JJ and the Wizard's Quest

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In JJ and the Wizard's Quest, when the injured wizard Devlin tells JJ that only he can stop the evil Annika from sucking all the joy out of the world; JJ must rely on his wits, his courage, and his new friend Bernie to outsmart the wicked Annika!

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Chapter Eight

JJ had to make his move before Bernie did anything rash. They had come for Devlin's wand and they would get Devlin's wand. At least he knew by now that it was somewhere inside the folds of Annika's robes. It hardly seemed likely that she would take it out and leave it somewhere easy to grab.

No, if JJ wanted that wand, he would have to quite literally take it from her. He knew he had a tremendous advantage with the invisibility bestowed by the amulet, but he felt anything but secure as he stepped away from the wall and headed toward Annika.

He wished there was a way he could signal to Bernie that he was about to make a move. But everyone in the lair would hear any sound he made. He could not betray his location. JJ had to use the element of surprise against Annika and trust that Bernie was at the ready, no matter what happened.

JJ crept closer to Annika. She was closely examining the book, muttering under her breath. Simon lay at attention right next to her, awaiting her next command.

When JJ stood close enough to touch Annika, he drew a deep breath for strength and courage, hoping it wasn't so deep it would call attention to his presence. Mustering as much courage as he could ever hope to possess, JJ stretched his right arm forward and reached into the folds of Annika's robe. He reached carefully, trying to pluck the wand from where he knew she had it stashed.

She might not have felt him there, except she shifted her weight just at that moment and felt his arm before he could grab the wand. JJ whipped his arm out of her way as Annika clamped her left own paw down on Devlin's wand and whirled around.

"Who's there?"

Simon jumped a mile. "What is it, Your Highnesssss?"

"Someone's there!" Annika thrashed wildly and brushed JJ's fur. Simon looked at Annika as though she had lost her mind.

Behind the display of bones, Bernie sat up, trying to comprehend what was happening and figure out a course of action at the same time.

As Annika thrashed, she happened to touch metal. She fumbled around, trying to feel the metal again and finally got a strong grip on the amulet. "He has the amulet!" she screeched.

"Who has the amulet?" Simon was completely bewildered, and JJ was frightened out of his mind. The chain of the amulet dug into the back of his neck as Annika pulled on it.

The evil witch still could not see JJ or the amulet, but she knew what she had in her hands and she wasn't letting go. "Give it up, you wretch!"

As a furious creature of passion, Annika struggled with JJ and the amulet for some time before realizing she did not need to rely on brute force alone. She held tight to the amulet around JJ's neck, but released her iron grip on Devlin's wand. Instead, she reached into the other side of her robes and pulled out the fiery red wand she'd used since she cast her first spell as an apprentice.

JJ quickly calculated his options. He could wait for what was about to come at him from the wand - which didn't seem wise - or he could free himself from Annika's grasp.

JJ ducked and twisted, slipping free from the amulet's chain. Without the amulet, JJ was no longer invisible. Annika stood triumphant, amulet in one hand and raised wand in the other. She was, however, momentarily distracted by the sudden appearance of that infernal dog in her lair. Though she'd known he was there by touch, seeing him appear in the flesh took her by surprise and she stood completely off her guard.

Seizing the moment, JJ lunged forward and reached into the folds of Annika's robe. His hands closed around Devlin's wand and he quickly dashed to the side, out of Annika's reach. With her hands full of the amulet and her own wand, she could not stop him in time.

JJ knew it was only a matter of seconds, however, before Annika got her bearings and pointed the wand his direction again. "Bernie!" JJ called, but he didn't need to. Bernie was already on his feet.

Ignoring Bernie, Annika pointed her wand directly at JJ and cackled gleefully. But at the exact same moment, Bernie cast a spell toward Annika. Bernie's spell knocked Annika off balance, and the amulet flew from her grasp. It landed on the floor a few feet from a quivering Simon.

There was a loud crack as Annika's spell hit the smudgy mirror on the wall. The mirror crashed to the ground, and the spell ricocheted off the glass and back to JJ. He yelped and clutched at his right ear, where he felt a searing pain.

Bernie's wand was raised again, pointed anew at Annika. Willing himself to ignore the pain in his ear, JJ raised Devlin's wand and pointed it at Annika as well. JJ, of course, may as well have been pointing a pencil at Annika, but she didn't know that. All she saw was the most powerful wand in the world pointed her way, backed up by Bernie's wand pointed at her from the other side of the cave.

Believing she had met her match, Annika pointed her own wand directly up. "You haven't gotten the best of me yet!" she howled. In a sudden puff of acrid smoke, she disappeared entirely.

"We scared her off! Can you believe it? We did it!" Bernie cried. "You got the wand, right?"

"Wait," JJ said, looking around for Simon. While they had defeated the evil Annika, he was fairly certain she had left her sidekick behind.

JJ's eyes quickly found the serpent, flattened against the wall, his eyes betraying the horror of what had just happened. Annika had left without him, leaving him without any magical powers at all. What was worse, she had left him in the presence of two powerful wizards.

Simon looked slowly from JJ to Bernie to the amulet on the ground just out of his reach. He considered lunging for it, finding his mistress wherever she had disappeared to, and presenting it to her. Perhaps after all these years, she would finally see what he was capable of.

Bernie pointed his wand at Simon.

"Bernie, no." JJ strode forward and picked the amulet up off the ground. He felt sorry for the serpent. Who knew how long he had been serving Annika, only to be left behind like garbage. "Leave him alone."

Before JJ could change his mind, Simon disappeared into a crack in the wall.

JJ grinned, so happy he barely even felt the burning in his right ear. "That's more like it. But we don't celebrate until we've given these back to their rightful owner." He held up Devlin's wand and the amulet. "Let's go!"

JJ and Bernie were exhilarated by their triumph, and exhausted beyond belief by the time Devlin's cave came into view. As Bernie had said, Devlin's lair was not a very long distance from Annika's.

JJ's weary legs gave out as they crossed the threshold of the cave. He sank to the ground, thinking he might never get up. Bernie sat down next to JJ and put a brotherly arm around his shoulder, nodding to the corner where the great wizard dozed peacefully.

"You think he missed us?" Bernie joked.

At the sound of intruders, Devlin shook himself awake and raised his walking stick like an enormous wand. "Who's there?"

"Someone who knows that's just a walking stick," JJ chuckled. "We're back."

Devlin blinked himself awake and beamed at the sight of Bernie and JJ. They were perhaps a little worse for wear, but obviously well. "My boys!"

Bernie rushed forward. "I'm sorry I left without your permission," he began.

"None of that." Devlin held up his paw to silence Bernie. "Did you bring back my wand?"

JJ stepped forward and held out the cool, blue wand. "In one piece, even," he said. "Bernie was an enormous help."

"Of course he was." Devlin was quiet for a moment as he took the wand and stroked it lovingly, like a long-lost child. He gazed deeply into JJ's eyes. "I cannot thank you enough, my dear boy. You have made me a great wizard once more."

Devlin pointed the blue wand at his injured leg and muttered something JJ could barely hear. Before their eyes, the withered, twisted leg grew straight and strong. Devlin stood up and stretched, taking a few practice steps.

"That feels good," he boomed. "And dare I ask ... did you retrieve the amulet?" JJ started to respond, but Devlin held up his paw again. "I should say, even if you didn't, I am eternally grateful to have my old, dear wand back in my own possession. I will find a way to deal with Annika."

But this time JJ silenced Devlin. "I don't think that will be necessary." JJ pulled the amulet from his pocket and held it out to the great wizard. He was glad to no longer be in charge of such a powerful object.

Devlin's eyes grew wide. "Well, well, well. That spell I cast to find the chosen one was certainly a doozy, wasn't it? What an extraordinary dog you are."

Devlin reached out to pat JJ's head and JJ winced. "What's this?" Devlin asked. "Injured, are you?"

"Annika's spell ricocheted off a mirror," Bernie explained as Devlin examined JJ's ear.

"I suppose it destroyed the mirror? Lucky dog, you are." Devlin pointed his wand at JJ's ear, and JJ winced, expecting another searing pain. But instead, this time he felt a cool, healing sensation. "Take a look."

JJ reached out and took a hold of a small hand mirror. Peering at his weary reflection, he saw not a battle scar, but the faintly glowing mark of a lightning bolt on his right ear. "Cool," he said.

"Yes. And not only cool, but powerful as well. You have done great things these past few days, my dear JJ. And you have earned some magical powers of your own. I have a feeling you will soon encounter more adventures, whether in this land or the next. That bolt will serve as your own wand of sorts, allowing you to fend off those who would do you harm. Use it wisely, my boy."

JJ fingered the slightly raised lightening bolt on his ear. "How exactly do I use it?"

"I suppose that's important, isn't it? You raise your ear, the one with the lightning bolt, of course. Then you say with great intention: Missilux! With practice, it will even work just by thinking your magic word."

"But what does it do?"

"That's the fun part! A powerful lightning bolt will shoot straight out of your ear and hit whatever target you aim it at. Of course, you can only use it for good. And I expect you will have many more adventures where it will come in handy."

JJ beamed. But then he noticed the usually jovial Bernie was back to the same quiet, sullen state of their first meeting.

"Thank you, Devlin," JJ said. "And you know, I could not have done any of it alone. Bernie did amazing things, spectacular magic. He was a true friend and a great wizard, as far as I could tell."

"I have no doubt." Devlin turned to Bernie. "Bernie. May I have your wand?"

His eyes downcast, Bernie handed over his wand. He knew he shouldn't have taken it when Devlin had forbidden him to use it. But after all he had accomplished, he expected Devlin to be merciful. He was stunned when Devlin tossed the wand into the fire. Tears welled up in Bernie's eyes.

JJ looked on in surprise.

"That," Devlin boomed. "Was the wand of an apprentice." Devlin then pointed his own blue wand at his walking stick in the corner, transforming it into a dazzling bronze wand. "This is the wand of a great wizard."

Devlin handed the shimmering wand to an astounded Bernie. "You showed great courage and conviction, going after JJ against my will. JJ says you performed great feats of magic, which I am looking forward to hearing about when you are better rested. But for now, you are no longer my apprentice. I will, however, be forever grateful if you would remain my friend and companion."

Soon everyone's eyes were filled with tears.

"And one more thing!" Devlin boomed, hastily wiping his eyes. Seemingly out of nowhere, he pulled a small blue hat dotted with shimmering golden stars. He plucked Bernie's plain blue hat off his head and replaced it with the new one. "A wizard needs a hat that tells all the world of his powers."

Thrilled to be mobile and without pain again, Devlin bustled about the cave preparing a meal for the famished adventurers. JJ and Bernie tripped over one another, telling Devlin everything that had happened. Interrupting, correcting, going backward and forward in the story, it all came out in a wonderful jumble Devlin would have to sort out for himself.

Despite their exhaustion, they ate and drank and laughed until late into the night. Finally, when they could no longer keep their eyes open, Devlin pointed them to their blankets on the floor. This time a flick of his restored wand added layer upon layer of fluffy down blankets until their luxurious sleeping arrangements rivaled the one in the first wise monkey's tree.

JJ slept like he'd never slept before. He slept so hard he didn't even mind Bernie's snores from across the cave. In fact, he would miss them when he returned to his own land.

For as much fun and adventure as he'd had here in Devlin's land, JJ knew he had to return home. He missed his own bed, even though it wasn't quite as luxurious as Devlin's accommodations. He missed his lawn, even with all the gopher holes. And he missed the library, where the whole adventure had first started.

In the morning, Devlin looked upon JJ with sad eyes. "You're going home, aren't you?" he asked as he poured the tea. Bernie snored loudly on the other side of the cave.

JJ nodded. "Yes. It is my home, after all."

Devlin nodded.

"Can I come back and visit?" JJ asked. "If I return to the library and find the same book..."

"You won't find it. But that's not to say you won't return. I just don't know when, or how. You're a great hero, JJ. You're wise and willing, cautious and adventurous, all at the same time. You have new experiences under your belt, new powers to your name. You'll find yourself wherever you are needed. Perhaps that will bring you back here soon. I hope so. Or perhaps you will find yourself in a completely different world, fighting altogether new battles. What I do know is this: you will achieve whatever you put your mind to. No question about that."

JJ looked at Bernie, sleeping the sleep of the righteous. "Should I wake him to say goodbye?"

"No." Devlin smiled. "You did for Bernie what I never could. You made him into a great wizard. That may be your greatest accomplishment of all. But for now, he is a very tired wizard. We'll let him rest. I don't think he could let you go without blubbering a flood of tears. And I don't think he would want you to see that, either."

JJ nodded. "Just tell him ... tell him..." JJ couldn't find the words.

Devlin's eyes twinkled. "I will. Now let's get you back to your home."

Before JJ could say anything more, Devlin pointed his wand directly at him, muttered a spell and winked.

In an instant, JJ felt the same sensation he'd felt when he answered the very first riddle correctly. The cave swirled away, the ground beneath him shifted. JJ fell, not down, but through. Time rushed past him, ahead of him, around him. But this time, he was not afraid.

JJ landed with a jolt in the reference section of the library. He rubbed his head, blinked his eyes a few times, and stood up.

He wandered slowly out of the library, nodding politely at Sheila the parrot, and stepped out into the bright sunshine. What a beautiful day it was.

JJ felt a small twinge on his ear and reached up. There, beneath his fingertips, he felt the slightly raised mark of a lightning bolt. His lightning bolt.

He grinned. Perhaps a little adventure wasn't so bad after all.

- End of Story -