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A Yuletide adventure by ArsPoet2789ica



It happened almost a year ago, but I still remember that amazing night. It was Christmas Eve, and I had decided to leave the school grounds on my own to go for a walk in the snow. I wasn’t alone for long, though, because along the way, I met a mysterious and charming man. The smile he flashed at me could have melted me right then and there were it not so cold outside.


“You must be a sorceress if you’re wandering around alone in these parts,” he said with a sultry British accent.


“I am. What brings you to this land of magic?” I asked him.


“The magic, of course.”


I pulled my wand out of my cloak. “You want to see spells cast, eh?”


“I believe that’s already happened.” He took my free hand and started to twirl me around.


“You’re dancing with me, yet I don’t even know who you are!”


He smiled at me again. “I’m Joel.”


“Amethyst. So how often do you come here?”


“Just once a year, at Christmas time.”


I figured that this was worth enjoying, so I danced with him. With every two-step and every twirl, the longer I wanted to dance with Joel. He gradually brought me closer and closer to him without being too lustful. Was there really such a thing as love at first sight? It was as though the spell of fate had been cast on us.


“Do you want to spend Christmas with me at Wildwinds Academy?” I asked him after a while.


“Yes, I do, but I can’t.” He stood still but didn’t let go of my hand.


“Why not?”


“I have dragons I must slay.”


Before I could say another word, Joel disappeared into the icy air. Suddenly I became aware of the falling snow and the frozen ground beneath my feet. I looked at my watch; it had just struck midnight. Christmas had come, yet my gift had left.

***



“I can’t wait for Christmas Eve!” I exclaim as I cross out December 16 in my pocket planner. “And I am officially in the fifty-second week, the last week of waiting!”


Sapphire and Danforth both sigh. My two best friends know exactly why I’m so excited.


I wave my wand to place giant snails on top of their books. “Come on, be festive! Be merry!”


“Amethyst, it’s midnight, and we’re in the library. How are we supposed to celebrate now?” balks Danforth.


“First, we leave the library. Let’s go.”


Sapphire and Danforth cast a disappearance spell on the snails and close their books before reluctantly getting out of their seats. As we enter the corridor, I can hear voices coming from the grand hall four floors below us.


We lean over the railing to see what is going on. “They’re putting up the Christmas tree!” Sapphire exclaims. “To the lift, everyone!”





Headmaster Vermilion smiles at us when we come rushing toward the tree. “Good gracious, what keeps all of you up this late?”


“We are owl people!” declares Danforth. “The night is our flight path!”


“In that case, how about the three of you help me decorate the tree?”


Sapphire spares no moment in reaching for the ornaments in the cedar storage chest. “Come on Amethyst, you help too!”


“Okay, hand me the Angel of Fortune.”


The Angel of Fortune is Wildwinds Academy’s official tree topper. According to legend, she protects everyone here as long as she is perched at the top of the tree.


I take her in my hand for the first time. She looks almost real. “Up we go!” I shout out as I lift my feet off the ground and head skyward. When I place the Angel on the top branch, the tree lights up in its characteristic mystical golden glow. If only Joel were here to see this...


The angel winks at me as the thought crosses my mind.

***



“Let me out of here!” Joel screams as he beats his fists into the thick, unyielding glass orb that rises above the Fire-and-Ice Ocean. But the dragon simply roars and sticks out its snake-like tongue.


I can see him from the canoe she is rowing toward the glass orb. The ice crystals splash overboard, and the flames threaten to torch the canoe. I am so close, yet so far away.


“Joel, I am on my way! Just hold on for a little longer!”


The dragon swings its scaly green tail toward the orb—



I awake screaming. A lightning bolt had just struck a glass panel in my bedroom window. I close the curtains in a vain attempt to keep the rain from dripping down the window panes.


But that dream-oh, that dream! I can’t get it out of my head. Without giving it a second thought, I leave my room and race down the hall.


“Sapphire! Wake up now!” I demand.


She opens her door slowly. “What, Amethyst? I’m actually trying to sleep here!”


“I had a dream…fire and ice…dragons…glass…Joel!” I stammer.


“Oh, please, Amethyst. Enough with your fantasy guy.”


“He’s real!” I insist. “And he was trapped in a glass orb guarded-”


“Hold on,” Sapphire interrupts. “A glass orb?”


“Yeah. Guarded by a dragon.”


“That sounds like one of the stories I read in a history book some time ago. Follow me; we’re going to the library now.”

***



“Which book was it?” I ask Sapphire.


“I think it was in one of the Sorcery Chronicles volumes.”


“There are twenty of those! How are we supposed to find it?”


“Only the last five of them contain the stories. The rest of them are facts and figures.”


I take Volume Fifteen down and turn to the table of contents. The titles of epics and legends and memoirs and narratives spill down the page.


“Ah, yes! Here it is! Sorcery Chronicles Volume Nineteen,” announces Sapphire.


“What is it?”


“It’s the story of Jacksonius and Allena, an immortal man and a sorceress. The dragons held Jacksonius captive in a glass orb, and Allena crossed the Fire-and-Ice ocean to save him.”


“Did she save him?”


“Yes, but only after the dragon threw flaming bricks at her as she climbed the brass pole that held the glass orb. She was left with a lightning bolt scar branded on her left ankle.”


What a perfect way to ruin my pouncing tiger tattoo, provided that this is going to be allegorical. My dreams have never fooled me. But if it means that I get to save Joel, then it just might be worth it.

***



Danforth is installing a new window pane where the lightning bolt struck two nights ago. Sapphire is sitting on my sofa, and I am standing on my bed.


“Three nights in a row, I’ve dreamed the same thing,” I say.


“Some dreams just recur a lot,” Sapphire deadpans dismissively.


“Come on, Sapphire, you know me and my dreams. This isn’t child’s play.”


“So, Amethyst, what are we going to do?” inquires Danforth as he tightens a screw.


That is so like Danforth, getting straight to the point. Sometimes it’s irritating, but I’m glad it’s keeping Sapphire in line this time.


“I, not we, have to go through the portal to find our way to the Fire-and-Ice Ocean, then find the glass orb and somehow get Joel out of it.”


“Amethyst, we are so going with you!” insists Sapphire.


“I agree. We’re not going to let you get burned or frozen to death or sliced in half by broken glass or smacked out of the galaxy by a dragon’s tail or-”


“Okay, fine, Danforth, I get it. But neither can I let anything bad happen to either of you.”


“We’ll be safer as three than one.”


“So when do we leave?” Sapphire asks me.


“Tonight, when Headmaster Vermilion turns off his office lamp. Brace yourselves.”

***



“How late does the old man really stay up?” Danforth wonders aloud. “I thought senior citizens believed in that early to bed, early to rise thing.”


“Headmaster Vermilion is not your average old guy,” I explain. “The lamp is usually still on when I go to bed, around two o’clock in the morning.”


It’s only a few minutes after midnight on December 20. I’ve got four days to complete my mission, and who knows how time in this other land I’m about to scour in search of Joel relates proportionally to time here?


“Anyone up for broke Blackjack?” Danforth asks us.


“Sure; anything to pass the long hours of waiting,” says Sapphire.


Long hours. Ha. Try waiting for a whole year.

***



“And the dealer is beaten again…” groans Danforth.


“You better be glad this is broke Blackjack, or you’d be out of chocolate bars and pounds,” I tease.


“Thank the Angel of Fortune.”


I turn around to check the office lamp status again. Finally, yes! “The lamp’s off. Let’s go.”


We all put our cloaks back on and tiptoe to the stairs. I prefer the lift, but it’s too loud when you’re headed for an escape into a whole different world.


The air outside is dry and cold, and the cloud cover hints at snowfall. I hope I’m back here for a white Christmas. And not alone.


I take my wand out of my pocket and hold it out in front of me. “Magic Portal, unlock the door, and take us to a place where fire and ice are at war.”


The portal shimmers in front of us, beckoning us to pass through it. “Ready or not, let’s cross the border!” I say.


I close my eyes as I step through the portal, hoping that I don’t land in the middle of the Fire-and-Ice Ocean. I hear lots of voices, though, and sense people passing by me.


When I open my eyes, before me is a busy street with vendors along the sides of the boardwalk and thousands of pedestrians traversing the length of the road, however long it may be. “Sapphire? Danforth?”


“Right behind you,” they chorus.


“Let’s see if we can find a map here. Surely there’s a cartographer somewhere along this road.”


We weave our way through the masses, examining the booths for anything resembling a map.


“Delicious!” exclaims Danforth.


I turn around to face him. He is holding fried frog legs on a stick. “Danforth, be serious here, okay?”


“I’m hungry. I need food in order to be serious,” he insists.


Sapphire and I look at each other and roll our eyes. Sometimes guys just don’t make sense.


“Pretty colourful maps! Only three pounds each! I must sell them all!” a voice proclaims.


“Did you hear that?” Sapphire exclaims.


“Hear what?” asks Danforth.


“There’s a guy selling maps nearby.”


“How much?”


“Three pounds.”


I start to dig in my cloak pocket, but Danforth stops me. “I have it, ladies,” he assures us.


“He’s a hopeless romantic,” Sapphire mumbles under her breath. I have to stifle a laugh.


Danforth flags the map salesman down and quickly trades his three pounds for a map.


Sapphire takes the map from him and gives it a good look over. “Pretty and colourful is right.”


“Let me see it.” I take the map from Sapphire. Yes, it is pretty and colourful, and the Fire-and-Ice Ocean is in clear-no, ostentatious-detail along the north edge of the map.


“Where are we going, Navigator?” Danforth inquires.


“We’re taking the scenic route.” I turn around and smile back at him.


“Oooh!”


“There’s a trail that shoots off the right side of this road in a few miles. It leads directly to the shore of the Fire-and-Ice Ocean.”


“Miles?” complains Sapphire.


“Yes, miles. Let’s get moving so that we can get to the pretty part, and then to the Fire-and-Ice Ocean.”

***



“Wow, this is scenic,” muses Sapphire.


The sun is setting in the west now, painting a hazy orange glow on the horizon visible even behind the thick trees. This forest seems uninhabited by people unless anybody comes here to camp out.


“Hey, guys, look over there!” says Sapphire as she points to something on the west side of the trail.


“What?” And then I see it. It’s a wooden cabin in ill repair.


“Let’s go inside!” Danforth shouts. He sounds like a little kid on Christmas morning.


“I hate to crush your spirits, Danforth, but what if someone lives there?” counters Sapphire.


“Easy. We’ll knock.”


“But what if the person on the other side answers the door and makes sorcerer stew out of us?”


“We have our wands. Now come on. Let’s go inside.”


I follow them up to the front door of the house. One of the hinges is broken, and there are more scratches on it than there are sanded places. Danforth raps on the door hard.


“You’re going to break it, wise guy!” Sapphire scolds him.


We wait for a minute or so. No answer.


“Looks like we’re answering the door for ourselves,” says Danforth.


“No, Dan—ˮ


Too late. He’s already swung the door open.


It’s dark inside. We brace ourselves on the wall as we search for some source of light.


“Aha!” Danforth vociferates. “Let there be light!” Then he opens the refrigerator.


“Is there anything to eat in there?” Sapphire inquires.


“Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it. The meat is rotten, the pickles dissolved in their own jar, and…hey, what’s this?” He picks up a jar with green goo inside it. “Yes! It’s Jello!”


“Hold on, Danforth. Let me see it,” I insist.


I pop the top off the jar when Danforth hands it to me. I stick one finger in the gelatin, then rub it on a paper cut I managed to scrape into my right index finger last week. Ta-da, the paper cut is gone! “It’s magic healing gel. See where my paper cut was ten seconds ago?”


“It’s gone,” they both reply.


“We might need that somewhere along the way,” says Danforth.


I zip it inside my extra-large cloak pocket where I usually carry books. “Let’s hope we don’t need it.”


Sapphire lets out an elephant-sized yawn before flopping down on the sofa behind her. “Can we stay here for the night?”


“No, we have to get to the Fire-and-Ice Ocean,” I insist.


“Come on, Amethyst,” Danforth begs. “We’re all tired of walking now. I bet we’ve traveled fifteen or twenty miles over the course of the day.”


“Okay, fine, but we’re pressing on come the first light of morning,” I sort-of surrender.

***



Dawn rose somewhat cool, but certainly not wintery. I hope it doesn’t get much warmer than this, or I’ll have to carry my cloak, which is not as easy as simply wearing it. Danforth is already carrying his.


“How much farther?” Sapphire groans.


I pull the map out of my pocket and unroll it. “I don’t think it’s that much farther. We’re more than three-fourths of the way through.”


A bat flies across the trail so fast that he can almost go unseen, only sensed. Then another follows suit, and another, and another…


“I wish that map vendor would have told us that this was the bats’ bewitching hour!” Danforth moans.


We all lay flat on the ground, our cloaks pulled over our heads as the angry bats cross the trail. It seems like an eternity before the bats are finally gone.


“That was a close one,” says Danforth as he dusts off his cloak.


“Let’s take this clear coast for all it’s worth!” I encourage them. “We’ve got an ocean to find!”

***



“That couldn’t have been more than three miles,” Danforth surmises.


If I had known we were this close, I would have made Sapphire and Danforth continue walking. Then I’d let them sleep on the beach if they wanted to.


But it would have made more sense for them to go ahead and sleep in their own beds, because this is the end of the road for them as far as this adventure is concerned.


I hold my wand in front of me and chant, “Magic Portal, send Sapphire and Danforth on their way to home to stay.”


I turn around to bid them good-bye-just for now, I hope. “Guys, you’re not going with me farther than this.”


“What do you mean? We’re here to protect you and help you,” counters Danforth.


“I know. But I am not letting either one of you ride the flaming and frozen waves with me. Neither one of you has taken the boating class.” I gesture toward my gold anchor tattoo that I earned by mastering the art of sailing as taught at Wildwinds.


“No, we still want to be with you,” persisted Sapphire.


“Sapphire, in the story, Allena went alone. And Danforth, I am here to protect you, too. That means that both of you must step through the portal.”


Sapphire sulks toward the portal, followed by an equally dismayed Danforth. I hate having to boss them like children now, but it’s a whole lot better than risking them drowning in the excruciatingly painful waters and flames of the Fire-and-Ice Ocean.


Down the beach a short way are two boats docked in the sand near the shore. I have a choice between a canoe with a kayak paddle or a motorboat. The motorboat is incredibly tempting, but in the dream, I’ve always gone out to sea in a canoe. I guess I don’t really have much of a choice.


I climb inside of the canoe and grip the kayak paddle. The flames and ice crystals coexist in their rage against all who dare to set sail on them.


“It’s now or never,” I tell myself in an attempt to quell my trepidation. Then I use the paddle to push myself and the canoe out to sea. I must immediately paddle as hard as I can in order to fight the turbulent current. Ice crystals spill into the canoe, making a harsh clink as they hit the bottom. Some of them bounce back out of the boat; others collect in the bottom.


An arc of fire circles above me. I can feel the burn of its intense heat even though the flames aren’t actually touching them. And there it is, the glass orb, framed by the circle of fire. There are dragons, too. ‘Please, please, don’t break it before I get there!’


With every swing of the dragons’ tails, I become more forceful with the rowing. I’m still fighting the current, but that must be the case no matter which direction I happen to be going. And, much to my shock and awe, I land on the little chunk of island next to the brass pole holding the glass orb in the sky.


I jump out of the canoe, away from the violent water and flames. “Up I go!” I lift myself up on my toes, but they do not leave the ground.


“Come on, up I go!” Still nothing. It looks like I am going to have to climb the brass pole, which I spare not a moment in beginning. I can hear the first faint sounds of a voice shouting through the glass. Joel’s voice.


Suddenly, I must refocus my attention to my own survival because now one of the dragons is throwing flaming bricks at me. I spin around the pole in different directions to avoid them. One of them, though, takes me by surprise. My left ankle sends throbbing pulses up and down my leg like a headache pounds inside the brain.


Then comes the dragon’s tail. “No!” I scream at the top of my lungs. But it doesn’t help; the glass shatters all around me. “Joel!” I wail.


“Amethyst?”


He heard me? Yes, he heard me! “Where are you?”


“At the top of the pole. I may as well jump to the bottom.”


“Don’t do it!” I urge him as I take my wand out of my cloak pocket, knowing that he would jump anyway. As he plummets toward the ocean, I hold my wand out and give it the necessary command. “Freeze!”


The sudden mid-air stop startles Joel. “What just happened?”


“I saved your life, or, rather, your immortality. Hold on there. I’m coming. Up I go.”


And…liftoff! I soar straight to Joel and wrap my arm around him. “Now it’s time to go back to safe ground.”


“How will we do that here?”


“Just watch.”


I create the portal back to Wildwinds, chanting silently so as not to let a non-sorcerer hear it. I’d trust Joel with the secret, but it’s centuries-old tradition to keep spell commands secret from non-sorcerers.


“You ready to go?” I ask him.


“When you are.”


“Hold on to me. Let’s go!”

***



“What time is it?” Joel asks me when we land on the street next to Wildwinds Academy. I check my watch, which, thankfully, can adjust to different time tables.


“It’s eleven-thirty…on Christmas Eve! Wow, time sure is slow in the Fire-and-Ice Ocean.”


“Does the Academy have a place where I can get treated for all of these cuts and scrapes from the glass orb breaking?”


I smile at him. “Actually, I have a solution here.” I pull the magic healing gel out of my cloak pocket.


“What is green Jello going to do for these wounds?”


“It isn’t Jello; it’s magic healing gel. Now sit down, and I’ll put it on your wounds.”


Joel sits across from me and rolls up his sleeves despite the bitter cold. “Watch this,” I instruct him before I rub the magic healing gel on his arm.


He watches the wounds disappear without a trace. “Do that again!” he eggs her on.

***



“All done,” I say. “Are you feeling better?”


“Yes, very much. What time is it now?”


I glance at my watch. “It’s five minutes after midnight.”


A smile widens across Joel’s face.


“What?” I wonder aloud.


“It means I can stay here. With you.”


I throw my arms around him. “We did it! We made it!”


“No, you did it, and we both made it.”


“If you want to go, there’s a Christmas party going on in Wildwinds Academy’s grand hall,” I suggest.


“Let’s go. We need to get warm.”


The strange thing is that I had completely forgot about the cold and the snow.



We enter the grand hall, and the cheering goes insane. Sapphire and Danforth come to hug me, and Headmaster Vermilion smiles at both me and Joel before approaching us.


“Who might you be?” Headmaster Vermilion asks Joel.


“Everybody, this is Joel!” I reply for him. “He’s coming here to stay!”


More cheering erupts, and Headmaster Vermilion shakes Joel’s hand. “Welcome to Wildwinds Academy, the school of magic.”


Joel escorts me toward the middle of the room. “What do you say we do now?” I ask him.


Joel smiles that wholehearted smile at me again. “I say we dance.”


------
"Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not."-Jeremiah 33:3, King James Version

"Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path."-Psalm 119:105, New Living Translation

The present and future are not about who you were in the past-rather, they are about who you are and who you will become.

"Writing is truly glorious in that an author can put on paper the words that fear denies the voice to speak."-from my short story, "Set Free"

"...What you feel is what you are;
What you are is beautiful..."
-from "Slide" by the Goo Goo Dolls

Life surprises you! And I'm talking about the good stuff, because a bad surprise is not a surprise at all, it is just shock and horror. All of these good surprises, they are rewards, and the things that happen to remind you that you matter and that you should make yourself faithful so that you can be deserving of all of life's good surprises. Every wonderful surprise in life is a chance to flourish, so grab life by the horns-but don't ride, steer instead: life's horns are life's joystick. You can handle it, because your life's horns are made especially for you. If you don't give up, all of this will hold true and life will continue to surprise you.

Aubri, a. k. a. "Leopard Lady"


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