Glor stood on the edge of her doorstep and peered out, her keen eyes scanning the alleyway and the many spy-worthy windows that glared down atop it before ducking back inside. “For the love of truffles, we won’t have much time to get there before the doors seal for the day.”
Grams fussed about Olly and her ridiculous disguise which made her look like a frumpy old warty witch trying to hide the fact that a sixteen-year-old was beneath all that material and false nose. “Could you still place a call?”
Glor grumbled something. “I don’t have fresh mushrooms.”
“Try anyway,” Grandda stood anxiously eyeing the still dark alleyway outside through the corners of the front room curtains. “They are the only ones that can still go in and out using magic undetected, I presume.”
“Yes,” Glor sighed and walked over to her near-empty pantry that hinted at a forgone times when it might have been packed to the rafters with all the goodies she’d need to cook a hearty meal, or decadent sweets, or pack tins upon tins of different teas. “They don’t owe us anything anymore, Roger.”
“They still owe my son! They still owe his wife. In fact, they owe it to Olivia to see that she gets safe passage.” Grandda turned hot and furious. “Benny didn’t give up his life merely to be a passing mention in history books, and neither did Meredith give up everything she loved to help protect their doorways during the burning.”
This was the first time Olly had heard her grandfather mention her parents by name, or get so emotional. Usually, his stoic nature made her think he didn’t much care for the past and wanted to keep it buried, away from the present, least it caused trouble. Normally, Olly would press on at this point to glean more information, tiny precious information about her parents that were rarely dolled out in more than a sentence at time, but now, hidden beneath a carpet of disguise that smelled rancid, she didn’t dare ask what burning, what did her parents do that got them killed? Instead, she stared dumbfounded at Glor who tried to find words to calm her friend.
“You don’t know that they are gone. None of us do.” It was Grams who spoke, so quietly that Olly almost didn’t notice the thin red lips move.
“They are gone, Bea. It’s all gone.” Grandda left the curtains and dragged his feet towards them. “I can still see the great fire. All that destruction, all the deaths. There’s no coming back from that, not even for the formidable Head of Guards, or his wife.”
Tears trickled down Olly’s face, for even though she didn’t know anything about what was really being said between the three adults, she understood her parents must have either been mighty fighters who died in some sort of a war, or they were horrible people who committed atrocious crimes that killed and destroyed too many lives. Olly wished in her heart of hearts it was the former, otherwise, she wouldn’t really blame the authorities for seeking out criminals spotted on the streets after peaceful fifteen years. She could almost imagine the fires her granddad was talking about and couldn’t help shake her head.
“My parents weren’t horrible people. They weren’t!” she blurted, blubbering and struggling to get to her nose to swipe at it.
“No, they weren’t, dear.” Glor placed a shriveled piece of shitake mushroom on the middle of the table before them. “They were the ones we looked up to save us in a time where freedom was a relative term, depending on where you were in the social ladder. Still. They were warriors.”
“Then why are they being called criminals?” Olly couldn’t help it anymore. She’d spent the last couple of hours since Lieutenant Meyers visit thinking that her parents were some sort of criminals who died on the run and that is why it wasn’t till now that her grandparents even felt easy talking about them.
“Because, they sided with the wrong brother, the rightful heir to the throne that controls everything you see right now, and everything else you are going to witness. There is no going back for you, do you understand, Olivia?” Glor held both of Olly’s hands and peered straight into her eyes, a gaze so intense it made Olly want to turn away. The woman smiled, a knowing smile and nodded. “You are one of this world, dear one, a world full of wonderful mischieve, a world restrained. A world you’re going to free.”
“And whose world is this?” she asked with bated breath.
“Yours. If you will take it.” Glor smiled wide and stepped aside, giving a brisk nod to the other two. “It’s time.”
“Do it!” Grandda almost barked in eagerness, grabbing the bit of mushroom off the table in haste.
Glor nodded and fetched a small parchment from a pocket deep within the folds of her infinitely folded dress and unfolded it till the parchment covered almost the entire table. She laid the thin parchment over the table, it’s delicate writing foreign to Olly, scrolled in a perfect spiraling circle that ended into a point in the middle. It was that point on which granddad placed the mushroom, and asked the others to hold hands.
“Best hold on tight, Olly!” Grams wriggled her hand and gripped it tight.
Something strange began happening at the center of the parchment. The point upon which the mushroom sat widened slowly till the whole of the table resembled a worm-hole.
“What is that?” Olly yelled over the whoosh of the wind that rattled everything around them.
“Who dares disturb me?” a booming voice echoed around them and from the middle of the parchment, where the mushroom had once been, a small head of a toadstool popped up, cherry red. “Do you know what hour it is?” The person, for that’s what Olly assumed he or she was glanced around at all four of them with eyes as blood red as the hood upon its head. “Glor! What is the meaning of this?”
Glor smiled a disarming smile. “Percei Toadstool! Long time my fairy friend. How are you this fine morning?”
“Morning?!” Percei’s tone suddenly softened. “It is not morning yet, so why do you call at this hour with this much risk upon yourself?”
“We need your help to get across!” Roger couldn’t hold back anymore.
“And why should I help you?” Percei’s voice rose again, angry. He turned to Glor. “This is risky even for me, Glor Featherfield. I told you only to call me in case of an emergency, and emergency is usually when you are harmed or at the risk of harm. I see no such thing!” His head started retrieving away into the hole from which he’d popped up.
“Guards!” Glor muttered. “Meredith Custos!” she added and they saw Percei’s head pop up again. “This child is –”
Percei held up his hand and stared at Olly. “She is so young!” How he could tell with all that disguise she couldn’t say, but with a snap of his hands, all that hid her simply fell away, and Percei Toadstool, a clever fairy if you ever asked him came out of his hole and walked around Olly several times. With another snap of his fingers, the whirlwind stopped and they could finally speak without yelling at each other.
“She is a guard?!” he asked, turning to Glor who shrugged matter-of-factly. Percei stood on his tiptoes and yanked Olly down with surprising strength, she fell on her knees and was still a tad too tall for him.
“What do you see?” it was Beatrice Custos who asked the question and Percei would recognize that voice anywhere.
He laughed. “Ha. You got old Beatrice Maxi Custos.”
“And you got more moldy, Percei!” Grams fired back.
Percei burst out laughing. Then suddenly stopped. “Oh, I see. Come on then, I don’t have much time to get you out of here and onwards, I presume, to the Academy?”
Grams nodded. “We wouldn’t have called you if we could get out of here without being seen, but the Seekers have already paid Glor a visit. A longer stay from us could endanger her.”
Percei Toadstool nodded, understanding. “Then you better hold onto my hood, dearies, we’re off on an adventure it seems.” Olly watched as her grandparents each placed a hand on Percei’s head. “You too, young one! Come on, we haven’t got all night.”
“All ready?” he asked, looking up one last time. “And you, Ms. Featherfield? I believe it is entirely up to you whether you want to stay or join them?”
“I still have questions!” Olly reminded with a smile.
“And besides, your pantry is empty dear.” Percei too smiled, grabbing Glor’s fingertips tenderly. “It is time for many a thing my dear, but not for the past to hold us back.”
Glor nodded and placed her hand too on Percei’s head. “Ready when you are, Percei.”
“Right!” Percei snapped his fingers. It was the last thing Olly remembered hearing. His mischievous smile was the last thing she remembered seeing. Then nothing. Darkness. For how long?