Chapter 8 - The Great Wall of Hedges

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It's every six-year-old's dream to find a portal and travel to a magical world full of unicorns and rainbows and sunshine.

And this  world was nothing like anything Alana could have imagined. 

The houses were literally made of gemstones. LITERALLY. (Raven had offered some scientific explanations, but Alana tuned them out)

Alana wondered how the magical community kept this place a secret from humans for so long.

 And yet... Alana didn't know how she felt.

She left her parents, her school, her ex-best friend, for a whole new world - full of the very magic she thought was a curse. And full of people (and creatures) she didn't know. 

And, although her parents were paranoid sometimes, they loved her. And Alana loved them.

And true, her best friend, Isla Banks totally hurt her feelings... but she was still her best friend. A small part of Alana ached at the thought they might never talk again.

And... Alana didn't know anything here. She didn't understand  anything. How did these people's powers work? What was she going to do here? What was going to happen to her and her powers? Would she still have to keep them a secret? 

She felt so... so... lost.

And maybe, just maybe, a little part of her felt guilty for hurting Tom Jenkins.

It was weird of her to think that... but no one should seriously hurt anyone, no matter how evil they are.

Right?

"Wait 'till you see this," Raven called up ahead, her racoon piggybacking on her shoulder.

"Where... are... we... going...?" Alana panted as she jogged up the hill. 

"Your new school."

Alana's head snapped up. "What?"

Selena chuckled. Raven grinned. Mora raised an arched eyebrow. 

"You thought they'd be no school here?" Mora said sarcastically, but gentler than before.

Alana didn't know what to think.

Being dumped in a magical world was exciting, yes, but being dumped in a magical world apart from everything she knew, PLUS a new school with new people was just a nightmare.

"Give her time to think, Ramora," Selena cut in, her lizard peeking out from her hair. She gazed at Alana with her emerald green eyes, the corners crinkling. "You'll love it there. It's the best academy in Audoria."

What if they don't like me there?

Alana blinked. Where did that come from? It was very unlike her to think like that.

By then they had reached a tall hedge. Taller than all of them - even Mora, who was already quite tall. The tall hedge extended left and right for miles, like the Great Wall of Hedges or something.

"What's this?" Alana asked, nervously tucking a strand of auburn hair behind her ear. (She had tied up her hair earlier that day, but now it was all coming apart)

Raven took Alana's hand in her warm ones and led her forwards. Alana wriggled. Raven's body temperature was indeed warmer than a normal body, and though her hand wasn't as hot as her head the time Alana tried to punch her, it was still rather unnerving to be clutching something so hot.

"Put your hand on the hedge," Raven said coolly.

Alana obeyed, and the other three witches did the same.

Then as if by magic - or obviously by magic - the hedge shook. Suddenly, the branches parted, revealing the pure white castle Alana had glimpsed before. 

The castle was even more beautiful in person. It had sweeping arches, fountains spraying water off balconies, windows with glimmering crawling vines. The castle itself looked like it was cut out of a huge diamond, with rainbows reflecting off every angle of light. And before the castle, were beautiful gardens, arches with hanging diamonds, streams and trees of purple, pink and gold, all shining in the sun. Beyond the castle, were endless woods, an endless sea of a million shades of green.

The interior was just as amazing.

The entrance hall was tiled with white marble, and gold filled the cracks on the floor. Gigantic pillars with creeping plants reached to the ceiling, which was transparent, letting the sunshine flood the hall. A balcony was ahead of Alana, with two curving staircases leading up to it. A hallway extended at the top of the balcony, leading to more rooms. There were more hallways at Alana's left and right, each one lit with curvy glass capsules mounted to the walls, with toungues of flame flickering within.

Again, Alana caught herself thinking -

What if everyone thinks I'm weird?

She mentally slapped herself. ALANA WINTERS. DON'T THINK LIKE THAT.

Then Alana noticed something odd.

For a prestigious academy, this one was strangely empty.

"Where is everyone?" Alana blurted.

"Sleeping," Mora said, her voice monotonous.

"What - oh."

Of course witches would be asleep in the morning. She should have known! Even the town she had just passed through looked deserted.

"Not all creatures here are nocturnal," Raven explained. "The centaurs, for instance-"

"AH STOP," Mora howled.

Alana's head hurt, still trying to process everything.

So Mora hates science-y stuff too, after all,  Alana thought, her confused brain suddenly pleased.

"Calm down, ladies," Selena ordered. She tuned to Alana, "You must be exhausted. You'll need all the rest you can get."

The next few minutes passed in a blur. Strangely, Alana found herself tucked in bed, too groggy to bother how she got there.

"Goodnight, Alana Winters," she heard a calming voice through her dazedness. "Rest well. You'll need it."

And by its own will, Alana's eyes slowly closed, pulling her to a void of oblivion. 

Just before she fell asleep, Alana's brain latched on to one thought.

What if I never fit in?


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