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       Black Wood, p.11

           Jayde Scott
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  When she heard the soft rushing of water, she turned that way, careful to stay away from the water and the nymph. Eventually, the path grew wider and she reached a forking. But was this the same? Would the portal open here?

  With shaking hands, Emily closed her eyes and spoke the words. Nothing happened. She frowned and tried to clear her mind, let her magic flow. She opened her eyes and saw a spark flying through the air, illuminating the wood to her left and right and revealing a wood hut not far away. And then the portal started to open. Emily let out a cry of joy. She’d be home soon.

  A last glance toward the hut, and she stepped in. At the same time the light went on inside the hut, and a plump woman with orange-dyed hair opened the door.

  “Grandma?” Emily cried out, but the portal sucked her in, making her head spin. When she opened her eyes, she lay sprawled on the attic floor with Sam and Clifford around her.

  Sam pulled her in an awkward hug and punched her shoulder. “You’re back.”

  Emily blinked. “Where’s Muriel?”

  “She disappeared. Just like that.” Clifford snapped his fingers, his eyes bulging out of their sockets. His face was as red as always when he looked at her. “I mean, one moment she prepared Mr Jones’s tea in the kitchen, and the next she dissolved into fog.”

  “Mum’s called. She’ll make it in time for Christmas after all.” Sam helped her to her feet, but Emily wasn’t listening. She had to open the portal again to see whether the woman was her grandmother.

  She pushed the boys out. “I’ll be downstairs in a minute. Just need to do something.”

  Sam frowned, but he didn’t argue. She waited until their steps retreated, and then turned toward her reflection in the mirror, speaking the magic words in a haste. The mirror glazed over, but the portal didn’t open.

  Maybe she was too tired and her magic needed to replenish. She sighed and turned away when a face appeared on the other side. A troll with brownish, shaggy hair, the most sparkling blue eyes and warmest smile stared back at her. Her heart did a flip-flop as she gazed into those eyes, unable to move, until the image dissolved, returning the mirror to its glossy surface.

  Chapter 24

  A week later, things had returned to normal for Emily—well, almost, since she still had that butterfly-feeling in her stomach whenever she thought about the troll-boy with the blue eyes.

  Her dad was still enchanted, but with the help of Aurelie’s awful brews Muriel’s hold on him weakened. He still asked about Muriel though.

  When showing her mentor the golden apple, Aurelie had no idea what it was, but she vowed to keep it locked until she found out.

  There were only one thing left for Emily to do: wait for her magic to grow so that she could open the portal again, and bring her parents back together. With Christmas near, she hoped her wish might finally come true.

  On the last day of school, Emily sat at her table, staring out the window. Her mind wandered toward the troll with the blue eyes, while the Science teacher recounted something about volcanoes. Before her eyes, thick, dark clouds gathered over the schoolyard and the sky turned black.

  A wind blew the few remaining December leaves about the ground, lifted them up and whirled them in a circle as though playing with them. The air seemed to sizzle with foreboding. Something was happening. Emily craned her to get a better look. And then someone moved out of the shadows, a tall figure clad in black, half his face covered by a hood.

  Her heard pounding hard, Emily shot a glance at the teacher but she didn’t seem to notice. The door sprang open and the headmistress barged in. “Emily Jones, someone’s here to see you.”

  Emily didn’t move, just continued to stare out the window as the hooded figure inched closer to the window, his pale skin beautiful in the eerie semi-darkness.

  “Emily? Are you listening?” the teacher said.

  Why couldn’t they just let her be so she could see what was happening outside? Sighing, Emily accompanied the headmistress out the door where Aurelie, wrapped in a thick, checked wool coat, with Clifford waiting by her side leaned against the wall.

  “What’s going on?” Emily asked as soon as the headmistress disappeared around the corner.

  Aurelie’s brows furrowed as she shook her head. “What else did you take from Black Wood? Whatever it is, you need to take it back, Emily, for it has disturbed the balance.”

  What was she saying? Emily stared at her. “What’re you talking about?”

  “The portal’s open, and Black Wood’s creatures have started to pour in. Do you have any idea what this means for the world?”

  “We’re dead,” Clifford whispered.




  Jayde Scott, Black Wood



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