Lyssa was staring after the Witch-hunter, mouth agape. The table was in uproar. Everyone except the drunks were leaving, not caring about the food or the promised dancing.

“Come on, come on, child!” Elise tugged at Lyssa’s arm as they tried to leave. “He’ll be accusing you of witchcraft next!”

“Never in my life,” Mrs Thistle was saying to herself, crossing her chest with her finger. “Those two pretty little dears, witches!”

“Of course they aren’t, Mary!” Elise scowled as their group moved away, Elise tugging Lyssa along. “He’s bound to accuse somebody. That’s where he gets his money! It could have been you. Or me, for that matter.”

Lyssa planted her feet on the ground and tugged her arm away. “Elise, I have to go after them.”

“Are you mad? He’ll lock you up and all!”

Lyssa hurried away as the others went home, shaking heads in disbelief. She ran into the square. She spotted the Haligons on a small podium knocked together from crates, with a mini piano hefted onto the makeshift stage.

“Madam!” she gasped, skidding to a halt and gasping. Suddenly, she thought better of what she was about to do. If she told Crystal’s parents, they would panic and be accused as witches themselves if they tried to rescue her.

“Never mind!” Lyssa mumbled and turned around again. She slunk from the courtyard in low spirits, feeling their bewildered gazes on her retreating back. She passed an alley and a voice called, “Psssst!”

She whirled around and the boy she had seen earlier that day walked out from under a stoop.

“I know what you are,” he said furtively. Lyssa was taken aback.

“Excuse me? What I am? How dare you - “

“Be quiet, Missy,” the boy said, glancing around. “That Mr Twiggard’ll have ‘em looking out now. If we’re seen, it could start rumours that won’t be in your favour.”

He led her into a dark alley between houses. It was against her instincts, but part of her strangely trusted him.

He stopped under a dim lantern set in the wall. He was quite handsome-looking close up, but very dirty.

“Who are you? Are you following me?” Lyssa said before he could speak.

He offered a hand, covered by a black glove with missing fingertips. She didn’t take it, so he pulled it back and wiped it on his shirt.

“Name’s Phoenix. You?”

Phoenix? You must be joking. I thought you said you know who I am.”

“I said I know what you are, not your name. Actually Phoenix is my real name.” The boy scowled at her and hunched his shoulders as he leaned back against the wall.

“Sorry, Mister. I’m Lyssa, if you really must know.”

He pushed himself off the wall and a cheeky smile returned to his face.

“Right then. Introductions over with. To rush things a bit, we’re special.”

“What -?”

He held up his hands to shush her. “We’ve gotta be quick if we want to rescue the others. Now, we’ve got powers, all four of us. Some of us might not know it, except for that blue-dress girl who obviously did.”

“Crystal,” Lyssa offered the name that she had overheard. “Haligon.”

“Yeah. Anyway, I was in the Inn before so I know the other girl’s called Jasmine. She doesn’t know about her powers. Neither do you, apparently.”

“What powers?” Lyssa hissed. “Are you accusing people now?”

“No, no. I’ve got powers too. I came here looking for you all. Us four, we’re special.”

“So you’ve said.” Lyssa folded her arms and frowned. “I don’t believe you. You’re mad.”

“Well then, how do I know about you silver heart locket with the stone inside?”

Lyssa gasped and pulled the chain from under her dress. “You can see through things?”

“No,” the boy laughed. The lockets channel our powers. I’ve got one as well, even though I’m a boy.”

“Who gave us the lockets, then?”

“I don’t know. I’m guessing they were left anonymously, because mine was.” he continued when Lyssa had nodded. “We have different powers. We’re elementals. We each have powers of the elements. I think Crystal has the power over Water, because she can control liquids. My power is Fire. Suitable for my name, then, eh?”

Lyssa was shaking her head. She was in a dark alley after two girls had been accused of witchcraft, being told by a good-looking boy that she had magical powers. It was all crazy. But deep down, she believed it. There was that experience before, when the poison was swelling her throat and the cold air had forced it to stop.

She started. “Mr Twiggard tried to poison me,” she gasped. “Mr Sandforth said he’d ‘already started his work’! Do you think he knows about me? Even though I didn’t?”

Phoenix’s smile vanished. “Maybe. I bet he had a suspicion. Sometimes, see, people have an aura about them when they’re related to magic. He might be able to spot them.”

“This is all just crazy,” Lyssa murmured, sliding down to the cobbled floor with her back to the wall.

“I’ll prove it!” Phoenix said. He pulled his locket from his shirt and focused on the lantern. The flame went out. Blue-grey smoke curled into the night. The smell was acrid from the horrible oily mixture that was burning. Lyssa wished it would disappear.

The smoke dissipated so quickly it seemed to vanish. Phoenix stared at her. “Did you do that?”

Lyssa nodded, speechless. “I’ve got the power over Air, haven’t I, Phoenix?”

“Yes,” he said. He grinned. “At least we’ve sorted that. Jasmine must be Earth.”

“Did you put out Twiggard’s candle?” Lyssa asked as she got to her feet.

“Yes,” Phoenix said as he set off down the alley. Lyssa followed. “Only it wasn’t a candle. It was a Hand of Glory.”

“So it’s true,” Lyssa gasped. “He was robbing Mr Taylor, whoever that is!”

“Yes,” Phoenix repeated. “Now be quiet, Lyssa. We’re in Haporth Lane.”

A three-quarter moon was hovering in the velvet-black sky. Clouds floated over the white disc like ink on paper. The whole street was bathed in a milky glow. The houses were squat and ugly made of old grey stones. The only light in the place apart from the moon came from a candle flickering in an upstairs window.

Phoenix led her towards the house. He opened the wooden gate to the small front yard with a creak. Lyssa followed slowly as he put his back against the wall and crept quietly around the side of the house.

“This is Twiggard’s place, right?” Lyssa whispered as loudly as she dared as they reached the back of the house. There was a strong smell of horses coming from the wooden barn at the back. Lyssa was sure she could hear quiet weeping from somewhere nearby.

“Yes, it is,” Phoenix answered, looking back over his shoulder. He had been staring at the bolted barn door, his suspicions very clear. “We have to get Crystal and Jasmine out. We’re going to rescue them.”

The End

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