Episode 4

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Rhian pushed down on the pestle, grinding the ingredients together by candle light

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Rhian pushed down on the pestle, grinding the ingredients together by candle light. The fly was the grossest part though Alaric's vinegary egg came a close second. He'd been good about not asking questions, though perhaps he already knew what she was up to and was waiting for her to verbally share. And why didn't she, they're all friends. Ugh. Rhian squished the egg chunks into the sugar. She was being foolish. It was Gareth behind this if it was anyone. Still — with Gretchen and Afia out there somewhere, best not to take any risks.

Bronze figurettes clicked around a Victorian bed-side clock — an hour until midnight. Rhian scraped the paste into a mini cauldron with a pink comb that she swore to herself she'd wash later. A little heat and a quick stir later and the vanquishing potion was complete. She filled four glass vials, stuck in their stoppers and put two in each pocket of her Crymych School of Druidic Sorcery issued pyjamas, grabbed her non-issued puffy coat, slipped on her wellys and practiced pronouncing 'ffrwydro' under her breath as she crept down the dormitory hall.

The twisting stairwell was dim. She ran her palm along the bumpy stone. The top of her plastic wellington boots pressed against her shin with each careful step. The foyer waited through the Norman archway cast in an orange light. Rhian hesitated on the last step. Muddy boot prints led from the where she stood to the grand doors where a scrap of parchment stuck above one of the handles. Rhian swallowed and followed. She leant forward to read the paper careful not to dislodge it. The word 'Natgloi' was written in a messy hand under a drawing of a key. Rhian reached to try to door and found it unlocked.

The culprit may be out there, but it may mean her friends were still alive — for now. Fear and hope swelled inside her. She stormed down the slab steps and ran down the lit cobbled path. Past well-kept gardens of fruit trees and knotted stones, Rhian jogged over devil's bridge. The rush of the river blending with her huffs for breath. On each side of the single lane road were trees older than King Arthur, probably even older than the Celts. Their canopies blotted out the stars and moonlight. Rhian braced herself against her legs and panted for breath.

A blue flame blinked into existence a few feet into the darkness. Rhian conjured her own flame in her hand, casting a warm halo around her. A stout creature little more than three-feet high held a long stick attached to a lantern. The lantern's blue flame swung as it waited. This she remembered from Mystical History. Púcas were known to lead travellers to either fortune or trouble, depending on how they felt about the one following them. Gretchen would be proud — will be proud, when she told her.

"Could you bring me to my friends, please?" Rhian called out gently. "I'd really appreciate it. I'm told there's a spider?"

The púca's flame jostled as he moved out from her fire's aura. Rhian followed through a passageway of trees. Sticks snapped under her weight. The púca kept an even distance from her, waiting when needed.

"Have you seen anyone else passing through tonight?"

It didn't answer. She so hoped he was bringing her to where she wanted and not walking her off a cliff. After some time the púca stopped and its flame extinguished. Leaves rustled above. Rhian held her hand up brightening the trees. A massive cobweb stretched across four of them. Body shaped cocoons hung along its centre. Rhian gasped and stepped backward tripping over a root and falling on her bottom. Her fire puffed out. More rustling in the canopies and a clicking sound.

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