Extract

 

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Max has been learning how to do magic without potions, and he’s succeeded in turning himself into a dragonfly. But now he’s lost Merlin, and the castle appears to be deserted, and Max is not sure how to turn himself back…

 

 

Max settled on a stone buttress, folded his shimmering wings, and considered the situation. He was a dragonfly. No one knew he was a dragonfly, not even Merlin, who had last seen him as a frog. If Max wasn’t going to end up staying a dragonfly forever, he was going to have to find some way of reactivating the magic he knew was inside him to turn himself back.

Max concentrated hard and thought about being a boy. He thought about the handfuls of magic he’d flung at the pike in his terror. He thought about the feeling of being drenched in magic, the feeling of being transformed into another creature. He held his breath and willed as hard as he could to be a boy.

But he was still a dragonfly.

Max closed his eyes and tried again. He willed it so hard he thought his dragonfly brain would burst. He flapped his wings and shouted random spell words in the hope that it might get something started. But nothing happened.

Slugs eyeballs! This was getting serious. It looked like he might be destined to stay a dragonfly forever. But then his antennae pricked up. Max heard a clash of sword on metal, and a distinctly familiar voice.

“Ow! Dungballs! I’ve whacked my knee again!”

Just around the corner, a small but sturdy figure with short, messy brown hair was picking up her sword from the ground and preparing to do battle again with a rusty old practice dummy. Max remembered spending hours trying to disarm a similar dummy at Castle Perilous. There was a trick to hooking the dummy’s sword out of its metal hand – but get it wrong, and you might find yourself slicing your own leg off instead. From the look of Adolphus, who had one claw over his eyes, wincing, Olivia had not been having much luck this session.

Max flew across and landed on Olivia’s shoulder, as close to her ear as he could get. Ever since they’d both been transformed into frogs, a few months before, they’d been able to understand animal speech. But just as Max prepared to shout as loud as he could into her ear, Olivia’s hand came up automatically and brushed him off. Max went tumbling through the air, turned three somersaults and landed on the ground, feeling extremely dazed.

The world took a few seconds to stop whirling round and round. When it did, Max realised he was looking straight into the eyes of Adolphus the dragon. Adolphus, the dimmest dragon in the kingdom. Adolphus, who generally ate first and asked questions later.

Adolphus had just started to open his mouth when Max, shouting as loud as he possibly could, bellowed, “No! Stop! It’s me – Max!”

Adolphus stopped, and peered at the dragonfly in front of him.

“I beg your pardon?” he said.

“It’s me – Max! It’s Max! Tell Olivia!” shouted Max, hopping up and down and flapping his wings madly.

Adolphus looked puzzled. He frowned in concentration. He took a deep breath. He scratched his ear with his back leg. Then he looked down at the dragonfly again.

“Did you say you knew Max?”

“No,” said Max, thankful that at least he was having a conversation, rather than being digested. “I am Max. It’s Max! Tell Olivia!”

“Umm, OK,” said Adolphus doubtfully, and called out to Olivia. “Er … there’s a dragonfly here. He’s called Max. Funny – same name as our Max. Anyway. He wants to talk to you, for some reason.”

Olivia stopped in the middle of a complicated manoeuvre, and frowned.

“Says his name is Max? That’s an odd name for a dragonfly… Are you sure?”

“Well, umm, I think so,” said Adolphus uncertainly. “Maybe you’d better talk to him.”

Olivia came over and bent down. She put out her finger and Max crawled onto it, clinging tightly as she raised him up to her face.

“So,” she said. “You’re called Max.”

“I am Max, idiot!” he shouted in his tiny dragonfly voice. “It’s me! I turned myself into a dragonfly and now I can’t turn myself back. Have we got any antidote?”

Olivia looked at Max and started to laugh. In fact, she couldn’t stop laughing. She had to put him down on the ground so she could really howl with laughter. Max rolled his eyes and waited for her to reach the hiccupping stage. Then he flew up to her nose and demanded the antidote, that second, or he would never help her train again.

“Sorry,” she said, wiping her eyes. “But I don’t think we’ve got any left. I’ll have to… kiss you.” Which sent her off into another fit.

Eventually, she lifted Max up on her finger and kissed the tip of one wing which he held out very gingerly.

WHOOSH!

There were stars, and Max landed with a thud on the ground, fully human again, while Adolphus bounced round joyfully, quite amazed to see him, and telling him what a shame it was that he’d missed the chance to meet a dragonfly that had the same name.

 

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