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Rated: E · Campfire Creative · Short Story · Activity · #2136026
A story created by our class
[Introduction] Remember sitting around a campfire, telling and listening to stories? WdC allows us to return to that nostalgic activity. Shortly, you will receive an invitation to join the campfire. Please accept this invitation. After that, we will rotate, adding something to the story every time it rotates to your turn. We did this for the first time in Punctuation in Spring Term, and we all had a BLAST!

If you are unable to add to the story within twenty-four hours after you receive the notice that it's your turn, please notify me so that we can move on to the next person. This is a lot of fun. The story can go in any direction the students take it. It's for fun and for awakening your muse. The more you participate, the better our class story gets. *Smile*


Word Count: 358

Phantoms at New Horizons Acadamy

         The chair squeaked as Ms. Pat leaned back. The sound usually annoyed her, but today she didn't hear it. Why aren't this term's students taking advantage of the forum? she thought. There's so much more they could learn. Frustrated, and unable to decide what to do, she grabbed her phone and pressed the intercom button.
         "Pat?" Headmaster Katz asked, a smile in her voice. "Your're here this early? I thought only I was crazy enough to be here."
         Ms. Pat, wouldn't be distracted. "I'm so frustrated this term, and I need your advice. Some of the student aren't taking advantage of the forum, and you know how that improves their experience here. I've tried everything from begging to bribery—no go. They're doing the classwork and assignments, and I get some life in the discussions, but it's just not enough. They have such potential: I'm impressed with each one for different reasons. For them to lose this opportunity breaks my heart."
         Ms. Katz was silent for a moment, then spoke. "Something is happening. All of the rest of the staff have noticed. Ms. Winnie claims it started when she saw phantoms moving into the cafeteria."
         "You don't mean ghosts?" Ms. Pat said, a hitch in her voice.
         "It was zombies last term," Ms. Katz answered, "who knows what else is out there?"
         "Maybe we should have built the campus farther from that ancient druid burial ground. That place always give me the creeps."
         Ms. Katz sighed. "We have to work with what we have. We can't let the students sacrifice such knowledge because of a few spooks."
         Ms. Pat heard a squeak from Ms. Katz chair, and she pictured her sitting up straight in her—let's get serious—position. Well, at least her chair is old and irritating as mine, Ms. Pat thought, with the first smile in days.
         The Headmaster said, "All of the staff, here in my office, nine o'clock. We're going to beat this."
         Ms. Pat relaxed, loosening muscles she didn't know were tight. The Academy had survived everything from hurricanes to zombies. They would beat this—they always did.

Ms. Katz leaned back in her chair and smiled after Ms. Pat clicked off the intercom. She loved her antique school desk chair and the way it squeaked to remind her of days long past. She ran her hand over the dark oak armrest's satiny surface and the slight indentations formed by years of hands and elbows sliding back and forth.

She'd always known that sooner or later someone would rouse the inhabitants of the old druid grounds. She'd seen and heard them herself on and off for years, but most of the time they paid her no mind and seemed to approve of the work they all did in the Academy. "The old druids always were on the side of exploring and leaning. They told us all time and time again that stories are important." She muttered to herself as she rocked back and forth the on her chair's spring-balanced seat. It squeaked and delighted her. "I wonder if they think latest generations of students aren't dedicated enough, studious enough."

She rolled her eyes and laughed at herself. "Sheesh! Would you listen to me! Talking like the old druids are standing right outside my window and passing judgement on our students." She paused mid-rock as a shadow flickered by her window. "HHHMMMMM! Then again, maybe they are . . ."
Word Count: 378

The head Druid stood, in the center of the old Druid cemetery, watching as his subordinates gathered. He had called the meeting to find out which practical joker was haunting the New Horizons Academy cafeteria. He understood that being a phantom can get boring, but frightening students, especially during their meal breaks or classes, were unacceptable Druid behavior. He believed one of the duties of a Druid was to encourage creativity and learning, and he had attempted to instill that concept into each phantom from the beginning.

"I see that we've all arrived," he said, sitting down on a headstone. "Now if you all will take a seat, we'll hear what Shy the Spy has found out."

Shy floated to the spot next to the head Druid, "Well," he glanced around to make sure everyone was looking at him. "You'll be happy to know that the Zombie problem is cleared up. Apparently they've shambled to another location." He paused for effect, "One of the issue now is the class forum, and the other is the cafeteria haunting."

"By forum, do you mean the computer thingy that the instructors established," ask Casper, who had attended the meeting wearing his normal friendly ghost disguise.

"Yes," frowned Shy. He had as good a sense of humor as any Druid phantom, but he did not find Casper's Halloween costume uniform amusing. "It appears that the students aren't taking full advantage of it."

"Is there any way we can encourage the students to take advantage of this newfangled technology?" The head Druid looked around, hoping one of the younger phantoms had an idea.

"Well," said Cloud, straightening his tie and brushing back the nonexistent hair on his bald head. "Perhaps a couple of us could haunt the forum."

"How do you propose we do that," the head Druid stood up, and floated to Cloud. "Without getting trapped in... what is it that call region between computers? Uh... cloud-space or cyberspace."

"It's called cyberspace," Cloud was proud of his sparse knowledge of computers. "I don't see how that could happen. I mean, after all, we don't get trapped in the cafeteria when we haunt..." Someone behind Cloud groaned.

"Tell me, Cloud," the head Druid glared. "Besides you, who else here is haunting the cafeteria?"
Each of the dozen druids froze as the Head ran his gaze over them. It didn't matter that it was the middle of the night, and the clouds covered the moon, each druid could see each other as if in broad daylight. And each looked suspicious.
Cloud stood tight-lipped with eyes downcast. Nobody spoke a word, and the Head's scowl grew deeper.
"Cloud," the Head boomed. "Who else?"
Cloud cleared his throat. "Um...Fantum."
"Cloud," Fantum hissed, crossing bulky arms.
The Head's scowl deepened, growing harder, to the others' surprise. "Who else?" He peered past Cloud, at the druid who has groaned. Her name was Hont. Her eyes peered at her feet, fright on her face. "You, Hont?"
She raised her chin, eyes meeting the Head's. "Yes, me too. But those students need to be taught a lesson! What a waste of a forum, that Ms Pat worked on. If she wouldn't make them use it, we would."
The Head crossed his arms. "Who else?"
Cloud spoke. "No one else."
The Head nodded, breathing deeply. "Hont, Cloud. You know the punishment...."
Hont and Cloud floated down the dim, silent hallways of New Horizons Academy toward Ms. Pat's office, in no particular hurry, hoping that she had left earlier than usual.

"Hont," Cloud whispered. "What do we say if she's in her office?"

"You know we're supposed to tell her about our 'shenanigans,' and I'm not stupid enough to disobey the High Druid."

"Yes, but I'm afraid of her." Cloud stopped and pulled Hont down beside him.

"You're afraid of her?" Hont giggled. "You're the phantom. Isn't it supposed to work the other way?" She continued down the hall, and Cloud, perforce, followed.

"But she's a teacher. And sometimes she borrows Ms. Winnie's ruler," Cloud squeaked, remembering with horror the story Boo had recounted a while back at the midnight story hour. Time had not diminished his terror of the dreaded ruler that all of New Horizons quivered in fear of.

"Aww, that's just st a rumor. That's why we chose Ms. Pat's room, remember? She's so nice; she wouldn't hurt a fly," Hont assured Cloud.

"Well, she just might make an exception--wait!! What was that?" Cloud whispered.

"What was what?" Hont asked, irritation showing in her voice. After a moment with no answer, she turned to her partner in crime. "Cloud? Cloud? Cloud!



         Far below the academy, in a stone room warded against even the druidic phantoms, Gwenc'hlan, the High Druid, allowed himself full corporeal form. He had been the last High Druid as the world turned away from the old ways. Gwenc'hlan was almost immortal, receiving that gift from the living Earth itself. Even the dead whom he lead did not know he still breathed. His position and knowledge allowed him to hide if from them and to transform into a phantom and back as he willed it.
         So far he had not told those whom he had wakened from the sleep of death to assist him in the work of helping the living. Long had he guided those with open minds who came here for knowledge. He had been the first headmaster of the academy, a century before, until it became necessary to leave as those around him began to notice his perpetual youth. For this cause, he had called some of his best students, who later became traveling leaders, commissioned to teach others the ancient ways. Gwenc'hlan called them from the sleep to assist him as the life mortals led became too hectic and their minds closed to what was around them.
         Alas, the world had progressed more in technology in the last two hundred years than in the previous four millennia. As with all advancement, both good and bad came from these changes. The availability of knowledge and information was great, yet the damage to the spirit of the Earth was growing.
         Gwenc'hlan shook off his musings and came to a decision. They needed to do something—more direct. There was no blaming the others for trying to do something different, using the cafeteria the way they were. He had sent Cloud and Hont to the academy to reveal themselves and tell Ms. Pat. They were to explain why they had moved to the cafeteria and warn her that they were not responsible for the problems faced by the academy. He now knew there was a better way. Preparing himself and opening his connection to the ley line below the stone room, he summoned Cloud and Hont to the chamber. The two Druids appeared: first Cloud, then Hont. She appeared calling Cloud's name.
         "What . . . what is happening?" Cloud stammered.
         "Cloud, where did—" Hont started, stopping when she saw the High Druid, fully corporeal, and the modern, only slightly aged, comforts spread throughout the room lit by electric lights.
         When their astonishment passed and both were about to pour forth questions, Gwenc'hlan raised his hand to silence them.
         "Hold thy tongue," he said, freezing the words before they poured out. Realizing his mistake, he added, "Metaphorically speaking." He sighed and continued. "As you can see, there are some things I must tell you."
         "But, Ms. Pat?" Hont asked.
         Gwenc'hlan smiled. Hont would have been High Druid herself if he, himself, had not chosen to accept the gift of life from the Earth. He made the choice so he could bring his people to this new continent to flee the destruction of their way of life from the powers of Rome. Hont's mind was as as sharp as in life; she respected him but did not fear him, as Cloud did.
         "You will go to her, anon, and retrieve the sacred relic from the Comma Queen, disguised as a common ruler." First, we must talk. There are forces arrayed against us. Our duty and purpose here will be better served if you know my true nature and we change our plans. All must help, both the living and the dead."
"The ruler?" asked Hont. She shook visibly.

"Yes, the ruler, though disguised, is so very powerful that only those with the power to command both the English language and the spirit world are allowed to touch it," said Gwenc'hlan.

"Guess that leaves it to you, Hont," said Cloud. "I flunked English all 300 semesters." He scratched his head. "Maybe 400 semesters. I lost count."

"I cannot be expected to touch that thing. I have heard the stories. I have experienced the nightmares. Someone else will have to do it." Hont stood with her hands on her hips looking from Gwenc'hlan to Cloud and back.

"As I was saying," Gwenc'hlan added. "You must bring me the ruler. Our future depends on it. I will summons you back to me when you have completed the quest. Now, carry on."

Hont and Cloud found themselves back in the hallway.
 
Ms Katz strolled out of her office just as the two phantoms manifested in the hallway.

"Well, hello! It's been quite sometime since I've seen any of the druidic folks in the Academy halls." She smiled at the two who managed to convey surprise in spite of their diaphanous state. "I suppose you two are the ones who've been frightening our students out of their lunches the last few days." She wagged a finger at them and shot them a mock glare.

"Really now. Is that necessary? The Academy has always had a congenial relationship with he druid folk." She slid her hands into her jacket pockets and leaned against the lockers lining the hallway as if she was settling in for a nice long chat. "You know students can't keep their minds on their studies if you scare them half senseless at every meal." She gave them the penetrating glaze that brought even the most rebellious students to their knees.

The phantoms snuggled together. One even went pinkish as if it blushed.

"You do realize that if you need help with something all you have to do is ask? The Academy and the Druidic Orders have always aided each other."

One of the phantoms fluttered forward. "Um . . . well . . . You see . . . "

"Well for pete's sake! Spit it out!" Ms. Katz rolled her eyes skyward.

"It's about Ms. Winnie's ruler." The still pinkish phantom floated closer."

"Ms. Winnie's ruler?" Before Ms Katz could say a another word, George and Georgie skittered and slid around the corner with claws screeching on the tile and scrambled down the hall. Ollie followed on wing. He flew low with his eyes huge and glowing."
 
"Eek!" Hont jumped as Ollie flew through her. Talons scraping the tile, Ollie land behind Hont, and shook his head. Then he turned to investigate Hont by closing one eye and then the other while looking up at her.

George and Georgie stopped in front of Cloud, staring up at the Druid. "Gophers!" Cloud shrieked before backing closer to Hont.

"George, Georgie, leave our guest alone." Ms. Katz looked up at Cloud. "They won't hurt you; they're just up to their usual mischief."

"I've never seen a gopher this close before. Although I've stepped in a few of their holes."

Ollie walked under Hont and Cloud and then stopped next to George and Georgie. He shook his head, looked up at Ms. Katz, and then screeched. "Calm down, Ollie, no one is going to hurt you. Now be polite to our guest."

"You wanted to talk about Ms. Winnie's ruler."

"The High Druid sent us to get Ms. Winnie's ruler," said Cloud.

"We need to borrow it," Hont floated toward Ms. Katz.

Screeching, Ollie flapped his wings, rose into the air, and flew toward Ms. Winnie's office. Georgie looked up at Ms. Katz before she and George followed the owl.

"Do they want us to follow them? asked Hont.

"Let's go to the office and see what those three are up to now." Ms. Katz, followed by Cloud and Hont, rushed toward Ms. Winnie's office.
         Gwenc'hlan watched the growing group of creatures, living and "unliving," human and nonhuman, from his monitor in his office, deep inside the bowels of the Academy. It was supposed to be a simple mission. Retrieve the Ruler from Ms. Winnie’s office and return with it—no detours, no extra parties— just the two phantoms and the Ruler. The longer the Ruler remained outside his reach, the greater the danger for the Academy—and the universe.

         He grimaced at the headache he knew was not real. He had long since passed the point of physical pain, even in his corporeal form. “Egads!” He spoke out loud. “How can two phantoms manage to make such a muddle of something so straightforward?

         Now, what?” A sigh escaped his lips, stirring the petals of the black roses in the silver chalice beside his monitor. He had learned the secret of their growth from Ms. Katz. The school headmaster did not know the power inside her.

         Now, that chalice brought back fond memories. Surely, he thought, it had only been a hundred or so years ago, instead of the millennium he knew it to be. He had paid for that chalice with his mortal life and had never once regretted it.

         Shaking himself from his reverie, he forced his mind back to the present—a present that might end all too soon if the Ruler was not in his hands this night.

         “Okay,” he told himself. “A cool head is what this situation requires.”

         Before he could take another calming breath, the activity on the monitor caught his attention . . .

         Ms. Katz, Hont, and Cloud ran by the surveillance camera. Well, more accurately, Ms. Katz ran by where the phantoms floated. Still, they all seemed in an awful hurry. Gwenc'hlan tapped the key switching to the hall outside Ms. Winnie's office. The image flickered, reminding the High Druid why he didn't have working cameras in Ms. Katz's office. The unknown power within her messed up his surveillance equipment if she spent extended time round them. Why her other electronics were unaffected—he couldn't guess.
         Wincing, Gwenc'hlan tapped again, turning down the racket coming from the three animals inside the office. The Headmaster knocked once, then finally pushed the door open. Another tap switched to the inside.
Turmoil filled the office. The three animal fought over something in the corner, screeching and hissing. Ms. Winnie was just beginning to bend down over the mascots in an attempt to calm things down. She glanced up at Ms. Katz and the two druidic phantoms, rolled her eyes, and returned to calming the animals.
         "Cloud, why aren't any of the living here terrified by two phantoms moving through the school?" Hon't asked.
         "I can answer that," said Ms. Katz. "Everyone you've seen so far is staff, including the animals. As I said in my office, New Horizons has always maintained good relations with the High Druid. After all, we all have the same goals in mind—education."
         "You know about us? No one told me that," Cloud said.
         "I thought you all knew," the Headmaster said, shrugging. She raised her voice over the racket to talk to the Comma Queen.
         "Ms. Winnie, these phantoms were sent by the High Druid to retrieve a sacred talisman of power," explained Ms. Katz. "It seems it's in your possession."
         "What! I've never seen any talisman in my office."
         Hont interrupted, "It has the power to disguise itself."
         "It's cloaked in an illusion of a ruler," added Cloud. "I only just found out today."
         "That explains why all my students are terrified of the thing. It's not as if I really hit their knuckles with it, " Ms. Winnie mused. "All I do is move it around on my desk and wave it around in the air a little, and all the students suddenly find their text books fascinating. Let me see," she said, looking at her desk. "It's not there!"
         "I see it!" shouted Hont. "That's what the animals are playing with."
         Just as she said that, Ollie let out a screech of victory, flapped his wings to rise above the battle, and flew out the door, carrying the ruler. George and Georgie jumped over Ms. Winnie and ran after the owl.
         The High Druid groaned, exasperated by the scene on his monitor. "They have no idea what is at stake here," he thought.
         Leaning closer and turning up the volume, he waited to see what they would do.
         In Ms. Winnie's office, Cloud said, "The High Druid needs that talisman. Something tells me we had better get that ruler."
         Ms. Katz arched her eyebrows and sighed. "The mascots are headed for the cafeteria—which is full of students."
         Everyone, living and dead, locked eyes for a moment, then turned and stampeded or floated out the door.
There was a bit of tension in the cafeteria. The recent "spooking," although occurring in October, was a little disconcerting for the student. The normal dining room clatter was abruptly hushed by the wing beats of Ollie.

He flew through the room and landed on the middle of a table startling the students. George and Georgie came skittering into the cafeteria shortly thereafter.

Ollie placed the ruler on the table before CanImagine.

"Oh, no, you don't," said CanImagine. "I am not leaving my fingerprints on Ms. Winnie Kay's ruler. There is probably some bad juju in even touching it."

Ollie used his beak to scoot the ruler closer to CanImagine. He pulled his head and grimaced.

"Nope. Still not gonna touch it. Take it back, Ollie, before someone sees you with it." CanImagine used his hand to shoo Ollie away and Ollie suddenly flew off, leaving the ruler before him.

George and Georgie hopped onto a chair and then onto the table. They ambled up to the ruler and began a loud chattering between the two of them. There was plenty of gesticulating and Georgie pointed at CanImagine.

"Why me?" asked CanImagine. "I was just eating my lunch."

There was a loud commotion in the doorway as Winnie Kay, Pat ~ starting a new journey, and Katzendragonz all tried to enter the cafeteria door at once.

"Oh, no," said CanImagine. He imagined the facepalm icon and perfected executed it just as the three teachers stood before him on the other side of the table.
 
The three staff members burst through the door and into the cafeteria.

"Everybody Calm Down! NOW!" Ms. Katz's loud voice rolled over the commotion. "QUIET!" An uneasy silence settled over the room broken here and there by student's mutterings and the animals' agitated cries and hoots.

"You there!" Ms. Katz pointed at a trio of students huddling at a corner table. "Go to my office, Ms. Pat's room, and Ms. Winnie's room and fetch the treat jars for our mascots." The three nodded their heads and darted toward the door. "And don't touch anything else while you're in there." She shot the order after them and rolled her eyes. She knew they'd probably give in to temptation and try to snoop.

She turned her attention back to the chaos in front of her. A wide circle had opened around the agitated animals who guarded Ms. Winnie's ruler and the two phantoms that hovered over them.

The ruler did not look intimidating, but looks can be, and often are, deceiving. This is especially true when it comes to magic items. Cloud looked down at the ruler, he was afraid to touch it. He knew, that since Gwenc'hlan had given Hont and him permission, he could touch it without it turning him into something irreversible. His biggest issue was the gophers guarding the ruler, they brought back bad memories from his corporeal existence. Therefore, he decided, that the better part of valor required him, to wait until Ms Winnie handed it to him or to Hont.

"Ghost!" Shouted one of the students pointing at Cloud.

Cloud glanced around, realized he was in the cafeteria, and attempted to disappear. Instead of disappearing, he floated to the ceiling. Shaking her head, Hont entered the cafeteria. There's no use me staying outside, she thought. Cloud has already managed to get us into more trouble. The High Druid isn't going to like this turn of events.

"Sorry, Ms Winnie," Cloud said, "I didn't intend to enter the cafeteria with so many witness."

"That's alright, Cloud," Ms Winnie sighed. "I doubt your presence is going to make anyone any more nervous. As soon as the students get back with the treats, I'll give you the ruler."

"Please, Ms Winnie, give Hont the ruler. I'd as soon not touch it."

"Ms Winnie," said a student entering the cafeteria. "Here is Ollie's treats."

Ms Winnie turned to take the treats. "No!" shouted a disembodied voice. "No! I've worked too hard to get that ruler. I'm not losing it now." The student stumbled, and the treats scatter over the floor.

She pushed herself up, dusted herself off, and turned toward the door. "If everyone will excuse me, I'm going to my room to study. I don't think I'm hungry anymore."
Just as Neva turned to leave, managing not to slip on the Skittles spilled on the floor around her, Stefan careened past her, sliding on a Skittle that had escaped into the hall. Breach was right on his heels with the jelly beans from George's secret stash (obviously not as secret as George had thought). Seeing Stefan's peril, he shoved the Jelly beans into Neva's hands and grabbed Stefan just in time to rescue Georgie's M&Ms from the same fate as Ollie's Skittles.

"Is everyone okay?" Ms. Winnie asked.

"I think so," gasped Stefan.

"Yes," said Breach, out of breath.

"Mmm . . . I guess so," answered Neva, not quite sure of it.

"Well, don't just stand there, folks!" Ms. Katz interrupted. "Let's have those treats. The sooner we get that ruler, the sooner we can help Gwenc'hlan save the Academy."

"I said, ''NO!'" came the eerie voice that seemed to come from everywhere at once.

****************************************************


"Aagghh!" screamed Gwenc'hlan watching the monitor in his office. "It can't be! I thought him banished for eternity over a century ago. Where has he been this long while? And what idiot let him loose?"

Word Count: 418

         Gwenc'hian saw now who was behind the weakening of the barriers that protected the school, keeping all other phantoms except—his people—away from the students. They banished Morfran for losing his purpose and finding tormenting, rather than teaching, students more to his liking. Years of warnings went unheeded until the Druids decided to banish him; hoping to reform rather than destroy him.
         Getting that talisman outweighed all other considerations. Obviously Morfran had not reformed. The events of the past week proved that. The reason for the students losing sight of the forums and other resources to really lean, was now clear. At least he knew what fight lay ahead. Gwenc'hian ran to his closet to change into inconspicuous modern clothes. He hated modern wear as it pinched and confined him. Not at all like the robes he had loved since his initiation into the Druidic Order.

####

         "What was that?" asked Neva, glancing at the two phantoms as if they were responsible.
         "Don't look at us," Cloud said. "We're right here. That's someone else."
         "Who?" asked Ms. Katz.
         Hont answered, "I think I know but I need to speak with the High Druid. If I'm right, we have a bigger problem."
         Ms. Winnie walked over to the table where the ruler sat in front of Stefan, each mascots having moved to where their favorite treat was.
         "I'll take that," she said, putting her palm out.
         Stefan picked the talisman up, holding it as if it were a venomous snake and gently placed it in Ms. Winnie's hand. She turned to the two phantoms and said, "Here, take this to Gwenc'hian."
         "That won't be necessary," the High Druid said. "I'm here."
         The man stood in the doorway looking like a student in his jeans and t-shirt. His bare feet the only hint of his otherworldly origins.
         "I'll take that, Ms. Winnie." Gwenc'hian reached in her direction and she took a step toward him.
         "No!" a loud voice cried, followed by a rush of wind from behind Ms. Winnie. A dark shape snapped into existence behind her and shoved. Ms. Winnie stumbled and the ruler flew out of her hand, causing the animals to hiss and screech. Donna leapt toward the flying ruler but before her hand closed around it, the ruler vanished. Breach stepped in front of Donna and caught her before she crashed into the tables.
         "Who or what was that?" demanded Ms. Pat.
         "That is why all the problems," said the High Druid, "and if we don't get that talisman back, it will get much worse."
The talisman was back in the possession of Lord Morfran. He had been searching for it for longer than he could remember. That high minded fool, Gwenc'hian, thought he was so smart. Hiding it as a ruler in a school was brilliant, but Morfran was smarter. He searched for protective barriers and then observed the location to determine the reason for the protective spell. He had nothing but time. His patient, methodical and military-like approach served him well.

Morfran popped back to outside his lair high in the Alps. Deep within the mountains he had put modern conveniences to his use. Why would he live as they had centuries ago? Let those Druids live like monks, if they so choose.

Morfran's home was modern and comfortable. His book shelves were filled with the classics and more recent offerings. At eye level, situated in the center of the wall of shelves, there was an elongated and curving stone. Morfran gently placed the talisman in its silly ruler form on the base. He would enjoy looking at it as a ruler for now.



 
Ms. Katz heaved a huge sigh. "Oh dear! I think we need to instigate counter measures." She scanned the cafeteria. "Show's over, people! Everyone finish your lunch, and then head over the the library for an extra hour of study. Final assignments are not that far off."

She turned to the High Druid, the phantoms, and Ms. Winnie and Ms. Pat. "You all follow me. I think I have something that will help us straighten this mess out."

Ms. Katz led them all back to her office. Since it wasn't all the big they had to scrunch in with shoulders bumping and phantoms overlapping live humans. "Don't stand in front of that book case." She pointed to a tall glass fronted cabinet that held her oldest and most precious books, along with a few fantasy and romance novels she kept hidden from the students.

"Stand back." She reached up and tapped a rose engraved on the corner of the cornice at the top of the case. Then she reached over and turned a loop on the side and pulled. The book case swung forward and revealed a narrow spiraling stair way that wound up. "It leads to the bell tower. I have a private study and retreat up there."

"How is that possible? The bell tower is too small." Ms. Winnie had a curious look in her eye.

"It may be small on the outside, but it's spacious on the inside." Ms. Katz grinned. "Come on follow me!" She led the way up to the top and laid her left hand over a small carving on the closed door. She muttered a few words and the door opened.

Her private retreat glowed in the light of a dozen fragrant candles, the snapping flames in the fire place, and artfully disguised electric lights. "Sit! Make yourselves at home. I'll just be a minute." While they all found places and plopped down Ms. Katz pulled an ancient carved box out of a large wardrobe.

"What is that?" The High Druid sensed the magic encased in the beautiful box.

Ms Katz set it on the low tea table and lifted the lid. The large rose-tinted crystal ball nestled in deep navy velvet. "It's out first weapon," she answered with a wave of her hand. "It will show us where Ms. Winnie's ruler is now and then it will help us bring it back here."

The High Druid's eyes sparkled. "I always wondered where that had gone." He muttered under his breath as he scooted closer to examine the rose crystal.


         As Ms. Katz concentrated on the transparent, rose-tinted ball, thin clouds began to form inside, swirling and growing in density until the globe was filled and opaque.
         "She does know her power," Gwenc'hlan muttered.
         The clouds slowed and took on color, resolving into a view of snow-Notescovered mountains.
         "That's the Matterhorn!" Ms. Pat said.
         Ms. Katz nodded and concentrated again. The image softened into clouds before reforming into an image of a study. Against the back wall was a curved stone with the ruler sitting on top. A man walked from the side to admire the ruler, smirking in satisfaction.
         "Morfran!" hissed the High Druid.
         Hont paled, as much as a phantom can, at the mention of the renegade Druid's name. "Fantom told me about him. He's more terrifying than the ruler."
         "I see banishment did not help him see the truth." Gwenc'hlan sighed. "He knows what will happen to the place on which stands the academy, should the talisman remain outside the wards for too long. He stood in the circle that dedicated the academy grounds for the furthering of the art of prose and poetry."
         "What will happen?" asked Cloud.
         "The academy and the grounds will become a wasteland, but that is minor to the effects on the world at large."
         "The world?" said Ms. Pat. "Do you mean the world will also became such a place?"
         "No, Ms. Pat. Worse than that. The dreams of humanity, the spread of ideas, and the desire to write center on the stone beneath. They radiate from there, resulting in people writing and others reading." Gwenc'hlan shook his head, tears glistening in his eyes. "Can you imagine this world without writers—without stories?"
         There was absolute silence. The group in Ms. Katz hidden study shuttered, almost as one.
         Someone whispered, "No, not that."
         "But why would he—" Ms. Winnie asked, just as quietly.
         "As the centuries passed, Morfran came to believe that dreams and stories should be controlled, and that he should decide what was sent forth from this place. Others before him had thought such things. That is why the Stone of Dreams was brought to the new world and buried far beneath the ground. New Horizons was built on the ruins of many places of learning that have stood here."
         "We can't let that happen," said Breach, who stood at the door with all the students filling the stairway behind him. There was a mumble of assent from the group.
         Ms. Katz snapped her head towards the stairs causing the image in the ball to fade, her brows pinched in disapproval. Her expression slowly softened, ending in a sigh. She looked up to the High Druid. "The students are right: we cannot allow the world to sink into despair. Dreams and the stories to spread them keep hope and joy alive."
         A slow clapping came from a dark corner of the room. Morfran stepped into the light, holding the ruler in his hand.
"You don't think I sensed you watching me?" the disgraced druid said. Gwenc'hlan stepped towards Morfran who thrust the talisman forward, holding it between his hands as if ready to snap it in half. Cloud and Hont jumped back from Ms. Winnie's dreaded ruler."
         "Ah, ah, ah," he mocked. "You make me break this and see what happens."
         Donna, who stood next to Breach, asked, "What would happen? That's not the stone."
         Morfran smiled, looking thrilled to share his knowledge. "This talisman is the gate. It controls the outpouring of inspiration from the stone. Break it and the control is lost. All the force held within, meant to last until the end of the Earth, would be released within a day. Oh, sure, there would be many stories started; hope would abound and joy would fill the earth . . . for a day. After that, no more. An abrupt stop to the stone's effect. I predict the world will feel despair like I did all those centuries locked away."
         Neva, who stood on the other side of Breach, asked, "You have felt despair. Why would you condemn the world if you have felt its effects all these centuries?"
         "Ask your High Druid. I believe he has guessed."
         All present looked at Gwenc'hlan, who stared at the ruler clasped in Morfran's hand. "By leaving his place without being released, he will fade to nothing in a short time. He intends revenge."
         Morfran shook his head. "Only partially correct. I offered to make all the dreams of men happy, all the stories cheerful and uplifting by altering the casting on the stone. I was rejected and will face only despair and then—nothing. I will give the world what it—and you, High Druid—gave me."
         Morfran yelped and jumped back, dropping the ruler. Georgia and George sat by his legs as blood dripped down from Morfran's ankles, a bite mark on each calf. Everyone's eyes snapped to the ruler on the floor. The group tensed and many started to move toward the talisman. Both Morfran and Gwenc'hlan raised their hands as if to cast.
         "ENOUGH!" yelled Ms. Katz. Everyone found they could not move, frozen in place. Ms. Katz retrieved the ruler, polishing it as she straightened. She placed the inspiration gate into the High Druids hand, stepped back and looked him in the eyes. "You will take better care of this in the future."
         Gwenc'hlan's eyes frantically looked around, dropping to his hand where lay the ruler. His fingers had not yet moved to hold it firm. Ms. Katz stared at him as if expecting an answer. Glancing around the room, seeing everyone still locked in place, she waved her hand and the High Druid jerked free, closing his fingers around the ruler.
         His stare shifted to the school headmistress, and he whispered, "Who are you?"
Mr. Katz smiled. "Someone of whom the dreams and stories speak--whose responsibility it is to further their spread." She closed her eyes and the others, with the exception of Morfran, found themselves free of restraint. The two teachers stared at the Headmistress, as if wondering where they would go from here.
         "Morfran, you have a choice," Ms. Katz said, turning to face him. You may return to your place of banishment or fade away. Those here and all the Druid guardians will not allow you to harm men's dreams." She waited a moment and asked, "I assume you choose banishment?"
         Morfran slowly closed and opened his eyes in acquiescence. Ms. Kats looked at the two Druids and said, "See to it." The phantoms bowed their heads in respect, accepting the charge.
         "The Druids will please remain here. The rest of you may return to what's important: teaching and learning. I believe there are online students that need your attention," she said to the two awestruck teachers. "And you student have the final assignments to turn in." No one moved until Ms. Katz said, "Well? Go!" They all left except for the four Druids. Elizabeth still stood at the door, staring for a moment, before closing it behind her. Ms. Katz shifted her gaze in turn to each still in the room, finally saying, "We have some things to discuss, don't you think?"

Word count: 1196
"It was last year," said Breach to the new group of students sitting around the cafeteria table as they hung to his every word. "Ghosts, wizards, apparitions, and druids were all over the school. I wouldn't have believed it, if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes."

"Are you telling ghost stories, Breach?" asked Ms. Katz to the table of students. "Don't let him scare you. We haven't had any anomalies here at the school in a year, and there is no reason to think they will return."

The new students gathered their trays and excused themselves as Ms. Katz stood before Breach, staring and slowly chewing her gum.

"But what about Ms. Winnie's ruler?" asked Breach.

"We went to Office Depot... wait. Is it Office Depot or Office Max now?" asked Ms. Katz. She waved off the question and continued, "Wherever! We got her a new ruler. It's over. No more ghost stories."

A strange thing occurred to her eyes as she said the word "ruler." Breach saw it and sat back in his chair.

"Okay. I'm going to late for Ms. Pat's class if I don't get going. Thank you, Ms. Katz." Breach gathered his lunch tray and quickly left the cafeteria.
The End

. . . Or maybe not.

*Shock2*

The End!

© Copyright 2017 CanImagine, Katzendragonz, Snow Vampire, Breach, Pat ~ starting a new journey, FrankenDuf 🦵👂🦶, (known as GROUP).
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