While Hildegarde was peering through the Searching Glass at the decrepit roof of Doom Dump, deep inside the house itself Linda was skulking in the shadows outside the scullery where Marissa had taken Jenna.
Linda needed a few minutes to get her spell ready for the upstart Marissa - a spell that would make Dorinda's elephant ears look like a party trick. And as she went over the spell in her mind for the last time, strengthening it, making it just that little bit nastier (more warts), Linda heard the same scream from the scullery that the Witch Mother had heard. Preoccupied with her spell, Linda was not thinking straight. She too assumed the scream came from Jenna, so she waited a few seconds more so that Marissa could finish whatever she was doing. But as the sound of choking came through the door, Linda began to get worried. It wouldn't do to have their Princess throttled just yet - not until they had thoroughly defeated the Wendron Witches. She threw open the scullery door and stopped in amazement. Linda was impressed. She couldn't have done better herself.
Jenna had Marissa in a headlock - and it was a good one too, Linda noticed. In her younger days Linda had been a big fan of headlocks, although now she let her spells do the work for her.
Marissa's face was an interesting shade of purple. "Lemme go!" she was gasping. "Lemme . . . aaah . . . go!"
Jenna looked up and saw Linda. Marissa was in no position to look up, but she knew from the pointy boots with the dragon spikes up the back who it was.
"Get her . . . off me," Marissa gasped in a hoarse whisper.
You touch her and you'll regret it, Jenna mouthed Silently at Linda.
Linda looked amused. She liked fights, and one between a witch and a Princess was pretty much top of her fight wish list. Unfortunately however, there was business to attend to and she needed to get on with it before the Witch Mother came tottering along to see what was happening.
"Well done," Linda told Jenna. "Very impressive. You continue like this and I might just change my mind about Princesses. Possibly. Now just keep holding her right there. Perfect."
Jenna saw that Linda was eyeing Marissa like a snake working out where to strike. Something was about to happen and she could see it wasn't going to be good - particularly for Marissa.
Linda raised her hands up to her face and then pointed both index fingers at Marissa's head, squinting down them like a marksman. It reminded Jenna horribly of how the Hunter had once lined her up in the sights of his pistol.
"Keep her still," Linda instructed Jenna. "Hold her right there."
Jenna did not like the turn events had taken. Suddenly she was Linda's accomplice. She knew that Linda was about to do something very bad to Marissa and she did not want to be part of it, but she dared not let go. If she did, Marissa would immediately turn on her - as would Linda. She was stuck.
Slowly Linda lowered her pointing fingers and, as she did so, two thin beams of brilliant blue light streamed from her eyes and rested on Marissa's face. Then the witch began to chant:
"Heart and brainFlame and painBlood and boneRattle and moanLung and liverShriek and shiver . . ."
Marissa let out a terrified wail. She knew that this was the beginning of the dreaded Exit spell, the spell that takes away human form and replaces it with another - forever. It was, like most of Linda's nastiest spells, Permanent.
"No!" yelled Marissa. "Please, nooooooooo!"
Linda's yellow incisors slipped over her bottom lip as they always did when she was concentrating. The Exit was long and complicated. It required a great concentration of energy, but it was already off to a good start. Linda was very pleased with the way the Princess was helping; it was so much easier with an assistant. Excited, Linda now moved into the main body of the spell, where all Human parts of Marissa were one by one reassigned to Toad. Her voice descended to a low monotone so that the words became blurred into one long, singsong chant.
From Marissa's terror, Jenna was beginning to realize that if she kept Marissa in her headlock she would be party to something truly awful. She had to do something - but what?
Linda's menacing chant continued, the witch's voice rising ever higher. The gloom in the scullery deepened and the thin beams of light from Linda's blue-black eyes cut through the dark like needles, joining the witch with her victim.
"Princess Jenna. Please. Let me go," Marissa whispered desperately. "I'll do anything, anything you want. I promise."
Jenna didn't believe Marissa's promises. She had to get what she wanted while she still had the witch in her grasp - but how could she? She was Silenced. Very slightly she loosened the headlock. Marissa looked up, tears welling in her eyes.
"Princess Jenna. I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. Please help me. Please, oh please."
Jenna pointed to her mouth and Marissa understood. She muttered a few words and whispered, "Okay. It's gone."
Linda's voice suddenly regained its normal pitch, the chant slowed down and once more the words became gruesomely clear:
"Pinprick bones andPoison glands,Warty skinAnd creeping hands . . ."
Marissa screamed. She knew the end was coming very, very soon. "Please let me go," she gasped.
Jenna tested her voice. "Fix the feet thing," she hissed.
Marissa gabbled something under her breath and hissed, "It's gone, it's gone. Now, please, please, please."
Jenna cautiously tried a small step back, taking Marissa with her - she was free. She released the headlock.
Marissa sprang up and Jenna raced off past Linda, heading for the door. Mouth open, Linda stopped mid chant. Marissa hurled herself at Linda, biting, kicking and screaming, Linda fell backward under the onslaught and hit her head with a craaack on the stone flagged floor.
Jenna had just got out of the door and was running down the corridor when, through the gloom, she saw the large bulk of the Witch Mother teetering on her tall, spiked shoes, blocking the far end of it.
"Marissa, is that you?" the Witch Mother's suspicious voice called out of the dark. "What's going on down there?"
Trapped, Jenna hurtled back to the scullery, slammed the door and leaned against it, holding it shut. Marissa was sitting on Linda and, as far as Jenna could make out, trying to strangle her. At Jenna's return she looked up in surprise.
"She's coming," gasped Jenna.
Marissa stared at her, uncomprehending. "Who's coming?"
"Her. The Witch Mother."
Marissa went pale. She had assumed that when Linda had tried to Exit her, she had been acting on the Witch Mother's instructions. She leaped up from Linda - who gave a small moan, but did not move - and pointed at the door that Jenna was leaning against. Jenna squared up for a fight, but a fight was the last thing on Marissa's mind. "Lock, Stop and Bar!" she shouted. A small but definite click came from the door.
"It won't last long," said Marissa, "not against her. We've got to get out of here." She headed for the only window in the dingy scullery, which was set high above a table heaped with a pile of black cloth. Marissa leaped up onto the table and pushed the window open. "It's the only way out. There's a bit of a drop but it's a soft landing. Here, put this on." Marissa picked up the pile of black cloth and threw it at Jenna, who ducked. It landed on the floor beside her.
Marissa looked annoyed. "Do you want to get out or not?" she demanded.
"Of course I do."
"Well, those are your witch robes. You've got to put them on."
Marissa sighed impatiently. "Because you won't get out if you don't. The window's Barred to all Cowan."
"Cowan?""Yeah. Cowan. Non-witches. Like you, dumbo."The door handle rattled. "Marissa?" came the Witch Mother's voice. "What's going on in there?""Nothing, Witch Mother. It's fine. Nearly done," Marissa called out. "Put them on - quick," she hissed to Jenna. "There's enough witch stuff in them to fool a stupid window. Hurry!"Jenna picked up the robes as though she were picking up a shovel of cat poo.The door handle rattled again, louder. "Marissa, why is the door Locked?" The Witch Mother sounded suspicious."She got out, Witch Mother. But it's okay. I've got her. Nearly done!" Marissa trilled out cheerfully. To Jenna she whispered, "Are you going to put them on or not? Because I'm going right now.""All right, all right," whispered Jenna. They were only clothes, she reasoned. Wearing witches' robes didn't actually mean anything. She threw the musty black cloak over her head, pulled it down over her own red robe and quickly did up the buttons."Suits you," said Marissa with a grin. "Come on," she beckoned Jenna up onto the table, and Jenna scrambled up. Marissa opened the window and the cold, sleety night air blew in. "Put your arm out," she said.Jenna went to put her arm out but her hand came up against something solid, which felt like congealed slime. "Yuck!" she gasped, and snatched it back.The Witch Mother had surprisingly good hearing. "Marissa?" came her voice suspiciously through the door. "Is there someone else in there with you?""Just the Princess, Witch Mother," Marissa called out and then whispered to Jenna, "Rats - the robes aren't enough."Jenna looked down at her black witch cloak, which enveloped her like the night and made her feel very peculiar. It seemed quite enough to her. "What do you mean?" she asked."If you want to get out, I'm going to have to do something else."Jenna didn't like the sound of that. "Like what exactly?"The door handle rattled once again. "Marissa, I can hear voices," the Witch Mother shouted. "What are you doing?""Nothing, Witch Mother! She's got her robes on. We'll be out soon," Marissa called. And then to Jenna, "Like I'm going to have to make you a witch.""No way!""Marissa!" The door handle rattled angrily. "I heard the Princess. She's not Silent anymore. What's going on in there?""Nothing. Honestly. It was me, Witch Mother.""Don't lie to me, Marissa. Let me in!" The Witch Mother rattled the door handle so violently that it fell off, bounced its way across the floor and hit Linda on the head."Aargh . . ." Linda groaned."What was that? If you don't let me in right now, I shall Smash the door and then there'll be trouble," the Witch Mother yelled.Marissa looked panic-stricken. "I'm going," she told Jenna. "You can stay here and good luck to you. Don't say I didn't try. See ya!" And with that she pulled herself up to the window. She was halfway through when a loud craaaaaack came from the door and a long split ran through the wood from top to bottom."Marissa. Wait!" yelled Jenna. "Do the something else - whatever it is."Marissa's head appeared at the window. "Okay. This is a bit yucky," she said, "but it's got to be done." She poked her head back through the window and kissed Jenna. Jenna leaped back in surprise. "Told you it was yucky." Marissa grinned. "But you're a witch now. You don't belong to the Coven yet, you'd have to kiss them all for that.""No thanks." Jenna grimaced.The sound of splintering wood heralded the metal tip of the Witch Mother's boot appearing through the door."Time to go, Witch," said Marissa.Jenna scrambled through the window and leaped into the dark. She landed on an old compost heap."Run!" hissed Marissa.With brambles tearing at them, Jenna and Marissa raced through the overgrown garden, scrambled over the wall and dropped down into the back alley. Behind them the Witch Mother - her large bulk stuck in the tiny window - screamed in fury and Sent curses after them. The curses skittered around the garden, bounced off the walls and ReBounded on the Witch Mother.The two witches tore up the dark back alley, heading toward the welcoming lights of Gothyk Grotto. As Jenna slammed the door shut behind her to the accompaniment of the door monster, she grinned. Suddenly Gothyk Grotto looked so normal.Marcus approached, unfazed by the sight of two witches in the shop. It was not unusual for people to dress up on the Longest Night festivities - he had just sold all their remaining skeleton suits to the staff of Wizard Sandwiches."Need any help?" he asked.Jenna threw back her voluminous witch's hood.Marcus gasped. "Princess Jenna, you're safe. Your friend, wotsisname . . . Earwig - he was looking for you."The mention of earwigs made Jenna feel sick. "Beetle! Is he here?""Nah. He'll be pleased you're safe; he was going nuts. But there's someone here from the Wizard Tower for you." Marcus winked at Jenna. "Good luck."The door monster roared again and Hildegarde rushed in. She skidded to a halt and stared at Jenna and Marissa."It is you!" she gasped. The Searching Glass had told her that the fleeing witch was Jenna, but she had not believed it. Catching her breath, Hildegarde said, "Princess Jenna, you do know those robes are the real thing, don't you?""Of course I do," said Jenna stonily.Hildegarde looked disapprovingly at Jenna and the company she was keeping."Madam Marcia has asked me to take you straight to the Palace at once. She will be meeting you there. Witches' robes are not appropriate attire and I suggest you take them off right away."Hildegarde's attitude annoyed Jenna. "No," she said. "These robes are mine and I'm wearing them."Marissa grinned. She could get to like Jenna.