Tangled Magick

Tangled
Magick

Jennifer Carson

Copyright © 2015 by Jennifer Carson

Sale of the paperback edition of this book without its cover is unauthorized.

Spencer Hill Press Middle Grade:
An imprint of Spencer Hill Press, LLC

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.

Contact: Spencer Hill Press, PO Box 243, Marlborough, CT 06447

Please visit our website at
www.spencerhillmiddlegrade.com

Carson, Jennifer, 1975
Tangled Magick: a novel / by Jennifer Carson - 1st ed.
p. cm.

ISBN: 978-1-63392-000-2 paperback
ISBN: 978-1-63392-001-9 ebook

Summary: A fourteen-year old hapenny must break a spell on a long-lost princess in order to save her traveling companions from an army of trolls and a mad wizard.

Cover design and interior illustrations by Patricia Ann Lewis-MacDougall
Interior layout by Jennifer Carson

Printed in the United States of America

For Fritz Pratt, the first knight in the Order of Gilded Hapenny Knights.

And for Elizabeth Cernek, may you shine brightly, wherever you are.

Chapter 1

M
ae folded her polka-dot leggings and placed them in the carpetbag Callum had given her for the long journey. There was a special pocket on the side that was magicked to clean her clothes after they were worn. Trina, the little red squirrel who lived in her farmhouse, was curled up on her bed, watching her through half-shut eyes. Her bushy tail thumped against the bed every once in a while, like an impatient finger tapping on a table. The door to Mae's room squeaked open as she shoved a colorful coat and an extra pair of wool mittens into the bag. The late October nights had turned cold.

“I'm almost ready,” Mae said.

Callum stepped into the room and sat on the edge of the bed. The rope base under the straw-and-feather mattress groaned under his weight. He fiddled with the ring on his middle finger. Mae guessed it was to keep from wringing his hands.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Callum said. “I could go on my own.”

“I'm sure. I think the next Protector of the Wedge should know what's beyond the village, don't you?” Mae buttoned the flap on the overstuffed bag and gave it a pat. “And there hasn't been a Great Expedition since…” Mae tried to count the years. “Well, a long time.”

“I suppose you and Aletta are right. I can't help but worry if we're making the right choice, though. Expeditions can be dangerous.” Callum stroked his long beard, eyes unfocused.
“It's been twelve years since the last one, to be precise, and you know how that ended.”

Mae leaned against the bed frame. She didn't really want to think about the last expedition. Not a single hapenny had returned to the Wedge. Her father was one of them. She touched the blue orb pendant hanging on a ribbon around her neck. Inside was a lock of her father's hair. She didn't remember much about him, only small things, like the crinkles around his blue eyes when he smiled. She'd been pretty little when he'd gone missing. Butterflies flittered in her stomach. Would
she
return to the Wedge? Mae shook off her nervousness. “We need to get more corley thistles to make the remedy for the Bricklebear Fever. Too many have fallen ill already. Besides, any trolls should be hibernating in their caves by now—that's why the Great Expeditions are always in the late fall, right? And I'll be safe with you, Callum.”

Mae put her hand over his. The wizard's brown skin had darkened during the summer months, and it made a stark contrast to her freckled, but fair, hand. After the troll invasion two years ago, Callum and Aletta had moved into the house that Mae used to share with her guardian, Gelbane, until Mae discovered that Gelbane was a troll and the one behind the plans to invade the village. It wasn't customary for humans to live in the Wedge, but the villagers had made an exception for the two wizards, who were the official Protectors, Mae's mentors, and the closest thing she had to family.

The wizard clasped her hand between his. “Yes, you are correct, Maewyn, as usual.”

Outside her home, the supply wagon rumbled to a stop. Mae peered out the window. Mr. Whiteknoll, the village tailor, climbed down from the driver's bench and checked the harnesses on the ponies. Aletta joined him and stroked their manes and muzzles.

Mae slipped from Callum's grasp and peered out the window, searching the gathering crowd outside. Ms. Gnarlroot
had come to say goodbye, toting little Mabel on her hip, along with some of the village children—those who weren't home ill in bed. Mae's nose twitched as tears prickled in her eyes.

“Don't worry. Leif won't let you leave without saying goodbye,” Callum said.

Smiling, Mae nodded and turned from the window. She heaved her bag over her shoulder while Callum struggled to rise from the edge of her low bed. She took a last look around. Since Callum and Aletta had moved into her mother's house, her dreaming nook, which was a large round basket given to her mother by a giant, had been moved from the main room and nestled in the corner of her bedroom. Mae would've been fine sleeping in the basket as she always had, but Aletta had insisted she have a bed.

Aletta and Mae, with Callum's help of course, had painted the room a soft butter color, like her room in the wizard's cottage. A large, low dresser perched under the small row of windows. Aletta had made her promise that she wouldn't use the dresser as a stepping stool to sneak out, and Mae had agreed. The last time she'd snuck out of a window, she'd almost become dinner for a couple of nasty trolls.

“Where'd Trina go?” she asked. The squirrel was no longer curled up on the bed. She searched the small bookcase and swept the top of the dresser with a glance.

“You know Trina,” Callum said. “She's probably hiding because she doesn't want to say goodbye.”

Mae bit her lip and nodded. She understood, but she really would've liked to say goodbye to Trina. She'd been so busy packing this morning that she really hadn't given the little squirrel very much attention. Mae patted the deep pocket in her breeches to make sure both her wand and flute were secure. “I'm going to miss the Wedge,” she said.

“I am too,” Callum answered. “But it won't be too long before we return.” Laying his hand on Mae's shoulder, he led her through the house and out the front door. Callum's height
forced him to stoop so that he wouldn't hit his head on the casing. Thankfully, her home had high ceilings because it was built under the trunk of an ancient redwood tree, and not a hill like most hapenny homes.

The supply wagon was weighed down with casks, barrels, and crates. Cages of chickens clucked from their high perches on top of the towering contents, and piglets squealed beneath them. A large oilskin cover was thrown over the cargo and tied with crisscrossed rope. Taking Mae's bag from her shoulder, Callum shoved it under the driver's bench and patted the ponies' rumps, whispering soothing words.

“Should be a good journey,” Mae overheard Mr. Whiteknoll say to Aletta. “The skies are blue, the river is calm, and we have two wizards traveling with us. I don't remember ever having one wizard with us on a Great Expedition, let alone two.” He cast a big smile at Mae, the newest wizard in the Wedge, and Callum.

“How long has it been since you've been on a trading journey?” Aletta asked.

“Quite a number of years, mum.” Mr. Whiteknoll smoothed his stark white hair. It didn't do any good; his hair stuck right back up. “I was quite the adventurer in my day. But I'm not getting any younger. Better take the chance to take a last expedition while I can.”

Mae scanned the crowd for Leif again. It seemed the whole village had shown up to wish them a good—and speedy—journey, except the one person she truly wanted to see.

Aletta, having pulled herself away from the old tailor's pleasantries, embraced Mae. “I'm going to be worried sick while you two are away.”

“Can't you come with us, Aletta?” Mae squeezed her tightly. Tears trembled on her eyelashes.

“Now, let's not talk about this again.” Aletta smoothed Mae's unruly curls from her forehead and tipped Mae's chin up
with a finger. “We can't leave the Wedge without a Protector, especially with so many ill.”

Tears made tracks down Mae's cheeks. “But we haven't seen even a hair of a troll since I put the new spells on the bridge.”

“We promised to guard the Wedge, Mae. Promises should not be broken.”

Mae nodded and wiped her tears on Aletta's dress. Sighing, she nodded. “I know you're right. I'm just going to miss you terribly.”

“And I'll miss you.”

Nine villagers leading ponies rounded the bend in the road. They were dressed for travel. It seemed the remainder of the trading party had arrived. Mae's nerves jangled like a dinner bell. She really was leaving the Wedge.

Aletta scooped up Mae beneath her arms and set her on the edge of the wagon bed. “Sit here for a while and dangle your feet off the back. When you get tired of watching the trees roll by, you can climb up to the driver's seat and sit with Callum and Mr. Whiteknoll. They'll be sure to talk your ears off your head.”

Mae smiled and threw her arms around Aletta's neck. “I love you, Aletta.”

“I love you too. Take care of Callum for me. He's not the spring chicken he once was.”

“He never told me he could turn into a chicken!” Mae gasped.

Aletta laughed. “No, dear. It means he's not as young as he used to be. Stay alert. Watch the road. Be friendly, but wary of those you come across. Most people are good and decent, but there are some who would sell their mother for a pint of wedgeberry rum.”

Mae giggled as Callum rounded the wagon corner.

“Are we ready, then?” Callum asked, his eyes sparkling.

Mae nodded, but she searched over his shoulder. No sign of Leif. Where could he be?

Callum drew Aletta close and whispered in her ear. Tears formed in Aletta's eyes. She nodded and buried her face in his shoulder. Mae bent her head, throat tight, as she held back more tears. She had been so excited about the Great Expedition, but now that it was here, she was sad to leave the Wedge behind.

Callum cupped Aletta's chin in his hand and kissed her forehead. Then he moved toward the front of the wagon. It shifted as he pulled himself up onto the driver's bench. The crates, caskets, and ropes tying it all together creaked and moaned. The hapenny traders mounted up in unison. Some were old, long-bearded men, taking their last chance for adventure; some were middle-aged, with bellies like muffin tops over their belts; and three were young, their beards barely growing. Only one woman besides Mae joined the traders, and that was Leif's cousin, Poppy Vale Burrbridge. Her hair was as red as the flower she was named after and wound into two long braids that bounced against her back as the pony shifted under her. She wore a riding coat made of many layers of colorful cloth, and tan riding breeches.

“Roll call!” Mr. Whiteknoll barked. He untied the red ribbon on the scroll he held in his hand and unrolled the parchment. “Callum and Maewyn are present.” He nodded to the wizards. “Bailey Bluehill?”

Mae scanned the crowd. One of the younger hapennies nodded. “Aye! Present and accounted for.”

“Horace Brightpath?”

“Yes, sir, I'm here and rarin' to go.” Horace chewed on his pipe as his pony shifted under his substantial weight.

“Dale Fullmeadow?” Mr. Whiteknoll called.

When no answer came, Mr. Whiteknoll peered into the crowd. “Dale Fullmeadow?”

“His head is full of flowers!” Someone in the crowd yelled. “Must've grown roots!” Everyone giggled and hooted.

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