As Molly and her friends search for a stone that can curb the Promise Keeper's powers, and each one of them must face their own monster, Molly is forced to choose: is she prepared to use dark magic to break her curse? Will she become a witch and enter into magical combat? And if she does, will she lose the friendships she most cares about?
In this third and final thrilling instalment of the breathtaking Spellchasers trilogy the team faces a blizzard of powerful threats. Can they bring balance to the magical world, defeat the creatures that pursue them and finally break Molly's curse? Or will darkness triumph over friendship?
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When Molly heard her neighbours’ cat miaow, she shrank instantly, feeling the familiar flash of heat through her bones.
But when she ran from the noise of the cat, she felt an unfamiliar weight whipping around behind her. Did she have a long tail?
She didn’t have time to worry about what animal she’d shifted into, because she realised she wasn’t running fast enough to get away from a cat. She wasn’t leaping and sprinting, she was scuttling and dashing.
Why was she moving so slowly, so weakly?
She glanced round. Yes, she did have a tail. A long thin
brown tail. The skinny length meant she was probably a rodent, the brown hair meant she definitely wasn’t a rat.
But her glance back had shown her something even more worrying than her new shape.
Poppet, the fluffy white cat from next door, was stalking her. Belly low, paws stretching forward, eyes fixed on Molly’s ridiculous tail.
Molly had a choice.
She could run to one of the gaps in the garden fence, because fences and walls normally shifted her back to her girl form. But that might not work this time, because the rules of her own personal magic seemed to have altered today.
Or she could hide from the cat now and shift back later, when she wasn’t in immediate danger.
Her scared body decided for her. She desperately wanted to hide. So she darted towards the hole she could see under the shed. The hole was tiny, but as a mouse or a vole or a shrew or whatever she was, she might fit inside.
She ran as fast as she could, on these spindly short legs, with that nonsensical tail and this light body too close to the ground, feeling exposed and vulnerable on the flat winter grass of her own back garden.
Suddenly she was aware of the heat and speed of the cat behind her. She felt the air move round her tail as Poppet pounced.
Molly veered to her left and the cat’s shadow passed over her. The cat’s body crashed down onto the patch of grass Molly had been scurrying across a fraction of a second before.
Poppet whirled round, trying to work out where her prey had gone, and Molly kept running.
She’d learnt two ways to run in the last four months. Full speed ahead in a straight line, to beat her friend Innes in shapeshifter races. And tricksy leaping and dodging, to evade predators.
So she didn’t run straight towards the shed. Even with the smaller body, weaker legs and lesser speed of a tiny rodent, she moved like a hare across the grass: running fast, slowing down, leaping left, dodging right, constantly
changing speed and direction.
It wasn’t likely that Poppet had ever met a mouse who moved so unpredictably, and Molly kept just ahead of the cat’s claws.
She reached the hole and dived in. She slid right to the back, snug and safe in the cramped dark.
Molly Drummond was used to suddenly becoming small and fast. But suddenly becoming small and slow, that was new and scary.
The noise of a cat had never triggered her curse before. She’d never become a long-tailed rodent either. Normally dog noises triggered the curse; normally she became a hare. But nothing was normal today.
Poppet’s paw prodded at the entrance to the hole. Her hot fishy biscuity breath filled the space. However, the cat was too big to get in and Molly was too far back
to be dragged out.
As she crouched there, panting and shivering, she wondered what had just happened.
Molly had been cursed by an angry witch last autumn, so that she turned into a hare – like a bigger stronger faster rabbit – whenever she heard a dog bark or growl. And she stayed a hare until she crossed a boundary, usually the boundary between gardens or farms.
She’d learnt to control the curse, so she could shift into a hare whenever she wanted to, for speed or size or even for fun. But she still had to cross a boundary
to become a girl again, so she was now an expert on land boundaries in her own Edinburgh neighbourhood, and boundaries round the town of Craigvenie, further north, where she’d been cursed.
Apart from a few days last year when the witch had altered the curse so it was harder to shift back, Molly’s curse had been stable and manageable for months. Until today.
So she’d better go north, to see if the friends whose curses she’d lifted last year could help her work out why her curse had become more dangerous. But she couldn’t go to Speyside until she got out from under this shed and became a girl again.
Molly shivered as she watched Poppet’s paw withdraw at last. She crouched in the dark, wondering how she would cope if she was stuck as this trembling and terrified creature forever. Because if the rules or strength of her curse had somehow changed, perhaps crossing a boundary wouldn’t shift her back?
There was only one way to find out. She moved to the entrance of the hole, her whiskers snuffling and jerking. She couldn’t smell cat breath. She couldn’t sense
animal heat or hear a huge heartbeat.
Poppet had probably given up. It was probably safe.
Molly hesitated. She didn’t want to leave the security of this dusty dark hole. But she gathered all the courage she could find in her tiny shaking body, dashed out of the hole and ran towards the nearest gap in the fence.
A white shape leapt from the shed roof, bounded onto the top of the fence and landed on the grass, paw slashing down to trap the tiny form on the ground.
And Poppet scratched the knuckle of Molly’s human thumb.
The cat backed off, white fur standing up along her spine.
Molly smiled. “Sorry to give you a fright, Poppet.”
She climbed over the wooden fence and ran to her back door, hoping the cat wouldn’t miaow again before she got inside.
She rushed into the living room. “Mum, Dad, can I go to Aunt Doreen’s next week, for the February holidays?”
Her mum said, “Again? You stayed with Doreen last tattie holidays and complained the whole way up the A9. But then you pestered us to take you up at Christmas, and now you want to go again next week? What’s in Speyside
that you can’t get in Edinburgh?”
“My friends in Craigvenie,” said Molly. But she was also thinking about the magic she’d discovered up north, which made Craigvenie the best place to find
• ut why her curse had suddenly become so much stranger and more dangerous.
She looked at her dad. “When I’m with my Craigvenie friends, we play in the woods, by the rivers and in the hills, like you did when you were wee.”
He smiled. “It’s a good place to grow up. If the snow holds off, I’ll drive you north.”
So Molly went upstairs to pack, and to work out how to avoid cats as well as dogs for the next three days.