A hidden magic, p.1
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       A Hidden Magic, p.1

           Vivian Vande Velde
 
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A Hidden Magic


  A Hidden Magic

  Vivian Vande Velde

  * * *

  illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

  * * *

  MAGIC CARPET BOOK

  HARCOURT INC.

  Orlando Austin New York San Diego London

  * * *

  Copyright © 1985 by Vivian Vande Velde

  Illustrations © 1985 by Trina Schart Hyman

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or

  transmitted in am form or by am means, electronic or mechanical,

  including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and

  retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

  Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be

  submitted online at www.harcourt.com/contact or mailed to the following

  address: Permissions Department, Harcourt Inc.,

  6377 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

  www.HarcourtBooks.com

  First Magic Carpet Books edition 1997

  First published by Crown Publishers, Inc. 1985

  Magic Carpet Books is a registered trademark of

  Harcourt Inc.

  Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

  Vande Velde, Vivian.

  A hidden magic/by Vivian Vande Velde; Illustrated by

  Trina Schart Hyman

  p. cm.

  "Magic Carpet Books."

  Summary: Lost in a magic forest and separated from her prince,

  Princess Jennifer seeks help from a kindly young sorcerer

  in battling an evil witch.

  ISBN 978-0-15-201200-7

  [I. Fantasy.] I. Hyman. Trina Schart, ill II. Title.

  PZ7.V2773Hi 1997

  [Fic]—DC20 96-42014

  Text set in Spectrum

  Designed by Kaelin Chappell

  E G I K M N L J H F

  Punted in the United States of America

  * * *

  OTHER BOOKS BY

  VIVIAN VANDE VELDE

  Curses, Inc.

  Tales from the Brothers Grimm

  and the Sisters Weird

  Companions of the Night

  Dragon's Bait

  User Unfriendly

  A Well-Timed Enchantment

  Once Upon a Test:

  Three Light Tales of Love

  * * *

  For Jim

  prince, sorcerer, and husband

  * * *

  Contents

  Jennifer 1

  A Walk through the Enchanted Forest 12

  The Cottage in the Woods 20

  The Magic Mirror 24

  The Old Witch 39

  The Sorcerer 54

  Norman 63

  Again the Old Witch 71

  The Jinni 84

  A Second Plan 93

  In the Valley of Darkness and Despair 99

  Still in the Valley of Darkness and Despair 115

  Nighttime 127

  Malveenya 139

  The Wish 150

  Magic 163

  Jennifer

  ONCE UPON A TIME —before kings and queens were replaced by an act of Congress and when kissing a frog still sometimes resulted in more than a case of warts—there lived a young princess named Jennifer.

  Now Jennifer was not your average beautiful princess living in a magnificent palace. In fact, she was actually rather plain and shy, with the chubby, good-natured kind of face parents tend to call nice. And as for the magnificent palace—the kingdom over which Jennifer's father reigned was very tiny, and the nicest thing that could be said about the old castle was that it hadn't fallen down on anyone yet.

  One morning in early spring Jennifer was lying on a sun-warmed rock by the river. She had been helping wash the castle linens, but the servants had wandered off while the clothes were drying, and she could no longer even hear them.

  She had her eyes closed and was smiling. "Then the king invited the whole kingdom to the ball," she whispered. She couldn't place exactly where she had read that, but remembered the drawing that went with it—a huge room decorated with gaily-colored lanterns and crowded with young people dancing and laughing.

  A cloud drifted over the sun and the air became uncomfortably chilly. Jennifer sat up and sighed.

  It wasn't that her father wouldn't give a party for her—Jennifer was his only child and he doted on her. The problem was that there were so few people around who were her age. Young people had a tendency to drift away, looking for the chance to make their fortunes in larger, livelier kingdoms.

  Jennifer sighed again. She sometimes felt that she had been born into a kingdom of old people and young children.

  She sighed a third sigh, the loudest and longest yet, and then Jennifer turned her attention back to the laundry. She had just decided that one of her father's nightshirts needed further cleaning and was busily at work scrubbing when she heard someone approaching.

  She looked up and saw the most splendid man she had ever seen anywhere, picture books included. He had curly golden hair, deep blue eyes, and very broad shoulders. His suit was gleaming white satin, and he had a marvelous maroon velvet cloak with fur trim. Everywhere about him there were flashes and sparkles as the sun reflected on gold buckles and rings.

  His horse was white also, outfitted like its owner in maroon studded with gold. Both horse and rider carried themselves as if they expected to elicit breathless admiration.

  Jennifer jumped to her feet and ran her hand through her hair. The stranger stopped several feet away from her and flashed a brilliant smile. "Hi, there. I'm Prince Alexander," he said, then added, "the king's son."

  She could tell by the way he said it that he wasn't referring to a small woodland kingdom like her own, but one of the vast and mighty lands told of in song and story. She made an awkward curtsy while trying to keep her hand over one of the larger smudges on her dress.

  The prince smiled graciously. "My horse seems to have lost a shoe. Could you tell me how to get to the nearest blacksmith?"

  Jennifer finally remembered to breathe, then shook her head. "He's not here," she said. Then, seeing the prince's smile start to broaden at this obvious fact, she stammered, "I mean, he's not in town. He's gone on a fishing trip."

  "Well, the second nearest, then," the prince suggested.

  "I'm sorry, there's only the one. It's a small village," she added apologetically.

  "I guess so. When will he be back?"

  "Two days."

  "Two?" the prince cried. "Days? Very unprofessional attitude there. What am I supposed to do?" He tapped his foot impatiently in its stirrup and glared at her.

  Jennifer gulped. "I'm sorry. You'll just have to wait."

  Alexander sighed loudly. "Is this village of yours large enough to have an inn? I'll need a place to stay."

  "Oh, I'm sure my father can find a room for you."

  "He's the innkeeper?"

  Jennifer looked down at her bare toes in the mud and said softly, "No, he's the king."

  "Oh," the prince said, looking at her more closely than before. He cleared his throat. "Uhm, sorry." He smiled weakly and glanced away.

  "Oh, no," she answered hastily, "the misunderstanding's all"—she looked away, afraid to see in his eyes the reflection of her drabness and the shabbiness of her surroundings—"my fault."

  There were several seconds of silence before she introduced herself and added, "Here, I can show you the way up the hill to the castle."

  She hurriedly threw the still-damp laundry into the wicker carrying basket, and Alexander nudged his horse out of her way as she scrambled up the slope that led back onto the road.

  Jennifer tried to think of something clever t
o say. But she'd have to be quick, for she was rapidly running out of breath from the weight of the basket and trying to keep up with the pace of Alexander's horse. She finally decided to ask what brought him to her father's land. She didn't add that it was a rare occasion, indeed, when a stranger came through—and that when someone did, he was usually either lost or a traveling merchant or, in most cases, both.

  "I'm looking for a wife," the prince said.

  Now the idea of going about the countryside searching for a suitable bride was considered somewhat old-fashioned even back then, but Jennifer thought it was rather romantic, so she didn't say anything.

  "You see," Alexander started and then interrupted himself. "You look like you're having trouble with that basket."

  "Well, a bit," Jennifer admitted. Beside the fact that the basket was heavy, one wet sleeve of her father's nightshirt slapped the back of her leg with every step she took.

  "Whoa, slow down," Alexander told the horse. "Genevieve can't keep up. Better?"

  "Jennifer," she corrected, though she felt it was probably presumptuous to contradict such an obviously important person. "Yes, much better."

  "You see," Alexander continued, "being the only son of the king—my father's the king, did I mention that?"

  Jennifer nodded.

  "Being the only son of the king, it's very important that I marry exactly the right person. And since I couldn't find exactly the right person in our own land, I've been traveling around the world to find her. No luck so far, though."

  "It sounds very exciting," Jennifer said, picturing Prince Alexander in all the rich, exotic countries she had ever heard of. Then, looking up, she winced at the sight of the drafty old castle that was her home. "Well, here we are."

  "Oh," said the prince, obviously disappointed. "How quaint."

  "I'm sure we'll be able to find a very nice room for you."

  The prince looked less than convinced, but didn't say so as Jennifer went to find her father and to change out of her damp, dirty work clothes.

  Now it so happened that King Frederick was somewhat less impressed with their visitor than his daughter was, and he quickly, tired of hearing Alexander say, "My father, the king, this..." and "My father, the king, that..." So, anxious to be about his own business, he suggested that Jennifer and Alexander take a walk through the garden.

  For his part, Alexander was not very enthusiastic, neither about the prospect of being stranded at the castle for a few days, nor about taking a walk in the garden with Jennifer. He had spent the last year visiting faraway lands, meeting beautiful women from important families in fabulously rich cities. Quite frankly, Jennifer didn't come anywhere near his high standards. But then, as a matter of fact, nobody did. On the other hand, there was the problem of the vacationing blacksmith. Even though a walk in the garden struck him as a rather dull way to pass the time, Jennifer seemed like a nice enough person and a good listener, so Alexander agreed.

  A Walk through the Enchanted Forest

  A STONE WALL separated the forest from the castle garden. Jennifer walked in shy silence beside the wall as Alexander told her about his journey so far. Earlier he had talked of encountering vandals along the way. This had been smoothly changed to several reports of desperate thieves, and had now progressed to an armed gang of cutthroats shadowing him throughout the untamed wilderness. Then, abruptly, he stopped talking.

  "What's this?" he asked, pointing to a metal gateway engraved with distorted figures who, with their large eyes and wild hair, looked ready to grasp at any passerby.

  Jennifer shrugged. "It's just a gate leading into the forest."

  "I can see that. But where does it go?"

  "Nowhere. Just the forest," Jennifer said. "Come on, let's look at the garden."

  Alexander walked up to the wall. "What a funny gate," he said, putting out his hand to touch one of the figures. But then he changed his mind and let his hand drop back to his side.

  "It's always been here," Jennifer said, tugging gently on his arm. "But nobody goes through. It's locked and the key's been lost for as long as anyone can remember."

  "Oh." Alexander, disappointed, tapped the door with his foot, and it swung open soundlessly.

  Jennifer became very nervous. "I don't like this. The gate has always been locked before." Then she added, "The forest is enchanted."

  Now this was not just idle guesswork on her part. There was a history book in the castle library that told how the wall had been built long ago to protect the people of the kingdom from the inhabitants of the forest. This book told of a time of unicorns and wishing wells and magic swords, when mysterious lights appeared in the night and strange people wandered about on secret journeys. Even then people had known that there was an evil force inside the forest, and kindly sorcerers had helped put up a wall that even the strongest magic could not tear down.

  But now it was the fashion to scoff at magic. The history book about the enchanted forest was no longer taken seriously. Such foolish stories were put aside to make room for treatises on why the world was flat and how to improve the grain and corn crops. The wall remained only because it did no harm and because no one thought it worth the effort to tear down.

  Jennifer was one of the few people who still believed in magic, but she usually didn't say so because people always laughed and called this belief "kid stuff."

  Which is exactly what Alexander did now. The hint of adventure intrigued him, though, and he wanted to explore.

  "But we don't know what's in there," Jennifer protested.

  "All the more reason to explore. It'll be all right. I'll protect you."

  "But it could be dangerous," she tried again.

  "Nonsense," the prince answered, pulling her through the gateway. "I told you I don't believe in magic."

  The door slammed shut behind them, and Alexander laughed confidently as Jennifer jumped.

  "Just the wind," he said, starting down the well-cleared brick path.

  Jennifer followed reluctantly.

  Within a few minutes the wide path narrowed and tall trees laced their branches overhead, blocking out the sun. Chilled and unable to see well, Alexander quickly became bored; so after only a short walk they started back the way they had come. But they had gone only a few yards when they reached a fork in the road.

  The prince scratched his head.

  "That's odd," Jennifer said. "I don't remember the road dividing. Do you?"

  "What? Oh, yes, of course it did. Didn't you notice? It was just about here."

  "Oh," Jennifer said. "I must not have been paying attention. Which is the way that leads home?"

  Alexander's hesitation lasted only two seconds. "Left," he declared decisively.

  They had walked only a short distance when Jennifer stopped again. "Oh, dear," she said. The bricks had stopped and the road continued on as a narrow dirt path.

  "Well, don't say I didn't tell you so," Alexander said.

  "What?"

  "I told you to take the other road, but you just started on down this way as it mv opinion didn't matter at all."

  Jennifer stamped her foot. "But you said left."

  "I did not," Alexander protested. "I said right."

  "You said left."

  "Well, I meant to say right."

  Jennifer sighed and started walking back without answering.

  But although they walked and walked, they couldn't rediscover the fork in the road.

  "Are we lost?" Jennifer asked.

  "Lost?" Alexander's voice squeaked. "Of course we're not lost."

  He sat down on a fallen tree next to the road. "But I'm too tired to walk anymore, so we'll just wait here until somebody comes along who can give us a ride back."

  "But what if nobody does?"

  "Somebody has to," Alexander reasoned. "Your father, for one, when we don't show up for supper."

  "But he doesn't even know we're in the forest," Jennifer said. "We could wait here for days."

  "Days?" Alexander squea
led. "Don't say days."

  "That's if they find us at all."

  Alexander stood up angrily. "See what you've gotten me into," he snapped. "You and your crazy ideas. Let's explore the forest, indeed!"

  "But..." Jennifer sputtered.

  "Well, never mind. If we can't depend on your father, I'll have to rely on my own wits to get us out of this mess."

  He started walking again.

  "Oh, dear," Jennifer sighed.

  The forest had been dark and gloomy all afternoon, but now, when they could see the sky through the trees, they could also see the moon, pale and small, low in the sky. Jennifer and Alexander began thinking about spending the night in the forest.

  "This is incredible," Alexander said. "I'm a prince, not a squirrel. Princes don't sleep on the ground under trees. What would my father, the king, say?"

  "I don't know," Jennifer answered, hoping he wouldn't become overly excited, "but what else is there to do?"

  Alexander started to whine, but the sound turned to a whoop of joy. "Look!"

  Jennifer clapped her hands in excitement, for there, just beyond some trees, was a little white cottage. "Oh, I do hope someone is home," she thought, for she noticed that all the curtains were drawn shut and no light came through any of them.

  Alexander crossed the clearing in bounding strides, with Jennifer just a step behind.

  "Aren't we going to knock?" she started as Alexander put his hand to the door. But by the time she had finished, he was already inside.

  Jennifer followed reluctantly.

  The Cottage in the Woods

  IT TOOK SEVERAL SECONDS for Jennifer's eyes to become accustomed to the dark. By then she had already guessed from the stillness that the house was empty.

  "Anybody home?" Alexander called softly.

  In the silence, Jennifer heard herself swallow.

  Suddenly Alexander was standing behind her. "What's that?" he whispered, pointing over her shoulder with a trembling finger to a gleaming object on the wall facing them.

  Jennifer tried to remind herself that this w as nothing more than a dark house and took another step closer. She gave a sigh of relief. "It's only a mirror."

 
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