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Chapter 3

The Witch's Apprentice

Sarah looked below in dismay and terror. She was floating about two miles above the earth's surface, heading east. Directly below her was a green forest, and in a clearing behind her Cheryl, Lenny, and Ralph were searching frantically for a trace of their vanished sister. And here she was, right under their noses, (or above them,) floating slowly towards Galgolb and Ryoo!

The journey to Galgolb was not a bit like Sarah had hoped it would be. Instead if disappearing and reappearing in a few moments, she spent hours simply floating through the air, frightened that she might suddenly fall or end up somewhere she did not want to be.

After looking below herself only once, Sarah shut her eyes tightly and didn't open them for several hours. She disliked heights at the best of times, and this was definitely the worst she'd ever felt.

The sun beat down on her, she passed through low, wet clouds, soft breezes caressed her and mighty winds buffeted her. All in all, it was the most miserable trip Sarah had ever taken. She didn't notice as she passed over forests, mountains, deserts, wastelands and swamps, but when she finally opened her eyes she was coming up on a city. It was built of black stone, cold, proud, and cruel, and housed all of Ryoo's slaves. It seemed to tell Sarah of misery and despair, but she shut that out and thought only of the power. She desperately wanted that power, and would do anything to get it, or so she told herself.

Sarah realized she was coming up on a castle, black like the rest of the city, but with blood-red flags flying from the turrets, and banners of the same hue hanging from windows and over walls. Menacingly powerful was how it struck the girl, but she ignored her feelings of consternation and thought of all she could accomplish using the power she felt. She'd show them! Castle Ryoo

Sarah flew silently through a huge window and was dropped a few inches to the floor. She surveyed her surroundings in partial disbelief and partial satisfaction. The word 'witch' conjured up just such images as these: a medieval castle; but Ryoo was also a tyrant. Sarah was in a huge, grandiose hall. Tapestries of red and black hung on the walls and a black carpet covered the entire floor but a strip of red leading right up to the throne. On the throne sat Ryoo.

With one finger the Witch beckoned the girl, and Sarah walked up the strip of red, trying not to seem too eager. It wasn't too hard, for the Witch was terrifying in a subtle way.

Reaching the throne, Sarah quickly fell on one knee and bent her head show respect and humility. She stood to face the deadly queen.

"Who are you?" Ryoo asked in a voice that chilled Sarah to the bone.

Sarah suppressed a shudder and, firmly stifling her urge to stammer, answered in a confident tone, "I am Sarah Bryant, of Terra. I came to your world through one of El Shaddai's portals, but I do not serve Him. I wish to become a Witch, and I came to implore you to teach me."

Ryoo regarded the girl with a slight frown, seeming to contemplate her request. Finally she said, "What will you give me in return?"

"What do you ask of me?"

Ryoo smiled. "Good, good. You are willing to give what I ask?"

Sarah nodded mutely.

"That was my attitude toward my tutor, so long ago." She paused, then said, "I ask of you only what he asked of me: that you serve me and me only for the rest of your life. Once I teach you what I have learned, you must swear to never use it to overthrow me. Do you swear these things by the oath of the Katamobi?"

Sarah nodded. "By the oath of the Katamobi, I swear to serve only the Witch Ryoo and never use my power to overthrow her."

Far across the countless miles, Angel shuddered with foreboding, and Cheryl felt a cold dread squeeze her heart. Ralph looked up to see if a cloud had crossed the face of the sun, but there was none, and there was no accounting for the shadow that dampened his usually cheerful spirit.

A wicked grin spread across Ryoo's beautiful face. "Very well then, I swear by the oath of the Katamobi to instruct Sarah-Bryant of Terra in all the arts of power, magic, and Witches. Does that satisfy you, young aspiring Witch?"


Ryoo smiled, contented and evil. "Then I hearby name you Inaryoo, the Witch's apprentice."

The Witch eyed Sarah's jeans and T-shirt with distaste. "First, you must get into suitable clothing."

She clapped her hands once. Instantly, a young maid appeared from one of the many portals that lined the hall. Her greenish-blue eyes were fearful in the lovely face framed by strawberry blond hair.

"Take my apprentice to her chambers and attire her in the clothes you have set out for her."

The terrified young woman nodded and said nervously to Sarah, "If it be y-your pleasure, please do f-follow me, my-my lady."

The girl waited for the slave to start down the hallway, then took her leave of Ryoo and followed. The servant timidly led Sarah to a room not far from the hall. Inside was a large, luxurious covered bed, and a wardrobe which held dresses, capes, robes, undergarments and shoes, all beautiful and all of a depthless black.

The maiden had lain out on the bed all that was needed for inside the castle, and now she nervously helped the Witch's new apprentice put them on.

Sarah took no more notice of the maid than she would an insect until the poor girl, in her anxiousness, accidentally pinched Sarah's foot while slipping on the black fur slippers.

"Ouch!" cried Sarah angrily. "How dare you!"

The servant moved back in fear. "Please, please, mistress," she stammered. "I--I'm very sorry. It--it won't happen again."

"What is your name?" Sarah demanded hotly, unwilling to let the matter drop.

"M-my name is Mariel, my lady, of the Men." The girl bowed low.

Sarah snorted in contempt and stalked out the door. Mariel scurried after, afraid to follow and afraid to leave, for she had not been dismissed.

Sarah took a wrong turn somewhere on the way back to the gigantic chamber Ryoo waited in, and became hopelessly lost in the labyrinth of rooms and passages. Finally, she was forced to turn to the servant girl behind her and ask for directions.

Mariel timidly suggested that she lead the way, and Sarah, though angry, saw the sense in the older girl's proposal and relented. The young slave knew the castle like her mother's kitchen, and they were soon in Ryoo's presence once again. Mariel backed against the wall, fearfully waiting for orders, but Sarah walked right up to the throne and bowed in the same hasty manner as before, then stood proud and tall to face the Witch.

Ryoo looked her student up and down. "Black becomes you unwell, Inaryoo. But that is a very superficial aspect of being a Witch. Come."

Ryoo stood imperiously and walked to a door of black wood set in the wall behind the throne. Sarah didn't hesitate to follow, but Mariel felt like a rabbit caught in a trap. The maid didn't want to follow the two ahead of her, but she hadn't been dismissed, and Ryoo would severely punish those servants who had the gall to leave without permission.

Ryoo drew an iron key from somewhere among the folds of her robe and opened the door. Behind it a flight of black stone steps spiraled majestically upward.

Mariel felt dizzy with fright and indecision. Then a soft, soothing Voice spoke to her heart. "Be not afraid, for I am with you."

Instantly, the servant girl's fear and confusion evaporated like a fog bank hit by noonday sun. She gathered her wits and slipped behind the Witch and her pupil as they began to ascend the stairs.

Sarah plodded slowly up the steps. It seemed as if she'd been climbing forever, but still the stairs stretched up and up. She'd given up counting at 836, but that was half an hour ago.

Ahead of her, Ryoo kept lightly climbing at the same brisk pace, and Sarah was hard put to it to keep up.

Behind the Terran girl, the young maiden, Mariel, took each step in dread. She'd heard other servants talk of Ryoo's awful workshop at the top of these stairs. The Witch did terrible things in that room, mixing dreadful potions and chanting evil spells which filled her slaves' hearts with fear. But worst of all, she spoke to Kataphage, Abba's servant who had rebelled and now sought to destroy those who served his enemy.

From her lofty perch on the highest turret, Ryoo could look out and see all her spells had accomplished. Kataphage had given her power over the Katamobi, his servants who had also rebelled, and she had sent them to make desolation of the area between Kakon and the Purple Mountains. By her orders, they ruined many places once beautiful and full of promise. The Trakinos Desert, Urnvile Swamp, and Waste of Galgolb were all made what they were by the Katamobi. The great Trakinos had once been the beautiful countries of Verdain and Viara, Green and Promise.

Finally, Ryoo stopped at a large black metal door, which was decorated with strange red characters. The elf-woman said a few black-sounding words, "Farnel mascho dorn," in a low, menacing voice, and the door swung open into the room of its own accord.

Sarah followed the Witch into the room and looked around in frightened fascination. Shelves of black wood encircled the room, holding jars and vials of ugly-looking unidentifiable objects and liquids of many colors. Here and there Sarah caught a glimpse of the dark gray stone wall between the glass containers.

In the middle of the room was a large table of ebony wood. Interrupting the almost endless line of shelves was one huge window, the sill of which was about the height of Sarah's chest, and a fireplace with a huge iron grate. Everything was immaculately clean.

Mariel stepped silently into the room and huddled in a corner, attempting to make herself invisible. The girl was too frightened to notice that her body passed right through the shelves and vials as if they didn't exist.

The door closed with a slam, and Sarah looked back it, startled. The door had shut by itself! She looked back at Ryoo, astonished.

"Will you teach me to do that?"

"And more," the Witch replied. "But first, I want to hear everything you know." Ryoo leaned forward. "Did you come to this world alone?"

"No," Sarah answered. "I came with my two brothers, Lenny and Ralph, my sister Cheryl, and a cat named Angel." Sarah's voice darkened with resentment when she spoke of Cheryl and Angel.

Sarah told Ryoo everything. She told of playing the Dungeons and Dragons game, and her friends who could move things through the air and talk to spirits. The power she felt in the state-park, the 'negative energy' of her sister's prayers, the strange golden orb, and the things Angel had told them in the Middle Zone were all told freely to the Witch, but Sarah skipped her near drowning.

Within an hour, Sarah had told the entire story, including Angel's statement that the Bryants would rescue all that Ryoo held captive. Ryoo's eyes flashed, but she held her peace until Sarah finished with, "And here I am."

Ryoo stood and walked to the window. She was so tall the sill was at her waist. The story had brought fear, for she had read the prophecies in the captured Hosridon, and knew that if she was slain it would be at the hand of a small warrior from another world, wielding the eagle-sword called Darkrender, which had rent the darkness of Maychoria before.

The Witch gazed off to the West. In the dim distance, she caught a glimpse of the Purple Mountains, ringed in clouds, and beyond them, a flash of blue-green where the Bluewood stood, Ryoo's long ago home. Ryoo used the power she had control of to stretch her perceptions even farther, and far, far away in Maychoria, Cheryl, Lenny, and Ralph were walking down a path.

Ryoo concentrated all her power on affecting the oldest girl. She tried to force a tree limb across the path to trip Cheryl, but the power of Abba so enveloped the wood only a twig trembled.

Ryoo growled in her throat and took a good look at Cheryl's face. The girl was singing! Singing a song of praise to the Maker! The happiness of her enemy drove Ryoo into a murderous rage. Instantly, she called the Katamobi with a single word and sent them screaming into Maychoria. Ryoo watched as a huge, invisible vulture demon flapped to obey the Witch's command by tearing the heart out of Cheryl's body.

But the invisible talons stopped short two inches above the girl's head! A warrior spirit-servant in Abba's service had shot out of the trees and grabbed the Katamobe by the neck. The warrior shook the demon roughly and flung it back to Galgolb. The winged spirit then turned to face the rest of the Katamobi, and within moments they were all back in Kakon. The Elinróme smiled down at the still singing Terran then flew back into the trees.

Ryoo watched the entire skirmish, then turned back to face her apprentice.

"Your sister is very well guarded," the Witch said emotionlessly. "I am unable to affect her progress."

"What will you do?"

Ryoo did not let her agitation show on her face. She needed to keep the Terran girl believing she was always in control. What could she say? Oh, yes. "I will wait until she comes into Galgolb; I may even let her come as far as Kakon." Ryoo let an evil smile of anticipation spread over her face. "And then, I will crush her!"

Sarah smiled as well, then frowned. Did she really want Cheryl dead?

Ryoo frowned at her student. "No, no, no!" she said. "Do not allow compassion or loyalty to cloud your power! The only way to use the power of the Witches is to crush feelings like that!"


"But?" Ryoo said angrily. "If you are to be my apprentice, you must never say 'but.' If you have a question, ask it! But address me by my correct title!"

"Yes, your highness," Sarah replied humbly, intimidated by the flashing black eyes. "I will not do so again. I only wished to ask-to ask if compassion and loyalty are truly bad."

"They are," Ryoo answered imperiously. "Why do you ask?"

"Because the great teachers of Terra say differently. Confucius, Yoda-they held such emotions are good."

"Yoda?" Ryoo said curiously. "I know of Confucius, but Yoda is new to me."

"He is a--a character in a movie. I learned much of what I know of power from this movie. In it, he moved entire ships with the power of his mind."

Ryoo waved her hand to dismiss what Sarah spoke of. "I know nothing of 'movie,'" she said. "But this Yoda is wrong. Have no mercy, feel no bonds of loyalty! They lead you back to Sebastoes."

Sarah nodded mutely.

"Now, my apprentice," Ryoo commanded. "Stretch out your hand to that jar of red beside you."

Sarah reached to grasp the jar, but her hand passed right through it as if it were smoke. She tried again, but her hand went through the jars of vile liquid to the rough stone wall.

The girl turned to her teacher in confusion. Ryoo laughed. "It is but an illusion, Inaryoo! Have you not comprehended it yet?"

"An illusion?" Sarah was incredulous.

The Witch said a few ugly words, and all the shelves and jars vanished. A gasp echoed in the empty room, and Ryoo laughed again.

"An illusion, apprentice, to confuse and terrify the witless servants. Think you I have need of potions and ugly-looking things in jars? To seem authentic, I do drink water with dye in it and call it a potion. My servants shrink back in fear when ordered to clean this room."

"They never found out?" Sarah asked.

"No! I tell them to never touch my vials, and they obey in terror."

Sarah considered that, and a thought occurred to her. "About your slaves-" the girl began hesitantly.


"Well, your highness, haven't they ever tried to run away?"

"Oh, yes, of course. But I sent the Katamobi out after them, and once they were brought back, well, let's just say not many have attempted to leave since then."

"Why?" Sarah asked. "Do you have the runaways publicly executed?"

"No," Ryoo said. "I have devised punishments worse than death. I'll have to show you my dungeons some time."

Sarah almost shuddered at the nostalgic smile on Ryoo's red lips. The girl swallowed her fear and asked, "When will you teach me how to control this power?"

"All in good time, my eager student. First, we must eat."

Ryoo crossed to the door and muttered a phrase. The door opened, and the Witch began the long descent. Sarah followed, the turned to close the door, but it wouldn't budge.

"How do I close the door?" she called down.

"Leave it!" the Witch replied. "We shall return after our meal."

Sarah shrugged and hurried down the steps.

A few minutes after the two were no longer visible from the still open door, a frightened face popped out of the room. The rest of Mariel soon followed. She gasped with relief at being away from the dreaded workshop, then hurried down the stairs. She paused her headlong flight in time to prevent running into Sarah, then proceeded at a more moderate rate, being careful to always keep out of sight around the central column.

As Mariel continued downward, she reflected on her strange experience. She was obviously not meant to hear the meeting in that room. It was almost as if her attempts at invisibility had been successful!

Then a thought occurred to the teen. The Voice! Could it have been the voice of Abba? Mariel's grandmother talked of El Shaddai frequently, and sometimes Mariel almost believed her. Could it be? Could Abba have protected her from the probing eye of the Witch? Could she have been meant to hear all she had heard?

Mariel resolved to find out.

The old woman lifted her head as the alley door to her small home opened.

"Grandma? Are you home?"

Ah, it was only Mariel. Nothing to be afraid of.

Mariel entered and gently shut the door behind her. She looked around the tiny room.

"Mariel! It is good to see you! You haven't visited me for many a long day."

"Grandmother!" Mariel rushed to the bed and took the old woman's hand. "I though perhaps you had gone out."

The elderly woman sat up slowly. Mariel moved quickly to prop her grandmother with pillows.

"When was the last time I left home, darling? I am old and sick."

Mariel hung her head at the gentle reproof.

"I am sorry I didn't visit you earlier, Grandma. But you know I must be at Castle Ryoo at dawn, and she does not often dismiss me early."

"I know, Mariel. Now, tell me what is troubling you."

Mariel looked into the wise eyes of her grandmother. There was more there than an old, dying woman. A divine light lit the soft sea green.

Mariel's head bowed in shame again. How could she think the stories of Abba were only stories? Here was living proof that El Shaddai lives.

"Well, Grandmother, I heard a Voice…."

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Thanks to Paul Spooner for the great 'Castle Ryoo' artwork!