Into the Witching World
Imogen stood on a hill in the middle of the ruins of an old castle by the name of Castell Dinas Brân with a broomstick in one hand and a trunk in the other. (The author knows that this isn’t the best first sentence, or first paragraph, for that matter, but it gets better, trust me.)
Closing her eyes, Imogen focused on reciting the incantation to call the planes and cause them to warp together. “Magic is love./Magic is life./Open to me, O Witching World, to grant me knowledge for a life full of strife.” The witch who wrote the incantation and carved the door to enter the world was bitter about her all-powerful knowledge and blamed magic for her depression. To her, ignorance would have been bliss and she was trying to save people from turning into her. In a sense, she was right. Most drama seemed to stem from people fooling around with magic, more specifically magic potions.
As soon as she had spoken the words, ancient, black, ornate double doors with the number 9 3/4 and brass lion head door knockers emerged out of the ground, causing the ground to ripple like water. Around the frame of the door, it read “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate,” which meant “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” (Told you this witch was bitter.)
With a sigh, she stepped forward and put her hand up to one of the knockers. Suddenly, the lions came to life and roared at her, trying to scare her away. She hit the heads on the nose with the end of her broom, causing their mighty roars to turn into pained whimpers, and grasped the brass handle of one of the lions. Bringing it down three times, the doors opened and revealed bright light that she was blindly supposed to walk into.
She looked straight up at the narrator. “I’m not going in there. I’m not naive like all other chosen ones. I know that as soon as I walk in there, the author is going to make me get run over by a carriage. No, thanks.”
(But if you don’t go in, the story can’t continue!)
“Fine. I will. As long as the author doesn’t try to run me over with a carriage.”
(All right, fine. Ahem.) Imogen stepped through the door and a new world unfurled before her. She strolled through the cobblestone streets and stared at the buildings that had been constructed in the medieval style with white walls and wooden supports as well as thatched roofs. There was a hustle and bustle to the town with carriages passing her by, but the place wasn’t crowded by any means. A sweet aroma of freshly baked bread as well as the fragrance of marzipan beer, the witching world was famous for it, hung in the air.
Sighing again, Imogen pulled her acceptance letter from Medusa Gorgon’s Academy for Young Witches out of her pocket and read it over once more. It said that she would need a copy of Inconceivable Monsters Who Live In Dungeons and You Should Try to Avoid by Gecko Slizard…and a bunch of other books that the author doesn’t care to mention and that Imogen just skipped right over. It also said she would need a wand and the first thing she saw was the sign for “Wilde’s Wand Shoppe.”
When she stepped inside, the smell of dusty magic and the warmth of the fire crackling in the shop hit her. The shop looked rather small and quaint from the outside, but it had a lot of personality. The shelves were packed with boxes upon boxes upon boxes of wands, all different shades, the colours of the rainbow to be precise. There were tall sliding ladders in a few different places. Though it might have seemed chaotic to some people, it was an organised chaos and that spoke wonders to the shopkeeper’s, Mr. Wilde’s, character.
Before she could even ring the bell on the desk, there came a feminine voice from the back of the shop that said, “Oh, dear!” After a few moments, a man with face make-up and a white wig pulled back into a ponytail with a black bow emerged from the back on a sliding ladder. “I am so sorry, darling! I always seem to be losing track of time!” He leapt off the ladder with stag leap and stuck a perfect landing. He grabbed the monocle hanging around his neck and put it up to his left eye, scrutinising her for a moment.
Then a broad but genuine smile filled his face. “Aren’t you just adorable, darling?”
Imogen rolled her eyes. “Don’t call me adorable,” she groaned. “I’m not a child.” The shopkeeper opened his mouth to argue with her, but she ignored him and pressed on. “I may be sixteen, but I am mature enough to mentally be an adult.”
For a moment, the shopkeeper just stood there and narrowed his eyes at Imogen. Then it was gone in a flash and he had returned to his naturally gay (and in this case, the word can be taken either way) self. “I know the perfect wand for you!” With that, he vanished into the stacks and, in seconds, returned with a pristine white and gold bordered box in hand.
Opening it and pulling back the thin cloth, she revealed a black elder wand with a dark twisted handle. (What’s funny about the wording that the author chose to describe this wand is that it’s the ‘elder wand.’ Basically, the author is saying Imogen has all the power in the world at her fingertips because she has the ‘elder wand.’)
The shopkeeper leaned forward over the counter. “That was made specifically with you in mind and was carved from the elder tree, Elder Spruce. It even wept when we cruelly harvested it’s bark to make this wand. That’s good luck. Cherish it.”
“Thanks,” Imogen grumbled as if it were an obligation to say. The wand was interesting, the rarest of its kind, but it was what she had been expecting so she wasn’t surprised.
From the back of the shop came another man’s voice, “Oscar darling…”
Oscar giggled. “Drop sixty-nine quazar on the counter when you leave. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I do believe I am being summoned.” He stepped onto the sliding ladder and disappeared into the back.
After considering just leaving without paying (our lawful good hero seems to be shaping into a lawful neutral or chaotic neutral which is very interesting for a protagonist), Imogen left sixty-nine quazar on the counter and headed to the bookstore. She pulled the list out of her pocket again and checked it over before entering the building with the sign that read “Wit Beyond Measure.” (You’re not going to get it unless you are familiar with how the word “wit” was used by Shakespeare.)
As soon as she had stepped inside, a raven flew at her face. Imogen raised her wand about to cast a spell on it.
“Huginn,” a strong, confident female voice rang out in the silence of the shop. “Stop terrorising the customers.”
Begrudgingly, the raven returned to its mistress’s shoulder, but not before it cawed in Imogen’s face. There was another raven on the woman’s other shoulder that was glaring daggers at Imogen. The woman had a striking beauty about her with quiet confidence. Her piercing, ice-cold, sapphire blue eyes (man, that’s brooding YA hero level type of description) were on the book in front of her, but had they been aimed at someone, they would freeze someone to the spot. A silver crown set with a sapphire in the centre was placed on top of her regal, wavy black hair. She wore a elegant black dress with a simple black cloak. It had the symbol of Elder Spruce in brass clasping it in place.
“My name is Odwina Ravensbeak,” she said without looking up from her book. “These two troublemakers are Huginn and Muninn. Let me know if you need help finding anything.”
Imogen nodded as if she were listening, but her attention was already on the shop. It was a quaint, little bookstore with two floors of books. The lower floor was directly under the second floor, making it appear like a cute reading loft. She ran her fingers over the spines of the beautiful, ornate, one-of-a-kind, leather books.
When she came across a dark blue, gold gilded copy of SHUNKspeare’s comedies, she thumbed through the book until she had found her favourite play by him called Frogbeth about a king who insulted three wonderful, fantastic witches and got turned into a frog. He then had to go through the entire play as a frog.
She wasted several minutes reading over the play. (Remember why you’re here in the first place.)
Imogen rolled her eyes. “I know, I know. I’ll take as much time as I **** well please.”
(Just buy the book. You can read it later.)
She sighed out of exasperation and threw her hands in the air. “Fine. Whatever.” Then she stormed up to the second floor and grabbed the books she would need for school, without really taking the time to check their prices and conditions.
Imogen slammed the stack of books on the counter, causing Odwina to glance up from her book and stare at her with slight inquisitiveness in her eyes.
Then, with a sigh, she marked her place, taking the time to get it as perfect and pristine as possible, and rung Imogen up. “That’ll be 250 quazar,” she said.
“Are you kidding me?” Imogen asked exasperated, to which Odwina just shook her head. “Why are textbooks so ******* expensive?”
Odwina shrugged. “No one knows. It’s as mysterious as the dark side of the moon.”
Imogen crossed her arms. “Yeah, well, there’s no way I’m paying that. I can just conjure my books for free.”
Shaking her head, Odwina clucked her tongue. She held up the copy of SHUNKspeare’s comedies. “But can you conjure this up?” Imogen paused and Odwina smiled mischievously.
For a few moments, she just stood there, seeming to weigh all the options in her mind. (But there aren’t that many choices. Just buy the books so we can get on with the story!)
“Shut up! Get the **** out of my business!” Imogen shouted at the narrator.
Finally, after a moment that felt like forever, which the narrator swore she did it just to agitate them, she dropped the coins on the counter, grabbed the brown bag of books and left the shop. When she stepped out of the shop, a dark brown skinned, frizzy-haired witch with an eccentric, mischievous glint in her brown eyes was standing outside the shop waiting for her. She wore a red jacket with the crest of the school on it and a black ruffle skirt. She wore short black high-heeled boots with a bit of lift in the toe. With her wand in hand and her arms crossed in front of her chest, she looked like she meant business.
When she saw Imogen, she looked her over. “You’re the chosen one?” she asked, raising an eyebrow. “But you don’t meet any of the qualifications.”
Imogen crossed her arms. “Oh,” she replied. “And what exactly are those?” (It appears the author has created two sassy, overly confident ******** for this story. Oh, no. I fear that I may have given away a big part of the plot. Don’t tell the author or she may have me replaced.)
“Usually the chosen one is a boy…”
“That’s because of the stupid patriarchy. I’m defying my gender role, giving the book the uniqueness it needs to stand out.”
“Chosen ones are usually incompetent in their abilities when the novel starts…”
“So, I did a little bit of studying up on my stuff. Can you really blame me? Girls have to work twice as hard to prove themselves.”
“Though, it appears that you have overly confident down, so I guess you’re not completely a lost cause for chosen one.”
“Thank you. I take that as a compliment.”
The woman sighed. “Come on.” Then she started to walk away without even bothering to check if Imogen was following her. Imogen rolled her eyes and thought about how stupid it was that they had sent someone to escort her when she could have just gotten to the school on her own, but she followed the woman anyways.
They made their way through the town the author still has yet to name and into the No-No Woods. As soon as they were in the woods, the sun fell away, and the shadows grew longer. The branches reached towards her like hands. An owl hooted, even though it was only midday. (The author is really trying to drill this image of the woods being dangerous and menacing, isn’t she?)
When they were out of the woods and away from danger, (See? What did I tell you?) they stood in front of a two-story stone building (fitting considering who the headmistress was) with Romanesque features such as turrets. A few students flew in on broomsticks and found their groups. A few were casting spells, turning their fellow students into animals. Familiars followed their masters and mistresses into the building.
Imogen glared up at the narrator. “Why couldn’t I have flown in on a broomstick?” she demanded.
(Do you even know the spell to cast for operating a broomstick?)
She shrugged. “Maybe not, but the readers don’t need to know that.”
(Operating a broomstick is something you learn as a first-year. You can’t be an expert at everything right off the bat.)
She curled her lip. “I can try.”
(Try convincing the author instead of me. Now, where was I? Ah, yes.) Erica turned to Imogen and gave her a piece of parchment folded into thirds with a red wax seal with the crest of the school on it. “Read this. And go see Headmistress Gorgon. Good luck.” Then, without another word, she disappeared amongst the students and into the school.
With a sigh, Imogen gently broke the seal in the letter and opened it. It read…well, the author decided that you didn’t need to read the letter word-for-word. Instead, she decided to give a summary of what was contained into Medusa Gorgon’s Academy, which she already knew, and that she had been assigned to room 208 with Áine Brackenbridge as her roommate. It also had her schedule at the bottom of the page. Lastly, the letter contained vague information on how to find Medusa’s office.
Shaking her head, she placed the letter in her pocket and headed into the school. As she walked, she passed hundreds upon hundreds of doors. (So many doors and only ten of them were actual classrooms. I’ll bet the rest of the doors went to other fantasy worlds. Or to the Underdark.)
She also ascended several flights of stairs. Each flight had their own personality. She rode on a few staircases that tried to make her dizzy, but she wasn’t taking their ****, so she cast an obedience curse on them to make them stop. There were a few timid staircases that they had to use very specific incantations for. There were a few dramatic staircases that any obeyed their passenger if they sang a very specific Broadway show tune all the way through. They were the most frustrating because one also had to find the exact key the specific staircase preferred. One missed note meant one would have to start to over again.
When Imogen got to the top of the stairs, she turned to yell at the narrator again. “What the ****?” she demanded.
“Do you make every student go through this?”
(Not every student, but you wanted a challenge and that’s exactly what I’ve given you. Maybe next time you’ll think about talking back to me.)
“Maybe, but probably not. Scratch that, definitely not. I won’t stop fighting you until I develop as a character and that won’t happen until I meet my love interest.”
(Well, you’re in luck cause that’s coming up soon.)
As she was standing outside, Headmistress Gorgon’s office about to knock a red-haired fairy came flying at her from inside the office. (Yes, it’s a cliché. It’s supposed to be. Fun fact: this clichéd meeting was in the original drafts as well.)
The fairy bounced back after running into Imogen. “Whoa,” she said. She offered a hand to help Imogen up. “I’m sorry. Didn’t see you there.”
Imogen looked at the red-haired fairy girl and stared into the girl’s emerald green gaze that was obviously supposed to be mesmerising and that just made her angry. Her short stature, silver wings, and freckles were supposed to make her more attractive to Imogen, but it just aggravated her even more. She hated how the author seemed to know her well enough to play matchmaker for her.
She shook her head and dismissed the fairy, standing up and brushing herself off. “Nope,” she said.
The fairy blinked. “Excuse me?”
“No. I just can’t do it. I’m out.”
With that, she opened the door and walked in without knocking. She was in such a rush that she blew straight past Vice Headmistress Marjorie Lewis, who was at her desk engrossed in her spell drive working on her latest fanfiction. When Imogen strode into the office, she caught Headmistress Gorgon off-guard, causing her to look up in surprise with black snakes rearing up and hissing. (I’m not sure this is the right place to end this, but if the author doesn’t end it now, it will never end so I guess it might as well end here. Read the next chapter to figure out if Imogen will get turned to stone or not.