The crawlie scrambled around Oboe’s hooves, trying to find a way out of the cage. There wasn’t any. The cage was big enough to hold a whole troll, but the bars were thick and close together. They were trapped.
Oboe peered through the bars. The spell had transported them into some sort of dank stone laboratory. It stank like urine, mulch, and spent magic. There was a dirty old workbench overloaded with books and sharp and scary looking tools. Lamps and dried herbs hung from the low ceiling. The walls were lined with bottles and cages and, to Oboe’s horror, she realized most of them were filled with little ghasts. It looked like someone was using them for rituals.
“Don’t worry little guy,” Oboe said. “I’ll get us out of here!”
She grabbed a bar with each hand. The iron hurt her hands, drained the magic in her and made her feel weak. She ignored that sick feeling and rattled the bars. They were tight and sturdy. That meant she had to do this the hard way. Oboe grunted and huffed and strained with all her strength to pull the bars apart. If she could bend them just enough they could slip out and get away.
A bell rang. Oboe heard footsteps on the floor above. Someone was coming. She was strong but needed more time to twist bars this thick. The iron groaned as she threw her back into it.
A trapdoor opened at the top of a staircase and light flooded through. A man in a prim black suit and a familiar smirk descended into the laboratory.
“Well,” Flip said. “Looks like my traps caught a bit more than usual today.”
“Flip??” Oboe said, still straining to shift the bars. “What are you doing here?!”
Flip was amused. “I should be asking you that. Why would a fairy take ghast bait?”
“You’re the one who’s been kidnapping ghasts?!”
The witch folded his hands together. “I prefer to call it ‘hunting.’ The ghasts I acquire aren’t sentient. Well, most of the time anyway.” he laughed. “Don’t look at me that way, it’s not like they’re people.”
“You’re going to be in big trouble when I tell Theodore about this!” Oboe said.
The bars had widened just enough for the Crawlie to squeeze through. It wriggled toward the stairs and Flip stomped to pin it to the floor.
“Hey! Don’t hurt him!” Oboe shouted.
Flip picked up the stunned ghast. “Do you know what I like about fairies?” Flip’s grin grew wider. He did something with his hand and the crawlie writhed with pain. A swirl of gray and purple smoke was sucked out from the creature into the witch’s palm. “You run a little magic through iron and they’re helpless. Iron is so much cheaper than silver.”
The crawlie turned to ash and crumbled to the floor. Oboe recoiled in shock.
“Y-you killed him!” She said. “How could you?! He was nice friend and a good listener!!”
Flip touched the bars of the cage and a white-hot glow spread through them. Pain jolted through Oboe’s hand. The magic knocked her back and she fell to the floor of the cage. She forced herself to sit up despite the pain.
“What’s going on?” She said. “Why are you doing this?!”
Flip shrugged. “Nothing personal sweetie, just trying to run a business.”
Oboe looked at all the cages and at the pile of ash that was her friend a moment ago. She felt sick. “I thought you said you weren’t a bad witch!”
Flip rolled his eyes. “I told you not all witches are bad. I never said anything about myself.”