skinny legs, webbed feet, and slight curve of the tail.

“Y-yeah, I guess I am sort of g-good.”

“Are you kidding! That was amazing!” I exclaimed. Changing the subject, I asked, “So there really is an arithmetic class here?” Steven nodded seriously. 

The Arithmetic teacher was named Ms. Steward, and in class, we did actually solve algebraic expressions involving exponents. In contrast to all the other classes, this one seemed positively boring, but at least I wasn’t worried that I was going to destroy something. Eventually, it was lunch time, and I quickly ate some chicken salad. 

“So how did it go over with Professor Frost?” he asked me. I told him all that happened. At the end of my story, he looked at me quizzically. “Why did you r-refuse his offer?” he asked. “I mean, I’ve heard he’s one of the best m-magicians in the entire world!”

“I’m not sure,” I said. “My instincts just told me to say no.”

“And he didn’t p-punish you!” Steven added incredulously.

“No.” I shook my head. “He didn’t even follow me after I left.” My words sounded spooky to my ears, and it seemed like a strange presence had entered the room. Finally, I broke the silence and said, “Well, I’d better go now. Magical Defense starts in a few minutes.” I rushed off to Magical Defense, but when I was sprinting down the final hallway, I crashed into a figure at the end of the hall. We both tumbled to the ground. As my right elbow connected with the floor, a searing pain shot up my arm, and my fingers tingled. I had hit my funny bone. Looking up, I saw Lila staring down at me.

“Are you okay?” she asked, helping me back onto my feet.

“I’m fine.” I brushed my pants off. 

“This has been such an extraordinary day,” Lila exclaimed. “Just think about it, we can do magic!”

“I know.” I nodded. “It’s so much to take in. By now, I’m pretty sure this magic stuff is real, but, I’m just not sure about it.”

“Are you kidding? Look at all the stuff we could do now!” she replied. Lila’s hair suddenly went through all of the colors of the rainbow before returning to its usual black.”

“I know, but, I was perfectly content with my life back at home. All of this new stuff seems kind of frightening and overwhelming. I might rather be back at home attending a normal school.” Before we could talk anymore, Ms. Brown walked by.

“No loitering in the hall,” she reprimanded, and we quickly hurried into the classroom. 


Chapter 4: The Shadow Speaker

The teacher was a young woman named Ms. Heather, and she had long spindly limbs and polished nails. Her straight red hair fell down her back, and her face was pale and smooth. Me and Lila sat down in the 2 adjacent seats that were still unoccupied.

“Take out your Magical Defense textbooks, please. We will be reading the chapter on ghosts, and then will do an exercise where we will attempt to subdue one.” Ms. Heather’s voice was smooth, like a gentle breeze sweeping through a field. Everybody obeyed and I started reading. The chapter was very intriguing. It talked about what is dangerous about ghosts, how to find them, and how to subdue them. It also told me that ghosts were in the category of shadows, which are all of the creatures of darkness. Once I was finished, I was so engrossed in the reading that I accidentally started the chapter on phantoms. After who knows how long, Lila unobtrusively tapped me on the shoulder. I looked up startled. 

“Um, we’re waiting for you,” she whispered.

“Oh, sorry,” I said, blushing, ”I got caught up in the book and started the chapter on phantoms.”

“Now we will start the practical part of our lesson,” Ms. Heather said. “Sam, come to the front of the room.” A freckled boy with round cheeks stumbled uncertainty to the front of the room. “From what you read about ghosts, combined with what you learned from the Channeling Your Energy class, you should be capable of successfully subduing the ghost. After the ghost recovers from being subdued, the next student can try. Note that the ghost will not be able to escape the room or anywhere else in the school because of a protective coating of a certain solution to repel ghosts that is covering all the walls and windows.” 

She opened a cabinet, and a semi-transparent silhouette emerged from the shadows. The ghost had no definitive shape, it just stretched and moved like the air around it. Sam stepped back in fright. 

Suddenly, I heard a voice in my head saying, “Get me out of here,” over and over again. Without even realizing it, I thought to myself, “How?” The voice stopped. That was when I realized I was hearing the ghost. A shiver went down my spine, and it felt like tiny icicles were stinging my skin. I thought again, “How?” However, it seemed like Sam had subdued the ghost, because I didn’t hear a reply. 

“Lila,” the teacher called out. Lila went to stand in front of the class, but after a few moments, the ghost still had not come out of the cabinet. 

“Is it afraid of her powers?” I wondered.

Ms. Heather looked inside, and then shot a ball of light into the cabinet. The ghost zoomed out of the box, and then tried to push through a wall on its left. It was unsuccessful, of course, because of the ghost repellant covering the walls. My eyes turned back to Lila. Her hand was outstretched, and I gasped when I saw her eyes turn into golden disks of light. An incredibly bright light flowed from her fingertips and crashed into the ghost, igniting an even brighter light that engulfed the room. For a few moments I heard the ghost speaking the word “No!”. I shuddered. The ghost’s pain felt like my own. However, it was even worse when it turned silent. When the light faded, nothing was left where the ghost had been. 

“What in the world did you do to destroy it like that,” the teacher asked, an expression of puzzlement on her face. “It’s impossible to destroy a shadow permanently. You can only subdue it for a short amount of time before it recovers…” Her voice trailed off.

After Lila sat back down the teacher called me up to confront a new ghost. However, I wasn’t frightened. Somehow, maybe instinctually, I knew what to do. This ghost, like the last one, kept repeating “Get me out of here.” I waited for a moment, and then thought, “How?” This time, I wasn’t afraid. The ghost stopped speaking. Again I thought, “How?” while holding my breath. Finally, I heard an answer in my mind. “Open the window.” I looked out the window. There were no doubts about freeing the ghost anymore. I knew I had to do it as an act of kindness towards it.

“Ms. Heather had said that all the windows are covered in ghost repellant,” I thought. “So how can I let it escape? Ms. Heather never told us that the doors were locked. . .”

Finally, I walked over and shoved the window up, letting the cool winter air fill the room. The ghost sailed out of the room into the mountains beyond. As it floated away, I heard a faint voice in my head. “Thank you.” 

“What did you do?” Ms. Heather asked for the second time that day. This time, her face was a mixture of anger and confusion.

“I set it free,” I replied calmly.

“Go sit down,” she muttered through clenched teeth. It seemed like she was trying to stop herself from shouting. The class finished after everyone had gotten a chance to confront a ghost. If my suspicions were correct, it would explain almost everything. Though I was happy at setting the ghost free, I needed more information about what had happened. As soon as I could, I flew down the stairs to the library. Once I got there, I started browsing the shelves for what I was searching for.

“Looking for something?” Ms. Nettle asked from her desk. 

“Umm… “ I wasn’t sure if she would report it to Professor Frost, but I desperately needed to know if what I thought was true. “I’m looking for books about shadows for my Magical Defense class.” I finally lied. “Could you show me where to look.” 

“Certainly,” she replied. Ms. Nettle led me to a shelf of dozens of books with shiny spines in various colors with titles like Afraid of Phantoms? and Gear Up for Ghosts. Higher up on the shelf however, the books were old and dusty, with yellowing spines that could’ve been centuries old. Those were the books I wanted. Spotting a ladder, I moved it over as quietly as I could.

“You need the ladder?” Ms. Nettle asked.

“There’s something just out of reach,” I responded quickly. I put my right foot on the first rung of the ladder. It wobbled slightly. I almost got off, but then I remembered my mission. Slowly, one step at a time, I made my way up the ladder. A title caught my eye. The Secrets of the Ancient Shadow Speakers. I paused, and then grabbed it quickly before I could change my mind. In doing so, the ladder wobbled, then wobbled more, and then fell down on its side, bringing me with it! I hit the floor with a “Thunk!”, and the impact of the ladder vibrated my bones like an earthquake.

“Are you alright?” Ms. Nettle rushed over.

“I’m fine,” I said, getting up and brushing my pants off. I had fallen from a low rung, but the collision had still jarred me and my knee throbbed. I sighed with relief when I spotted the book lying a few feet away, unscathed. I picked it up and walked back to my dormitory, flopping down on my bed. I opened the brittle pages gently, took a deep breath, and began to read. 

The ancient Shadow Speakers were a race of magical people who used dark magic to achieve their sinister desires. Hence their name, they could speak to and were allied with shadows, the dark creatures like ghosts and skeletons that are known for their deadliness. Long ago, the Shadow Speakers either died out or were eradicated by Servants of Light protecting the world from them. No Shadow Speakers remain since many years ago. I released my breath and closed the book. So I had been right. It was the only possible explanation. I was the first Shadow Speaker to have been born in centuries.


Chapter 5: Escape

I skimmed through the thick volume. There were detailed descriptions of every type of shadow, the history and eradication of the Shadow Speakers, and what the Shadow Speakers could do. The author clearly had negative views on Shadow Speakers, and seemed to be glad that they were dead. Sighing, I closed the book. Before I stepped away, I caught a glimpse of the author’s name, and froze. Written on the cover in capitalized letters was the name, William Frost.

I heard footsteps approaching, and quickly closed the book, hiding it under my bed. Another day of classes had passed, and yet I still was unsure about Professor Frost’s offer. But if he was that person who had such negative views on Shadow Speakers, I couldn’t accept his offer. If he knew who I was, he would hate me. 

Ms. Brown walked into my room.

“Dakota. Professor Frost wants you in his office,” she said. Sighing, I picked up my schedule and found my way to the office. Professor Frost was sitting in the chair by his desk, as before.

“Please, sit down.” He motioned toward the chair across from him. I sat down. “As we discussed, I would check in with you about my offer again today. Are you willing to accept it?” I shook my head.

“I’m sorry. I think I’ll be fine on my own,” I said.

“Are you sure? With me at your side, you could become more powerful than you can possibly imagine!” His voice had risen to a shout. “You must accept. You must!” 

“Help! Help!” I thought desperately. Professor Frost continued.

“If you don’t accept my offer, I will, Ahhh!” Something entered the room, and attacked Professor Frost, knocking him to the ground. With a start, I realized that it was the ghost I had rescued! Taking my chance, I dashed from the room, and didn’t stop until I reached my dormitory. Lila, who was reclining on a chair, looked up when I came in.

“What were you doing?” she asked. Then I realized my hands were on my knees and I was panting like a dog. 

“Oh, nothing,” I quickly replied. “Hey, could you do something for me? If Professor Frost comes by looking for me, could you tell him that I’m not here.”

“Why would he,” she began, but I was already gone. I sat on my bed, catching my breath. Then I hid under the bed as a precaution. Soon, I heard footsteps coming up the stairs. 

“It can’t be him. It can’t be him.” I repeated it to myself like a chant. However, feet did come into my room. Feet that were wearing shiny black shoes. The feet walked around, opened my closet, and ended up by the bed again. Then a knee came down, and then a body, and then a face. The face of Professor Frost appeared in front of mine, with its pointed nose, neat black hair, and small, grey beard. I looked into his face for a moment, paralyzed with fear. Then Professor Frost got up and walked out of the room. I was so startled that for a few minutes, I forgot to move from my hiding position. Then I slowly got up and sat on my bed.

That night, I lay in bed until I was sure everyone else had gone to sleep. At last, I tiptoed out of my room. When I saw Lila still sitting in the lounge chair, I stopped, but she had already seen me. 

“Dakota?” she asked. “Is that you?” I withdrew from the shadows. 

“Yes, it’s me.” 

“What are you doing here?” she asked. 

“Umm… Going to the bathroom?” I said, trying to smile. 

“You’re lying,” she said. I sighed. She had always been able to tell if I was lying. 

Reading my eyes, she finally said, “You’re, You’re running away.” I didn’t deny it. “But why?” she finally asked. Anger suddenly started bubbling up inside of me.

“You don’t know why?” I asked angrily. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m not exactly having the best time here.” Lila got out of the chair and took a step back. I continued. 

“I don’t fit in!” Suddenly, the chair Lila had been sitting in just moments before crumpled to ash. “I make things explode, I can talk to ghosts, I can’t control my magic!” The fire in the fireplace went out, and all of the furniture disintegrated. “And you? You have tons of friends, you can do exactly what they want you to do on your first try! You even destroyed a ghost!” With that, the light fixtures fell from the ceiling, and the door behind me collapsed. For the first time, I noticed all the destruction I had caused. There was also something else in Lila’s eyes now: fear.

“Did I do all of this?” I wondered. “Am I this dangerous? Am I this powerful?” I started sobbing uncontrollably, not knowing what to think. Then I ran out of the room as fast as I could.

With the map at my side, I easily found an exit and stepped out into the snow. I had almost forgotten the extreme setting of the school. The mountain peaks were as high as ever, and for a moment I regretted escaping the school, yet I pushed myself to continue. Suddenly, a figure appeared in front of me. Again, the ghost who I had saved had found me. As I walked forward with the ghost, I realized I had no plan at all for where to go. Where the spell that kept the area warm ended, I would have to proceed in the cold. I looked at my feet, to make sure I kept walking forward. 

After one step, I suddenly felt a difference in the temperature, though it was subtle. I must have crossed the barrier of the spell, but it seemed like it should be colder. Then I noticed that the ground below my feet was soil, not snow. Looking up, I saw I was surrounded by a dense forest, with seemingly no end. I turned my head around, but behind me was only more forest.

“The illusion of the school in the mountains must be to discourage students from escaping,” I thought. “Like me.” I was beginning to become less and less sure of what Professor Frost was trying to do. The ghost was standing a few feet away from me by a tall oak tree, and was floating slowly away from me. 

“Follow me,” it whispered. “Follow me.” I decided to put my fate in the hands of the ghost, because after all, I did save its life. Were ghosts grateful?

“Can you tell me where we’re going, at least?” I asked the ghost.

“No,” it replied, in a flat tone. I shook my head. That ghost was not helpful. 

“I was ordered to bring you somewhere,” the ghost said. I had to remember it could read my thoughts. Then something else occurred to me.

“Ordered? By who?” I asked, but the ghost remained silent. The green canopy above me rustled with a slight breeze, and the musty aroma of the soil entered my nostrils. The thick, rough, trunks of the trees stretched up into the sky, eventually fanning out in a circle of bright green leaves. I sighed. I could be here forever. After maybe 30 minutes, we arrived at the base of a large hill, with a gradual incline. Hiking up the hill was tiring, but since the ghost was moving on relentlessly, I followed. As we walked, we amassed a large crowd of shadows: lots of ghosts, a few phantoms, and even a skeleton. I marveled at the skeleton, recalling what I had read in my book on Shadow Speakers. 

Skeletons are remains of humans that have been re-animated by Shadow Speakers. The ancient Shadow Speakers made it so that the skeletons can “live” forever. This act of dark magic is one of the hardest to accomplish, which is why skeletons are among the rarest shadows. I pondered why me and the ghost had attracted such a crowd.

“Maybe it’s because I’m the first Shadow Speaker they’ve seen in a long time,” I wondered. The ghost stopped at a spot on the hill that slanted up at a greater angle than the rest, and was also devoid of trees.

“Open it,” the ghost communicated. I kneeled down and placed my palm on the spot in front of me, and stepped back in surprise when the soil in front of my hand collapsed to reveal a hidden cave.


Chapter 6: Aquarius

I carefully walked in, but quickened my pace once I found the floor was solid. The cave had a scent even more musty than the forest, and was very deep and winding. It grew darker as I walked in, so I could barely see a few feet in front of me. Though the floor and ceiling were both made of soil, they seemed very sturdy. Eventually, I came to a fork in the tunnel. The left branch went steeply upwards, while the right passageway went down. The ghost went down the right one, and I followed. Though I couldn’t see outside at all anymore, once the darkness reached a certain point, it seemed to stop getting darker. I wondered if Shadow Speakers had night vision, and what other powers I might not know about. 

The passage I was following the ghost down abruptly ended at another wall made of soil. I pressed my hand to it, but nothing happened this time. Then I noticed an indentation in the wall. However, it looked like nothing I had ever seen before. Unless… 

Suddenly, the ghost moved forward, morphing into the shape of the indentation, and pressed itself into the wall.

The wall slid open to reveal a dimly lit round room, with a fire in a fireplace flickering in the center. Sitting on a wooden log was a bedraggled man wearing dirty old clothes, and long, unkempt hair draping down his back. I immediately noticed his eyes, which were the same electric blue as mine. His expression remained neutral when he noticed me in the doorway, though I thought I caught a glimpse of surprise in his eyes.

“Hello?” I asked. I hadn’t meant it as a question, but I wasn’t sure how to greet him.

“Hello,” he replied in a scratchy voice. “Come in and warm yourself by the fire.” I sat down on a log across from him.

“W-who are you?” I asked, my voice as shaky as Steven’s. He seemed to think for a moment before answering.

“You may call me Aquarius.” I felt a flash of memory, like I had heard his name before.

“How do I know this isn’t some elaborate trap to try and capture me and bring me back to school,” I asked warily. He chuckled deeply.

“You definitely have potential as a Shadow Speaker,” he laughed. “But you can know this isn’t a trap because I ordered the ghost to bring you here.” My eyes widened.

“I thought all the Shadow Speakers had died out hundreds of years ago, though,” I said.

“I was the last one to survive, and I have evaded capture for many years,” he replied. “Or I thought I was the last one until you showed up,” he added. “I watched you that day you got off the bus, and I knew that I wanted you to come here, so I gave you the materials you would need to learn about yourself and escape.” I thought for a moment. 

“The book on Shadow Speakers?” I asked. Aquarius nodded.

Though I felt a strange inclination to trust the man, I was still suspicious of him.

“Why did you want me here?” I asked.

“Because I wanted you to be able to get away from that school, and train your powers with me here.” I looked doubtfully at him.

“How will we survive? And Professor Frost will come looking for me once he’s figured out I’ve escaped.” 

“We can steal food from the kitchen at the school,” he said. “I’ve been doing it for weeks. As for Professor Frost, I’m sure we can evade him. Also, did your friend Lila come, too, by any chance?” I shook my head. Aquarius pressed his bottom lip against mis top one. “Very well then. She is quite gifted in the power of her magic.” I recalled her eyes turning golden as I heard the strangled cries of the ghost, though I didn’t say anything.

“I’ll stay,” I said decisively. “Though I’m quite tired.” Aquarius nodded once.

“Right this way, then.” Aquarius led me through a set of passageways until we came upon a circular room with an actual bed in it.

“Thanks,” I said, surprised. It looked a little odd in the cave, but I was glad I got an actual bed, and not, say, a wooden log to sleep on. Aquarius left and I settled into my cozy bed, thinking of all the questions that were still unanswered. 

“What had happened with Lila and the ghost?” I wondered. “And what did the strange list on Professor Frost’s desk mean? And why didn’t he punish me for refusing his offer?” All of these questions raced through my head and wound their way into my dreams as I slowly drifted off to sleep.

The next day, I woke up not knowing where I was for a moment. Suddenly, the rush of memories from the day before jolted me up in bed. I noticed a change of clothes on the floor next to my bed, and I tried them on. Though the shirt was a little tight, and the pants sagged around the knees, they were good enough. After I changed, the ghost floated into the room. At first, I almost screamed, but when I realized who it was, I followed it to the room where I first met Aquarius. He was sitting on the log by the fire again, but when he saw me, he smiled and stood up.

“I’m ready,” I said, standing up.

“Good,” Aquarius said. “Your first lesson will begin now.” I followed him back the way I had come and out into the open air. From the inside, the entrance to the cave looked open, but when I came outside, it blended in with the rest of the hill. We walked in silence through the forest. The grass was damp with dew, and the fresh air was cooling to my face. At last, we arrived at a large clearing where the sun shone down, unblocked by the trees. Aquarius turned around.

“Okay,” he said. “First of all, the powers of a Shadow Speaker are not like those of a Servant of Light. A Shadow Speaker’s power is much more dangerous, because it does things of its own accord. You cannot control your power like your friends could, instead you must learn to hold back your energy, and to harness it and direct it to your advantage. This is why you did so badly in your classes at the school. You were trying to use your magic in the wrong way, and it resisted. I have been taught the ways of a Shadow Speaker from my ancestors. Now, I shall pass this knowledge on to you.” He paused for a moment before going on. “One of the most important skills of a Shadow Speaker is invisibility. You must be able to do this at will. Let me demonstrate.” After a few moments, his body disappeared entirely.

“Try and replicate me,” a bodiless voice said. “All you have to do is form a cocoon of energy around your body. Remember, don’t control the energy, simply harness and direct it.” I reached out with my mind, eventually finding the well of dark energy. Suddenly a voice rang out in my mind.

“We can become so powerful together,” the voice whispered. I froze. 

“Um… Aquarius?”


“This might sound weird, but I heard a voice in my head.”

“What?” he said. He looked shocked. “But that isn’t possible,” he murmured, more quietly this time.

“What is it,” I asked. He looked up at me.

“The tale I’m about to tell you took place many centuries ago. It is the tale of the first Shadow Speaker.” I inhaled sharply. “Long ago, a kingdom flourished in what is now this very area of Connecticut. In this kingdom, the government was made up of Servants of Light who dutifully brought prosperity to their people, using their magic. In this kingdom, there lived a family of poor, homeless, people who had to steal food to survive. While the government was usually just, they turned a blind eye to the lower class citizen in their empire. Then, when Scorpio, the youngest child in the family, was only 10, the rest of his family was captured while stealing food, and were taken away from him forever. That tragedy turned the child angry at the government, and all the people in the city. He vowed to one day get revenge. However, the child did have a gift. He was one of the strongest Servants of Light who ever lived. His power could rival even the king’s. Once the child was grown up, he began plotting. At the age of 43, he broke into a heavily guarded fortress and stole the sword of ice, icilis, which was a great source of magical power. Using the sword, he corrupted his power, turning it dark and even more powerful. That’s when he became a Shadow Speaker. Using his powers, he raised an army of spirits and dead to overthrow the government. He then attacked using the energy of pure darkness, which has never been able to be used in its pure form since. His onslaught of power destroyed the entire kingdom, and every single Servant of Light has hated his offspring, the Shadow Speakers, ever since. Though not all of his offspring were Shadow Speakers, all the Shadow Speakers in the world came from his family. However, all of the Shadow Speakers lacked one thing that he had: the ability to use pure darkness. No one has had this power since, until you.” Aquarius turned back to me. “I believe you have the same powers that the first Shadow Speaker had. You should be able to wield pure darkness as a weapon, given the proper instruction. This makes you one of the most powerful users of magic in the whole world.” 

“Why are you telling me this?” I asked. He looked at me straight in the eye. 

“Because the legend says that Scorpio’s energy could talk to him.” Beads of cold sweat started trickling down my neck. Then he continued. “Though Scorpio, the first Shadow Speaker, used his powers for evil, I believe that not all Shadow Speakers are condemned to the same fate. Anyone can use their powers for good or evil, no matter if they are light or dark.”



“Would Professor Frost by any chance know that I’m a Shadow Speaker?” He looked at me strangely and furrowed his brow.

“Why would you say that?”

“I saw a list on his desk,” I admitted. “One of the items checked was Get the Shadow Speaker.” Thinking about the list brought back another memory. One that made my blood run cold. “There was another item on the list,” I said slowly. “Unchecked this time. It was Find Aquarius.” His face turned pale, but then he stood up straight, a gleam in his eye.

“Then we must act fast. Professor Frost is definitely a Servant of Light who thinks the world would be better off without Shadow Speakers. He captured me when I was younger, but I escaped. I think he does know about you, and was plotting to capture you in some way. First, we need to find out his plans. I cannot break into Professor Frost’s study. I would immediately be found and caught. You have to steal Professor Frost’s plans.” I nodded, but inside, my heart was beating faster than a hummingbird flapping its wings. “Before you attempt to steal his plans, you must be trained in things like invisibility and controlling shadows. Let us continue your lesson on invisibility.”

The fluffy, white clouds rolled overhead as I shrouded myself in my energy and became invisible once more.

“Great job!” Aquarius exclaimed. “I think you’ve mastered invisibility already. You really are a quick learner. Let’s move on to controlling shadows now.” I became visible again and wiped the sweat off my brow. Though the work was fun, it was taking a toll on me.

“Can we have a break?” I asked.

“Okay,” Aquarius replied. “But only a short one. I want you to be ready to infiltrate the school as soon as possible.”

“Great, he had to remind me,” I thought sullenly as I sat down on a damp log shaded by a large tree. Aquarius sat down beside me.

“As your ghost has told me, it is indebted to you for saving its life, so it will obey your every move. However, you must also learn to control other shadows, ones that you are not so connected with,” he told me. I sighed. Then I stood up.

“I’m ready to continue practicing,” I said. 

“Excellent! Let me find some new shadows to work with.” After a few minutes, another ghost and a skeleton appeared at the edge of the field, along with my mentor.

“To control a shadow, you must promise it something in return. I have entrapped these shadows within the boundaries of the forest. Your job is to give them more space to roam in return for your control over them.” 

I reached out my mind to the shadows, and thought, “Hello.”

“Hello,” they projected into my mind.

“I can give you something you want,” I thought.

“There is nothing we want,” the skeleton replied. The ghost didn’t answer.

“I can give you more space, and more area to move around.” The shadows did not respond for a few moments.

“Thank you,” the skeleton said. “We shall be on our way.”

“Wait,” I called after them. “I need something too.”

“What?” They seemed annoyed.

“If I get to control you for the rest of the day, you may go wherever you want after that,” I proposed.

“Very well. We are yours to command.” Next, I reached out with my energy, feeling for the enchantments binding the shadows to the forest. Once I found them, I used my power to slowly undo the magic.

“Climb a tree,” I ordered the skeleton, exercising my newfound power. The skeleton dutifully scaled the nearest tree in a matter of seconds.

“Someone is coming,” the skeleton told me.

“Who?” I asked.

“Neat black hair, fancy clothes, purposeful look…” I didn’t wait to hear the rest.

“Aquarius!” I called. “Professor Frost is coming!” We turned ourselves invisible and ran back toward our shelter. However, Professor Frost must have sensed something, because he began sprinting as well. It didn’t look like we would make it back in time. Then an idea sparked in my brain. Though we might not be able to defeat him, the shadows could, and they could even do it without giving our position away.

“Aquarius, are all the shadows here confined to the forest. I didn’t pause to hear a reply. Instead, I focused all my energy on sending a message out to all the shadows in the forest.

“Shadows, can you hear me? I am making a deal with all of you. I will let you roam free if, and only if you agree to help me thwart an evil Servant of Light who has entered our forest today!” Shadows of all kinds started to gather around me as I walked toward Professor Frost, still invisible. Once he was in sight, I pointed at him and thought, “Attack!” All the shadows around me swooped down at Professor Frost. Cursing, he shot bolts of lightning out of his fingers that were so bright they seemed to rip the sky apart, but the shadows nimbly dodged the attacks and swarmed Professor Frost, knocking him to the ground. Before they could do any more damage, he covered him in a cocoon of fire, stood up, and retreated back towards the school. No more shadows dared to attack him after that.

That evening, after the sun had sunk beneath the horizon, I thought about how I would manage to get into Professor Frost’s office. We would have to do it soon, or else Professor Frost would find out where we were, but I didn’t feel ready. At last, I fell asleep.


Chapter 7: Breaking In

The next morning, Aquarius gave me a briefing on how I was to steal the plans of Professor Frost.

“You are going to infiltrate the school in daylight, since the enchantments protecting the office of Frost are more powerful during the night. Stay invisible, and let no one get even the slightest notion that you are there. Do you still have your map of the school?” I nodded, and held up my school schedule. “Good. You will break in at lunchtime when not as many people are in the hallways. There is a way into the school on the other side so that you can go directly up the staircase. Use your map to find your way to his office, undo the spells protecting it, get in, steal the plans, and get out. Go out through the window if you need to. Understand?” I nodded. “I will teach you one last technique this morning, one that will let you sense if anything with magical power is coming your way. If you do feel anything magical coming your way, hide, and if you must, escape.” I nodded again, but inside, my stomach was a churning mass of boiling sludge. What if I failed, or worse, got caught! I felt a strange urge not to disappoint my master. We walked to the clearing where we had practiced yesterday, but this time, I wasn’t paying attention to the scenery or temperature. I almost didn’t notice when Aquarius started to speak again.

“The technique I’m about to teach you is a little bit like how dolphins use echolocation to see what’s around them and find prey. You’re supposed to send a wave of energy out from your body, small enough that nobody but you will be able to sense it. The wave will react to anything magical, and send the signals back to your brain. For the exercise, I will blindfold you, and you will have to find me using this technique. Aquarius tied a blindfold around my face, obstructing my eyes. After a few moments, I concentrated my energy and sent out a wave all around me. I immediately sensed Aquarius’ energy behind me, turned around, and hurried off in that direction. I sent out another wave which this time came in contact with many other sources of magic.

“Aquarius probably sent shadows over here to trick me,” I thought, but I could still distinguish his energy, and turned left to follow it. Sending out more waves, I dodged a spirit, felt Aquarius near me, and stopped right in front of him. My blindfold was suddenly yanked off, and the overwhelming brightness made me stagger.

“Great job,” said a voice. I looked up to see Aquarius beaming down at me. “Since it’s almost lunch time, I’ll get you something to eat and then you can go.” We headed back to the cave and quickly ate some sandwiches Aquarius had stolen from the kitchen in the school. Then, he bid me farewell and I went. I turned myself invisible quickly, and walked at a fast pace in the direction Aquarius had pointed out to me. At some point, the ghost who I had rescued faithfully joined me, boosting my courage. 

At last, I stepped through the barrier and emerged into the rugged mountains again, where I could see the school clearly up ahead. Looking at my map, I trudged to the back and opened a door leading to the staircase. Now was where I had to be careful. As Aquarius had said, most students were at lunch, but the few still in the hallways I had to avoid. The map told me to take the staircase up three flights, open a door on my left, walk down the hallway, and take the second door on my right. I sighed with relief when I stepped into the familiar hallway that held Professor Frost’s office. 

Using the technique Aquarius had taught me, I sent out a wave of energy, and felt a strong source of light energy about to turn down the hall. The hallway was incredibly narrow, and I was afraid the person would brush against me or hear my heart beating like thunder. I certainly could hear it anyway. To be cautious, I let my dark energy fill the room, sucking all light from the room. Since I could still see in the dark, I tiptoed down the hall towards the second doorway on the right. Before I got there, I noticed that the darkness was lifting, and I couldn’t keep invisible for much longer. Looking down the hall, I saw a figure glowing with light. 

It was Lila! Her light was lifting the darkness I had put on the room and sapping my energy. As quickly and quietly as I could, I tried to open the doorknob. However, the door would not open. Reaching for my power, I directed it and felt it push against an unseen wall. Gathering more of my strength, I finally pushed through the barrier. I opened the door as quickly and quietly as I could, and then stepped into the office, shutting the door behind me. Unfortunately, this was a squeaky door just like the one back at my home. 

The only thing I had eyes for in the office were the papers on the desk, and I quickly gathered them up. Then I wondered how to escape. Looking out the window, I saw it was too big of a drop to jump. 

Turning around, I asked the ghost, “Could you fly me down to the ground?”

“It will be difficult to maintain a solid state for so long,” the ghost communicated back. “But I will try.” I unlocked the window with my powers and jumped out, the ghost holding on to me. The ghost floated slowly down, but couldn’t keep solid very long. I plunged the rest of the way to the ground, but luckily it was only a few feet. Then I sprinted away from the school and back into the forest, just as my invisibility faded away.

Back at the cave, me and Aquarius poured over the papers I had stolen from Professor Frost’s office. 

“So it seems like his first plan was to lure you into a trap during the training he would’ve given you. However, since you refused and then escaped, he made a new plan. This one involved setting the forest on fire using dragon fire.” Aquarius winced as he said that last sentence.

“How would he get dragon fire?” I asked. “I mean, doesn’t it come from dragons.”

“He must have some dragon fire bottled up somewhere. It can stay going for a very long time, unless a special solution is applied to it. Dragon fire is a more powerful and more easily spread version of normal fire. It can make anything, even damp soil catch on fire. It also has the property that it can destroy shadows. I shudder to think what would happen if dragon fire was unleashed upon this forest.”

“Do you know what we should do?” 

“The only thing I can think of is leaving the forest, though I don’t like the thought of it burning to the ground,” Aquarius said sadly.

“Would we be powerful enough to defeat Professor Frost together?” I asked hopefully.

“I don’t think so. Now that he is considering us trying to take him down as a possibility, he’ll probably have precautions in place, and he might even have been training the students in offensive magic. That would give him a whole army of Servants of Light. And the antidote to dragon fire isn’t a possibility either because it would take years to procure. Professor Frost could attack us as soon as he wants.”

“So we have to leave and let the whole forest and all the shadows burn to the ground?” My voice trembled. Aquarius rested a gnarled hand on my shoulder. 

“We’ll save as many shadows as we can,” he said. As I was getting up, I remembered one more thing I wanted to ask him.

“My friend Lila lit up a hallway I had filled with darkness as I was getting to Professor Frost’s office. It doesn’t happen in other dark rooms, though.” Aquarius stroked his chin.

“Since the darkness came from your energy, I’m guessing that her energy pushed through yours and fought your power, emptying the darkness from the room. Your friend is an extremely powerful Servant of Light. She could be a strong ally.” I nodded in understanding.

That night, I walked to the top of the hill, my mind wandering. At the top, I could see over the canopy of leaves glistening with the light of the full moon, which was shining through a gap in the dark clouds covering the sky. Aquarius had taught me that while the sun was the source of magical power for the Servants of Light, the moon was the source of power for the Shadow Speakers. I could practically feel my body absorbing its power. The dark forest seemed eerily unfamiliar and strange as it stretched out before me. 

Using the ability Aquarius had taught me, I closed my eyes and sent out a wave of energy, sensing if anything of magical power was near me. To my surprise, I sensed something I had never sensed before coming slowly towards me. Opening my eyes, I caught sight of an object floating through the air towards me, though there was no wind. I grasped it. It was a scroll, with a seal that had a dragon on it. Even though I hadn’t opened it yet, I had a suspicion who it was from. Tearing open the seal, I read the letter, and gasped.


Chapter 8: Sunrise

I rushed through the dense undergrowth, stabbing my pants on thorns and tripping over tree roots. The forest seemed to have no end now that I had to get to the school as soon as I could. Then I noticed a presence alongside me. My ghost. Minutes passed, though I wasn’t tiring. If Lila was in the hands of Professor Frost… 

“Don’t think about that,” I told myself. “Just focus on getting to the school.” Then a ray of sunshine peeked through the trees and illuminated the ground below my feet, causing me to double my efforts. After what seemed like eternity, I stepped onto the rugged mountain pass and saw the school up ahead. The boring brick building now seemed more ominous, like it was trying to tell me, “You shouldn’t be here.” I shoved the thought out of my mind, and continued running, turning on my invisibility. Finally, I reached the foot of the school. Glancing my map, I asked the ghost, “Could you try and take me up to the second floor window?”

“I’ll try,” the ghost said. The ghost lifted me from the ground and slowly brought me level with the second floor. I reached out with my hand and opened the window. Then me and the ghost tumbled inside. I wasn’t able to keep up my invisibility for much longer, so I turned it off after checking that the room was empty. I looked out the window, and saw the beautiful sunrise, turning the now clear sky into shades of red, orange, and yellow. The sun had partially risen above the nearest mountain, and reflected brightly off the snow. I turned away from the window and concentrated on the plan I had formed while running through the forest. 

Knowing the first thing I needed to do, I summoned my power and directed it at destroying the illusion of the mountains. The magic was powerful, and even fought back, but it finally broke. The mountains were replaced by the forest, which now seemed even larger and more infinite. Then I collapsed from the energy it took to fight the illusion, but rose again when I heard a sound that made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. The sound was a crinkling, crackling, whispering noise, coming from the forest. It was the sound of fire. 

I slowly turned to the window, almost not wanting to see. The forest was on fire, a huge, bright orange, flickering mass, rising from the ground. The fire raced across the forest at an alarming speed. Where there had been trees and moss and soil, now lay a desolate wasteland with no living things in sight. Next came the cries of the shadows. The despairing shouts of, “No!,” and, “Help!” overwhelmed me, and I covered my ears, though I knew it wouldn’t make a difference. Finally, the cries stopped, and I could focus again.

“What should I do?” I wondered. “I could go back into the burning forest and see if Aquarius is okay, but I’m so far away it might not make a difference.” I buried my head in my hands. Then I heard a voice, calling my name, or more like asking it.

“D-Dakota?” I turned around to see Steven in the doorway of the room. The sight of my friend brought me new courage and hope. 

“What are you doing here?” we asked each other at the same time.

“Oh, um, I was j-just going here to g-get my coat. I l-left it here earlier. But w-what are you d-doing here?” he said. I thought about if I wanted to tell Steven the truth. He seemed like a good friend, but if he had been taught that Shadow Speakers were evil, he might try to stop me. I finally decided that if I was going to tell everyone else, I might as well tell him now.

“It’s a long story. It started with me discovering I was a Shadow Speaker.” Steven’s eyes widened, but he let me continue. It was obvious the students had heard of them. After I finished with Professor Frost starting the fire in the forest, he stared at me speechless. “So, will you help me?” I took a few deep breaths to calm my racing heart.

“Of c-course I will,” he said, with a kind look on his face. “I’m your fr-friend.” I smiled, despite the situation. 

“Great, now let’s get down to the dining hall. I’ll tell you my plan along the way. After Steven agreed to help me, my breaths finally slowed down. It surprised me that he would do it so casually without a second thought. I cloaked us both with my invisibility and we hurried off to the dining hall, glancing at my map a few times to make sure we were going along the right path. 

At last, we arrived at the raised wooden platform at the back of the dining hall. It was packed with students eating their breakfast, and the teachers with Professor Frost in the middle were sitting in their chairs as normal. My body filled with rage at seeing him sitting in that chair with a smile on his face when he had recently burned down a forest to try and kill Aquarius, but I tried to hold it back. I paused when I spotted Lila sitting among the other students, confused at why she wasn’t being held hostage by Professor Frost. Was what he had said in the letter false?

“Whatever,” I thought. I undid me and Steven’s invisibility, and faced the crowd. Everyone immediately looked up when they saw me and Steven on the platform.

“You told me to come here at sunrise, so I came,” I addressed Professor Frost. By now, the morning light was shining brightly through the small glass windows of the school, filling the dining hall with light.

“I frankly don’t know what you are talking about,” Professor Frost said, but his eyes displayed an alarming ferocity. 

“You sent me a letter last night with your signature, saying that I would have to come here at sunrise so that you would release Lila from whichever trap you’ve put her in,” I said. At this, Lila’s ears perked up.

“I really don’t know what you mean about this letter and whatnot,” he said, with an expression so flummoxed that I doubted myself for a moment. I desperately searched in my pocket for the letter he had sent me as proof, but to my dismay, it was gone.

“Really? What about the fire that just ravaged the forest outside? That wasn’t you using dragon fire?” I said. Professor Frost waved his hand dismissively.

“Forest fires happen,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. 

My dark energy grew restless at him claiming innocence after all he’d done, and spoke, “You could just do it now,” it whispered. “You could end that treacherous Servant of Light once and for all.”

“No,” I thought. “The students have to know the truth.” Meanwhile, Professor Frost had started speaking.

“This young man is a Shadow Speaker, using his dark powers to oppress and capture Servants of Light. He is probably trying to kill me right now. If he isn’t dealt with immediately, he will be a threat to us all!”

“Please,” I begged. “Listen to me. This is my friend Steven next to me. He chose to stay by my side because he knows that it doesn’t matter if I’m a Shadow Speaker or not if I’m doing the right thing. Professor Frost sent me a letter saying that he was holding my friend Lila captive, but he was just trying to lure me into a trap. Professor Frost might have instructed you that Shadow Speakers are evil, but he is just trying to wipe us out because we are something we can’t control. It isn’t the type of power inside us that decides if we are good or bad, it’s the choices we make that matters. 

“This boy is creating a false story about me sending some letter to him to accuse me of doing something to his friend. He‘s just a Shadow Speaker who is trying to wipe us all out, so that he has all the power,” Professor Frost said. “That is why he must be destroyed! Students, attack this Shadow Speaker and make him pay for what he wants to do to us!” Lila was now standing up in the crowd, her eyes wavering indecisively from me to Frost. 

Suddenly, a wave of fire shot toward me, and time seemed to start to pass in slow motion. It rushed toward me at such a speed that I knew I wouldn’t be able to protect myself or avoid it. Tears started to form in my eyes.

“No one will save me,” I thought miserably. “Everything I had worked for. It’ll all be for nothing.” The fire flew through the air coming closer and closer. It started to blind me, and I could now feel its heat on my skin. I closed my eyes, and waited. However, before the flame could hit me, a bright white light that shone through my eyelids split the air in front of me and created a shield protecting me from the fire. I opened my eyes.

“You tried to kill my friend!” Lila yelled, her eyes turning to golden slits of light. Once the fire around me had dissipated, she shot the bright light back towards Professor Frost.


Chapter 9: The Power of Darkness

Professor Frost barely evaded the light by jumping out of the way at the last possible moment, and then shouted, “If you choose to side with the Shadow Speakers, you must be eliminated, too.” Another ball of fire flew in our direction, but I summoned my powers and sucked the light and heat from it. The rest of the students were frozen with terror, and even when Professor Frost ordered, “Use your power, idiots, attack them!” they still didn’t move a muscle. Lila ran up to the podium and stood next to me and Steven. After dodging another attack, I tugged on Lila and Steven’s hands and then pointed down to the dining tables.

“Let’s go,” I whispered. I made all three of us invisible and began to run down from the platform. They followed me, but after I started to run between the side of the leftmost table and the wall, they stopped. 

“What are you doing? We’ll be trapped,” Lila whispered.

“Don’t worry. Professor Frost can’t see us,” I replied. Jumping down from his chair, Professor Frost beckoned to the other teachers, and they together sent a wave of almost invisible light throughout the room. I quickly realized that they were using the same technique Aquarius had taught me to find us. I managed to obscure myself in time, but Lila and Steven weren’t as lucky.

“There they are!” Frost exclaimed. When I shrouded myself from the wave of light, I accidentally undid Lila and Steven’s invisibility, and they were spotted immediately. 

“We’ll lead them away from you,” Steven whispered. “Go!” Before I had time to react, they had hurried off and away from me. Assuming I was with them, the teachers went after them, and I ducked quietly into a hallway leading away from the chaos. Then I slumped against the wall, and wondered what I should do.

“Should I escape and maybe find Aquarius to get help? Should I try to find Lila and Steven and get away with them together? Should I confront Professor Frost somewhere?” I dropped my head into my hands, but regained my composure and kept up my invisibility when I heard the clack of footsteps coming down the hall. The person turned the corner, and was revealed to be the librarian, Ms. Nettle. 

“What was going on in there?” she said. I stayed where I was.

“I asked what was going on in there,” she said. It took me a moment to realize she was talking to me.

“How did she see through my invisibility?” I wondered. I decided to try to sneak away. 

However, before I had even started to move, she said in her loud voice, “I know you’re there.” I froze. Finally, I undid my invisibility and looked her in the eye. Sighing, I told her the whole story. I finished at the right moment, for as I recounted me, Lila, and Steven sneaking away, I heard more footsteps coming down the hall. I instinctively turned invisible, and stood as close to the wall as I could. The teacher Ms. Brown entered the hallway.

“Oh, hello Ms. Nettle. Have you by any chance seen that Shadow Speaker boy around?” I pressed my back even harder against the wall.

“No, I haven’t,” Ms. Nettle said, shaking her head. “Have Lila and Steven been caught yet?”

“What? Oh, the two friends. Yes. They are being held in a classroom on the third floor, and we’re carefully watching them. Come with me. I don’t think we’ve looked in the bathrooms yet.” Ms. Nettle and Ms. Brown walked away, and me, hardly daring to make a noise, watched them leave. I reached a hand into my right pocket to get my map, but discovered it was gone. I probably dropped it on the way here. Sighing, I walked back toward the dining hall. Suddenly, I slipped on something and fell to the ground. I clutched my painfully bruised knee, but the pain seemed to stop when I saw the thing I had slipped on. It was a small piece of paper, with a few lines in elegant, curvy handwriting on it.

The classroom that your 2 friends are being kept in is not shown on your map. Take a staircase down from the 1st floor, walk down the hallway and enter the second door on your left to get into another hallway. Go in through the first door you see, then go back out. Walk a few paces backwards, and turn to the wall on your right. Tap the slightly protruding stone, and go through the door at the end of the corridor. Good luck.

Having no time to lose, I rushed to the nearest staircase. Since I was already on the 1st floor, I took the staircase down, and emerged into a hallway. The floor, walls, and ceiling were all wooden, and big, bright lights were placed at intervals along the ceiling. I entered the second door on my left, and stepped into an ominous stone hallway, with dim torches flickering and casting eerie shadows onto the wall. I felt a strange desire to go back, but I forced myself to take one step after another.

“It’s just the magic working against me,” I thought to myself. I went through the next door and stepped into a dark room with 2 doors going from either side. Remembering the scrap of paper, I walked back out of the room. There was a stone that was almost unnoticeably jutting out from the wall, so that you could only find it if you were looking for it. I tapped it once, and then walked with long, purposeful strides to the door at the end of the hallway. Turning my invisibility on, I slowly turned the doorknob, and stepped into the room, closing the door behind me. 

A group of teachers including Professor Frost were carefully watching 2 figures chained to the ground on the left side of the room, so they didn’t see the door open when I came in. The room had a window on the far side, and was completely empty and plain. My eyes zoomed in on Lila and Steven, whose hands and legs were chained behind them, forcing them into an awkward position. Then I felt a strange presence at my side, and I remembered that my ghost was still with me.

“We need to find some way to free them,” I transmitted to my ghost. However, before I could answer, another voice spoke, and I recognized it as the whispering voice of my power.

“You could destroy them all and have your friends back. If you let me take control, we will easily win.”

“No!” I shook my head vigorously. It took all of my strength to refuse. “I don’t want to destroy everyone and everything around me!” Meanwhile, the ghost spoke, unaware of my inner conversation.

“If you open the window, you could get them out through there,” it suggested. Of course! It was the same way I had freed the ghost itself. Concentrating on the window, I directed my energy to turn the locking mechanism, but a force resisted me, shoving me backwards. I tried again, but it wouldn’t work. Defeated, I walked across the room to the window, being careful to be quiet, and stared at it for a while. I leaned against the glass and sighed. Suddenly, I heard a creak, and the window slid open a crack, letting the fresh morning air surge through the room. I couldn’t believe it. 

“The weight of my body just opened the window that hadn’t even been locked in the first place,” I murmured. “The resistance was probably just the protective coating on the windows and walls that stops shadows from moving through them.” However, the teachers had heard the creak of the window and seen the crack between it and the wall, and were now staring towards me with a mixture of confusion and surprise. Everything after that seemed to happen at once.

“The Shadow Speaker is here!” Professor Frost shouted. “Find him. He can’t stay invisible forever!” The teachers in the room began to run around blindly, but I managed to dodge them and the flashes of bright light that occasionally shot my way. However, while the other teachers ran through the room searching for me, Professor Frost walked toward his prisoners. As he did so, he pulled a shiny dagger from his pocket, knelt down, and held it against Lila’s throat. His hand was steady.

“Dakota! Come out, or I will not hesitate to use this weapon on your friend,” Professor Frost proclaimed. My throat constricted with fear, and the world around me dimmed to only a spark of awareness in my mind. The only thing I saw was the scene that could play out in front of me. I turned visible in resignation. Without warning, a powerful spell hit me and I stuck to the wall behind me, my arms and legs glued together. I tried to move, but I couldn’t. Professor Frost’s cackle grew louder as he prepared to strike me. 

Suddenly, something hit Professor Frost in the face with a “Croak,” and he staggered backwards. 

“Get… Ow! Get this thing off me,” he garbled. With a start, I realized it was one of the glowing toads we had studied in Magical Creatures. It started clawing at his face. My body was now free from the spell, and I stood up, taller than ever. Professor Frost finally got the toad off his face, but even as it hopped to the ground, I looked at it with new respect. I was ready for Professor Frost’s next spell, and I deflected it easily. However, Professor Frost, a gleeful smile on his face, lit a ball of fire in his hand, and when the toad tried to clamber onto him again, it smacked against the wall with a dull thump. All of my anger at Professor Frost had reached a boiling point, and his threat had set it off like a bomb. 

“Get away from my friend!” I snarled. I reached out my hand, and from it flowed a substance that felt like nothing, but even less than that. It felt like emptiness, and without being told, I knew that this was pure darkness. Then, just as Lila’s eyes had turned golden when she destroyed the ghost, mine turned black. The darkness flowed toward Professor Frost gulping up the fire going towards Lila, and effortlessly struck Frost, knocking him to the ground.

“Good,” my energy whispered. “I knew you would give in to me eventually. Now, we can destroy everyone who stands in our way, and become the most powerful source of magic to ever live!” Professor Frost got up and shakily raised a hand.

“Stop!” he shouted, but I didn’t hear him. I sent another wave of pure darkness in his direction while he shot a wave of light from his outstretched hand. The beams of energy collided in the middle, and flames danced around the spot where they had struck each other. I felt a force pushing me backwards, and I gripped the wall to keep my feet from sliding backwards. Suddenly, there was a “Boom!” and the ground shook. I was tossed up into the air like a ragdoll along with Professor Frost, and then I hit the wall with a “Thud.” Through my hazy vision, I saw him get up and felt his power gearing up for another attack inside of him.

“No,” my energy whispered. “This won’t do. You can’t let him win!” My eyes cleared and I stood up, clenching my teeth. It felt like my rage itself was attacking him. He was knocked against the wall again without even time to defend. I rose up into the air, and a wall of darkness surrounded me. The teacher’s futile blasts of light were almost unnoticeable, and the world looked as if I was viewing through fog from a distance. I sent wave after wave of dark energy from my body, knocking everyone, friend or foe, onto the ground. With every wave of energy sent out from my body, the brick walls shook, and then finally collapsed sending out a cloud of dust. My power formed a shield around me, deflecting the debris falling my way.

“Professor Frost!” I shouted, rising higher into the air. “You have tried to kill me, my friend, and countless other innocent people! You deserve what is about to come to you!” My voice resounded with the volume of one hundred people shouting at once. Professor Frost lay on the ground, his belly exposed, and his eyes dilating wildly. 

“Destroy all of them!” my power laughed. “We are invincible!” As I gathered energy for a final blow, I looked down at the faces of the petrified teachers, Professor Frost, the toad, and Lila and Steven. All of them had the same expression on their faces. One of pleading, turning into resignation. I looked down at my body, which was contorted, dark, and unrecognizable. 

All at once, a rush of memories swelled up inside of me. I remembered all the happy times I’d spent with Lila, and having a conversation with Steven, and when the toad saved my life, and many more. All of these memories brought back a feeling that surged through my veins, warming me, and finally shaping into an emotion I could recognize: love. Love for the toad, love for Lila, love for Steven, love for the ghost, and love for all the wonderful people and things I’d seen in my life.

As the love for all these people and things flowed through me, I thought, “No. I won’t let it end this way. I won’t make anyone die. Not Professor Frost, not the teachers, not the toad, and certainly not my friends.” And with the feeling of love still coursing through me, my feet touched the floor again, and my dark power dissipated. With a shudder, I realized I had been under the full influence of my power.

With a groan, Professor Frost got up, and looked around at us.

“Go,” I said to him. “Leave here, and don’t come back.” Without a word, he turned around, clambered over the fallen bricks, and walked out of an opening where the wall should’ve been. As he ran through the burnt forest, he gave one last longing look at the school, and then disappeared from view.

“I’m so sorry,” I whispered, tears sliding down my cheeks. 

Everyone in the room nodded, and deep down in my heart, I knew that they understood.


Chapter 10: Regrowth

Me, Lila, and Steven walked out of the school, and shivered as the cold winter air stung our faces. Since I had broken the spell creating the illusion of the mountains next to the school, the temperature was now back to normal. However, I almost didn’t notice the chilly wind. Lila and Steven had been attempting to cheer me up since the morning by starting a conversation or comforting me, but I knew it was hopeless. My worries about Aquarius ran too deep in my veins.

“So I was looking through the files and emails on Professor Frost’s computer earlier today,” Lila said, a mischievous grin on her face. “He had sent emails to all of our parents telling us how the school would unlock our potential, and why they should send their kids there. The thing is that the emails were written in mesmer writing.”

“What’s that?” Steven asked.

“It’s writing that is enchanted so that the reader believes whatever is written. I read about it in a book, though I didn’t know it could work on computers.” I nodded subconsciously, recalling my parents’ glazed over eyes as they told me about going to the school. 

We finally reached the edge of the forest, or at least what used to be the forest before the dragon fire ravaged it. Walking silently through the dead grass, we took in the horror of what the dragon fire had done. Spotting a dead animal carcass, my knees buckled, and I pressed a hand against a scarred tree to steady myself.

We reached the hill where the cave had been. My ghost had led us here and was now drifting slowly up the hill. I reached for my power, and sent out a wave of energy from my body. I felt nothing like Aquarius’s energy. Tears began to stream down my cheeks, and my body shook with sobs. I sat like this for a while, my tears moistening the soil beneath me. 

Suddenly, a figure came running up the hill. His body was illuminated by the sunlight to reveal long, unkempt hair and eyes that were startlingly blue. I rubbed my bleary eyes, but the figure persisted in my vision. I got up and ran up to meet him, embracing him in my arms. He patted me awkwardly on the back.

“I’m glad you’re okay,” I whispered to him.

“You too,” he said in his gravelly voice.

We walked back through the forest together to where the yellow school bus that we had arrived on was waiting outside. Ms. Nettle was waiting there with a large stack of books in her arms.

“I hope you like these,” she said, dumping them into my arms.

“Thank you,” I replied, smiling. I turned to Aquarius.

“When will we meet again?” I asked him.

“Soon,” he replied with a reassuring look. “I’ll contact you.” Me, Lila, and Steven walked over to the bus.

“Bye!” We waved to Ms. Nettle and Aquarius.

“Bye!” They waved back. As Lila was stepping onto the bus, her foot faltered. When she turned back to me, there was a fierce gleam in her eyes.

“There’s one more I want to do,” she said. 

Lila walked to the edge of the forest, knelt down on the ground, and placed her hand palm down on the soil. Suddenly, her hand ignited with an almost blinding light., and her eyes turned golden. The light spread from her hand through the soil, like a tree taking root, and eventually was covering the entire forest floor. Where the light touched the dry, rocky soil, it moistened and became fertile. Where the light touched the burnt grass, new green grass grew in its place. Where the light touched the fallen, scarred trees, they stood up and grew new branches and a new canopy of leaves. Birds flew through the trees and a squirrel scampered through the underbrush.

“Incredible,” Aquarius breathed. Lila’s eyes faded to their normal color and she stood up, brushing the dirt off her pants.

“Now we can go home,” she said, rolling her eyes. I laughed for the first time in days.


The End


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