Agnil and the Wizard’s Orb
“Wake up, Aggie Lang! What planet are you on!”
Mr Townsend had spotted that Agnil was not concentrating as well as she should have been on her work. She wasn’t particularly fond of maths at the best of times, but since she had returned from finding her mother in Aberrian, the elf world, she’d felt more and more isolated – as if she didn’t quite fit in anymore.
“Remember that when you are multiplying four digits by two digits you need to…”
Mr Townsend’s voice droned on. He may as well have been speaking in a foreign language for all the sense it made to her!
“Hey, Aggie,” whispered Daniella from across the table.
Agnil didn’t respond. She was trying to ignore Daniella who’d been taunting her for months now. Agnil’s slightly pointed ears were becoming more noticeable as she got older and some of the others, led by Daniella, always started sniggering whenever she approached them on the playground.
“Aggie!” repeated Daniella, “Meet me on the playground by the tree at break. My mum’s given me loads of flapjacks to share out.”
Agnil looked up at the clock. Half past ten. It would be break time soon and Daniella’s offer was tempting. Maybe she really was trying to be friends now.
The bell rang and Agnil headed for the cloakroom to collect her coat. It was November and it had been bitingly cold for the past two days. Her father had insisted she take her hat and gloves, even though she didn’t really like wearing them. She opened the backpack that was hanging on her peg, looked down at the hat and gloves for a moment, zipped the bag up again, and left them where they were.
Outside, she spotted Daniella and her little gang hanging around near the chestnut tree at the edge of the playground. They were all chomping on home-made flapjacks. Agnil felt a pang inside her that was more than just hunger. Her dad was hopeless in the kitchen and her mum was somewhere in another world, dragged through the River Aspel to be reunited with the brother who had tried to save her from the evil wizard, Vedron!
She couldn’t talk to any of her friends about this. They’d never believe her. They would think she was as silly as Daniella made her out to be. She hadn’t even told her dad. She rubbed the silver leaves on the bracelet her mother had left for her as she thought about it all, and remembered the ring she now kept on a chain around her neck; the ring that allowed her to at least see her mother.
One of Daniella’s friends was scratching the bark of the young tree with a coin and pulling bits off. A small pile was beginning to accumulate on the ground beneath the tree.
“Don’t do that!” Agnil insisted, “You’re damaging the tree!”
“So! What are you going to do about it, Pointy-ears?” Daniella stood between them now, putting her face so close, Agnil could feel her breath.
“I’ll tell Mr Townsend!”
“You wouldn’t dare. We’ll be waiting for you after school if you try a trick like that!” sneered Daniella. She turned her back on Agnil now to face her buddies.
“Agnil!” she whispered to them just loud enough for her to hear, “What kind of stupid name is that!” They all giggled and Daniella looked over her shoulder at Agnil.
I wish I could wipe that smirk off her face, thought Agnil. But at that moment, all she wanted to do was run. She’d had enough of this bullying, enough of maths lessons that didn’t make any sense! She ran back into the cloakroom and hid in the toilet until they all went back into class.
The moment the last girl had gone through, she slid back the lock and grabbed her bag. She knew they’d miss her soon and she had to move fast. She slipped out of the door onto the playground where gulls were swooping down, picking up the crumbs of the snacks that the children had dropped. Empty crisp packets swirled in the wind.
Ducking down so that she was lower than the windows, she crept along the wall until she was near the gate. She made a dash for it and hid behind a hedge. Luckily the hedge ran parallel to the school field for quite a distance. She could make her getaway unseen.
She didn’t dare go back home in case one of the neighbours spotted her and called the school, or even worse, the police! She would go for a walk by the river for a while and then head home later when it was dark and before her dad got home from work.
It was even chillier down by the river as she looked for somewhere dry to sit. She found a large rock tucked behind a bush where nobody would see her if they were passing. She pulled out the sandwiches she had in her backpack that her dad had made for her packed lunch that morning and bit into them. Cheese and pickle. He really wasn’t very good at making exciting packed lunches!
When she finished eating, she pulled at the chain around her neck and unclasped it. Agnil held the ring with its flat blue stone between her fingers.
Over the past two months Estil had taught her daughter how she could open a channel in her mind when she wanted to speak to her and Agnil knew what to do. She had practised hard. She had to imagine she was making a tunnel in her mind for her mother to come through and see her standing at the end of it. Estil would then come closer until she was close enough for Agnil to hear.
Focusing on the ring, she made the channel in her mind. After a few moments the sapphire stone started to glow a fluorescent blue. As the glow faded again, Estil appeared. Her face looked sad, as if she knew what had happened.
“It’s time, Agnil,” she said. “I’m coming for you. Look for the old willow on the river bank. I’ll be there.”
Without a moment’s hesitation, Agnil put the ring securely back onto its chain, tucked it under her jumper and looked around her. About fifty metres away to her right, the old willow stood and Agnil made her way towards it. It was very shadowy under the long, sweeping branches of the tree and Agnil wasn’t sure if what she was seeing was someone there or just the branches moving as she approached.
As she reached the tree, her heart sank. There was nobody there. She looked all around her, puzzled. Surely Estil wouldn’t let her down? Then, out of the corner of her eye, she saw an arch forming out of the willow branches and, as if she were also made from the slender willow, Estil stood there, her hand reaching out for Agnil. “Come, quickly!” she urged, “We mustn’t be seen!” And the elf and her daughter passed through the arch.