“You may not allow me to leave, but I dare you to put your hands on me.”
“Yeah, or me,” Idris said, broadening his stance defiantly.
A magical battle of wills ensued. Enough power flew around to practically make my hair stand on end. Ari added to the uproar by throwing a few zaps of her own inside my head. I’d need a bottle of Advil when this was over. Apparently, though, Sylvia was right. We were at a standoff. I knew Owen could take out Idris, but Sylvia seemed to know her stuff. With Sam gone, Philip out, and Rod looking after Marcia, the two sides were evenly matched. I supposed we could leave them with the dragons until they begged for mercy, but that wasn’t an ideal solution.
Then I remembered that I temporarily had Ari’s power. I had to fight her to use it, but the next time Idris sent a burst of magic in Owen’s direction, I focused as hard as I could on deflecting it, raising my hands as I’d seen wizards do. I was surprised to see sparks shooting from my fingertips and turning back Idris’s magic. That gave Owen an opening, and he caught Idris in a spell that immobilized him. “Nice work,” Owen said to me.
“I thought you said you weren’t magical,” Marcia said.
“It’s temporary,” I said before returning my attention to the standoff. The odds had moved in our favor. Keeping Idris was the goal, and Sylvia was a bonus.
A loud pop echoed in the chamber, and Ethelinda appeared in a burst of silver sparkles. She wore a Viking maiden’s costume out of a low-budget production of a Wagner opera, complete with brass breastplate and horned helmet. The outfit looked funny with bits of ruffles, lace, tulle, taffeta, and velvet peeking out from under the brass. “My senses tell me you’re ready for me,” she said. “I’m here to relieve you of your burden.”
Before any of us could stop her, Ethelinda pulled back her wand and pointed it at me while saying some nonsensical-sounding words. If I’d thought I had a headache before, that was nothing compared to what I felt next. I couldn’t stop myself from screaming, and I would have hit the ground if Owen hadn’t caught me. Through the blinding red haze of pain I thought I saw a tiny spark floating in front of me. That spark grew until it was a human-sized fairy.
“There you go,” Ethelinda said with satisfaction.
“Get her!” I shouted. Owen was closest, so he left my side and got a grip on Ari’s arm before she could reach Idris. I moaned, and not just because of the headache. Ethelinda, bless her well-intentioned but incompetent heart, had really complicated matters. Ari had been our one sure bet in this whole situation, and now she was loose.
I had just got back to my feet when something grabbed me. “Hey, what is this?” I shouted. I couldn’t see anything. An invisible force held me in place. With my immunity gone so I could be rid of Ari, and without access to Ari’s magical powers, I was in real danger.
Idris leered at Owen. “Okay, then,” he said, his tone full of smug superiority. “You’ve got my girlfriend hostage. I’ve got your girlfriend hostage. And I’d be willing to bet that you like yours better than I like mine, so I think I have the advantage.”
“Hey!” Ari yelled. “Maybe I want to stay with them. I’ll tell them everything. So, there.”
Idris ignored her. “Either you call off your dragons and let Ari, Sylvia, and me leave, or I’ll take care of your girlfriend. You might be able to protect her, but that would mean dropping your attention to me, even for a split second.”
I struggled but couldn’t move a muscle. For a moment, everyone else seemed stuck in the spell I was. They just stared at me. Then I noticed what they were staring at. A blue magical flame pooled around my feet, moving toward me. In moments, it would be on me, and I could already feel the heat. Meanwhile, Sylvia and her goons were taking off toward the exit that led deeper into the tunnels. Ethan tried to catch her in a tackle, but Mr. Bones shoved him aside, sending him sprawling. The dragons roared, but Sylvia did something with her hands, and I feared for the dragons’ safety. “She’s getting away!” I yelled. When the others still focused on me, I insisted, “It’s just a little blue flame. No big deal. Go!”
When Idris grabbed Ari and made to follow Sylvia, the others finally jolted out of their shock and took action. Owen did something to counter whatever it was that Sylvia was doing to his dragons while Merlin took on Sylvia and Rod tried to stop Idris and Ari, with some dive-bombing from Rocky and Rollo.
Marcia ran to my side. “What’s going on, Katie? Are you okay?”