Tara Silver will soon be a true witch. She will shortly be enrolled in one of the largest schools for witchcraft, the so-called Ark of Witches in London. However, her first day in the witch school is going completely different than Tara could have ever imagined in her wildest dreams. The young witch realizes that she has very powerful skills: the magic of the empty hand. When her best friend Sandra gets into trouble as a result of a sorcerer changing sides, it is hard to know what to do. Can Tara help her? And what is the mysterious Book of Shadows that Tara finds in the witches’ library?
*** The second volume of the series “Ark of Witches” will be translated from German into English in 2016. ***
Tara could hardly wait. Tomorrow would be her first day at her new school and she would finally become a real witch. She had yearned for this day for such a long time. Two days ago she had finally celebrated her thirteenth birthday. That was the age determined by the Witches’ Council that young female and male witches were admitted to the witch schools, the so-called Ark of Witches. The wise witches of the council had finally agreed on 13 years of age because in the past there had been many magic accidents when the schools had still been open to young primary school age witches. The small witch children had always simply practiced magic without considering the consequences, and not even the teachers could manage the situation and revert every spell in time. Some classrooms rather looked like pet shops than schoolrooms because of all the different animals the children had conjured up. Even vermin exterminators had to be organized. It was pure chaos. As magically structured learning was not possible at such a young age, the Witch Council had finally decided heavy-heartedly to increase the admission age for the Ark of Witches, and at the same time introduce witch primary schools that young witches had to attend from the age of six. At primary school, there was an absolute ban on magic and the students abided by it. The fact that they had a very strict teacher made obeying the ban that much easier. Regarding the age of entry to the Ark of Witches, there was only one exemption and this applied to those who would turn thirteen by the end of the current school year. They could already be admitted at the age of twelve. Otherwise, the young witches would have to wait until the next school year to finally begin their magical studies. Tara was very happy about this rule. It would be a true disaster for her not to be in the same witch class as her best friend Sandra, who would only turn thirteen in December.
Tara was obviously overwhelmed: after she tied the laces of her new stylish shoes—a birthday present from her mother—and moved to stand up, she realized that her spiral earrings had gotten caught in her blouse. She peered at her caught earring from the corner of her eye and freed it cautiously from her blouse. The thirteen-year-old girl was under time pressure. Her mother had come to her room in the morning, woken her up with an astonished face and asked why she was still not dressed. Tara had asked with a sleepy voice what she was talking about. It appeared that her mother had thought she had told her the day before that they would go today and buy her witch tools together. Just in time for tomorrow’s enrollment. Tara’s mother apologized for her forgetfulness and told her to get ready fast so that they would have the privilege of being among the first in the shop after its opening. Only today would all goods be reduced to half price. That was the main reason why her mother had delayed the purchase for such a long time. Tara had agreed on the shopping tour more or less excitedly. She would have preferred of course to buy all her school stuff alone. After all she was no longer a baby. But her mother had insisted on joining her, as she was afraid her daughter could buy defective goods. Being a trained witch she knew which magic tool was flawless and which was not.
As if she wasn’t already feeling enough disgrace, on her way to the large standing mirror to eye her complete outfit, Tara stumbled over her pink plush slippers. She was just picking up her slippers to throw under the bed when she remembered happily that she was a now witch and had powers that went along with her new title!
“Threespot, do you want to see magic?” she asked her little tomcat who had just started his morning grooming upon her blanket. It seemed he was not really paying her much attention. Tara’s tomcat was only two months old, and his fluffy fur was mainly white. Only three black spots, one around his left eye, one on his right forepaw and one on his belly, resisted the prevailing white. His unusual markings inspired the name given to him by the young witch. Threespot suited him perfectly, plus common cat names were just too boring.
“Okay, I understand, you do not want to witness my super witch powers,” she said to Threespot in an amused tone before gazing at her shoes. With her right hand she gestured to the left, but suddenly and unexpectedly, as if taken by an invisible hand, her slippers flew in a completely different direction and bounced against the wall. One shoe knocked over a white porcelain vase that was standing on a small table. It burst loudly on the hard floor. The tomcat was startled by the noise, jumped up and hid anxiously under the bed.
Tara was also startled. “Oops!”
“Tara?” her mother shouted from below. “What are you doing up there?”
“Threespot accidently knocked over the vase,” the young witch lied, “he was trying to catch a fly.” She felt very sorry that she had accused her innocent tomcat, but if she had told the truth, the consequence would have been a ban on magic. And as a future witch student, that would be the last thing she needed.
“Clean up the shards later, sweetheart. Come down now, please! Do you want to become a real witch or not? If not, we don’t have to fly for shopping.”
“Of course I want to become a witch,” Tara said loudly. “I am coming!” She looked from one plush slipper to the other in dismay. The shoe that had given the vase the fatal push was laying on the small table, while the other had landed in front of the open wardrobe. When Tara looked at the shoe in front of the wardrobe she had to smile because Threespot had come back from under the bed and stuck his small head into the slipper. The scene was quite sweet.
Tara stood in front of the mirror and was annoyed immediately. In her rush she had chosen a gray blouse and black trousers. What a boring combination. No, she could not go shopping like this. Tara was afraid that some of her future classmates would be among the potential special offer buyers. She did not want to get the reputation of having a lapse of fashion taste on the first day. She needed some color! Staring at her reflection, she blinked once shortly—and suddenly the black the trousers turned canary yellow. Then she looked at her gray blouse and blinked again—immediately it turned forest green. She repeated this blinking spell in short intervals until she was happy with the color combination. The now blue blouse and green trousers harmonized perfectly.
“You can do that at least,” Tara told her reflection.
“Tara? I won’t wait any longer ….”
“Just a second!” the young witch shouted in a slightly annoyed tone.
“How many seconds exactly am I supposed to wait?”
Tara did not answer such a silly question. Before she left her messy room—she really hoped that at school she would quickly learn a tidying up spell—she gently put her right hand under her tomcat’s belly and picked him up. He answered with a sweet meow. With the other hand she gently removed the slipper that he was still holding on to with his claws. She wanted to move him into a room that wasn’t littered with glass shards. The girl quickly made her way down the hallway and entered her mother’s bedroom. Cautiously she put Threespot and the plush slipper on the blue velvet comforter of the huge bed. The tomcat started to play with the slipper immediately as his tail moved back and forth happily. Threespot would be safe here while Tara shopped with her mother.
Tara left her mother’s room closing the door behind her. Then she ran downstairs as if a swarm of bees was behind her. Once downstairs she saw her mother confidently leaning against her flying broom with crossed arms. She looked at Tara rebuking. “No surprise that it took you so long the way you have vamped yourself up. I hope you know that we are not flying to a model casting but only shopping.” Her mother smiled amused.
“Shall I go shopping and expose myself to the humiliation of someone from my future class seeing me in unstylish clothes? Absolutely out of the question.”
“Why do you young people always define themselves through the eyes of others?”
Tara laughed. “Nice joke, mom. Why don’t you try to explain that to my classmates. I am simply adjusting to the times, and that means dressing smartly. Tomorrow I will finally become a real witch and don’t want to make a mockery of myself in class.”
“It was so different in the past. It didn’t matter if someone had a crooked nose or their teeth looked awry, we all respected each other anyways. No one even thought to conjure away an imperfection. Today the idea of simply being yourself is unthinkable.”
Tara wrinkled her brows and wanted to ask what the connection to fashion was, but her mother kept on talking, “Today, magic is more and more used to improve one’s look. That is not the old way of the goddess.”
“Oh no,” Tara moaned, “not this story again.” When Tara realized that she had actually spoken the sentence out aloud—she had just wanted to think it—she added, “I didn’t mean it like that, you know.”
“Tara, please respect the goddess!”
The young girl really did not want to hear a sermon about the goddess. So she looked for a chance to end the conversation and glanced at the antique pendulum clock that was standing in the hallway. “Don’t we have to get started? It is surely time to go. Would hate to be late!”
Her mother looked at the clock, too, and said, “Oh, we will have to hurry now. The shop already opens in fifteen minutes.”
Tara’s mother grabbed the broomstick and left the house together with her daughter. While Tara was quickly locking the door, her mother threw the broom into the air where it hung horizontally about one meter off the ground. Tara’s mother gathered her skirt in the middle and sat gracefully side-saddle on the broom. Tara sat herself down astride behind her. She kept a certain distance from her mother and held the broomstick with both hands.
Tara’s mother looked up to make sure there were no low flying witches above them. Flying so low was against the rules. Within cities witches were only allowed to fly at a certain height. This was to prevent witches from getting hurt by power poles, skyscrapers or trees, and of course to also not endanger other people. When Tara’s mother saw that there was no danger of collision, she commanded her broom, “And off we go!”
The broom rose horizontally, higher and higher, leaving the multicolored houses of London’s Camden district smaller and smaller behind them. Camden, where they lived, was one of London’s most beautiful districts. When they reached the respective flight level, Tara’s mother also sat astride.
Tara was truly relieved that her mother was now sitting on the broom the way a witch was supposed to sit. As she embraced her mother’s slim middle, holding on tight, she said to her, “In the future can you please sit on the broom normally from the very beginning?! I can no longer stand to see you sitting sideways on the broom when taking off. And don’t tell me again that nothing can happen to you because you can transform into a bird. Have you not considered that I would then be sitting on the broom alone, spinning through the air without a guide? I cannot fly by myself. That is not very responsible of you. You wouldn’t want the witch youth welfare to get involved would you?”
“Do you have anything else you want to say to me or are you finished?” her mother asked sarcastically. “You have quite the attitude today.”
“Mom, I mean it well. I only say it because I love you.”
“Okay, okay, you are right. In the future I will sit normally on the broom when taking off.”
“So mote it be,” Tara said. Her mother had to laugh because witches usually used these four words to reinforce a spell.
All around them witches were flying. Air traffic was busy despite the many heavy dark rain clouds.
“Mom, is there a witch festival today? There are so many witches in the air.”
“Oh my dear goddess, I fear the worst. Not a witch festival. No, they all want to go to the bargain shop.” She looked over her shoulder. “Tara, hang on! Mama is going to mentally switch on the turbo-speed.”
“Don’t forget the aura belt!”
“Oh my goodness, I almost forgot. Thanks, Tara!”
“You’re welcome! If I wasn’t reminding you of everything, you would have lost your broom license a long time ago.”
Out of nothing, a bright purple energy circle appeared above. It slowly lowered until it reached the center of their bodies, clamping the both of them securely.
Tara moaned. “Not so tight, please!”
Tara’s mother used mental force to loosen the aura belt a bit. “Better?”
“Yes, much better.”
However, Tara still held on to her mother firmly. Suddenly, the broom took off like a rocket, overtaking two witches in one swoop. Both Tara’s auburn hair and her mother’s stood straight out behind them as a result of the airstream. One of the witches they had overtaken had been thrown out of the flight path due to the sudden gust of wind. She would have collided with an oncoming sorcerer if he had not quickly corrected his broom a meter downwards. An older woman almost lost her pink wig that she only just almost managed to catch in time. The witch granny shouted at Tara’s mother, “Shame! Such a person should lose their broom license.”
“It is an emergency!” Tara’s mother shouted back.
“They all say that,” the old woman mumbled—now just to herself as Tara and her mother were already far away.
Tara wondered if the two witches were also on their way to the shop. Suddenly the broom lost speed. “What is happening?” Tara asked horrified.
“Uh-oh, the tank is empty.”
When the young witch turned around she saw that the broom’s bristles were only discharging a little pixie dust, an unmistakable sign that the flying magic of the broom was gradually declining.
“Today’s brooms aren’t good for anything,” Tara’s mother complained.
Just then, the previously overtaken witch granny pulled up alongside them on the left side and slowed down so that she was going the same low speed. She looked furiously to the right at Tara’s mother. “Well, ever heard of the threefold witch law? Everything you send out will come back to you threefold, darling!” With one hand she held her wig and took off, quickly reaching a normal flight speed. A malicious witch giggle trailed behind her.
Tara had to laugh. “Well, mom, there you are.”
“Don’t start taunting me now!” Tara’s mum said jokingly and directed the broom to the next broom service station. “Kudos to the Witch Council that had the great idea to put a service station every hundred meters.” Broom service stations were small flower islands kept in the air by the mighty magic of air pixies.
At the very moment the broom landed in a sea of flowers, wafting a pleasant fragrance into the air. The broom’s bristles had begun to turn red, indicating that all the flying magic had been used. Before the two witches dismounted, Tara’s mother conjured away the aura belt that had secured both of them to the broom.
“You just barely made it,” a squeaky voice said.
Both turned around at almost the same time. Tara’s mother smiled at the blue-skinned, plump service station pixy and said in an amused tone, “Tell me about it.” On every flower island, an air pixy was responsible for the job of filling station attendant.
Tara stared unbelievingly at the large, flittering pixy and asked herself how such a fat magic being was able to hold herself in the air. She assumed that it could only be a spell the pixy had put on her wings. There could no other solution to how those delicate wings supported such a creature.
Just as Tara ended her thought, the pixy appeared in front of her face flittering and with a rebuking look on her face. “No, my witch child, I have not put a spell on my wings. My wings are extraordinarily strong, despite looking fragile. It is not very nice to call me fat. Even though it may not be obvious, I was class winner in flying. And no, I was not thin back then.”
Tara swallowed dryly. “How ...?”
She was interrupted abruptly by the pixy, “How do I know what you are thinking?” The pixy looked at her insistently. “You really don’t know?”
“Don’t know what?”
“That us pixies can read your thoughts, like an open book.”
Tara looked at her mother wondering why she had never told her.
“I’ll explain later.” Her mother looked at the pixy disapprovingly. “Sorry, but could you charge my broom now, please?! We are in a hurry and have to ...”
“Go to the magic shop,” the pixy finished her sentence, “I know, I know.”
The round creature pulled a long pixy wand out from a little bag that was hanging on a belt at her side. How such a small bag contained such a wand was not clear to Tara.
“Sorry for my silly thoughts before,” Tara said.
The strict face of the pixy became much softer. “Apology accepted, but only because I can tell you really mean it.” She blinked at Tara conspiratorially as she pranced by on her way to tamper with the bristles of the broom. When she was above the bristles, she swung her long magic wand back and forth, until a vast quantity of glitter fell from her wand, charging the broom with magical energy. The red color vanished immediately and was replaced by a pleasant, wooden brown.
Before the two witches took off again—belted—the pixy searched the broomstick for the code number of the witch broom. When she found it, she wrote it onto a memo pad diligently, just like a meter maid, and double-checked to be sure that she had noted the right number. Every witch broom was marked with a code assigned to a specific witch. At the end of every month, all witches received a refueling bill from the service station.