he old witch knew the magician was close. She could hear his heavy footsteps echoing in the dark corridor. She knew what he wanted, but she would be the last witch in the world to hand it to him.
The lights of the castle were out, but the dark passages and grim chambers had served the old witch as a home for a lifetime, she wouldn’t get lost inside that familiar maze.
With a wooden chest squeezed under her armpit, she pushed open the heavy door of the library and slid inside. In the darkness the thousands of colored paperbacks that covered the high walls looked gray and lifeless. Under the silver will-o'-the-wisps gleaming across the ceiling the old witch moved in-between the desks to the edge of the vast chamber. The oaken doors on her left and right were not locked, but she chose not to hide. She stood still under the central canvas and watched the magician approach her, the magic wand raised menacingly in his hand.
“Nowhere to run,” the magician said. “Give it to me and I will spare you.”
The old witch grinned. “You will never get it, slave.” She pressed the wooden chest harder to her breast.
The magician frowned. “One last warning, old hag. Give it to me.”
“Never.” She snatched a bronze candlestick from the closest desk, but before she could aim it at the magician, a silver light sprang from the point of his wand and struck her right above the heart. The witch’s body spread on the floor.
The magician crossed the chamber, bowed down and pulled the wooden chest out of the witch’s grip. The chest was handmade, with a mermaid carved across its lid and a silver latch. The magician opened the lid and looked inside.
The chest was empty.