EARTHWITCH CHAPTER 4: The Fourth Island

If you’re coming in late, the novel starts here: EARTHWITCH CHAPTER 1: The house that wasn’t

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Justin and Agatha stepped cautiously over the threshhold, but there was no-one in sight. The street was empty. Too early for office workers, and much, much too early for the many children still on school holidays, there was no noise but the chirping of native birds in the nearby parklands, the steady and distant hum of traffic, and a quiet, almost background hush of the water in the creek.

They walked to the old metal bridge that spanned the water, and crossed to the other side of the creek. Still with no-one in sight, Justin turned to Agatha, pointing at the water rushing down below.

“The Mordred fear water. It has properties f purity which mean that cannot see across water. Any one of them could be standing only metres from us here, on the other side of the water, yet they would be unable to see us here, even though we could quite clearly see them. It is an advantage we have.”

“Is that why Grandma Rolie’s house is right next to the creek?” asked Agatha. “And before that, she lived near Merri creek, a few kilometres away.” Agatha’s brow furrowed. “Come to think of it, she has always lived near water.”

Justin nodded. Were she ever to be attacked, being close to water means there is an easy escape route. And many of the Door Ways are near, or over, water. As is the Door we are attempting to gain access to now.”

“What do you mean – attempting?” asked Agatha worriedly.

“There is every chance that we could be waylaid before we even reach the Door. It’s only an hours walk away, but the Mordred have a fair idea where the Door is. They do not *know*, but they can guess.”

“But they have access to the Ways, don’t they?”

“Yes – but only when they happen to stumble on the Doors, or the Ways that are well-known, such as the Ridgeway in England that my Mother guards. That Way has been well-known for nearly five millenia, and the track above it has been travelled by commoners for just as long. It wasn’t hard for the Mordred to discover the Door Way there.”

“But if your mother is in in England…?”

“That’s where we’re going now. What we explained last night might have been a bit confusing to you, so I’ll explain again now.” They walked along the bicycle path by the creek, as Justin talked.

“The Ways are shortcuts, in a simple way of speaking. So we enter a Door here, and within minutes we’ll be in England. Distance doesn’t matter. Because the Ways lie outside of the the Circle of the world, time and distance doesn’t matter to them. They’re outside the rules.”

“So where *are* the Ways? I understand what you’re telling me, but it doesn’t make sense. I do science in school, and it doesn’t fit in with what I know.”

“I wouldn’t expect it to. Science deals with this world. The Ways are, in every sense of the word another world. They’re connected to our in places, which are the Doors, but they’re not a part of it.”

“That still doesn’t make sense.”

“Magic often doesn’t. You’ll see when we get to the Door.”

The pair walked for nearly an hour, along the long, winding bicyle path adjacent to the creek. There were no disturbances, and Agatha could almost believe she was out for one of her daily wanderings, if it weren’t for the fact that she was accompanied by this tall, mysterious stranger and not David, who had always been there with her.

Finally they reached a place where one of the suburban roads joined to the pike path, and here they left the water, walking for a short way down a main road until they reached a large park. Despite the fact that it was a regular working day, few people passed them by, and the roads seemed empty of traffic. Those that did pass them seemed not to see them.

“The Mordred have placed a shield over this area,” said Justin. “People will avoid these streets as a result. The Mordred simply sway the midset of the population to go elsewhere and take other paths. It makes us easier to find.”

“Oh.”

“We still have a good chance. The Door is here. Look across the water.”

Agatha peered across the lake that took much of the center of the park. Ducks were nesting at the feet of trees that overhung the water, and all seemed peaceful on the surface, yet an ominous pressure seemed to hang in the air.

“There’s nothing there,” said Agatha.

“The Door is right in front of you.”

Agatha looked at the lake more intently. Nothing. She half-expected a wooden door frame to be hanging, suspended in midair over the rippling water, but all she could see was normal. The three islands stood in the lake, just north east of the three fountains that spurted water into the air in sequence. Everything was as it always had been.

“Count the islands,” said Justin.

Agatha’s gaze travelled from the first of the island in the lake, then the second, then a third, larger island behind the two she had counted. Then…

“There are four islands,” she said.

“Well done,” said Justin. “There should be a punt around here somewhere…ahhh…there it is, beneath those trees to our right.”

A small, steel punt lay beached beneath two gum trees, on the edge of the water.

“Now all we have to do is cross-”

“-next to the water. Typical.” said a voice right behind them.

Agatha and Justin both whirled. Close enough to touch them stood the boy with mismatched eyes. And…

“David!” exclaimed Agatha.

“Hi sis,” said David. There was a sneer on his face, and a cold tone in his voice that Agatha had never heard before. “Thought we might find you here.”

“But you’re okay,” said Agatha. She reached forward to embrace her brother, but Justin put his hand out to stop her.

“Wait, no!” he cried.

Agatha took a step back, uncertain. And David laughed – a harsh, cold laugh that was foreign to his usual, quiet voice. He put his hand up to push his hair out of his eyes, and that’s when Agatha saw it. His sixth finger. She shook, and reeled back in horror.

“What are you looking at, sis?” he said. “This?” He waggled his fingers at her. “It’s just something extra I’ve been given. A bonus, if you will.” He laughed again.

“Get away from us,” said Justin. David took a step back, and eyed Justin warily.

“I remember you,” said David. “You’re the one who ran for it. You’re the one who who too scared to stay and fight. You’re the one who took my sister from me.”

“No,” said Justin. “The Mordred took you from us.”

“I *am* the Mordred!” David cried. “I am more than I could ever have been as that weak, effeminate little by I started as. You have no understanding of what I am now. You – people of the Light. You’re a joke. You think you can stop us, but you never will. We’ll always be there, right beside you, following your steps as you try to fight that which cannot be conquered. You sicken me!”

“Go home, David,” said Agatha quietly, staring at her brother. There were tears in her eyes. “Just go home.”

Mismatched-eyes grinned in the background, and David moved back to join him. “You know what? I think I will. Grandma Rolie,” he spat the words out. “Will be very glad to see me.” he turned on his heel, and walked away with the boy whose eyes didn’t match.

“Now, Agatha,” said Justin softly and urgently. “Quick – while their backs are turned. Step into the water. There’s no time to get the punt.”

Justin stepped into the lake, and Agatha walked into the water after him. Just as she did so, David turned back to face where they had been standing, as if prepared to threaten them once more. “They’ve gone!” he exclaimed.

“Of course they’ve gone,” she heard Mismatched-eyes say. “They always disappear near water. There’s a Door here somewhere. They’re probably on the other side of the planet by now.”

Justin put his finger to his lips to signal silence, and waded out towards the fourth island. Agatha followed, and water weed clung to her legs, entangling her and slowing her movement. She could feel her shoes – her good hiking boots – sinking into the mud on the bottom of the lake, and knew that they would not benefit from the soaking.

The water became deeper, and was just past Agatha’s waist when she felt the start of the bank of the fourth island, and began to climb into the shallows, then clamber ashore, following Justin.

“We’re here,” said Justin. “We’re safe – for now.”

“What next?” Agatha looked around. It didn’t look like there was anything particularly magical about this place.

“Watch – and remember. Take my left hand.”

Justin unclasped the engraved Dragon necklace, and held it aloft in his right hand. He cried “*Ex Cael Libris!*” and a beam of bright green light shot out from the necklace to circle the two of them, spinning faster and faster, like a hurricane of light around them. Everything within the hurricane was calm and still, and bathed in a soft green glow, but everything without the hurricane grew dim and blurred.

And then the earth opened, and swallowed them.


Chapter 4 word count: 1593
Total word count so far: 6894 + 1593 = 8487.

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