You had to hand it to him, the kid was quick-thinking. If it wasn't for Loki, Maia would be dead or worse.
Before she could even process what had just happened, he had grabbed her arm and pulled her over to the wall. He whistled to Fenrir and pressed something next to the cupboard. The wall creaked to one side and revealed a secret tunnel. Loki pulled Maia through, Fenrir bounding in after her, and pressed a button to close the entrance.
Maia turned to him. "What the heck is that thing?" she panicked.
"That door won't hold it for long, whatever it is," Loki flinched as the demon thing began pounding on the door. "Follow me!" He took off into the dark passageway. Maia didn't hesitate and quickly followed.
The tunnel was dark and gloomy. Maia shivered and wished she had her torch. She speeded up, carefully avoiding the various boulders and stalagmites littering the cave floor, until she turned a sharp corner and nearly crashed into Loki.
"You keep watching in case that thing comes. I'll find the button." Loki said without looking up.
Maia nodded. She concentrated hard and tried to summon her sword. Please, please, please. Just this once.
She opened her eyes and looked expectantly at her hand. She could feel something forming there, but it was too dark to see. At that moment, a section of the wall fell away and light streamed into the tunnel. Loki turned to her. "Come on, we- why are you holding a blue carrot?"
"Don't ask," Maia snapped, throwing the blue carrot over her shoulder. She tried again, concentrating on the picture of her sword in her mind. There was a loud bang and her sword appeared in her hand.
Wow, Maia thought, that's never happened that quickly before. She scolded herself angrily. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth! You can think about that later.
In the distance, she could hear footsteps getting closer. "Come on!" She pushed Loki and Fenrir out of the tunnel.
It was an ordinary little forest, with the sun sinking below the horizon and the leaves just beginning to turn the colours of autumn and fall to the ground. But as the heavy footsteps thundered towards them, the air turned cold. The plants began to wither and die.
"We can't outrun it." Loki looked panicked.
"So we stay and fight," Maia smiled confidently. Swordfighting was something she was good at.
The thundering grew louder and the demon burst out of the tunnel. "You can't run from me," it hissed. "I will catch you in the end."
"Not if I kill you first, poo-head." Maia yelled and swung her sword at him. Behind her, Loki transformed into a black panther and he attacked with her.
Maia was skilful, but this demon was even more so. A large black scythe appeared in his hands and he fought back, parrying her thrusts. He seemed to be able to read her thoughts, to know what she'd do next.
Loki, still in panther form, had pounced on the demon and was trying to bite his sword arm. The creature momentarily lost concentration to slash at Loki, and Maia saw her chance. She shouted in defiance and thrust her sword into the demon. With a horrible wail, it dissolved into black smoke. The scythe clattered to the floor.
Loki shifted back into human form. "How did you do that?"
"I just got lucky, I suppose." Maia was as surprised as him, but tried not to let it show. She tried to summon her sheath and got it first try.
"No," Loki examined her as if she was a specimen in a museum. "When you stabbed it, your necklace glowed white."
"I'm not wearing a necklace, doofus," she said, automatically putting her hand to her neck. "Oh!" She was indeed wearing her amethyst pendant - a gift from her mother. "But I didn't put it on today. I left it in my jewellery box. How..."
"Don't look at me," said Loki.
Maia removed her necklace and stared at it for a while, before putting it back on and sheathing her sword. "Right, where's Fenrir?"
Loki whistled and the puppy emerged from a bush, wagging his tail.
She smiled. "Sensible dog. So, any other powers I should know about, shapeshifter?"
Loki shrugged and retrieved his sword. "I'm a ele-whatever."
"Yeah. A fire elementalist."
"Impressive." Maia nodded "Lucky you, having magic that works."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Maia cursed herself mentally. "Tell you later. Now-" she looked at the horizon. The sun had practically disappeared. "now we need to find somewhere to shelter. I don't trust this forest."
She marched off, Fenrir and Loki following.
Soon they found a clearing that seemed relatively monster-free. Maia found some old sticks and Loki lit them. It wasn't long before they had a roaring fire going.
"I'm going to try and magic up some pizza or something." Maia closed her eyes and tried to summon the food. She got a small wooden hippopotamus.
Loki laughed. "I see what you meant now about magic not working. If you like, I can teach you to make it work."
"Really?" Maia grinned.
"Yeah, but only if you teach me sword fighting. I was watching you fighting that demon thing. You're really good."
"Wait, you can't swordfight?"
"No. I'm rubbish." Loki quickly changed the subject. "Try again with the food."
After about ten minutes of summoning various oddities, including shoes, a car tyre, a needle and thread, a drum kit and a bobble hat, Maia eventually managed to magic up a banana for Fenrir, a paper plate of sandwiches, a few flasks of hot chocolate and some packets of crisps.
"Yes, it worked!" Maia grinned.
At that moment, there was a rustling in the bushes. She leapt to her feet, nearly stepping on Fenrir, and pulled her sword from its scabbard. "Who's there?" she called, trying to stop her voice shaking.
There was a thunk and two boys fell out of a large camellia bush. From their appearance, they were clearly twins. They were both quite tall and had the same messy black hair and blue eyes. The one on the left was slightly but noticeably shorter. He was wearing a neat blue cape, white collared shirt, black trousers and black pointy shoes. Together the whole thing looked like a school uniform. The other boy had the same blue cape, but underneath he was wearing a Spider-Man T-shirt, blue jeans, sneakers and a grey hoodie tied around his waist.
The one in school uniform elbowed his lookalike. "Um, who are they, Alfie?"
"No idea. Maybe they're monsters!" The taller boy, Alfie panicked and hid behind his brother.
"Nah. If they were monsters, they would have attacked by now." The shorter one perked up. "Hey! Melissa told me about these wizard inspectors that set you challenges and stuff, to see what you're made of. Maybe that's what's happening here!"
"She told me as well, Charlie," Alfie said uncertainly. "I'm pretty sure she said it only happens to the over-seventeens."
"Who cares? As long as they're not monsters. Just don't let on we know!"
Maia exchanged a bemused glance with Loki. "Um, hi?"
Charlie whirled round. "Greetings, fellow travellers!" His voice had suddenly become a lot posher. "What brings you to this forest?"
"Charlie!" Alfie interrupted. "They're not wizard inspectors, OK? Snap out of formal mode!"
He glared at Alfie. "It's not called formal mode! But alright."
"We're not wizard inspectors, whatever they are," said Loki. "She's a fairy and I'm a god."
"That sounds so self-centred," Maia muttered. "Pleased to meet you, I'm Maia."
"I'm Charles Knight," Charlie volunteered. "Wizard in training. This is my brother Alfred."
"Charlie!" Alfie snapped. "Nice to meet you, Maia. Please call me Alfie. I hate being called Alfred."
Maia grinned. "My full name's Maiara, but I kill anyone who calls me that. That's Loki and that's Fenrir," she said, pointing at each of them in turn.
"So you're wizards?" Loki asked. "Do you have any other powers?"
Alfie nodded. "We both do. I think the correct term is mage, but Charlie thinks that sounds less fancy than wizard. I can talk to animals and he's an illusionist and lightning elementalist."
"Sounds cool." Maia gestured towards the paper plate. "Would you like a sandwich?"
"I thought you'd never ask." Alfie grinned at her.