Marcia had a sinking feeling as she left the headmaster's office. She knew that the prank against Daria was not the end of the rivalry between Franci and her. There would be at least one more showdown between the girls, only one would emerge victoriously , and the other would fade into obscurity. Marcia knew that she might have help from her spirit friends to take care of Franci, but the confrontation must occur in private witnessed by no one living. The loser would disappear and join the spirits who haunted the island if they accepted her.
It was Friday afternoon and the end of the fifth week of summer school. The spirits had not bothered Marcia after she got more charms from Kathy and Gustaf. Unlike normal schools, the Bard School held classes seven days a week. Saturday classes usually consisted of a review of the prior week's classes, but the prior week was all laboratory exercises building bombs and simulating detonations. Marcia's group completed the labs and scored highest of the groups as usual. The headmaster allowed her group to wander the island and explore the forest and shoreline as an award.
Marcia went directly to her boat and moved offshore to repeat her row around the island. As she rowed, her mind wandered thinking about Franci and her sword. When she used her sword, she became a dangerous foe. Marcia thought about a good way to defeat the girl when they were on the sand. The only time Franci was alone was during her practice sessions on the sandy shore of the lake. That would be the site of their showdown and eventual victory for one of them.
Marcia was about 25 meters offshore when she decided to stop and drift with the current that swirled around the island. As she sat there, she watched the shoreline looking for anything new or unusual. Franci practiced dancing in the sand waving the sword in precision movements. The dancing with the twirling sword fascinated Marcia, but she knew that one slip of the feet or an arm meant that some part of the dancer's body would feel the cut of the sharp blade. Franci made the intricate movements look very easy, but Marcia knew it took many hours and months of practice to master them.
Marcia dipped the oars in the water and rowed toward shore. As the bow ran up on shore, Franci appeared poised to challenge her. Marcia was not ready for any conflict that might arise. She slowly secured the oars in the boat, walked to the bow and jumped ashore grabbing the anchor rope. Marcia pulled the boat completely out of the water and tied it to a tree. She turned away from the boat and almost walked into Franci, who waited for her, poised to strike.
The girls faced off as if poised to fight. Before anything happened, Marcia spoke calmly and softly, "You looked good today as you practiced. Your movements were fluid and graceful. You looked comfortable and relaxed."
Franci taken back by the calm, soft compliments appeared surprised and perplexed. She did not respond right away, but thought for a bit and relaxed. "Thank you, I was able to work out my frustrations and disappointments through my dancing. What you did to Daria and me with the flash-bomb upset and unnerved me. I will get revenge on you for that. Watch out and beware, I will strike. Consider this your first and only warning. I will come for you."
Marcia looked surprised at Franci but knew she was ready to defend herself from the sword and dancing. She backed away slowly watching Franci carefully. When she thought it was safe, she turned and hurried back toward the school and the safety of her friends. As she walked quickly, she thought about what she needed to do for protection, until she was ready for the confrontation. She would never be alone, stay away from the shore where Franci practiced and got ready to fight for her life. Naomi would be the best person to stay near because Marcia knew she would fight for her. When she arrived at school, she sought Naomi and her group members.
Marcia found her friends in the forest wandering in the wildflowers that grew among the trees. Naomi noticed Marcia's approach and the look of alarm on her face. She ran to Marcia and hugged her asking, "What's wrong? What scared you so badly? Do we need to take action against someone?"
"No, I will take care of it. I just need my friends near me. What have you been doing?"
"We have checked out all the different wildflowers and looked for signs of animals. So far, nothing has shown, but we heard rustling in the bushes nearby, as we walked. Have you seen anything in the forest?"
"No, I haven't, but I saw signs of deer and maybe a wolf or two. I heard a few growling noises, but they were more in greeting, rather than menacing or attack."
Naomi did not like what she saw in Marcia, so she suggested, "Let's get back to the school. It is close to dinner, and we need to wash up." The four classmates walked back to their barracks and cleaned up for dinner.
Marcia sat on her old bed waiting for Naomi. She wanted to talk to Naomi about Franci and the threats she made. She knew that Naomi would have some ideas to protect against an attack, but not kill Franci unnecessarily. As she sat on the bed, Daria and Franci entered the barracks, ignored Marcia's presence and walked to their bunks. Marcia felt good that they walked by to their bunks, but was suspicious of the duo. She needed the plan to protect herself from them. The last week of summer school started in two days. If anything happened , it would be during that week.
Naomi joined Marcia sitting on the bunk and looked at Daria and Franci. "Have they bothered you since they entered?"
"No, I think if they bother me, it will be in a private area away from witnesses. In fact, I worry more about Franci than Daria. Daria would not try to hurt me badly. Franci wants to kill me, and I feel it will happen soon. Do you have any ideas that might help me against her?"
Naomi thought for a moment, "Carry a big stick with you as if it were a walking stick. Something you feel comfortable with as a weapon."
"I have an idea. Near the boat, a small ash tree would make a nice walking stick and weapon. That will be mine. Thank you, I feel better. Let's get some dinner."
Early on Sunday, while the class was at church, Marcia cut the tree and made her 'walking stick.' When Naomi saw the stick, she tried it and felt it would provide a good defense. Marcia felt better with that approval.
Things remained quiet and civil until Thursday when Franci saw Marcia with her weapon. Franci picked on Marcia, but she remained quiet and away from Franci. Nothing happened on Thursday, but Marcia knew Friday was the day. She felt it from some of the spirits, but they seemed to favor her over Franci.
Friday was a short school day that allowed the groups to finish any labs and clean out their desks. Marcia's group took the time to empty things and start to pack their clothes. Marcia's clothes were at Kathy's , but her duffle was in the barracks. She went to retrieve it, but Franci and Daria confronted her alone. Fear swelled in Marcia's stomach, her voice wavered as she s poke , "What do you want? I am here to get my duffle. Let me be, and you won't feel my wrath."
Daria huffed at Marcia in a threatening stance, "Why are you angry with us? We have not done anything (yet) nor will we."
Marcia looked at the girls and felt a chill run down her backbone, as a sign that evil mayhem was afoot. She backed away from her tormentors, grabbed her duffle and ran from the barracks. The feeling of chills ended abruptly , as she left the barracks. She packed her clothes except for her traveling wear. When she finished, she felt the need to take some time, alone on the lake. She grabbed her walking stick and went out on the lake in her boat to calm down.
As Marcia sat in the boat, her mind raced with thoughts of imminent danger that confused her. Instead of calming her, the thoughts stirred up her emotions and convinced her that it was time for action. She decided that the next opportunity she had to confront Franci was soon to come. She mentally girded her body preparing for the eventual standoff with Franci onshore, while she practiced with her sword. Marcia knew that her stick would hold up in a fight with the sword-wielding girl.
Marcia observed Franci, as she practiced on the sandy shore. She noticed that the girl had trouble performing her dancing moves because the sand was loose and deep, burying her feet. Franci wore a strange uniform like a set of clothes. It consisted of a white pair of loose pants, and a wrap-around top cinched closed with a wide black cloth belt. A black band swathed her head that kept hair out of her face. Marcia wondered if the uniform had some special significance.
It was a perfect time for Marcia to strike and make her mark. She rowed her boat ashore, determined to face off with Franci. As she pushed the boat up the beach, Franci approached menacingly waving her sword. Instead of cowering, Marcia stood her ground holding her stick loosely at her side. Rather than take an offensive pose, Marcia stood ready to defend against an attack.
Franci dashed quickly on the sand but slowed when she closed on Marcia. The slowdown gave Marcia the opportunity to assume a defensive stance ready to block the stroke of the sword. As the sword came down, Marcia slid her hands apart on her stick to catch the blow in the center of the stick. The blow hit the stick glancing away forcing Franci to fall back. Marcia felt the blow and her hands throbbed. She did not drop her stick but held firm. Marcia watched Franci back up warily while she recovered from the blow. Marcia quickly moved her hands together and swung at Franci's knees.
The blow landed solidly on Franci's right knee forcing the girl to fall over face down in the sand. She quickly recovered spitting and coughing sand but had difficulty standing and moving. Marcia stood ready for another attack as Franci stood and advanced limping. As part of Marcia's plan, she lured Franci closer to the boat on the shore. She wanted to use the boat as higher ground. Franci poked at Marcia with the sword as she limped in the sand. The closer to the boat, the sand hardened and made her movement, easier.
Marcia poked at Franci's stomach area with the stick angering the girl. Franci lowered her sword for protection. Marcia switched her attack, striking out and landing a heavy blow on the girl's left thigh. Marcia moved the blows around Franci's body timing and slowing the sword attacks. As the attacks slowed, Marcia recovered and took the offensive. Both girls breathed heavily emitting moans as blows rained. Marcia carefully climbed into the boat and tempted Franci to join her. Marcia kept her attack against Franci's body forcing Franci to hold the sword lower.
The attack raged for over thirty minutes with both girls attempting to disable the other. Neither succeeded, but Marcia seemed to have the upper hand with her stick. Marcia stood on a seat and towered over her opponent. Franci stepped into the boat and charged Marcia. Marcia blocked the blow deflecting it downward , and the sword punched a hole in the bottom of the boat. With the sword stuck in the boat, Marcia landed a blow on Franci's neck, which made her fall into the boat unconscious. Marcia saw the girl sprawled on the deck, and a final solution came to mind.
Marcia looked around to assure that no one saw the blow or the girls fighting. She rolled Franci over and crossed the unconscious girl's hands over her stomach. Marcia grabbed the sword from the gash in the bottom and made several more holes. She took the rope that held the anchor and used it to tie Franci's hands and feet. Marcia threw the sword onto the sand and made sure Franci could not move.
The wind on the lake blew strongly, and Marcia knew that the boat would drift away from shore quickly. Marcia strained, as she pushed the boat with Franci's unconscious body tied to the anchor strongly into the lake. The boat moved swiftly away from the island. As the boat followed the current, it slowly filled with cold lake water. About 75 meters offshore, the boat sank beneath small waves.
Marcia stood and watched the boat disappear. She felt a twinge of sadness, but not for the drowning death of her classmate, more for the loss of the boat. She bent and picked up the bayonet sword. She hefted it in her hand. It felt good, but there gathered a strong evil presence around the sword. Marcia knew that the sword must disappear, but she could not destroy it. It was hers by right of conquest. The spirits gathered around her and urged her to give up her ill-gotten prize. From the edge of the forest, Marcia heard the triumphant howl of a White Wolf. She smiled at the sound and turned toward the forest.
Marcia pondered what to do to hide and protect the sword. It was hers, and she wanted to keep it safe. Only one place on the island was safe and free from spiritual influence. She had to hide it there. Marcia thought of her friend, the lone wolf, and she felt a close kinship with him. She was alone and felt like howling in her victory. She started a low growl that came from deep within her soul and rose slowly into the lonely howl of the lone White Wolf.
When she finished, she moved swiftly through the forest to her safe place. It was the place that called to her the day she arrived. She visited it often but never stayed long. The clearing of the magic circle loomed ahead and drew her spirit toward it. As she moved closer to the circle, she felt a minor battle rage in her soul. The evil contained in the sword tried to capture Marcia's soul. The goodness of the lone wolf was stronger and prevented the evil taking her.
The lone wolf spirit lured her to a small hollow area outside the magic circle that was the size of the sword. She gently placed the sword in the hollow and moved away. As she moved away from the hollow, she felt the evil spirit leave her body. She entered the magic circle and approached the altar. The spirit of the lone wolf flooded her body and lifted her spirit high into the heavens. She felt a calmness that overwhelmed her and invaded her soul. The spirits in the circle drew her to the foot of the altar. She stood silently with her eyes closed as love and happiness flowed around and into her body.
Fifteen minutes later the spirits moved Marcia away from the altar sending her back to her classmates. She felt calm and happy that the pressure on her ended. She met her friends and walked with them to the barracks to gather the bags to load on the ferry. The evening meal went quickly, and a ceremony after dinner praised and awarded prizes to the best group and individual students. As expected, Marcia and her group took the top honors. No one seemed to notice that Franci did not show for dinner or the ceremony. Daria seemed in a dream, which kept her quiet and pleased.
Early the next morning, the students carried their duffle bags aboard the ferry. As Marcia boarded the ferry, a sad low howl came to her ears. She turned to the forest and saw the White Wolf. She waved and joined her friends happily and smiled. Marcia and her classmates departed back to the castle to start their next year of study.