The Music Thief
By Susan Hili
Mia wondered why her father’s stick hadn't combusted yet from poking the campfire so often. Or why Ruby’s hands weren’t blistered like hers from grasping sparks.
‘Watch this everyone,’ said Ruby, opening both her fists. She giggled as fireflies flew out and buzzed around her sister’s head.
Mia curled her top lip. ‘Hilarious.’
Mum chuckled. ‘Clever girl.’
‘Aunt Laurella’s on her way,’ said Dad, prodding the fire once more.
Mia turned to her father. ‘I wish Grandpa would join us.’
Dad gave her a half smile. ‘Not without Bob.’
The campfire flared into a large ring as Laurella’s graceful silhouette stepped out dressed like a gypsy princess. After endless hugs and kisses Laurella took the twins’ hands. ‘Are you ready?’ she asked.
‘Yes,’ they chorused.
While Laurella led them towards the ring of fire, Grandpa’s sad face entered Mia’s thoughts. ‘Tell Grandpa we’ll bring Bob home,’ she called.
Mia cupped both ears with her hands as they broke through the international witch zone and into Leurella’s sunny courtyard.
‘Here we are,’ said Laurella.
Chimera reminded Mia of a fairytale castle, marble walls shimmering in the sunlight, even a turret with a gargoyle perched on top. Wait. I don't remember a gargoyle, she thought.
Just then Laurella called her and held up two backpacks. ‘What you need is inside,’ she said.
'Thanks,’ said Mia, rummaging through the contents and pulling out a stick. The colour drained out of her face. ‘Where’s our broomsticks?’ she asked.
‘They're wands,’ said Laurella. ‘Think “moolabah” and see what happens.’
The word flashed through Mia’s mind and instantly the sticks transformed into broomsticks. Mia’s purple and Ruby’s pink.
‘Now, listen carefully,’ said Laurella in a hushed stern voice. ‘Remember, your broomsticks are programmed to take commands by using telepathy.’
From above, a winged shadow flew across the sunshine and landed beside Laurella.
Mia gave it a once over. ‘I saw you on top of the turret.’ Her eyebrows snapped together. ‘You're a statue!’
Laurella laughed and ran her hand over the creature’s silver fur. ‘Caprilop is definitely not a statue,’ she said, raising a brow. ‘I handpicked him myself.’
Caprilop grinned and snorted green smoke from his nostrils.
‘He’s your guide and bodyguard,’ added Laurella. ‘Stay close to Caprilop and good luck.’
The twins nodded. They slipped on their backpacks and tossed one leg over their broomsticks.
‘Press the red button on your right,’ instructed Laurella.
Together they pressed the button and beneath them a customised saddle cradled their bottoms perfectly.
‘Foollow meee,’ bleated Caprilop, snorting green smoke as he leaped into the sky. The twins flew behind giggling as they bumped along on Caprilop’s back draughts.
Mia soon became woozy. The higher she flew the woozier she became. Caprilop blew green smoke over her to help clear her head.
But Ruby flew like a bird with no help. ‘Weeee,’ she squealed. ‘Look, no hands.’ She swerved past Mia laughing until she hit turbulence and screamed as she tumbled head first into feathery clouds. Her broomstick shook itself like a wet dog before spearing in after her.
Even though Mia’s body was tense with dread, she willed herself into the clouds below and discovered Ruby glued like bubblegum to her broomstick. She suppressed the urge to scream with relief. ‘You could’ve broken your neck!’ said Mia while her eyes darted around. ‘Where the heck is Caprilop?’ Mia shivered as the clouds darkened and the reek of sulphur invaded her nostrils.
Ruby’s lower lip quivered. ‘I want to go home,’ she stuttered.
Mia peered through a gap in the dark clouds. ‘This way,’ she called. They hovered over dead trees to a small clearing.
Ruby frowned and jumped off her broomstick. She angled her head. ‘I hear music,’ she whispered, wiping away her tears.
Mia’s face lit up, ‘It’s Bob!’
Ruby pointed to a yawning cave. ‘It’s coming from there.’
‘Bob’s inside,’ said Mia. They rode to the cave’s entrance and gingerly continued inside where lanterns and music led them to a chamber jam-packed with musical instruments. Perched on top of a bass drum, Grandpa’s fiddle strummed himself with one finger.
‘It’s about time,’ scolded Bob.
‘Nice to see you too, Bob,’ said Mia, shoving him in her backpack. A roar echoed from deep inside the cave’s bowels followed by thundering footsteps. A vision popped into Mia's head, of a monster gobbling them up.
‘It’s Musofloss,’ muttered Bob inside her backpack.
‘What’s a Musofloss?’ asked Mia.
‘The thieving warlock that stole me.’
‘Let’s go,’ yelled Mia. They mounted their broomsticks and flew toward the cave’s mouth.
‘Snakes,’ screamed Ruby, arriving first. Hundreds of cascading serpents had weaved their long slivering bodies over the exit.
Mia’s heart bounced around her ribcage like a rubber ball. She wondered how long it would be before Musofloss caught up to them. Just as she thought their lives were over, green smoke oozed from the barricade, igniting a reptile frenzy. Like overstretched elastic bands the serpents retracted, hissing as they squirmed back inside the walls.
‘Musofloss won’t let us go,’ yelled Bob.
When the smoke cleared Caprilop emerged trotting on the spot as though he was about to wet himself.
‘Caprilop will save us!’ Mia assured him.
‘Foollow meee,’ bleated Caprilop, snorting green smoke as he launched into the sky.
The twins followed him over bubbling mudflats towards Chimera. Suddenly, a bloodcurdling laugh rumbled behind them and Ruby screamed. Musofloss had caught up!
Mia’s stomach clenched when she spotted a devilish figure with bat wings dragging Ruby backwards. ‘Noooo,’ she shouted, whipping her broomstick around.
‘We’re next,’ screamed Bob, peering out of the backpack.
‘Not on your fiddle,’ yelled Mia, targeting her broomstick carefully and rammed the pointy end up the warlock’s bottom.
Musofloss roared with shock as he plummeted straight into a boiling geyser.
That night the twins curled beside Grandpa on Laurella’s squishy settee while Bob strummed a soft melody. Mum and Dad’s eyes shone with pride as Laurella announced via witchskype, to the universal witch committee, that the twins had vanquished the music thief.