Being a shadow has its downsides. I can’t pick things up (or if I can I haven’t figured out the trick to it), I can be stuffed into an ink bottle, and I should normally be spending my time pantomiming whatever my witch is doing.
Racing down hallways in an evil king’s castle has its downsides too. There were traps that could catch even people like me, it was easy to get lost, and there were definitely more bad guys around me than backup to be had.
All that said, I had to admit that I had things pretty good.
I’d run away from Penny, but as witches go, she really wasn’t that bad. Proof of that came from the fact that I was running down hallways in an evil king’s castle and not safely tucked under my witch’s feet. When most of your memories involve doing what someone else told you to do, being free to run and explore and get into all sorts of trouble is the most amazing feeling in the world.
“Will Wolf be able to handle Mulgrave?” Betty, the goblin girl, asked as we climbed a tall staircase that led to the upper floors of the castle.
“Let me check,” I said and sent a silent ping to Penny. Speaking mind-to-mind was like the having the coolest cellphone ever.
“Mulgrave got a few spells off, but nobody was hurt,” Penny said. “From what I’m seeing, I don’t think he’s going to be a problem anymore. Wolf is sitting on him.”
“What if he gets a hand free?” I asked.
“Wolf has Mulgrave’s head in his jaws,” Penny said. “I don’t think Mulgrave wants to try casting anything. Or, you know, moving too much.”
I relayed the information to Betty who flashed me a toothy grin of her own.
“You know I think I like working with with you,” she said and bounded up a pair of stairs that her little goblin legs really should have had more of a problem with.
“Do you think you can break the spells on this place?” I asked. One of the advantages of being a shadow was that I didn’t have muscles or lungs or other inconvenient parts that could get tired, so talking while we ran wasn’t a problem.
“I’d be a terrible goblin if I couldn’t,” Betty said. “That’s basically the only thing people think we’re good for.”
“I don’t think that,” I said. “But then I don’t know too much about goblins at all. Is that weird?”
“I don’t think so,” Betty said. “You’re brand new to this right?”
“I am but I’ve got all this other weird information in my head,” I said.
“I’m not an expert on witches, but that sounds pretty common from what I do know,” Betty said.
“I wonder where it comes from?” I said.
“Your familiar maybe?” Betty said. “It always seems like witches and their pets share a pretty special bond. Maybe some of what he knows rubbed off on you?”
“Sounds as good as anything else,” I said. “I’ll have to see what Grandma Apples says if we survive this.”
We’d made it to the central corridor on the highest floor. I don’t know what kind of egomaniac puts his throne room on the top of his castle where his guests would need to climb a bazillion stairs to get to him, but that was how the Miser King seemed to like things.
“So, the owner of this place is going to know I’m messing with his stuff the moment I plop my butt on his throne,” Betty said.
“I will know far sooner than that little goblin!”
The Miser King didn’t need an entourage to capture us but he brought one anyways. In a fight I figured I could take all of zero opponents, being immaterial and all. Betty looked pretty scrappy but I figured her odds of taking on the Miser King were on the poor side. That left us with the fifty or so guards the Miser King teleported in with.
Since it was his castle I couldn’t really complain that he had a magical option for returning to it quickly. He wouldn’t have been much of an Evil Overlord if he didn’t have a good security system in place and Betty and I had been tripping every alarm that we could find on the entire run from the entrance she and Wolf snuck in from up to the top of the castle where we were finally caught.
If anything, despite the overwhelming force the Miser King saw fit to bring with him, I had to dock the guy points. A goblin and a shadow aren’t much of a threat but he’d still let us run around for far too long.
I don’t have nerves, but I felt a tingling excitement run out to the end of the fingers and toes. I’m my own person, I figured that out well before Seeming did, but like her, I’m part of Penny too. I’m the part she doesn’t want people to see. Penny’s a nice girl, overall, but deep down, everyone has a mean streak of some size. Penny doesn’t like to let hers out, so that part of her was all mine, and that meant that I got to enjoy, on a deep and personal level, what I knew was going to happen to the Miser King.
“I commend you on trying to take my throne room,” the Miser King said. “Moving to steal my power is just the kind of thinking I like to see in an underling. Sadly, since I don’t have the time to break and bind either of you properly, I’ll have to settle for simply grinding you down for your magical essences. It’s a waste of talent, but once this ritual is complete I’ll have my pick of talented young children I suppose.”
“Oh no, does that mean we’re not going to be able to disrupt the wards that protect this castle and get our friends to safety?” I asked, though I think the mocking tone in my voice may have given things away a little early.
“You were never going to be able to sabotage my defenses,” the Miser King said. “You didn’t even get close them and now I have you and your friends to use as the fuel I need.”
“Yeah, umm, Betty, you might want to cover your ears,” I said, just in time for a deafening explosion to rock the castle and send all of the people with actual material bodies tumbling to their butts.