The Ultimate Sacrifice

The girl was barely twenty, in the prime of her life.

    She swirled with the winds around her, her eyes fixed on the cobra in the front that threatened the lives of her people.

    It didn’t matter that she was just a child.

    It didn’t matter that she had a lot to see in her life.

    It didn’t matter that she wanted to do a lot of things in her life.

    It didn’t even matter that she had a boyfriend who couldn’t live without her.

    The girl spread her arms, murmuring an incantation. A band of yellow magic materialised between her palms. She took a deep breath.

    ‘This is going to be my last spell,’ she thought. ‘My very last…

    The spell was ready. All she had to do was release it on the enemy.

    “Sand of love!”

    Barely had the spell been released than a great ball of metallic energy hit her in the side.

    She gasped, her spell gone haywire, but unforgotten.

    She fell from a great height in the sky, spiralling down and down… now, faster and faster…

    Her spell hit the target, but she was the one who made the ultimate sacrifice, for the target lived and she died.

Did You Know…? Rajaraja Chola I

When students of India hear about the Chola Dynasty, the first person that comes to their mind is its

Mural depicting Rajaraja and his guru, Karuvuruvar, found in the Brihadisvara Temple, Tamil Nadu, 11th century.

most famous ruler, Rajaraja Chola I. It is easy to assume that he was the first ruler of the dynasty, but in fact, he was not; he was about the fourth or the fifth ruler!

Below is a brief biography about this famous emperor of India, including some of the customs and traditions of his time:

 

Born around 947 CE (not definitive), the son of Parantaka Chola II was named Arulmozhi Varman. The

title of “Rajaraja” (translation: “King of Kings”) was assumed much later, when he assumed power to the Chola throne. “Chola” was his family name. His birth name meant “blessed tongue”.

Arulmozhi Varman came to power at a time when the Chola Dynasty had nearly weakened and disintegrated. His deeds have him known to be one of the greatest rulers of the Indian sub-continent.

During his rule, the Chola Dynasty grew into an empire and controlled territories not only within the Indian sub-continent, but also beyond. Recent findings yielded that he had set up colonies in the present-day countries of Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Malaysia (Sailendra Empire). His son went on to occupy more, which we shall see at a later date. Even the then China had connections with the Chola Empire, when Rajaraja Chola I sent a trade mission in 1015 CE. He established a dynasty in northern Sri Lanka and named it as “Mummadichola Mandalam”, which can be translated to: “The area ruled by Mummudi Chola”. “Mummudi” in the Tamil means “King with three crowns”, a title won by Rajaraja Chola I.

Within the Indian sub-continent: He was known to have broken the confederation between the Pandya Dynasty and the dynasties of Kerala and Sri Lanka. He destroyed the navy of the Chera Dyansty at Thrivandrum, attacked Quilon (ancient name of Kollam, a seacoast at Malabar in present-day India), and captured Madurai (a city in present-day Tamil Nadu). He defeated the Western Chalukya Dynasty, the Rashtrakuta Dynasty (present-day Andhra Pradesh and Telangana), and the Kalyani Chalukya Dynasty. He conquered Vengi (999 CE).

There is a lot of evidence that betel leaves and areca nuts were eaten during this time, mostly inscriptions and carvings in temples, around 10th-12th century CE. References say that betel vines and areca gardens were given to temples as gifts! An inscription from the 11th century even states the method of harvesting and processing areca nuts. The frequent mention of these two commodities could imply that they were largely used not only with temple groups, but also the elite community. The 10th-century Arab writer, Abu Zaid, writes that betel leaf was offered as a token of friendship and honour. Also, findings suggest that there was a custom of exchanging betel leaves during the time of Rajaraja Chola I.

Betel leaves are used even to-day as part of a return gift to guests of a pooja or a grand celebration in India.

The best thing that Rajaraja Chola I is known for to-day is the Brihadeshwara Temple at Thanjavur,

Brihadeshwara inscription reading "Rajaraja"

By David George – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40140126

the then capital of the Chola Empire, built approximately in 1010 CE. It is dedicated to Shiva, one of the three main gods of Hinduism. It is called “Rajarajeshwara Temple” or simply “Rajaraja Temple”.

 

 

 

Rajaraja Chola I was succeeded by his son, Rajendra Chola I.

Why I Love the “Twilight Saga” and Stephenie Meyer

This post should absolutely not be related to my other post about the “Harry Potter” series. While the story of Harry Potter is pure contemporary urban young adult fantasy, the story of Bella and “Twilight Saga” is really an urban contemporary supernatural new adult romance. I know this is a big sentence and editors would want me to shorten this, but it’s the truth. Read it slowly if you want. It makes perfect sense.

Also, the magicians (and the humans) in the Harry Potter story are alive; whereas the vampires in the “Twilight Saga” are dead. There are more things I’d like to say on this absurd comparison, but that’s a topic for another article.

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE IS NOT INTENDED FOR FANS OF THE “HARRY POTTER” SERIES AND J K ROWLING.

Can I just, for a moment, get out of topic and say, “Man, I’ve been on Twitter for more than a year now and have never ever seen anybody post such extreme homophobic content as J K Rowling”?

Anyway, back on track.

SPOILER WARNING FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN’T READ THE SAGA YET. 

A few things why I love Bella, the “Twilight Saga”, and Stephenie Meyer.

  1. Bella is headstrong and determined. We don’t see this most of the time, because the story is usually narrated from her perspective and she’s one of those people who undermines her own positive qualities. At age 17, it’s to be expected. These qualities of hers are displayed very clearly in four instances: One, when she tells Edward that they were meant to be together; two, when she tells Jacob he wasn’t meant for her; three, when she is determined to keep Edward alive in the battle with the newborns; four, when she gets fake passports made for Renesmee and Jacob for their getaway, just before the final battle with the Volturi. People seem to forget a lot of these aspects and they come out prominently when the books are read. So, if you’re one of those people who hate the Saga because of their movies, just try reading those fat things called the books.
  2. Bella is the only adult among the four Cullen-Hale children. She’s the one who doesn’t hesitate making tough decisions to keep her family – both mortal and immortal – safe. Here, she’s on par with Carlisle. She is the most fit to be a mother to a child like Renesmee. She analyses with caution and thinking through very carefully before moving forward. This was especially displayed when she became a vampire. Granted, they were times when she acted recklessly – like, when she hallucinated about Edward and when she leaped to kill Jacob for naming Renesmee “after a monster”, but these are tiny slips in comparison to the major differences she made in the story through her decision-making process. From the first book to the fourth, you can see how her character has grown and changed.
  3. The “Twilight Saga” is a story of choices. This I realised when it was pointed out to me in a video on YouTube, in which the man defended the story very well. Albeit, only the movies, but still. I’ll let you watch the video, because I really don’t want to make his points my own.
  4. Vampires are frozen in time. What do you expect? They’re dead. They cannot change their minds or attitudes very easily. Sure, Edward watched Bella when she slept. It’s not like he could help it: he wanted to kill her for her blood. That’s the entire reason they interact in the first place. He tells her he’d been attracted to her scent and therefore, he has a strong urge to kill her. Her father is also supposed to have blood like this in his system. The scientific reason for such a difference in blood structure has been explained in that video, so I’m not going to say it here again. Vampires are basically animals that prey. And naturally, Edward was attracted to her; he was a creature, not entirely human. You must remember that stalkery is no concept outside the human world. Another thing worth mentioning here that people forget is the fact established early on in the story about vampires: when they meet their soulmate, they don’t look at anybody else. So, my theory is that Edward never felt attracted to any other vampire as much as he was attracted to Bella – again, because of the scent of her blood – and that fascinated him to the point that he wanted to watch her sleep. Vampires are literally frozen in time, so you cannot expect him or any of the other vampires to change their minds quickly or adapt to new cultures – something Edward himself points out in the third book. Again, a reminder to the Twilight-haters to read the books with an open mind. I actually did this while reading the “Harry Potter” series and that’s why I couldn’t read past the first few pages of the fourth book. Until then, it was tolerable. I really liked the third book; the rest were passable. Another thing is, Edward cannot even get a sound from Bella’s thoughts, which frustrates him and he wants to find out why. He eventually does, as does she. 
  5. Stephenie Meyer is great for ignoring all the needless hate and still going on with her life. I’m glad she finally moved on from the “Midnight Sun” leak and got around to publishing it last year! I pre-ordered it and received it when the day before it released in India! As an author myself, I would love to follow in her footsteps, write what I want to read, even if it doesn’t gain a lot of popularity; after all, I’m not in this for the money or the fame – for god’s sake, I write with a pen name! XD But yes, Stephenie Meyer is definitely a role model.
  6. Stephenie Meyer shows various personalities through ther story. Through different characters, like Bella, Edward, Jacob, Charlie, Bella’s mother, the rest of the werewolves and the vampires. Even the villains are awesome, with great ambitions and driving forces.

These are the main reasons I love Stephenie Meyer and Twilight. I don’t care who says they don’t like it – they’re clearly not the target audience for these books. Twilight helped me through my teenage and I shall forever love the story. I’m sure the haters have their own reasons, and I think I’ve heard all of them.

That’s all for now. Ciao! See you in my blogpost!

 

The Netherwalker – End-of-Excerpt

Chapter 04: One Last Time

 

This is where the excerpt for my supernatural magic book comes to an end.

I honestly never expected that so many people will like my stories… so much that one person would even comment in each of the chapters! It makes me feel that my readers are really liking this story. I’ve had a great time writing it, too!

See you all in my next post!

An Ode to 2020

2020 — Boy, weren’t you such a riot!
A virus was let loose on the world –
A teensy thing that spread havoc through every country!

2020 — Weren’t you smart!
You let the virus out into the world,
So you could have an excuse not to fulfil people’s promises!

2020 — All people’s hopes and dreams
Came crashing down on their mansions –
All the mayhem and death that followed
Has crippled the existing system.

2020 — You sure gave us all a shock!

Though, I couldn’t say it was all for the worse:
Parents had more time to spend with their children,
Children could really understand their parents,
Humanity seems to have come back,
Even if only a tiny fragment.

Staying at home was not a great joy,
For even the most homely went mad; wanted to go outside—
“But for the virus, I could be out in a mall now,” they said,
“Watching a movie or buying a book.” —
Such was the effect!

2020 — You were a riot,
An excuse to not fulfil people’s promises,
Crashing all hopes and dreams –

With everybody hoping for a safer world in the brand new year,
What a shock when the pandemic spilt over into it,
But by then, people seemed to have got used to a homely life.

Life Update – 13/09/2021

Hiiii!

So, I’ve realised some time ago – and had been reminding myself from time-to-time since – that I have been forgetting to post Life Updates on this blog. The last was in the March of this year.

I am still making videos to post on my YouTube channel.

Though now, I might take to reading out excerpts from the sequel to “The Young Foreigner” some time soon!!

It is not yet finished, but it’s appraoching the end. I’ve been adjusting the time period according to the ages of my characters and I think it’s finalised now.

To those who have read “The Young Foreigner”, you will be seeing some new characters besides the old ones. New fantasy elements introduced and old ones reintroduced.

New fights, new allies, old enemies.

I shall be revealing the title and the back-cover description soon!! – and of course, the cover and the pre-order link, as well. The book will definitely not come out this year… only in 2022. It’s been rewritten several times, until I was satisfied, which was the reason for the delay in its release.

If you want to know how many books will be in The Sahara Chronicles, I can tell you there will be four for sure. Not sure if there will be a fifth. According to the original idea, there were supposed to be only three; then, I added two more novellae as series in-betweens. Then, as I was writing Book #1.5, I realised that it was going to be a full-fledged novel. Therefore, now, there are going to be four, with plot adjustments.

In the second news, my father ordered for me a copy of “The Young Foreigner” for me from Amazon, which is really expensive in India, seeing as it has to come all the way from the UK, through the tolls. I anyway had plans of publishing a second version of the paperback in an Indian indie-publishing website, but this happened.

I’m still going ahead with the plan, though, since it’s literally not affordable in my country, for those who want to read the physical version rather than the ebook. This new website has much better rates for us Indians. But those who prefer Amazon and are from outside India, don’t worry, I shall retain the Amazon copy as it is. 😀

In the third news, I am now married and am trying to adjust to the new family life. Family as in, my husband and his parents.

Right now, I’m in a what I am going to call a “career rut”. I mean, I got back a document with comments and I have no clue how to make the suggested modifications. That’s why I’m on the blog instead. LOL!

My birthday came and went.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think… that’s about it. More to come in the next Life Update.

See ya!

The Grimwire Apprentices #1: The Netherwalker – Chapter 04: One Last Time

CHAPTER 03: LIKE OLD MEDIAEVAL CAVES

 

CHAPTER 04: ONE LAST TIME

 

December 2019

Ethan Adams, a resident of St Augustina Ruskin, was feeling a little restless one morning from all the studying he had been doing for his college entrance exams.

It was technically winter vacation, having completed his second semester, but his Masters exams were starting in April, just a couple of weeks after his Bachelor’s final exams, which didn’t give him much time to study for both separately. He had also been simultaneously looking up ads and applying for various colleges all over the country. He decided to put the two St Augustina colleges on hold until the eleventh hour: He wanted to explore more and perhaps, study in his dream city: London.

His family had come from there to settle down, though the reason for it was not revealed. He and his younger siblings, Cecelia and Nathan, speculated that their ancestors could’ve come all this way across Asia as colonial settlers, which wasn’t very surprising in a country like India.

What was surprising was the prospect of St Augustina having been a colony at all.

From his History classes in school, Ethan was aware that St Augustina was founded by European and Indian mages who felt threatened by the government because of the increasing colonial expansion of its control. They were afraid of extermination following them to the Indian subcontinent just like it had in North America, with the Salem and the Connecticut Witch Trials.

And so, the town of St Augustina Ruskin was born, named after the woman who sacrificed herself to give the founders time to run away in ships and other means of transport. That story wasn’t very clear to the public masses of the magical world, but one thing was for sure: Everybody in St Augustina was, in one way or another, associated with the magical world.

At present, Ethan got up from his desk and stretched his limbs. ‘I should go see what Cee is up to.’ And so, off he went out of his room and along the corridor of the first floor to the left, to the last but one door.

When he knocked, he thought he heard a crash. He was taken aback for two seconds, before he recovered and reached to open the door knob, when a lazy voice inside the room said, “Come in.”

A smirk twisted his lips. He opened the door and walked in. Just as he expected, his sister was groggily rubbing her eyes.

“Fell asleep on the computer again?” he teased her, picking up her bag that lay on the way and sat on her bed, placing it against it on the floor. “Pulled an all-nighter?”

Cecelia turned her head to him. “What?” she mumbled. “All-nighter? Oh no, just fell asleep on my pro…ject…” the last words was engulfed in a yawn. “I woke up around five in the morning and started writing my report. Boy, I wish the year has ended already…” she broke off into another yawn.

“Say, what would you think about just forgetting our work for a while and going around the neighbourhood for a walk, eh?”

Cecelia blinked her eyes and stared at him. “Walk? Forget work?” She at once stood up and nodded vigorously. “Of course! Please take me with you, big brother!”

Ethan suppressed a giggle; his sister only ever called him ‘big brother’ when she was desperate about something, like she was now.

“All right. Wash your eyes and put on a sweater and some gloves and scarf. It’s got a lot cold this December.”

She grinned at him, looking a little sleepy still. “It is winter, after all.”

 

~*~

 

The two Adams siblings set off around eight o’clock; breakfast wouldn’t be ready until half-past-nine.

They tried to get their little brother, Nathan, out of his book, but he refused to budge. So, they left him and carried on.

“I say,” proposed Cecelia, “let’s go over to that house that everybody says is being sold to some outsider family! I would love to see it one last time before the people move in!”

Ethan nodded. “Yes. By the time they arrive next year, I think we won’t get the chance—not after now. Let’s go!”

They walked along their street towards the end. The bungalow they sought lay in between houses, on the latter half of the road. There it lay, unclaimed and unoccupied.

This time, though, Cecelia thought she saw a movement inside. She pointed this out to her brother, who was curious enough to take a look-see himself.

They gingerly opened the gate and let themselves in. The garden around the porch seemed to be just as unkempt as it has always been, but Ethan realised there was something in what his sister said: The aura of the house, so to speak, had significantly altered.

From the look on Cecelia’s face, she felt it, too.

She paused. “Do you think it’s a good idea to go on?” she asked nervously.

Ethan shook his head. “I don’t think so. I do not feel any negative energy—just a fresh one that seemed to have overtaken the house.”

She nodded. “Sounds about right. Okay then, but let’s try not to bring attention to ourselves.”

And so, they crept closer towards the house and peeked in through the nearest window. There, they saw a glowing figure!

“What in the world is that?!” she whispered to her brother, who shrugged.

“Some ghost, maybe?”

“Do you think it’s lost?”

“Could be.”

At that moment, the figure turned around and they backed away from the window in fright. But Ethan noticed that it had a rather neutral expression on its face.

And more importantly, it was positively a human male.

Ethan couldn’t take his eyes off the ghost, no matter how much he tried. It was only Cecelia’s frantic hissing and pulling made him tear his gaze away.

“Yes, it’s better if we left and came back only when the new neighbours arrive,” he agreed to her unspoken pleading. “Come, let’s go somewhere else. What do you say?”

“I say, the stationery shop!”

He groaned. “Why?! Don’t you have enough chart paper to last a lifetime?!”

She shook her head. “Not chart paper; coloured pens. One can’t have enough stationery, you know!”

Unbeknownst to them, the ghost of the newly-bought bungalow stared at them, until they disappeared down the lane.

 

~*~

 

April 2020

Cecelia Adams awoke to the alarm that went off in her phone.

With a yawn, she turned it off and sat up at her desk. Outside the window, the sky was dark, as was her room, save for the small lamp that shone from the other side of the room.

“Ah, you’re awake at last.”

Cecelia startled and turned sharply towards her bed, where a young girl sat. She was pretty with hair like a flowing fountain from her head and eyes as piercing as she remembered from just a week ago.

“What are you doing here, Fernandez?” she asked, rubbing her eyes to try and get the sleep out of them. “Haven’t you caused enough trouble already? Just get out of my hair in the hols and I promise, I’ll get out of yours –”

“She’s dead.”

A vision of hr best friend, Luna Walker, popped in her mind and her eyes widened. “What!?” she hissed.

As if reading her mind, Angela rolled her eyes. “Not Luna, idiot, Madeline.”

Now, relieved, Cecelia frowned. “How did that happen?”

The other snorted. “I always knew that stepmother of hers was a crook! I just… couldn’t prove it… And when I had the ability to getting it… She pounces on us and like the loyal friend she is, Madeline protected me from her and took her in a single combat witch fight, and…

“Well, the next thing I knew,” she pursed her lips, “she was dead and Emily stood over her body like she killed a – a lion or something. You know, like the olden days.”

Cecelia rubbed under her nose thoughtfully. “I see. All right then, tell me what happened… from the beginning.”

Angela shook her head. “Not now. Right now, we need to move on, gather everybody. I’ll tell you then.”

“What do you mean? Gather who everybody?”

“The Walkers, the Lis, your brother.” She paused and her eyes narrowed. “Gregory, too, I’m afraid.”

“Whoa, whoa. You’re not trying to worm your way back into my good books again, are you? Because rest assured, it’s not working.”

The pretty girl shook her head and stared straight into her eyes. “I wouldn’t dream of it. But I do know we need Luna’s powers into this. And before you deny, I know you know about them. And so does she. I’ve seen her practicing.”

Huh. So much for hiding in the woods.’ Cecelia sighed. “All right, let’s go. Let me just freshen up a bit, ’kay?”

Angela’s expression remained deadpan. “Why in the world were you sleeping in the evening? Wasn’t the night enough?”

She was now pissed. “Get out of my room, please,” she all but growled.

The other girl shrugged and walked out, closing the door behind her. A tiny crack was left, though, so Cecelia could hear Angela encountering her brother somewhere in the corridor near her bedroom.

“Oh… Angela, is it?” he said, a little surprised.

“Yes. And you’re Cecelia’s brother, Ethan?”

“Um, yes, I suppose – I mean, I am.”

“Madeline invited you and your companions to her birthday party yesterday. Why weren’t you there?”

A pause.

“Yes, well, I had to study, and Cecelia, too. We have tests coming up.”

Tests?’ Cecelia frowned.

“Yes, I’m sure you do,” Angela’s voice was mocking now. “We needed you there, you know. Because of you…” Her voice trailed away and for the first time, Cecelia thought she heard some sort of an emotion… maybe closer to a sad one.

Another pause.

“Er… Because of me what?”

Another pause.

A sniff.

“Never you mind.” Feet bounded away.

A few seconds later, the door opened again and this time, it was Ethan standing in the hallway. “What was that all about?” He knew his sister had overheard the conversation.

“Madeline is dead,” replied Cecelia. “And by the sound of it, Angela thinks our presence in the Muller house could’ve prevented it.”

 

END OF EXCERPT

The Grimwire Apprentices #1: The Netherwalker – Chapter 03: Like Old Mediaeval Caves

CHAPTER 02: YOU KNOW WHO I AM

 

CHAPTER 03: LIKE OLD MEDIAEVAL CAVES

 

A dark corridor lay in front of Luna Walker.

    She began to wonder if this was one of her imaginative hallucinations.

    Even as she was curious, she found herself shivering. And it was not from the cold atmosphere in the corridor, either.

    Finding ghosts and helping them cross over was one thing.

    Finding corridors that weren’t supposed to exist? Well, to say that Luna could hardly believe her eyes would be the understatement of the year. She wondered if she was still sleeping on her bed and all this was only a figment of her imagination. She wished she would wake up very soon…

    “Francis?” she called softly.

    The ghost turned to her. “Yes?”

    “Pinch me real hard, please.”

    Francis was taken aback and he stared at her. “What?!” he hissed.

    “Just do it. Touch me.”

    The ghost slowly raised an arm and touched hers.

    “Now, pinch.” He did. “Ouch!” she yelped and then closed her mouth, before she called yell louder. Already, the corridor began to echo her voice. “Th-thank you, F-Francis. I know now that I’m not dreaming.”

    “Oh, that’s why. You could’ve simply asked me.”

    Luna didn’t bother to tell him it wouldn’t have worked. Instead, she looked on, anticipating something to appear as though out of a fog.

    The clicking sound began again and now, it was more prominent. She positioned herself in a manner that, on the first of danger, she would bolt out and call for help.

    “Wait, wait… I think I know who this belongs to.”

    She turned around at the ghost’s whispered voice.

    “Who?” she asked in the same tone. “You know who, Francis?”

    The ghost nodded. “It belongs to her.” He indicated with a slight turn of his head forward.

    When Luna turned back to the corridor, blobs of light appeared here and there, making her squint. She realised that they were some sort of lamps on the walls…

    ‘Like old medieval caves,’ she thought.

    She took a deep breath and recalled what her grandmother used to say, “The only way to overcome fear is to challenge it.” The grip on her shoulder increased in pressure; not much, but enough to reassure her.

    ‘I’m not alone. I can do this.

    Luna began preparations to step into the corridor. She took several deep breaths, till she was calm enough. When she was ready and lifted one leg to step forward, a shadow fell across the end of the corridor.

    She blinked; the form was rather distorted and unfathomable.

    She waited, eyes and ears cocked and feet ready to bolt in the opposite direction.

    The shadow drew nearer and nearer.

    Time seemed to slow down…

    The next moment, the shadow grew so big that Luna felt engulfed in it. She pressed herself up against Francis, her breath becoming ragged.

    She gulped and looked up. Pictures of all the horror movies that she had ever watched raced through her mind.

    A giant black figure loomed in front of her…

    “Just state your business.”

    Francis wasn’t about to allow his human friend to be alone. She was obviously scared and had a right to be.

    “Ah, that voice,” a familiar voice tilted back to them. “Haven’t I heard it before?”

    “Arabella Archer?”

    “Yes, it is, my spirit friend.”

    “I thought you weren’t going to come back here. That you couldn’t find the one you wanted.”

    “Oh, that’s true. But you know what? I was going after the wrong person. The right one had been under my very nose.”

    By now, the figure had was closer, so it was easier to see her ghostly figure. Luna realised that she didn’t glow like Francis did; she was taller than the average Indian, what looked like a rose in one hand and a staff in another. It was the staff that had been making the clicking sound he and Luna had been hearing, he realised.

    The woman didn’t have much colour to her.

    “Wrong person? Didn’t you just need a vessel to kill your enemy?” he asked.

    “A vessel, eh? I see. Then again, you’re an actual ghost. Dead. I need a vessel? Well.” She paused, her gaze lifting to somewhere to the side. “I wish it would be as easy as killing my enemy. In tales, they tell us that killing the person who cursed will reverse his curses. But I’m afraid this one I have is so bad, it wouldn’t work that way.” She took another step forward. “I need him alive.”

    “How do you know?” Francis’s hand mechanically slid over Luna’s chest protectively, ready to bolt at a moment’s notice.

    “Ah, how touching.” No doubt she’d noticed his affinity for the mortal girl. “I assure you, though, you have no reason to fear me. I only come seeking help.”

    “Not interested.”

    “Hey!” Below him, Luna tried to wriggle out of his grasp. “She needs help, just like every ghost! Why would we deny her?” She turned to the stranger. “Of course, we’d like to –”

    “Shut up, Luna!” Francis’s voice thundered across the corridor, silencing her. He could hear her gulp, which calmed him down. ‘Shit, I didn’t mean it like that.’ He cleared his throat. “Sorry,” he whispered to her, before raising his voice again, “At least this time, tell me your name and state your business. Clearly. I’m not amused by puzzles.”

    The woman shrugged. “You already know my name; it’s the real one. Arabella Archer. I was a witch when I was still… Well, when I had a body.”

    “Why don’t you have one now?” Luna’s innocent voice spoke up. “What’s wrong?”

    Francis watched as Arabella’s sour face softened as she turned her gaze to the young girl.

    “Ah, you’re such a dear, aren’t you? So innocent. Why don’t I have a body now? Well, rest assured, I was removed from it and left to wander around, almost powerless.” She glanced at her staff. “Luckily for me, he left behind my most precious items.”

    Luna wiggled out of Francis’s grasp and stepped forward.

    “Careful, Walker,” he warned.

    “It’s okay, Francis, not everyone is a threat.” She gave Arabella a nice smile; she was confident that Arabella was being truthful. “You’re not actually dead, are you? ‘Removed from it’ doesn’t always imply killed, right?”

    An amused smile graced Arabella’s lips as she turned her gaze to meet the ghost’s. “I must say, for a product of the 21st century, she’s rather clever!”

    “Well, I do notice things.” Luna pouted.

    “No, child, I didn’t mean that. It’s just that your boyfriend told me you’d be interested in helping me.”

    “Oh? And why was that?” She glanced at him.

    “Well, for one, you’re too young. Not old enough. And secondly,” she deliberately glanced at Francis, “because he is protective of you.”

    This didn’t seem to faze Luna. “Yea, I mean, I see ghosts all the time. I try to help them. Some are violent.”

    “Ah, I see. Well, it’s always good to have a bodyguard.”

    “So, what’s the verdict?” Francis asked.

    “About your infatuation with her?” Somehow, despite being a spirit, Arabella’s eyes twinkled.

    “No. About your revenge. Or whatever you’re after.”

    Arabella sighed, suddenly looking tired. “I’m afraid your girl’s the one to do it. She’s always been fated to.” Her eyes bore into Luna’s. “I can see it – your spirit has been reincarnated. That means, the time has come!”

    Luna felt chilled to the bone.

    “Come with me to my garden,” said the woman. “We can discuss there.”

    She gulped, glancing at Francis, who was staring suspiciously at Arabella.

    Luna felt something was off—some pieces in the puzzle were definitely missing. Nonetheless, she nodded. “Lead the way.”

    Arabella gave a nod and turned back the way she came. The girl took a step forward to follow, but Francis blocked her path, stared intensely into her blue eyes.

    “Are you sure about this?” he asked in a low voice.

    Arabella heard and paused. She didn’t turn around; she could imagine what was going on. ‘A young mortal and a ghost who lived long before her. Honestly, I expected far more from that bastard! Then again, he did worsen things for himself and that little cousin of his.

    Luna gazed back into his dark transparent eyes and nodded. “Yes, I am. I know no harm shall come to me.”

    “Well, even if it does…”

    She gave a grim smile. “You don’t have to.”

The path Arabella led—well, it was just a single one, really, like a tunnel—emerged into a vast space – a garden, really.

    Luna gasped as she breathed fresh air into her nostrils, felt the blow of the cool summer-like wind from the trees, making her shiver in delight!

    “I didn’t know my balcony could be so beautiful!” she laughed, dancing around in the grass, twirling, waving her hands in the air.

    Francis watched her, but mostly, he watched Arabella, to see what she would do next.

    To his benefit or otherwise, she was staring at him, too, but with a smirk on her face. “I stay true to my word, see. I’m not a fool, unlike you.”

    He grunted. “That was a long time ago and I’ve grown since. You think she” – he tilted his head ever so slightly towards the young girl –“can put an end to all this suffering? Bring our loved ones back?”

    Arabella was beginning to nod her head and stopped at his last question. She stared intently at him. “End him, she will, I’d waged on that any day,” she replied cautiously. “But will that reverse the curses?”

    “That’s right, you were sure that wouldn’t happen.”

    Her expression didn’t waver. “I would like that it did. It is a powerful curse, you know, and the man himself is even more so. Or the other way around. I suspect that the curse might be broken if he was defeated by someone powerful enough…”

    “And you think she is?!” he hissed. “She doesn’t even have a hold on her powers yet! – how do you suppose –”

    “My friends and I can teach her.”

    “Your friends?” Francis looked around. Sure enough, at a distance, stood a group of wizards and witches like Arabella herself.

    “We can train her, but she mustn’t begin yet,” Arabella went on. “She isn’t ready.”

    “The Grimwire?”

    “No, that’s for regular magicians. She, on the other hand, is the reincarnation of Typhi the Brave, if you remember your lessons.”

    Francis froze. “That cannot be –”

    “And yet, he doesn’t see the resemblance.”

    He looked back to where Luna was running along the grass, back and forth, waving at him on occasion. As he stared at her, he began to see what the old witch was trying to tell him: A spark of red flickered around the girl from time to time.

    “A Walker has been born, seventeen years ago,” he gasped. “A Walker…”

    “Typhi was the first of them her lot. Her family is an ancient one, but she is the only one who inherited the powers of Typhi the Brave, if not directly reincarnated.”

    Francis nodded thoughtfully.

    A few minutes later, Luna rushed back to him and took his hands in her hers. “This garden is wonderful!” she exclaimed. “I love it!” She turned to Arabella. “Will I find this every time I open the door, Ms Archer?”

    “No, I’m afraid not,” replied the witch with a pleasant smile. “It keeps shifting, comes and goes as it pleases. In fact, I’m surprised that after all this time, it has finally decided to reveal itself to you.”

    Luna’s joy faded a little. “What… do you mean?”

    “Well, do you know about the Walker, Miss Walker?”

    Now, Luna’s face was completely devoid of expression. She nodded. “Yes, I do. I have happened to learn about the history of my family. Aren’t they descendants of Typhi the Brave, the first Walker?”

    “Yes. She was a Nightwalker. Alongside her, two more joined—an Earthwalker and a Netherwalker. They arrived when the world was in danger of extinction, several centuries ago, and helped destroy the threat.”

    “Wasn’t that the Huntress? That’s what called herself, didn’t she?”

    “Yes, she did, Miss Walker –”

    “Please, call me Luna. Meredith is fine, too.”

    Arabella tilted her head slightly to her left. “And you can call me Arabella. Bella for short, as my friends did.” She cast a glance towards where they stood, but the girl’s eyes were only on her. “Luna, do you know that you have magical powers?”

    The girl nodded. “Indeed. I haven’t tried to control them, though, because my brothers told me I’m not yet ready.”

    “Wise brothers you have. Indeed you’re not. But something has changed in the atmosphere and I believe that evil has arisen from its nest again. Nobody in this world is safe. Particularly, you.”

    Luna swallowed, but didn’t allow her fear to show. “I understand. So, what do I do?”

    “Nothing. For now. Just know that when you think hard, you’ll know where to find me and my friends.”

    It was now that Luna turned to see the little group of witches and wizards staring in their direction. “I understand,” she repeated.

    “Good. I suppose your family will be back by now. You should go.”

    And before she knew it, Luna was back in her room, right where they started, the balcony door shut. Beside her was Francis, just as disoriented as her.

    She took hold of the knob and twisted it; the door opened, but she could only see the night sky and the balcony just like she used to before that evening. Darkness had fallen sometime ago.

    Luna closed the door and locked it. She lifted her left arm to note the time.

    It was almost seven o’clock.

~*~

Luna was quite relieved to see her parents and her brothers once again that day and filled them in on what she had experienced all the time they had left her.

    Simon was the most concerned of them all. “I hope you’re not hurt or anything,” he said.

    She smiled as she shook her head. “Nope! I’m all fine, thanks to Francis!”

    “Yes, he’s resourceful and dependable, all right. So, this woman thinks you’re, like, some part of a prophecy?”

    “A prophecy, huh? Intriguing! Yes, something like that!”

    “Destiny…” mused Daniel. “Aren’t we here because of it, in the first place?”

    They all turned to him.

    “You know, he’s right,” said Mr Walker. “When your mother and I got married, we were quite sure we’d have to come here, since we were now associated with magic—your mother’s family already was and me by marrying her.” He exchanged a glance with his wife. “This house happened to be empty and so, we bought it. Now that I see it your way, Daniel, it was a miracle this suddenly emptied out. Wasn’t it still occupied even five years ago, Helen?”

    Helen Walker, the mother of the house, nodded. “That’s right, I heard it was, when I was first looking for accommodations in St Augustina. In fact, this is the only house unoccupied to-day.”

Shortly after dinner, the Walker family was all weary from their long day, and so they retired to their rooms.

    Luna couldn’t sleep easily, mostly because she had already caught two naps in the afternoon and didn’t feel as tired. The clock on her desk showed that it was half-past-nine, not the usual time for anybody in the family to go to sleep.

    A sudden thought occurred to her and she sat bolt upright in bed. ‘Oh, that’s right! I-

    “Not able to sleep?”

    She looked up to see the ghost of Francis Hill on the floor near the balcony door that was now bolted shut. She hadn’t opened it since she had first visited Arabella’s garden, for the fear of losing the place again.

    “No…” she mused. “Well, yes. I slept for so long in the day, I’m not really that sleepy.”

    “I see.” Francis stared at her neutrally. He hardly ever showed his emotions, which was just as well, since she was a major freak-outer; so, a rock like him kept her near the metaphorical shore. “And now, you have an idea.”

    She nodded, a smile growing on her lips. “It’s not too late in the night. I can call Cee and tell her what happened to-day.” She paused, her eyes widening at another thought. “It’s… all right to share with her, isn’t it?”

    He shrugged. “Your friends know how to keep a secret.”

    “Ah, that’s right—you’ve met them.”

    “Go ahead. You need a friend at times like this.”

    Luna stared at him a little longer as his words went round and round in her head. She couldn’t help a form of connection she felt to him, as if she was destined to have met him, just like her family was destined to move to this particular house from their old home in Weatherbone Rocks, in the plateau, all the way in the southeast. She didn’t understand what sort of a connection it was, since apparently, it wasn’t unique: There was another person in that town she felt the same way about.

    At last, she shook the thought out of her head and out on her glasses. She scanned her room for her phone. She located it on her desk and threw her bedcovers off to pick it up and fall back into her bed.

    She unlocked her phone and scrolled through the contacts, until she found the one she was looking for. She tapped on it, put it to her ear, and waited until the dial-tone stopped and her best friend’s voice came through:

    “Hello?” Cecelia Adams had some sort of a strange accent—not European, not East Asian, but not quite Indian, either. No wonder, since she had been to a lot of places due to her father’s job as a member of the Council of the Mages.

    “Hey Cee!” said Luna cheerfully into the phone. “How are you to-day?”

    “I’m doing great! What about you?”

    “Ahh… that’s what I called to tell you about…” And she proceeded to fill her best friend in about the events in her house.

    Francis observed her quietly from where he sat. He hadn’t moved a muscle; being a ghost, staying motionless came easily for him, especially because he didn’t have to breathe like mortals had to. He noted her facial expressions going from excitement to scared to joy and delight… He couldn’t have enough of that funny pitched voice of hers that was neither too loud nor too low. He had been observing her every movement and listening to every word she uttered in his presence, and had to be enraptured by her. It was like, every time she spoke or moved, she took his arm and led him on some sort of a dance that he never saw or heard about. And she wasn’t even aware of this… wasn’t aware of how his ghostly heart beat to the tune of her voice, his non-existent brain trying to remember every detail about her…

    Suddenly, he straightened ramrod and twitched his ears, much like a cat that heard a noise. By the way Luna kept talking, it was obvious she hadn’t sensed anything.

    He closed his eyes and listened carefully.

    Click, click, click!

    He smiled. ‘Oh Bella.’ He relaxed and opened his eyes again, to catch Luna’s questioning gaze on him.

    He shook his head and smiled. She relaxed, too, and turned away on her bed, as she continued to speak to her best friend.

 

CHAPTER 04: ONE LAST TIME

The Grimwire Apprentices #1: The Netherwalker – Chapter 02: You Know Who I Am

CHAPTER 01: THE GHOST WHO WAS NOT A GHOST

 

CHAPTER 02: YOU KNOW WHO I AM

 

In another part of the city, Daniel and Simon Walker were trying to shout their ears off with all the party noise around them, even though they stood very close together in a far corner of the room.

    “I want to go home!” yelled Daniel. “Simon, don’t you think so?”

    Simon nodded. “Yes!” he shouted back. “Do you know where Dave is?!”

    “Right!”

    They waded away from the corner and began to look everywhere, holding their hands tightly so they wouldn’t get separated. Everywhere they looked, boys and girls chattered loudly and danced. The mansion was huge and it belonged to the father of one of the richest girls in their school, Madeline Muller.

    Pushing and pulling, the two boys finally managed to squeeze themselves into the bathroom. They closed the door, panting.

    “Let’s take a breather and strategise,” suggested Simon. He turned around for his brother, when he saw that they weren’t alone: A shorter dark-haired, dark-eyed boy stared back at him.

    “David!” exclaimed Simon and gave a sudden grin.

    Daniel looked up and laughed aloud. “Oh well, it was worth all the pushing and shoving, then!”

    The youngest brother looked so relieved to see them. “Oh, thank goodness I’ve finally found you! You won’t believe –”

    Just then, the door knob on the other side rattled and swung open, turning their attention to the figure standing in the doorway.

    She was a shorter than either of them but by the look on their face, one would imagine she was far older than she actually was.

    She was frowning, her hands at her hips, her eyes piercing them with a pointed glare. “What are you morons doing here?” she demanded. “Either you’re in the party or you’re not. The bathroom isn’t a place for you to hang out.”

    Daniel was about to say something, but Simon held up a hand to cut him off. “Yes, Madam Fernandez,” he murmured, obviously sarcastically. “Come, guys, let’s go out of here, now that we found the dunce.”

    The other Walker brothers knew he didn’t mean to insult David, so they followed him silently out of the bathroom and back into the crowded party arena.

    “We’re going out of here,” Daniel informed David. “I expect you were about to do that same?”

    “Yes!” replied the youngest brother. “I was searching for you, but had to go to the bathroom! Too much water!”

    “Right!”

    They finally found the front door after a bit of searching and emerged from it in a heap. They breathed in the fine scent of fresh air and smiles burst onto their faces.

    “Now, to wait for the car,” said David and glanced at his watch. “It’s almost seven o’clock—they ought to be here.”

    “Looks like it rained while we were inside,” remarked Simon, examining the ground with the orange porchlights.

    “Oh yes, the ground is wet, all right,” agreed Daniel. “Do you think the power went off, too?”

    “Maybe it did…”

    “In which case, Luna is all alone. I hope she’s doing fine.”

    “I’m sure she is,” said David reassuaringly. “Remember, she has that ghost guy to keep her company.”

    Simon frowned. “Nonetheless, I have a bad feeling something’s going on mat home. I wish we could simply teleport there.”

    Daniel stared at his older brother. “Why, I could actually try that!”

    David looked uneasy. “What if we failed like that last time –”

    The sound of a car engine reached their ears and they rushed out of the garden path towards the road. It was a way, indeed, what with the manor being on the outskirts of St Augustina Ruskin, almost on the border of the town. A car’s headlights shone bright as they stopped at the sidewalk and it stopped in front of them.

    The window rolled down and Mrs Walker peered through. “Hey! We were just about to call your phone, Simon!” she exclaimed. “Done with the party, is it?”

    Simon groaned. “Please… don’t even ask!” He opened the passenger door at the back and ushered his brothers inside, before following them in. He shut the door with an unnecessary bang. “Let’s go home—it’s all I want right now.”

    “Same with us,” sighed David and Daniel nodded.

    Mr and Mrs Walker stared at them for a few seconds, shrugged at one-another, and then, the former drove away.

    “What happened at that party?” asked Daniel, eyeing David. “You just suddenly vanished when we were having some French fries. Did you forget we decided to stick to each other?”

    David nodded ashamedly. “I’m afraid my never-ending curiosity is to blame for that,” he replied, his voice lower than usual. “See, I was eating fries with you on the kitchen counter, but I sensed some unusual activity somewhere.”

    The second brother’s eyes shot wide open. “Hey! Now that you say it, me too!”

    “Yes! So, I went to investigate it—didn’t feel it natural for magic to exist in the manor. Turns out, Madeline was trying out some kind of a spell!”

    “Oh, that’s right,” Mrs Walker spoke from the front, “I forgot to tell you. Madam Weatherwood from the Grimwire in India wanted to contact you, Simon, to let you know you can join the academy there if you’re interested in learning magic.”

    Simon was taken aback. “I didn’t know I was born with it!”

    “No, but she must’ve sensed some powers in you, child. You better call her back and find out what it is.”

    “Um… okay. I guess.”

    “So, the Grimwire calls all magicians when they turn twenty?” asked David.

    “Yes. Well, everyone associated with magic. I suppose my family was, though I never was born with it. Nor tried to learn when she came to me. Simon, it’s completely your choice. Just call the Grimwire once we get home.”

    “Yes, Mum.”

    “As for this evening, I’m sorry, dinner is going to be late. I hope you’re not very hungry, boys.”

    Simon smirked. “We may not be, but I’m sure Luna will be!”

    Mrs Walker groaned. “Oh well, she’ll have to adjust, I suppose.”

    Daniel’s phone went off just then and he took it out of his coat pocket. The screen showed the image of a young red-haired girl with himself and his brothers. With a smile, he answered the call and put the phone on speaker. “Hey, Lunes!” he called.

    “Danny! When will you be home?!”

    Simon bent forward, concerned. “Hey, sweet, are you hungry?”

    “Simon! Of course I am! Why would I call if I weren’t?!”

    David chuckled and leaned forward, too. “Hey, Looney, you need to cover your stomach with some biscuits for a bit. We’re on our way back, but making dinner is going to take some time.”

    “Hi honey!” called their mother from the front. “I’ll do something very light so it won’t take too long! Meanwhile, you should really take your brother’s advice and have some snack.”

    “Okay, Mumma,” Luna’s voice came through. “Hurry up, though, I’m not exactly –”

    The line stilled; it took a moment for them all to realise that the network was cut.

    “Shit!” hissed Daniel when he saw the zero signal on the screen. “Can’t call her back, either!”

    “Don’t worry, we’ll be home,” said their father. “Just about another ten minutes.”

    But Simon leaned back in his seat, his forehead in a frown, his mind bringing back the nagging feeling from before.

 

~*~

 

Back in the Muller residence, Angela Catherine Fernandez glared at the backs of the boys as they walked away from the bathroom.

    When they disappeared, she heaved a sigh of relief and went into the bathroom and locked it. She looked at herself in the spacious mirror—a young fair-skinned, blonde-haired, and blue-eyed girl stared back at her. There were some lines of worry, though the scowl she had turned on for the sake of the Walker boys was long gone.

    Behind her, a yellow smoke revealed the presence of her best friend—another young girl, but with bright orange-dyed hair.

    “Did you get it?” asked Angela.

    The girl nodded. “Took some trouble, but yes, I did.” She extracted a sparrow’s feather from her skirt pocket and held it out to Angela.

    Angela turned around with a relieved smile. “Oh, Madeline, thank you so much!” She took out a crucible she had been carrying around in her gown pocket for some time and put the feather inside it. “What else?”

    Madeline frowned in thought. “Something to neutralise the power of the crucible—a liquid.”

    “So… water?”

    “A little stronger. Remember what we’re dealing with here.”

    Angela nodded. “Alcohol?”

    “Diluted. Where can we get it?”

    “Just grab some from your parents’ fridge and add water to it.” When Madeline looked doubtful, she added, “Right?”

    The birthday girl shrugged. “It’s better if we ask Madam Weatherwood.”

    Angela looked uncomfortable. “She will definitely reprimand us tampering with spells on our own. We’re not old enough to go to the academy.”

    “Well, we’re born with magic – er, I am, and you happen to be born with an ancestor who can do magic. And you can – I saw you altering your voice to trick Rutherford the other day in school! That’s some pretty powerful magic for a non-magic person!”

    “I don’t know… Anyway, what do you say—should we contact Madam Weatherwood?”

    “I-” She stopped, looking frightened all of a sudden.

    Angela’s blood froze, too. They stared at one-another, then at the door knob.

    A minute later, it began to rattle. The girls frantically withdrew the crucible and the feather into their pockets and looked around, hoping to get away. The fear climbed their spines like snakes, up and up, until they gave up and stood staring at the door, paralysed with fear.

    The door opened and there, with the background of the party-goers who still danced and sang and chattered, stood a tall, bony young woman. She was easily at least twenty years older than both the young girls.

    Angela and Madeline held each other’s hands as the woman stared neutrally at them, a motherly smile plastered on her face.

    “Ah… so this is where you’ve been!” she exclaimed and the girls jumped. They stuck closer together. “Now, now, don’t be afraid. You know who I am, don’t you?”

    Angela gulped, but didn’t dare look away from the woman. “Y-yes, we do.” ‘Unfortunately,’ she added in her mind, ‘more than we ought.

    “What are you doing here, Em-Emily?” asked Madeline feeling brave. “You – Haven’t you sought enough pleasure by now? You took away the thing I love the most! I was hoping you were done with that!”

    Emily Muller, Madeline’s stepmother, smiled wider now, her sharp pointy teeth making a brief appearance. “Well, that doll was of no use—I’ve given it to Gregory to play with, the dear child. What I need, Madeline, is a live person, not a voodoo doll.” She paused as another thought occurred to her. “Of course, I could get what I want with that voodoo doll… I must say, Madeline dear, you’re quite adept at magic, aren’t you? Always have been, I’d wager.”

    Madeline stepped forward and pushed her best friend slightly back and pointedly. “Emily, for the last time, we’re not –”

    A bright white light appeared and Alicia was blinded. She felt herself being separated from Madeline as the light engulfed the latter and Emily.

    From somewhere in the bright glow of light, came sounds of struggle.

    Then, Madeline’s voice: “Run, Angela! Save yourself—it’s me she wants! Take the crucible and run!”

    Just as Angela was debating whether to heed her friend’s command or stay to help, a piercing cry broke through the noise of the partying outside.

    “Madeline!” she cried, shocked. “You can’t be – You can’t –”

    The bright light dimmed until it finally evaporated, leaving a badly injured Madeline and a triumphant Emily smiling on the other side.

    Angela screamed at the top of her voice, closed her eyes, and thought of the one place she wanted to be just then—her home.

 

CHAPTER 03: LIKE OLD MEDIAEVAL CAVES

The Grimwire Apprentices #1: The Netherwalker – Chapter 01: A Ghost who was Not a Ghost

PROLOGUE

 

CHAPTER 01: THE GHOST WHO WAS NOT A GHOST

 

April 2020

It was a beautiful summer’s day in April and Luna Meredith Walker lay peacefully on her bed, reading a gripping John Grisham novel.

The bed covers were soft underneath her and a blanket covering her legs.

It was very warm and cosy; she couldn’t imagine getting out of the soft embrace of her bed that afternoon… maybe not until her parents came back and it was time for dinner.

The South Indian summer day was certainly beautiful, but sultry when stepped outside. Thus, Luna preferred staying indoors. She had tried to take a nap, but gave up, preferring to read instead.

Presently, when she idly set her novel down to stretch her limbs, she almost jumped through the roof. For, there was a strange-looking girl staring at her from the foot of her bed!

Luna was close to screaming, but had sense enough to have a hold of herself.

She took deep but ragged breaths and cleared her throat as much as could with all the shaking that she was doing.

At last, Luna gathered up enough courage to ask, “Who are you?” in a voice that meant to say, ‘I’m not scared of you’, but in fact said, ‘Can you leave? You’re creeping me out!’.

The stranger did not reply; simply stared at her with a blank expression.

Okay,’ Luna thought. ‘This is getting way too freaky… Let’s try something else…

“Where are you from? Have you lost your way?” she asked, before another thought occurred to her: ‘Why would anybody get into somebody’s house like this if they had lost their way? There’s the doorbell sitting outside for a reason!’ Then, a gasp escaped her lips. ‘Wait, wait, back up… where did she come from?

The girl at the foot of her bed had still not replied and neither had she removed her gaze.

And more thoughts flooded Luna’s mind:

Unless… she’s not someone’ An involuntary shudder ran through her entire body, tiny though it was.

Luna’s mind couldn’t help freaking out and thinking up escape routes, but she came up blank. She took that opportunity to study the girl.

She started her very own staring match.

The figure was wearing a brown torn full-length gown with a white bonnet that dangled at the back of her head with a string around her neck. It made her look as if she came right out of a mediaeval-era fairy tale. Luna realised that she wasn’t actually that strange.

She frowned. ‘How astonishing that a dress should make all the difference in the world. I wonder… no… she’s not a ghost, is she?

The stranger did not look like one. From Luna’s experience, ghosts were more transparent and gave a sort of glow – mostly blue, but it changed according to their aura. This girl looked too solid for a ghost. And too imperfect.

What’s with her face, though? Is it painted? Or worse, is it an actual gash?

Luna could swear she wasn’t a ghost. But what she was, she couldn’t tell.

At that moment, the stranger suddenly seemed to come to life: She turned around and fled out of the room with astonishing speed! Luna was stunned, but recovered just in time to follow her. She could see the figure across the hall downstairs and moving towards the door.

“Hey, wait!” yelled Luna. “Man, she’s fast!”

When she reached the street outside the front gate, there was nobody in sight. As a matter of fact, the entire street seemed deserted!

And that was how Luna lost out on a warm cosy afternoon of reading…

“All because of that – that…thing – whatever it was,” she told herself aloud, her arms across her chest and a frown on her face. “A normal human being couldn’t simply disappear like that… there’s something more happening here that I don’t know.”

She turned and retraced her steps back into the house and her room.

Now, the mood of the atmosphere changed. The book lay forgotten, while Luna found herself at the window at her desk, staring unseeingly at a tree standing on the sidewalk.

Finally, when she was tired of wondering, Luna’s eyelids began to get heavier by the minute. She yawned, “I’ll just rest my eyes for a bit after all that reading…”

The very next minute, she was fast asleep.

~*~

When she next opened her eyes, Luna groggily turned to the window.

It was dusk; no wonder the light had dimmed from how bright it had been when she was awake last. Startled at how late it got, she jumped out of her bed and turned to check the time. Her analogue clock that usually hung on the wall above the door showed one o’ clock!

What the…?’ She turned back to the window to make sure that she had seen right. ‘Could it be dawn? Did the others come back and I slept through it all?!

Then, she realised that the seconds hand on the clock wasn’t moving; she let out a sigh of relief. “The cell must’ve exhausted at some point. Anyway…” Her voice died away when she remembered the weird girl she saw a few hours ago. “Boy, I hope it was just a dream.”

She decided to go down and check the time in the living-room clock. It was a little past six.

Luna switched on the television and settled herself on a sofa. She began flipping through the channels lazily, not finding a single interesting show or movie. Even the music channels were airing some hard rock band she was not particularly interested in. In the seventeen (or sixteen?) years of her life, she wondered if she was already bored of the idiot box. She finally turned it off and sat staring idly at the roof directly above her head.

A few moments later, she noticed that the sky had closed up completely. Luna went to the window overlooking the front gate, opened it, and stared outside. Dark clouds were gaping back at her and the air that slammed onto her body was slightly cold, making her tremble. A flash of thunder and a roar of lightening threatened a thunderstorm. Thus, a beautiful summer’s day had drastically changed.

Luna hurried to shut the window and close the curtains. It plunged the room into darkness, though it was visible enough for her to switch on the overheard light at the end of the living-room.

She went back up the stairs to pick up her novel and bed things, and settled back down on the living-room sofa.

Ah… this is life!’ she rejoiced silently. ‘No one in the house, rain outside, and a cosy sofa under your body. What else do I need!

The next thing she knew, the light overhead fizzled out and darkness consumed everything around her, though a stream of light still made its way through the glass of the window. Rain thundered outside.

Luna let out a yelp and sat up, blinking, and wondering if she was still asleep and was dreaming all this. She was not very fond of the dark and tonight was no exception.

“Great – a power-cut just as I’m getting nice,” she grumbled. Rain was pouring down in torrents outside. The girl lay back down on the sofa, closing the book and resting it on her stomach. In the lull of the storm, she came very near to dozing off…

Until a curious noise came to her ears. It was very light and so, she almost ignored it.

It became a little louder and twice as insistent. Completely awake now, Luna sat up and stared in the direction it was coming from: Seemingly, from the staircase and sounded somewhat hollow.

For a moment, she thought it might be coming from outside—some crazy kid must have gone out to play in the rain. She stood up to go with the window. The street, as far as she could see, was devoid of any persons or vehicles. No, the noise was not from outside.

She gulped.

The first thing that came to her mind was that she needed light. “It’s okay, Luna,” she mumbled to herself under her breath, “there’s nothing to be afraid of in this house. Here, your phone’s here somewhere…” She went back to the sofa, where the light couldn’t reach very well, and felt around at where she thought she felt the cool surface of the glass table. “Wait… I think I’m missing my glasses. Darn it! – where can they – Oh! this seems like my phone!” She tapped on the screen twice and lo!—it lit up, telling her the time! “Though, I admit, it’s much too bright. I need my glasses.”

Luna squinted to turn on the torchlight in her phone and the bright white light flooded a large section in front of her, which was the glass table. She had to squint to realise that her glasses were not on it and then, shifted the light towards the sofa.

On it, sat a glowing figure she was used to seeing for a whole year since she shifting to the town of St Augusta Ruskin.

“Francis!” she exclaimed, but paused as something glinted off in the hand that he held towards her.

“Searching for this?” he asked in his usual quiet voice.

“My glasses! Yes!” She sprinted forward, but the edge of the glass table caught her thigh, exposed thanks to the knee-length frock that she wore. She doubled over in pain.

“Easy now,” Francis placed the glasses on the table and went to help her up. He sat her down on the sofa. “Are you very hurt?”

“No, it was blunt glass,” she muttered. “It was merely the shock that made me cry out like that. I’m actually fine.”

A faint smile twisted his lips. “That’s good to hear. Here, put on your glasses.”

“Thank you.” She took the glasses from him and put them on. “Yes, much better now. Thank you.”

“It’s all right.” He sat down beside her. “Did you hear the same sound I did? Click, click, click?”

She nodded. “Yes, I did! Gosh, it’s somewhere from the inside, isn’t it?”

“Yes. For a few days now, I’d been some disturbance in the air… an imbalance in the Netherworld.”

“What sort of a –” She broke off as the same sound came to her ears again, this time, more pronounced and less distant.

Francis held her shoulders. “It’s all right, I’m right here. I have a feeling that’s the disturbance I’d been sensing.”

Luna found her courage coming back. “Come, let’s go.”

She had to tiptoe but Francis, being a ghost, could simply glide over the ground. Even if he walked, he wouldn’t have made a sound, something that could probably be used in investigations like this.

Luna Meredith Walker had arrived a year ago to the two of St Augustina Ruskin, with her family—two parents and three older brothers. They were all very close and loved each other very much. One can imagine Luna was one of those girls who received love in every direction she chose to see.

It was two years before that that she realised her power to see and talk to ghosts. She discovered that it was something that ran in the family.

As for why they had moved… that was a story she did not want to think about.

Luna stood at the bottom of the stairs, following behind the ghost. They waited and listened. She tried to determine the direction of the noise. It was coming from… quite far, but not too far…

Suddenly, her heart skipped a beat as realisation dawned on her. She could feel her phone vibrating once, but she ignored it.

“I think it’s coming from the first floor,” Francis told her. “Or somewhere else. But definitely upstairs.”

“Or,” she gulped, “my room.”

“That can’t be good.” Francis hovered protectively in front of her. “You stay here and –”

“I’ll come with you.” Luna squared her shoulders and started up the stairs.

He caught her wrist and walked beside her. “We’ll do it together.”

Once on the landing, she was surer about the source of the curious noise: The closer she approached her room, the louder it became.

Click, click, click…

Something – or someone – was in there.

Perhaps someone with chains clanking and rattling…

The image of the Canterville Ghost formed in her mind and she shuddered. ‘Why did we have to do that darn lesson in school!?’ she groaned inwardly. ‘Didn’t they know children can be scared easy?!’ But then, she remembered the faces of one or two girls who were impressed by ghost stories and shuddered once more.

Francis was observing her closely. “I can by myself and find out, if you want.”

Luna shook her head. “No can do. I can do this.” Then, another, quite of a different nature, sent shivers ran down her spine as she reached for the door knob. “M-m-maybe it’s the ghost-living girl I saw in the afternoon,” she whispered.

“You saw what?!” The ghost sounded shocked, though he didn’t speak louder than a whisper, as well.

“Hush!”

After what seemed like an hour, she finally took another step – and another one – and another one – till she was at last in front of the room. She opened the door, flashing the torchlight, and looked around.

There was nothing untoward there—the room was as she had left it earlier that evening—but the clicking noise was still audible – louder than ever! She gazed around the perimeter of the room, till she spotted the door that led onto the terrace garden.

“That has to be it,” she whispered.

“Why?”

“I’m not sure. Let’s see.”

She gingerly stepped forward, her companion holding onto her shoulder gently but firmly.

When she at last reached the door, she touched the knob. ‘There’s something different about it,’ she thought, glancing at the ghost, who didn’t seem to think so. ‘Should I or should I not?

She finally made up her mind. She twisted the doorknob and slowly pushed the door…

 

CHAPTER 02: YOU KNOW WHO I AM

The Grimwire Apprentices #1: The Netherwalker – Prologue

SUMMARY

 

PROLOGUE

 

1816 CE

It all began on a bright summer’s morning, which was just like any other morning that June in London.

Arabella Archer, a young woman of one-and-twenty years, quite sun-kissed but very, very tall for her gender in her area of residence, was out for a walk after lunch, to the forest and to practice some of the magic she was forbidden to do within the premises of her noble home, owing to the witch-hunt of the previous century. She couldn’t help her abilities, however much the government forbade them, so, in order to not get on the wrong side of the law, she was obliged to conduct her activities in the presence of her friends, the forest animals. Human friends she had not many of, for in her village, she had always been considered to be strange. She suspected they knew she was not quite like them and never would be.

“What a shame it is,” she told a rabbit that happened to wander along the path she stopped at, to magically water a dying young sapling. “You see, people like me, born with magic, aren’t allowed to practice it like a physician practices his medicine. I suppose we women aren’t meant to be allowed to do such things—for, what do we know about healing people?

“But you know what, Mister Rabbit? I have a fair idea of the herbs to be used and I can concoct any remedy that isn’t here simply by summoning it from the nearest possible location! But alas, I could just as easily use it to kill people, which could be the reason why I cannot show it to common, dull, people.”

The rabbit appeared to be very sympathetic to the young woman’s state of affairs by the way it blinked at her.

“Oh, are you waiting for me to hand you something to eat?” Arabella patted her cloak all over and was disappointed. “Oh dear, I did not think I would encounter a rabbit of all things! Well, well, I shall conjure one then.” She held out her right hand and spoke a command. At once, a bright orange carrot appeared in her hand!

This she handed to the rabbit, which sniffed it first, before accepting it with what looked like a grateful smile.

“You’re most welcome, sweet ’un.” She stroked its fur and it leaned into her in delight. “I hope you enjoy it.”

The rabbit did, indeed, as the carrot disappeared in two blinks of her eyes!

“Wow, that was quick! Are you very hungry, Mister Rabbit?”

It just stared at her, its head tilted slightly to the left.

“Well, I could perhaps give you another, but don’t you think it’s already past your lunchtime? How late! Come, I shall give you just two more, but that is all! You hear me, young – er, animal?!”

The rabbit appeared to nod its head in consent.

So, Arabella kept her word and conjured just two more carrots. Then, looking quite satisfied, it bounded away.

The young witch looked up at the sky through the trees. “Is it going to be late already? I need to go home and prepare to depart to the Grimwire tomorrow. Oh, how I shall miss this forest and these animals! But I’m always coming back again—and this time, when the year ends, for a long, long time!

“Come now, Bella, don’t fret! You can always come back, now, can’t you?”

For some reason, at the very back of her mind, she felt a prick like a needle colliding with her there on the outside, but this prick was from the inside. It was physically impossible, of course, unless it was a result of voodoo magic, but this was a different sort of pricking. This was a bad feeling—a foreboding of something so evil, she couldn’t even comprehend, despite all the life she had seen, which was too little compared to Madam Rustwood, head of the Grimwire School of Magical Arts and Other Special Abilities. Of course, this school was held in secret, unknown to the human world; known only to those associated with and agreeable to the magical world.

Arabella frowned, a grim line shaping her lips horizontally. ‘I’d better warn Madam Rustwood as soon as I reach Grimwire,’ she told herself. ‘Seems like something nasty is in the air.

Turning away from the sky and her heart and mind not willing to perform any magic that evening, she sprinted back down the path she had taken into the woods and back to the mansion in the village that was her home.

Unbeknownst to her, a figure followed her invisible from the sky.

~*~

The library at the Council of the Mages had a vast collection of every record and book written and published by mages in the magical world.

A team of librarians helped man this huge collection of books and every section of the building was cordoned off as a separate entity that required permission to pass, secured by a librarian. These librarians were chosen carefully by the Head Librarian, who was in turn chosen carefully by the Council itself.

The task of the Head Librarian is to identify genuine magicians and monsters – only the good ones – into the library and manage their checking in and checking out of books. Usually a female, she periodically surveyed the books to see to their condition and order, and whether a missing book was accounted for. No book or record manuscript ever left the library of the Council of the Mages without her eagle eye making a note of it.

One evening, as she was making one of her rounds before opening the library for the day, the Head Librarian thought she heard a pair of feet scurrying along somewhere above her. She frowned, stopping in her tracks, wondering if she needed to go and check. When she didn’t hear anything again, she gave a satisfied little nod and walked on.

Nonetheless, that small voice at the back of her head nagged her until she finally arrived at the third floor of the library, just in time to see a shadowy figure hurrying away in the opposite direction, further along the corridor! She followed suit; though she was no more as fast as she used to be in her younger days, she was fast enough to make out the figure, just before it jumped off an open window at the end of the corridor. When she arrived there and looked out, there was no sign of the figure at all!

She at once raised the alarm before going down the stairs to make enquires of the security personnel there.

They all gave her quizzical expressions. “A figure, ma’am?” they said. “Why, nobody came or went out ever since you went in!”

The Head Librarian accepted this, though in her mind, she was restless and dissatisfied. ‘I suppose reporting this to the Council ain’t going to any good,’ she told herself. ‘I ought to get to the bottom of this myself. No one shall escape with my books without having to face my wrath!

With such fiery thoughts, she made her way back to her rounds. The library opened about five minutes later than usual, by which time, quite a crowd of magical creatures and persons assembled outside the door.

The Head Librarian appeared at the door then. “My humble apologies for the delay to-day. There has been… a slight incident to take care of. But rest assured, everything is fine now. Please come in, enjoy the books!”

As the people and creatures poured in, she stared unseeingly at them, scrutinising in her mind the figure she was sure she had seen running through the corridor and jumping off the window. Whatever had happened to that man or woman? Was it human at all? Or perhaps a mage?

But why would a mage have to steal from a magical library? They could simply come in and borrow them.’ Her mouth set in a grim line again. ‘I shall get to the bottom of this soon enough!

 

CHAPTER 01: THE GHOST WHO WAS NOT A GHOST

I Used to Post My Stories Online for Free and I Don’t Regret It

I used to post my stories and poetry online for free reading and to-day, I do not regret it.

Of course, at the time, it wasn’t for monetary gain – purely for entertainment and my own amusement.

Where did I post? I first started with posting poetry and short stories on my blog, in January 2016, before I found out about Wattpad in August of that same year, and began posting there, as well. I feel behind on updating my blog for a long time at one point, as I got lured into the chapter-by-chapter posting on Wattpad. Then, I found another platform called Inkitt, which works similar to Wattpad, then Quotev. Quotev I couldn’t help getting addicted to, because seriously, the formatting there was fucking awesome! – I simply adored working on it!

Then, in 2019, after about four months of querying, I found the magic of Kindle Direct Publishing through a contest that Amazon held every year in my country – the Pen-to-Publish Contest. I didn’t know of this; also, for some reason, I assumed it was held in every country and was wondering why nobody else on social media spoke about it! – I mean, NaNoWriMo is pretty popular there, as is the Wattys (which, really, is a scam).

My parents so badly wanted my book to be out there – even more than me! XD In the end, I relented and began the process of going through the edits my mother had already made to the copy I gave her. I began to add more, subtract that which is not required… and all that the process of editing entails. I even made a cover on Canva – very simple, because I knew about copyright laws, but didn’t know how to design my own cover. I knew a friend who could do it, but I was unemployed at the time, being fresh out of college, and I couldn’t afford her fees, which is actually very reasonable, as far as art is concerned.

All in three months.

And then, just about twelve days before the deadline of the contest, I set my preorder date so it would publish exactly ten days before the contest closed. It did.

I was finally a published author.

I thought, “Fuck those publishers who didn’t want my book!” And even now, despite the fact that I don’t earn so much as to be able to live off it, I am so proud of what I did then, of relenting to my parents – the latter being something I do not do very often. No, not even to-day, over two years of its release, I do not earn as much as another self-published author like me might. I had been promoting it wherever and however I could, meanwhile writing more books offline. Even before I started the process of publishing, I stopped posting my works on Wattpad, precisely because I was getting annoyed with its carelessness towards its users who wrote on it – there was no proper formatting, all my formatting that used to stay intact before then came undone – and I was getting irritated. The Wattpad staff were very boldly proving themselves to be corrupt and inefficient, favouring its ambassadors more than any other users, even if the ambassadors turned out to behaving badly towards the others.

Wattpad was losing its credibility, especially after yet another plagiarism scam that occured. I was done. I wasn’t risking my babies on it anymore, because I couldn’t rely on the Wattpad staff anymore.

I came out.

I was still posting on Inkitt and Quotev, but very less. I was unsure whether I wanted to continue giving my stories online for free, especially after a few months of being a self-published author – having my book up for people to buy. Not just read online, but also pay to do so. I loved being a published author – it gave me credibility, a sense of self-acceptance.

And so, slowly, I began to take down my works from Wattpad, Inkitt, and Quotev. I continued my blog, because, seriously, I love WordPress. In 2018, I started a Blogger, but I wasn’t as satisfied with it as I was with WordPress. Now, I have two more blogs on here, apart from this one. I still post poetry and short stories, and also, extracts from my longer books.

Now, why do I not regret posting online?

Precisely because of a few lessons I learnt in all that time of posting:

  1. I learned not to expect only praises because I wasn’t perfect in my creative writing. There were others like me (as in, Asians) who did much better.
  2. I learned that not all readers can be expected to enjoy all the stories I write. From when I was a kid, I was in the habit of reading contemporary teen fiction, fantasy, mystery/thrillers, supernatural, etc., and so, I also wrote multiple genres. I realised that not everyone would be like that.
  3. I learnt to understand creative writing and how to have more depth to my plot and characters.
  4. I fully understood how to use grammar devices in my writing.
  5. And I learnt that sometimes, your stories are just in the hands of the wrong audience.

If I hadn’t posted my stories on those platforms, I wouldn’t have known enough to become the author that I am now. I wouldn’t become as confident about my stories as I am now. Hell, I wouldn’t even be a published author now!

So, when online articles say you shouldn’t give away writing for free…. Well, I don’t necessarily agree with them. But they also add that you should do it for testing out your story ideas – to which I wholeheartedly agree. The earlier version of “New Kids in the First Form” with a slightly different title was enjoyed a lot by Quotev readers, but not one of the Wattpad readers picked it up to read. That’s how I understood about the wrong audience possibility.


This is just something I felt I wanted to talk about. Posting your works online for free reading is not shameful and must not be seen like that. Rather, it should be a phase with which you launch your writing career, if you’re really serious about it. If you’re not, then it’s cool to use free writing platforms, just for your amusement and others’.

In a few days’ time, I shall be posting a Life Update… so see you then! In the mean time, take care!

 

The Grimwire Apprentices #1: The Netherwalker

This story shall always be in my heart… like all of my others, yes, but for a different reason.

I created the charcters in this story around 10 years ago, based on a prompt we were given in our tenth grade. It was supposed to be a short story – didn’t have to submit, I took it up as a personal challenge – but I kept writing and writing, expanding and expanding…

… until I decided that this was going to be a trilogy, with certain plot points for each of the books.

I first started writing about 10 years ago, but only posted on Wattpad about two years after. I never got a very positive response to it; I’m wondering now if that was the wrong audience I got then, at the time. Because now, after abandoning it for more than five years, when I opened the story a few weeks ago, I realised how really good the story was! I LOVED the plot!! And I wanted to continue it!!

But as I sat down to edit, there were some points that I wanted to change… turned out, I had to rewrite, like, 80-85% of the first book. The personalities of the characters are all the same, and so are the characters – no addition so far – but I feel I’ve enhanced my writing a lot. I mean… it’s been a decade since I started that story!

I wanted to do the editing as Camp NaNoWriMo July 2021, but circumstances did not allow me begin before the first week of July… after that, I didn’t have the motivation. I wanted to do it without the external pressure to finish off the editing in a month, actually. I began around March 2021, paused for a long time, until June, when I resumed. And I didn’t stop; I was aiming to complete by the end of that month, but I couldn’t. I finished editing/rewriting it only a day ago, with a total word count of 58,829!!!

 

I shall be posting a few chapters from “The Netherwalker”, first in “The Grimwire Apprentices” trilogy!

 


 

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Supernatural, Fantasy

 


 

Description: 

Two legends reborn…

A magician with a convulted past…

A boy stuck in a half-dead life for centuries…

A best friend disappeared from the face of the Earth…

A witch harbouring revenge, seeking the best vessel to defeat her archenemy…

A lost girl searching for answers…

A powerful wizard attempting to create the greatest spell to destroy the planet…

 

Who will win and who will lose? Will the revenge be taken before its too late? Will the answers be sought in time? Will the best friend be found? Will the spell be created?

 

 

PROLOGUE

New Kids in the First Year – End-of-Excerpt

Chapter 05: Black Sheep

This is where the excerpt for my school series book comes to an end.

I am very ecstatic to see the number of views it’s got. I know one shouldn’t be quantifying creativity and I’m not. I’m just saying that it hadn’t garnered this much attention on a site like Wattpad that is supposed to be known for teenage users! This book is aimed for them and they didn’t want to read it! XD Personally, I find that funny!

The audience at Quotev changed my mind, though, when I thought people didn’t like to read stories like this. I was sure then that whatever you want to write, the right audience and the right writing style that suits both you and your audience is enough!

Anyway, I hope to finish this series one day and start publishing it.

See you all in my next post!

Melodious Music of the Month – 18

Three years ago, I posted my last Melodious Music of the Month post.

To-day, I shall be resuming it. I remembered it suddenly, as I was going through my media on this blog and spotted a Tonight Alive image.

Anyway, here is my Melodious Music of the Month… a new song and band that Instagram advertised to me this week and I got hooked:

 

“Thoughts” by Faime

 

Do let me know how you felt about it!

 

New Kids in the First Year – Chapter 05: Black Sheep

Chapter 04: New Classes 

 

CHAPTER 05: BLACK SHEEP

The only people who hadn’t spoken many words among the First Years were Lucy and Lacy Linton, Trent Sawyer, and William Evans.

“Hey!” Angelina went up to where the Lintons were quietly mending some tears in their dresses in the First and Second Years’ common room. “I’ve been wondering… Are you twins?”

Lucy and Lacy looked up, exchanged glances. “Well, you can say we are,” replied the latter with a small smile. “We’re just a few months apart.”

“That’s nice!” remarked Evangeline. “No wonder you’re in the same class!”

“Well, we didn’t want to be separated if we could help it. I think you two feel the same.”

“Yes, yes, we do. So, where are you from?”

“We’re from the Southern Province. This is our first time in a boarding school, but I expect it is so for all of us here. Where are you from, twins?”

“We’re from the Central Province – the same as this one.” Angelina smiled. “We live on the other side.”

“That must be closer to home, eh?”

“Yes, I suppose.”

On the other side of the room, Trent sat reading a book. Janet Mary Swenson crouched down near him and with shining eyes, tried to read its cover. Trent, noticing her from the corner of his eye, turned a little away, to block her vision. At once, Janet Mary moved accordingly.

Trent instantly flared up and jumped to his feet. “Hey, girl, what’s your problem?! Why don’t you just leave me alone!?”

Little Janet Mary, who looked a little too young to be in the First Year at a higher studies school, gave him a sweet smile. “But I want to see what it is! I love books so much!”

Trent made an irritated noise and stamped out of the room, leaving a dismayed Janet Mary.

American Jessica Morton sidled up to her. “Ignore that guy, JM. Come, I discovered the library yesterday, right here in school. I think you’ll love it!”

Janet Mary insisted that it was her first name and that Mary was not her middle name. So, the girls began to call her ‘JM’; she didn’t mind one bit.

Now, she accepted Jessica’s kindness with a small smile and a nod. “Thank you.”

As they left the room, Jessica asked, “Where are you from, pal?”

“I’m from the UK. Though really, you couldn’t tell it from my accent, eh?”

“Well, I’ve never seen a British or heard them, so I wouldn’t know.” She winked.

Back in the room, Amelia Johnson, a Second Form33 student, stood up. “Anybody object if I turned on the radio?”

They all shook their heads and she turned it on. The radio was tuned to a classical songs channel; she changed it to Russian songs.

“Ooh, I love that one!” said Nina, the little Russian Second Year girl. She and her twin, Antonov, began to nod along to it.

William Evans looked around when the radio started blaring out music, and snorted. ‘Silly little Slavans and their stupid ways. I wish I could go back home to my own room. I don’t owe anything to these idiots!

 

~*~

 

Marie and Louie sat in the playground where some of the older kids were playing hockey.

“I wish there was badminton here,” she whispered, as she watched the game idly. “I even brought a racquet in the hopes. Eh?”

“We could ask around. There actually is a court – that Sixth Former showed us, remember?” he told her.

“Yes, yes, I know… but it’s not a one-person game.”

“Oh! Yes, I can always play with you – you know that.”

“But your heart lies in table tennis. I don’t want to deprive you of that!”

“Hush now, my darling sister. When I’m not playing that, I’ll play badminton with you.”

She kissed his cheek affectionately. “Merci. Still, I wish somebody else we knew played.”

Pourquoi pas? We don’t know the rest of the class yet – perhaps if we ask them, somebody will come forth.”

“Do let’s!”

 

As they made their way up the stairs, tall and strapping Philomena Thomas was descending the stairs with Sunny Peterson, one of the sports captains.

“Hey there!” Philomena exclaimed, stopping the twins. “I know you guys! You came with me on the tour yesterday, didn’t you? Ain’t you First Formers?”

The twins nodded. “We are,” replied Louie. “This is Marie and I’m Louie. What’s up, Philomena?”

“Is there a William Evans in your form? I believe he is in your form, isn’t he?”

Louie’s face scrunched in thought, but Marie said, “Oh yes, isn’t he that tall brooding boy? Ma parole! – I do believe I haven’t seen him open his mouth for anything!”

“Oh, that boy? Yes, I did – to yawn!” Louie giggled behind his hand.

The older kids suppressed giggled themselves. “Yes, I can understand,” remarked Sunny. “Well, tell him that Sunny Peterson – me – is calling him, will ya? I’ll be in the badminton court.”

At this, Marie’s eyes shone. “Oh-oh! May I come, too, please, frère? I’ve been wanting to play badminton here!”

Sunny laughed light-heartedly. “I’m afraid not, mon chéri. It’ll be a private conversation.” He paused, as a rather embarrassing thought come to him. “I… actually, I want him to meet me there because…” he went red. “Well, because it’s usually empty these days.”

Marie was disappointed. “You mean… there won’t be anyone playing at all?”

He shook his head. “I’m sorry.” He perked up suddenly. “Hey, are you meaning to play sometime?”

“Yes! Will you amuse me, please, Sunny? Not now, but whenever you want. When my brother isn’t able to!”

He cast a glance at Louie. “Yes, sure, I’d love to! You know what? You share a common room with the Second Formers, right? Go and collect names of who all would like to participate in the badminton matches coming up this term. We had hardly none last term and – because the few who wanted to play either fell sick or had some family emergency. In the end, me and a former Sixth Former played and… well, it wasn’t overall encouraging, you know?”

Marie nodded. “I am sorry about that. Well, I’ll do as you say. Where shall I meet with you, please, frère?”

“Same place. But please wait until I’m done with William, eh?”

“Yes!!” She hugged Louie. “Thank you, Sunny Peterson!”

The four said their goodbyes and went merrily on their ways. They rushed the rest of the way to their common room and burst in. Everybody present – even Trent and William – whirled around immediately, as the twins stood at the entrance panting.

“Well, first things first,” said Louie, sensing his sister’s impatience. “William Evans? Yes, you. Sunny Peterson is calling you. I expect you know him?”

For the first time that they all saw, the boy in question opened his mouth: “Yes, I do.”

“Well, you’re to meet him in the badminton court. You remember where that is?”

William looked impatient now. “Yes, I do. Obviously!” He grunted and moved towards the door, brushed rudely past William on his way out, hurting Marie, who stood just beside her brother, who clashed with his back onto her. She whimpered, suppressing a full-on groan, as her head collided with the door frame. William didn’t even turn around.

“That boy makes me angry!” growled Louie, his little fists in balls. “Wait till he –”

But Marie caught his wrist and pulled him into the common room. “It’s no use, frère, and you know it. Just forget it.”

Louie was not to forgot such a slight to his sister so easily, it seemed, as was proven soon enough.

Susie rushed towards them. “Hey Louie!”

The boy, still angry, looked suspiciously at her. “What?”

“Hi!”

He frowned. “Uh… hi?”

“Look, I just… I wanted to tell you that… Well, while I appreciate your love for your sister and to protect her, please don’t pick a fight so publicly. Try and talk with tolerance instead.”

He nodded, albeit reluctantly. “All right, I’ll try.”

“Well, at least take him asidethen fight,” quipped Philip, who had a younger sister he felt the same way towards.

“Philip Rangers!” exclaimed Susie in astonishment. “Don’t put such ideas into his head!”

“No, Susie, he’s right,” said Louie, his mind made up. And when that happened, he was usually obstinate. “One fistfight should keep that guy on his best behaviour.”

No amount of appealing and cajoling by Susie or Marie would get through his head. Fed up, the former went to confront Philip.

“What in the world is the matter with you?” she asked, her face scrunched in annoyance. “Were you brought up with gypsies or in a circus, maybe? Well, they’re more well-behaved… so, perhaps some animals brought you up, like Tarzan?”

“Love that comic!” Philip said with a grin.

She smacked him hard on the arm. “Don’t you dare talk to me like that!”

He was shocked; he hadn’t been expecting firmness from a girl smaller than him. “Er – yes, ma’am,” he muttered.

“If you can’t talk anything better, you’d better not give people advices,” she hissed, before she stamped out of the room to her own dormitory, leaving behind a gaping audience.

For a few minutes, the entire room was filled with silence. Philp felt uncomfortable, for he knew Susie had been right and he should’ve apologised. He sighed.

He looked around, badly wanting to change the subject. “So guys, how was your summer vacation?” Nobody spoke; most of them were hiding behind their books or other material, though he felt sure they were secretly eyeing him. “I’ll start. I was quite alone at home, what with my parents going to some place or the other on work and having only Martha for company! But Martha was good company and we played a lot sometimes, when she did not have much to do!”

“Oh.” The students started and looked around. It was little Pauline, who had sympathy in her eyes. She was always sensitive to other children whose parents didn’t spend much time with them. “What did you and Martha play?” she asked in her small voice.

Philip smiled at her, grateful. “We played badminton.”

At once, a gasp resounded in the room. All eyes now looked up and around. It was Marie; her face was flushed.

“Philip, you play badminton?” she asked. “Oh dear, now Susie’s gone… I wanted her to be around, too! – William, too!”

“Well, idiot, don’t just stand there freaking out,” said Jessica boldly. “Spill it!”

“Oh yes!” She cleared her throat, suddenly calming down. “Sunny was very excited when I told him I played badminton and he wanted me to collect a list of names of those interested in playing for the school.”

“Me!” Philip raised his hand confidently.

“She!” suddenly cried Carla, raising a terrified Pauline’s hand. The latter covered her face with her other hand.

“Not me, please not me!” she kept muttering.

“Well, at least try,” Marie told her, going to her place in the common room to get a pen and a sheet of paper. “You can always do badly on purpose and get out of being put into competitions.”

“Isn’t that awfully dishonest, though?” Jack countered.

“Frankly, I wouldn’t care.” This from Joan Wilton of the Second Form. “You want something done, you make it happen.”

Jack didn’t seem convinced, though he didn’t say anything.

Marie went around the common room and wrote down names of students interesting in badminton. Some weren’t sure if they would be chosen to play for the school, but wanted to play the sport nonetheless. The Carlson twins were excited to go in and give it a shot. Janet Mary was more of an indoorsy person; if anything, she liked to fool around in the table tennis court. She didn’t know a thing about badminton.

“I could teach you if you want,” Jessica offered her. “I had played for some junior tournaments before I came here, though I didn’t win anything. We could have fun and learn together.”

Janet Mary’s eyes went wide and sparkly at this. “Really?! You will?!”

“Sure!”

They should’ve been at the library, but came back when they saw that it was locked and the library hadn’t returned from his vacation yet.

Carrie was very interested, too, as was Joan Wilton of the Second Form.

When she was done, Marie stood up with a grin, going over the list of names. She looked around the room. “Did I miss anybody?”

“No!” replied the others.

“Great! I’ll be giving this to Sunny then. Louie, come with me, please!”

The twins headed towards the door, Marie in the lead. No sooner had she skipped out, than she hit face first into a fleshy wall and fall down with a groan.

“I don’t remember there being a wall here!”

“Hey, that’s the second time you’ve been inconsiderate!” Louie’s voice startled her. She opened her eyes and saw that she had bumped into William, who was also lying on the ground.

“Oh dear, oh dear!” She instantly went to give him a hand up. “Come, take my hand!”

William blinked several times at her, as she repeated her instruction impatiently. He finally took her hand and got up. ‘I really don’t need help, you know,’ he thought, ‘I could’ve done on my own. But, you know, if you insist, who am I to refuse?

She gave a courtesy. “Please ignore my brother. I should’ve seen you coming. It’s my fault. Please forgive me!”

William was so shocked that he actually heard himself say, “Uh… yes, yes, of course! No problem!”

Marie stopped talking at once and turned her startled blue eyes on him. He saw the disbelief.

“No, really. It’s all right. No harm done!” A ghost of a smile appeared on his face, which relaxed her.

“Ah! Thank you. William. Oh! Also… do you know if Sunny is still in the badminton court?”

“Yes, he told me he was meeting with a First Former. I expect that’s you?”

“Indeed. And, um, are you… do you play badminton?”

He frowned, but his response was polite: “No, actually, but I’d like to give it a try. Why, are you playing now?”

Marie gave a nervous laugh. “I wish I was… but no. Maybe another time?” She looked at him hopefully.

He turned away. “Whatever, man.” And walked back into the room.

Marie turned to a bewildered Louie. “Well, if that ain’t success, I do not know what is!” She skipped away, leaving him to follow her when he recovered in his own time.

 

The children inside the room had seen the little episode, too, and were most astonished.

When the brother-sister duo left, silence reigned for what seemed like a long time.

Then, everybody began talking excitedly at once:

Did you see that?!”

William Evans being nice to someone!?”

“That guy doesn’t seem half bad now, does he!”

“Marie seems to be some kind of fairy!”

For some reason, the last remark stood out and everybody agreed that Marie was a fairy.

But as the term went along, they realised this may not so true after all…!

 

 

End of Excerpt

New Kids in the First Year – Chapter 04: New Classes

Chapter 03: New Friends 

 

CHAPTER 04: NEW CLASSES

The next day, the students found their timetables on the noticeboards outside their dormitories, just as the school headgirl had instructed them.

The bell went off at half-past-six in the morning, which was the signal for every one in the school – at least, the students – to wake up and start getting ready for to begin their day. Susie, one of the last girls who arrived the previous evening, found the timetable and informed the rest of the girls. She met Jon outside, having a look himself. Philip and Jack Roberts came out to have a look, too.

“We have assembly at eight o’clock,” read Philip, “and then, roll-call at quarter-to-nine. Classes begin at nine.” He turned to Susie. “Then, why do we need to wake up at half-past-six?”

The girl shrugged. “I suppose it’s the norm here. Anyway, sleep early and you’ll have a lot more time to do a lot of things the next day!”

“Sleep early, yes. But wake early, too? Nah, I couldn’t afford that. I can get ready in the blink of an eye!”

“Boasting again, are we?”

They all turned around to see Robert Thomas coming out of his room.

“Take no notice of him, Susie Jones,” he added, “for, he can exaggerate this roof to the sky!”

Everybody burst out laughing, Susie included.

“That was a great way of putting it, I admit,” said Jon.

“Anyhow,” said Susie, “it’s almost half-past-seven. We need to have our breakfast at eight!”

She bid the others a temporary goodbye and went back inside.

“I wonder who our class head is going to be!” said Carrie Wilton to two other girls who were setting out their clothes while they waited for whoever was using the bathroom to come out.

“Perhaps we won’t be having any,” mused Pauline, one of the girls. “What do you think, Carla?”

“Maybe they’ll ask us to volunteer and then have a vote,” Carla said.

“We’ll just have to wait and see,” said Susie, going up to them. She had been the first student in the dormitory to get ready. She mostly liked having the bathroom before anybody else, even back at home.

Jessica Morton came out of the bathroom and instantly, another girl who had been the nearest, rushed in!

“Poor Janet Mary – she’d been holding her stuff for so long!” remarked Evangeline sympathetically.

“Well, I’m all ready now,” announced Marie, hefting her backpack. It was light, really, though it looked very heavy. She placed it on her bunkbed. “How long till classes start?”

“Not for another hour, at least,” replied Susie, and then, proceeded to repeat the timetable she had memorised from the noticeboard outside.

Nine!” squealed Marie. “Then, why was I asked to wake up and start getting ready three hours early!?”

Susie laughed. “Two and a half, but I get what you’re saying! Jon was complaining of the same thing!”

“Whatever,” Marie rolled her eyes. “There’s a roll-call at quarter-to-nine? Any more during the day?”

Susie thought about it. “No, as far as I could see. Why?”

“We had a roll-call two times every day in our old school, at Little Hearts. It was to make sure that no kid has gone missing in between. We’d know if they had and their parents would be informed.”

“Wow!” All the girls gathered around her.

“Where there any actual cases like that?” asked Carla, her eyes shining.

“Yes, in fact, actually. Two kids. Different days, of course. One boy got lost during a nature walk; he got distracted by a bunch of butterflies that were playing in the garden we were in. It was quite big and had a lot of people. Ever since then, teachers began to be more cautious about bringing us to that park only when less people were around.”

The girls gasped.

“I hope they found him!” said Pauline, the most sensitive of them all.

“Yes, of course. He had realised that his class were no longer with him, so he began to cry, looks like. Some couple took him in and began to entertain him, until our teacher found him. Oh, it was a day, I tell you!”

“What was the second time?”

“She was a rich girl – a girl who came from a rich family. She was kidnapped!”

Another round gasps; louder this time. “How?!”

“In the middle of a busy school day, one of the maids working in the school took the girl away with a piece of chocolate! We’re not told not to take anything from strangers, but she… she was known to us! We didn’t even suspect she could be criminal!”

The girls gaped.

“We saw some pretty bad things there, all right,” said Marie, not too happy by then. “The world can be pretty mean to us. Anyway, the girl was found by one of the guards in the school who thought the maid was acting suspicious. Don’t know what exactly he thought was suspicious. But it was a good thing, none the less.”

“I agree,” said Susie. “Well, let’s hope such things don’t happen to any of us. Like Philomena told us yesterday, we must be in at least groups of three… up to five. Let’s hope we all shall remember that!”

 

~*~

 

New classes began at nine in the morning.

The First Years were rounded up by Miss Green after assembly and up to their class. The room was rather small, though too big for a class of twenty students. The roll-call was taken there.

“Now,” said the mistress after. “You’re all fresh young twelve-year-olds, here to learn more than you did before to-day, and become good individuals. I hope you’re ready for some higher levels of all the subjects you’ve done before!”

The students all gave each other nervous glances. Miss Green noticed and smiled.

“That’s not a problem. I shall leave you all to get acquainted with the syllabus in the first week. But from the next week, please promise me you’ll try very hard. The first year is always a giant step from the sixth standard, so there’s no way around it, other than working very hard. I’m sure some of you who have older siblings know of this already.

“But don’t get scared. Whatever you need help with, you have your classmates and dormmates to ask. You can also come to me. We’re all here to help each other grow!”

The children looked at her in awe.

“Now. I shall be teaching you Geography. Your first hour to-day is Maths, so Mr James will be here shortly to start the lesson. Ah – here he is!”

A tall, rather middle-aged man entered the room, his eyes on the twenty students in the class. He had a jolly pleasant smile on his face. “Good morning, students,” he greeted affectionately.

The students at once stood up. “Good morning, Mr James!”

“Good morning, Miss Green,” he tipped his hat.

“Morning, Mr James. The class is all yours. Everybody has been called and accounted for!” Miss Green gave him a pleasant smile and walked away.

Mr James set his books down on the table and turned back to the class. “Now, settle down, please. Good. Now then, tell me what you all did in your last Maths class.”

The children each took turns to stand up and explain everything they had learnt. They each rather liked this middle-aged teacher whose cheery smile never ceased.

Ah, this school isn’t going to be so bad, after all!’ they thought.

 

Chapter 05: Black Sheep

New Kids in the First Year – Chapter 03: New Friends

Chapter 02: Start of a Grand Term

 

CHAPTER 03: NEW FRIENDS

 

Angelina suddenly noticed a middle-aged woman approaching them.

“Ooh, twins I see!” She had a pair of glasses on her nose and a notepad and pen in her hands. “Are you, by any chance, Angelina and Evangelina Carlson?”

Angelina giggled as Evangeline suppressed her anger. “Why does everybody here call me that!?” she exclaimed. “No, my name is Evangeline! No extra ‘a’!”

The woman smiled sheepishly. “I’m so sorry about that. I suppose when your twin in named with a name ending with ‘a’, people tend to believe yours would, too. I’ll see to it that this will not be a problem for you in the future.”

Suddenly, Evangeline felt ashamed. “Uh – no, that’s all right. I suppose I should get used to people confusing and correct them politely.”

The woman chuckled. “You’re well-mannered, I see. Oh – where are my manners! I’m Miss Green, First Year mistress. You’re all First Year?”

“Yes, please,” replied Robert Thomas. “We’ve all just visited the Headmistress. Where are the dormitories, please?”

“Well, aren’t you keen on staying here!” Miss Green beamed. “Come along now!”

The five children followed behind the mistress.

The dormitories were located on the first floor, in the eastern wing of the great building.

“The western wing is for the Second Years,” explained Miss Green. “Next year, I suppose you’ll all be shifted there. But for now, it’s these two rooms here—ten children in each. Boy, you’re to take the last one; this room is for the girls.”

They opened the first door and peered in. It was empty of anybody, but there seemed to be a lot of bunk beds and tables and chairs, all very tidy.

“Now remember—you’re to clean your own rooms every day. We have maids coming to clean only once a week. So, make sure your dormitories are clean. You can make a timetable of who will clean when – perhaps three children at a time. That we leave up to you.” She turned on her heel. “If that is all, then I’ll be going back to round up the rest of your classmates.”

“Are we the first?” asked Philip.

“Indeed. Now, your luggage will soon be up by the janitors. You can claim yours and start unpacking. Lunch will be at one o’clock, so be at the basement, at the table assigned to you. I’ll be waiting.”

When the children didn’t have anything more to say, she left.

 

They found all their luggage in the girls’ room, along with those of the other First Year students.

The boys lugged their bags away as the girls pulled them to the beds they chose and began unpacking.

“Oh! Hey Angie, remember how I said I didn’t pack the shuttlecock? Well, here it is!”

“Oh, that’s great, Evie! Oh, here’s the pencil I was searching in the train! I can’t believe I didn’t pack it in my backpack!”

“Hey, Carla, are you sure that’s the right cupboard for your dresses?”

There sounded a rap on the door. Every girl looked up.

A tall royal-looking girl stood at the doorway, in a blue t-shirt and jeans, and a tennis racquet stood over her shoulder in one hand.

“I take it you’re all the new First Years?” she said in a quiet deep voice. The girls in the room nodded slowly, hardly daring to look at one-another. “Good. There are more of you to be expected. More of the boys, too, of course. One of you, come to me when the rest of your mates are here.”

“Y-yes, ma’am,” said Carla, for the lack of a better word.

The tall girl suddenly smiled. “I’m sorry, that was rude of me. Where are my manners! You look very scared to be assaulted like this by an upper year student! My name is Philomena Thomas and I’m the headgirl of the school. I’m in the Sixth Year. It’s my duty to introduce the First Years and any new girls who arrive anywhere else in the school to the entire building. So, it’s a free tour, guys!

“When the others arrive, check the next dorm, as well, then come find me in the fourth floor, Room 41.”

“Yes, Philomena!” the girls replied in chorus, now feeling a little less shocked.

She flashed a huge grin and left.

“Gosh, isn’t she the first senior we actually talked to?!” said Carla, being the first to break the silence that followed, as usual. “I think I’m going to like her a lot! What about you!?”

Pauline nodded. “Yes, I think me too.”

The twins beamed together. “I think so, too!”

Just then, another rap sounded on the door and this time, a couple of kids stood at the doorway, both with naughty twinkles in their eyes.

“Is this the First Year dormitory?”

The four girls exchanged delighted glances. ‘They look like fun!’ they thought.

“Yes, this is the girls’s dormitory. The boys’s is the one next door.”

“This one?” The boy pointed in the direction that Robert and Philip had gone.

“Yes.”

“All right then.” He turned to the girl with a sweet smile. “Take care, now, Marie. We’ll meet again in the dining room, I suppose.”

The girl nodded. “Oh boy, I hope I get used to being separated from you, Louie.”

“I’m sure we both will.” He winked at her. “Holler if you need any help, okay?”

She nodded and hugged him, before coming inside with a bag trailing behind her.

Carla spoke up: “There’s the trunks. You can look yours up and start unpacking. We’re to be given a tour of the school later by the headgirl!”

“The headgirl!” The girl named Marie repeated, her eyes shining. “Ooh, is that all our luggage? Thank you so much! I’m sorry, what’s your name? Actually, let’s all introduce ourselves! My name is Marie Jackson, and I’m half-French. The boy who came with me is my twin brother, Louie.” She paused. “Actually, we’re both halfFrench.”

Evangeline laughed. “I can tell!”

“I say!” she exclaimed suddenly, staring back and forth from the Carlsons. “Are you both twins, too!?”

The other girls noticed she didn’t really have a French accent. It was more local to Slavian.

“Yes!” replied Angelina. “I’m Angelina Carlson and this is Evangeline Carlson. That wild red-haired of a mess is our neighbour, Carla Wilson –”

“Hey!” Carla yelled in mock-complaint, before tackling the twin.

But this didn’t faze Angelina from going on: “– And that shy little cute girl is Carla’s cousin, Pauline. Can you tell they’re both cousins?”

Marie Jackson giggled. “Nope. They look very unalike!” A hint of French graced her voice now. “Magnifique! It will be very nice knowing you! Are we expected any more shtudents?”

“Yes,” replied Evangeline. “I believe they’re going to be as many as the bunks in both the dorms!”

“I see!” The little half-French girl lugged her trunk by its wheels towards the bunkbed by the window.

“I actually claimed the lower one there,” Carla told her, “but you can have it if you want.”

Marie turned to her. “Oh… Well, can I, then?”

“Sure! I’ll take the top!”

“Are you… sure you don’t have a problem with it?”

The others suddenly realised that she had become a little nervous.

“Yes, I don’t have any problem,” Carla assured her. “Just, let me remove my stuff from there.”

“Hello girls!” a pleasant English voice sounded from the doorway. They all turned around.

Pauline blushed and quickly hid behind her cousin.

“Hey there!” the latter greeted him. “First Year, are you?”

“Yes,” replied the pleasant, freckled boy. “But it looks like I’m in the wrong dorm?”

“Well, not quite wrong. This is the First Year girls’s dorm. The boys’s is next door.”

“Ah, makes sense! Thank you so much! Would we be meeting up somewhere?”

It was Evangeline who spoke now: “Actually, the headgirl from Year Six came to let us know that she’ll be giving all the new students a tour of the school. We’re to report to her as soon as everybody arrives.”

“I see! There must be a list of students somewhere around here, right? Ah yes, right here outside! Well, I’ll let you know when all the boys have arrived. Then, one of you can go to the headgirl.”

“Sure thing! Thank you so much!”

“By the way, my name is Jon Smith. I suppose we’re all new here?”

“Yes, yes,” replied Carla. “I’m Carla, and this is my cousin, Pauline. She’s a little shy, especially around boys. The twins are Evangeline and Angelina. And that girl at the far corner of the room – she’s Marie Jackson.”

“Oh wow! I’ll have to keep repeating all those names over and over to remember them!” He gave a pleasant laugh. “Anyhow, I need to unpack. See you all in a while!”

 

~*~

 

Soon after, more girls and boy arrived.

Marie volunteered to check the names off the list placed outside the dorm rooms, to see if all the girls anticipated have arrived. When Jon came out and told her that all the boys in his dorm have arrived as well, she rushed off to the fourth floor, in search of the headgirl’s room. Louie insisted on going with her.

“All the students have arrived?” asked Philomena in her pleasant trill. “I’ll be there in a bit. I’ll round up all the new girls in the other years, as well. Thank you. What are your names again?”

The twins told her.

“Marie and Louie? Sounds French. Are you?”

“Indeed!” replied Louie. “Well, half-French, at any rate. We have relatives from there.”

“Ah! I have relatives in France, too, though they’re not native to the country. Been there a few years for work, is all. I think most of them intend to return home soon.”

The twins spoke a bit more about their shared interest, before they left to go back to their dormitories. In about ten minutes, Philomena Thomas came back with a crowd of some other girls and boys, and the First Year students had a grand tour of the school.

 

Chapter 04: New Classes

New Kids in the First Year – Chapter 02: Start of a Grand Term

Chapter 01: Off to a New School

 

Chapter 02: Start of a Grand Term

 

The car stopped directly in front of a tall, ancient-looking gate and the three girls pranced out on one side.

Over the gate was an arch that read “St. Ann’s Higher Secondary School”. The girls ran for it.

“Hey girls!” yelled Mrs Carlson. “I have a few things to tell you! Also, one of us need to escort you to the Headmistress’s office!”

The girls came back towards the car looking sheepish. They glanced back at the gate and saw that the grounds of St. Ann’s Higher Secondary School was teeming with girls and boys, men and women, all of them in some kind of uniform they’d never seen before.

“Now, listen carefully,” said Mrs Carlson. “Mrs Wilson and I will escort you to the headmistress’s office. We’re to see her again individually. The twins with me and Carla with her mother. The fathers will look for a parking spot for the vehicle, but they may or may not join us. The school is crowded at this time of the day – and no wonder! – so, stay close, okay?”

“Okay, Mum!” replied the twins and Carla said, at the same moment, “Yes, Mrs Carlson.”

“Good. Let’s go.”

The girls stuck together as did their mothers, as they weaved their way through the mess of people talking, shouting, and laughing. A lot of them seemed to have been at the school before, for there was also some hugging and catching-up. The three young children looked at them all in awe; they hoped to know all these students someday.

I know—I’m going to drag Angelina, Carla, and Carla’s cousin along with me around the school and talk to everybody!’ thought Evangeline in delight. ‘Yes… that’s what I’ll do!

Of course, provided she got the time!

The headmistress’s offices were located in the ground floor and the corridor was quite crowded. A lot of parents and students stood or sat in chairs; many of the students seemed shy or nervous or excited.

“They must be new like us,” whispered Carla to the twins. “Oh wow, there’s Pauline!” She raised her voice a little: “Hey Pauline!”

A young bespectacled girl looked up from where she had been staring at the floor under her feet. When she caught sight of Carla, a bright smile lit up her face and she tugged at an Indian woman in front of her.

“What is it, Miss Pauline?” asked the woman.

“My cousin Carla has come, Ms Kumari. Can I please go to her?”

Ms Kumari looked to where Pauline’s eyes gazed and a bright smile appeared on her face.

“My, if it isn’t the little naughty girl! Carla, is it? Nice to see you again, after such a long time!” Ms Kumari’s accent reminded the twins of a South Indian woman who could speak English very fluently. She and Pauline made their way towards them.

“Rishita! How pleasant it is to see you again!” greeted Mrs Wilson with a big smile. “Oh yes, my sister did tell me little Pauline was coming to the school, too, but I completely forgot! Hey Pauline, how are you doing?”

Pauline’s smile had turned shy upon seeing the new faces. “I’m doing great, Aunt Janet. How do you do?”

“We’re doing fine.”

“Where is Uncle Leo?”

“He and the twins’ father went to find a parking spot. I think they will take a while in this crowd! – what with to-day being the last day before school reopens!”

The little girl nodded. “I understand. Perhaps they’ll have to park in another spot and stay there, in case the car needs to be moved.”

As they spoke, Angelina studied the young girl. ‘Wow, up close like this, Pauline seems really intelligent. Um… what’s that word? Perceptive? Yes, I think so. I should look it up in the dictionary later. I don’t remember noting that when I last saw her. But that’s just a memory that flashed to me when Carla spoke about it.

Time passed and the two fathers did not arrive. Eventually, Mrs Wilson received a message, which she relayed to the others:

“They said they parked the car at a no-parking zone. They’ll be waiting for us there. If they find a spot in the meantime, they’ll go for it.”

“That’s fine by me,” remarked Mrs Carlson. “I don’t think there will be a problem, seeing as how the situation is to-day!”

Just then, a young woman emerged out of the office with a pad and a pen, a pencil sticking from her left ear. “Angelina Carlson? Is she here now?”

Angelina leapt up, raising her hand. “Here I am!” she exclaimed, her heart racing.

“You have a twin, don’t you?” The woman scanned the list on her pad. “Evangelina?”

“Evangeline. Yes, ma’am.”

“Please come, both of you. With your parents.”

The twins exchanged nervous glances, before their mother took their hands and followed the young secretary. There was another corridor, the twins saw with wide round eyes.

The secretary paused at the door at the end of the corridor and turned to them. “Please go in. Headmistress Maria Christopher is waiting for you. Girls, please be on your best behaviour.”

They didn’t intend to be ill-mannered, but they realised that the young secretary was genuinely concerned.

“Yes, ma’am, we will,” Evangeline replied for them.

She left and Mrs Carlson opened the door. They all walked inside; the door slowly swung shut.

A majestic woman sat behind a great desk, making the twins feel meek. ‘I don’t think nobody in their right minds can be mischievous with someone like her around,’ thought Angelina. She almost giggled. ‘Like Carla would correct me – “anybody in their right minds”!

The headmistress observed them carefully and Angelina sank a little deeper into her seat. Suddenly, the woman smiled.

“It’s all right, I’m going to gobble you up like a goblin.” Her laughter trilled merrily.

Suddenly, the atmosphere changed and the twins exchanged smiles with their mother who sat in between them.

“St. Ann’s School has been around since 1866, teaching students good morals and values, preparing them to be good citizens of the country, stop wars, be sensible diplomats, and be good examples to the next generation.

“We expect this from very girl and boy who passes out from St. Ann’s. We expect them to be proud of who they have become and be happy, and be a success wherever they choose to go.”

The twins couldn’t take their eyes off the imposing woman as she spoke. In the end, she beamed at them, pleasant crinkles forming around her eyes. They felt the sudden urge to sit up straight in their chairs, and swallowed.

 

~*~

 

Carla and her mother were next to go in.

When she saw the Carlson twins come out, she noted that their faces showed something in between awe and joy.

Well, at least the headmistress didn’t seem to have scared them,’ she thought with a gulp.

Angelina hugged her when she came near. “I heard it’s your turn now. Good luck!”

“She’s not very bad, really,” whispered Evangeline. “You’ll like her.”

Pauline nodded. “Yes, indeed. She gave me a bar of chocolate the last time I was here.” She grew red in the face all of a sudden. “Because, because…”

“Carla Wilson, please!” yelled the secretary. “Is she not here yet?”

“I’m here! Sorry!” Carla dashed towards where her mother stood, in front of the woman.

“Good. Please follow me.”

The twins turned to Pauline. “Because?”

“Well, because I got so scared, I cried as soon as I entered the room!”

 

~*~

 

Carla took just as much time as the twins; after her, a few other boys and girls went in.

Pauline was the last to go.

As the four girls were making silent conversation amongst them, a young boy came up to them.

“Hey, girls.”

They turned around, eyes wide in shock. Their mothers had drifted elsewhere, leaving Ms Kumari with them.

“What do you want, young man?” she asked. “You attending this school, as well?”

“Yes,” the boy nodded. “I just thought I should make some friends, now that my turn is over. You seem to be my age, so I approached you. I hope you don’t mind.”

Ms Kumari laughed good-heartedly. “No, no, not at all. Just making sure.”

“Great!” He turned to the girls. “My name is Robert Theodore Thomas. My friends back home, they call me BT – you can, too, if you like.”

Angelina frowned. “Shouldn’t that be RTT?” she mused. “Or maybe RT-squared.”

The young boy gave a pleasant chuckle. “Well, I wouldn’t recognise it immediately, I suppose. You know, Robert can be shortened to ‘Bert’. And take the first letter of the last name.”

Carla giggled. “Good one! Ooh, who’s that boy coming up behind you? He seems to be your friend.”

Robert turned around. “Ah, Philip!” He waved his hand.

The other boy came over, panting. “Finally found you! Where all do you keep disappearing, man!?”

The girls giggled and his attention landed on them. “Oh hey, making friends, already?”

“Yes,” replied Robert. “Hey, you didn’t tell me who you are.”

Carla stepped forward. “I’m Carla Wilson. This is my cousin, Pauline; she’s still awaiting a Certificate of Approval from the headmistress.” She grinned at her cousin, who blushed. Pauline refused to look at Philip and Robert no more than a glance or two.

“And these like-as-peas-in-a-peapod here,” Carla’s eyes shone on the twins, “are Angelina and Evangeline Carlson. I can’t tell you which one is which – you’ll have to figure that out for yourselves.” She grinned mischievously.

The twins smothered their giggles.

Evangeline stepped beside Carla.

“Well, the one’s usually Evangeline, the youngest of them,” quipped Carla.

This time, Pauline, too, couldn’t help joining in on the laughter.

“Pauline!” came the voice of the secretary, which the girls got used to by now.

“Ooh, my turn!” Pauline turned to the girls. “Wish me luck!”

“Good luck!” The girls and the boys wished her, as Ms Kumari took her by the hand.

The nanny turned to give Robert and Philip a stern stare. “If you make any false move, I’ll make sure you’re behind bars!”

“Uh – okay,” replied Philip, exchanging glances with Robert.

Suddenly, she smiled. “That’s great! See you when we come back!”

When nanny and her ward left, the boys heaved a sigh of relief. “Man, that Pauline’s got a good knight at her side, eh?” remarked Philip.

Carla roared with laughter. “Yea, like, definitely! Rishita is badass! She was in the armed forces before she took an early retirement to take care of her mother.” Her face grew less amused and more grim. “Her brother was in the front lines when he lost his life in a border conflict.”

“Oh, so sorry to hear that.”

“It was a couple of years ago. She’s got better at coping, I think. Anyway, she doesn’t talk much about it now.”

“Gotcha. Remember not to mention it, right?” said Robert.

Carla nodded. “Yes, indeed.”

 

Pauline came out as happy as she was when she’d gone to meet the headmistress; if possible, even more.

Ms Kumari beamed. “I say, I’m impressed with this headmistress of yours here—very precise and sincere. Apparently, she has a lot of expectations from young Miss Wilson here!” She gave the young girl in question a friendly thwack on the back.

 

Chapter 03: New Friends

New Kids in the First Year – Chapter 01: Off to a New School!

Summary

 

Chapter 01: Off to a New School

 

“I say, we had a great time back at Granny’s!” said Evangeline Carlson, excitedly, to Carla Wilson. “The South Coast Beach was fabulous this summer!”

“Too bad it ended too soon!” her twin, Angelina, agreed. “But, I love that we’re going back to school. We’re ready to make new friends!”

Twelve-year-old Evangeline and Angelina Carlson were back home after a long summer, to find their best friend and neighbour, Carla Wilson, in bed with a bad cold.

“I’m so sorry you missed it, though,” said Evangeline sympathetically. “We all missed you there.”

Carla sighed, though the smile on her face never left as her friends spoke. “Nah, that’s all right. I’m sure I’ll be right as rain in no time at all!”

“Well, the new school is going to start in the third week of June,” Angelina reminded her. “You were sick the whole of past week. Whatever did you do at Spain?”

In Spain,” corrected Carla. She looked about to sneeze and began frantically looking for a handkerchief, which the other twin handed her quickly. She sneezed. Rubbing her nose with her cloth, she replied in a nasally voice: “It was terribly hot and I went swimming every day. That’s what.”

Evangeline giggled. “Well, maybe you should’ve given some breaks in between.”

“I tell you—I swam, eat ice cream, and had cold drinks every chance I got!”

“Did those cold drinks,” asked Angelina, her eyes twinkling, “by chance contain soda?”

Carla’s mouth twisted into a pout. “So what if they did?”

“Carla, you’re allergic to soda! Your body positively rejects it! Why don’t you accept it!?”

“I don’t want to!” Poor Carla scowled and turned away, much to the concern of the twins.

“Okay then,” said Evangeline, “what do you know about this new high school Mum and Dad are taking us to?”

Carla instantly cheered up – well, as much as could in her state. “It’s a boarding school! – we’ve never been to one, have we?! It has a tennis court, a badminton court, a library – for your research, Angel! – and indoor games, and – and –”

“Oh my, you’re getting too excited!” Angelina turned to her twin. “I think we should just leave –”

“NO!” Carla looked horrified. “Please… not again! I want to company – I haven’t had any for days! Please, oh please!”

“All right, fine.”

“Gosh! – you don’t have to touch our feet or anything. We’ll stay for as long as you like.”

 

~*~

 

The day that the three girls would go to their new school was approaching rapidly.

“Where’s the list, please?” asked Angelina, looking here and there.

Carla’s mother handed a paper to her. “There – the same for each of the three of you. I’ve got some of them. Can you please read out the list for me, so I’ll know if I missed anything. Gosh, shopping for three children is such a mess!”

While Angelina obeyed Mrs Wilson, her twin was busy watching the time. Carla, who was feeling much better by now, walked up to her, a sock in hand.

“What are you staring at? Waiting for someone?”

“Our parents are going to come home any time soon. Your dad went to pick them up. Surely, even with a lot of traffic, they’d here by now!”

“Oh, didn’t you hear? They aren’t going to come!”

Angelina stopped talking and at once lifted her head to where the others were standing. “What did you say?!” she exclaimed. “Mummy and Daddy aren’t going to come to see us off on our last day before school!? And we haven’t spent a lot of time with them at all!” Tears gathered at the tips of her eyes, ready to fall down at any moment.

“CARLA” her mother yelled in annoyance. “Don’t tease your friends like that! Angelina dear, please stop crying. Your parents will be here any time soon. Yes, Evangeline, that best friend of yours is just pulling your leg.”

The twins sighed in relief and glared at Carla, who at once felt ashamed and even a little proud of herself.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

Preparations carried forward, as Angelina tried not to cry again. In a shaky voice, she rattled off the remaining items in the list.

“Oh dear – tennis racquets!” exclaimed Mrs Wilson. “I haven’t bought any! There’s just two – one for Carla and one her father uses every day!”

“No worries,” Evangeline had joined her twin now to help her along. “No worries – I’ll circle that with this pen and we can buy it on our next trip.”

“Oh good! Thank you, Evangeline. You’re very level-headed, unlike me.” Her aunt gave her a grateful smile. “Now, what else is left?”

“Uniforms and shoes and socks,” replied Evangeline. “I remember you buying them two days ago. For all three of us.”

“That’s good! Well, I think I remember, too. Anyway, that’s all, isn’t it? We’re no missing anything?”

“No, Mrs Wilson. Just the tennis racquets. We have badminton racquets that Mum said she’d be bringing when she and Daddy came.”

Just then, the doorbell rang and Angelina went running towards it. She opened the door and there, on the apartment floor beside the lift, stood her parents!

“Mummy! Daddy! We missed you!” She flung herself on both of them at once, nearly toppling them back. They laughed and ruffled her hair.

Mr Carlson stood her back on the ground. “Now, if I remember correctly, you’re going to a new school in two days’ time, correct?”

Angelina nodded. “A boarding school. I’ve never been in one.”

“I’m sure you’ll like it. It’s where your mother, your aunt, and I went.”

She took one of the heavy suitcases and dragged it on its wheels. “Yes, that’s why I’m looking forward to going there! But I won’t be back at home for a whole term and I’m afraid if I’ll get homesick.”

“Afraid I’ll get homesick.”

She jumped and turned her head; she was inside the flat by now. It was Carla who had corrected her, as usual.

“Same thing,” she retorted with a childish jut of her chin.

The parents giggled.

“Don’t worry about homesickness, child, you’ll have your sister,” reassured the twins’ father. “And Carla, too. She’s new to boarding school, aren’t you, Carla?”

“Yes, indeed,” cheerfully agreed the young girl in question.

Angelina exchanged glances with Evangeline, who didn’t look too sure. It wasn’t like they thought their best friend was lying, but because she mingled with new people quicker than they did, something that bothered them.

Maybe she’ll leave us and go,’ they both thought. ‘We may not be friends again when we finally come back from school.

 

~*~

 

At last, the day when the three girls had to leave their home.

Mr Wilson was driving them all to the school, which was just a three-hour journey from where they stayed. The girls were restless and eager to see their new school again.

“I remember when we went their during the application process,” said Angelina, a little too loudly. “It was sooo huge…!! Remember Evie?!”

“Yes, of course, I do,” replied her twin with a wide grin. “You can keep voice lower now. I’m sure Mr Wilson is having a hard time driving because of you talking so loud!”

“Loudly,” provided Carla generously.

“So loudly,” Evangeline corrected herself. “Anyway, class don’t start until tomorrow. We’ll have plenty of time to explore and get to know our new classmates!”

“We’ll probably have dormitories!” said Carla, her eyes wide with thrill. “Remember all those days we read about school in Enid Blyton stories?!”

The twins grinned at her wickedly.

“Hey guys, what is it?” Carla blinked innocently.

You did,” Angelina told her. “You read. We don’t read books.”

“Ha!” Carla suddenly grinned. “We’ll have to see about that!” Her eyes suddenly lit up like a torch went off underneath her. “Oh hey, my cousin Pauline will be there, too! I found out about it a week ago, but forgot to tell you!”

“Ooh, I remember when we met her – don’t you, Evangeline?”

The twin in question looked doubtful at this. “Uh… I don’t think so. Maybe I’ll recall when I see her again.”

“That’s okay – you guys saw her only for an hour two years ago! Can’t expect to remember her! Anyway, here we are at the school!”

They weren’t quite yet, but they could see the tall, imposing structure at a distance when the car rounded a corner. The girls gradually grew quiet, shivers of awe going up and down their spines and their skin tingling all over. They stared at each other, a grin slowly growing on their faces.

Something tells me we’re going to have lots of fun for the next few weeks!’ they thought.

 

Chapter 02: Start of a Grand Term