The Hexed Child Blurb
A Bertram Bile Time Travel Adventure Series
A crying child, an old ash tree, and only a witch with the ability to cure, but at what cost? A Bertram Bile time travel adventure, set at Thames Head, the source of the River Thames, in Gloucestershire, England. Based on a true story.
'And what do you call the place where a river begins? Hmmmm? Anyone?’ Miss Petrenko tapped her sharp, painted nails on the wooden desk. She was without a doubt, the WORST geography teacher in the world. Of course, all of the students knew the answer, for all rivers begin at the SOURCE. But no one dared speak.
Bertram did his best to avoid eye contact. Trying hard to look like he was listening, but without drawing any attention to himself.
Bertram was Miss Petrenko’s least favourite student, and since no one else attempted to answer the question, she used the opportunity to pounce on him for the answer.
Miss Petrenko pointed a longer and quite possibly magical finger at Bertram, as if drawing him up and out of his seat, as he suddenly found himself stood next to his table, EYEBALL to EYEBALL with her.
‘Bertram Bile, I very much doubt that a silly boy like you will know the answer, but go on, WHAT is the name of the place where a river begins? Hmmmm?’
‘The source, Miss’. Bertram was careful not to sound too confident, but he knew that no matter what he said or how he said it, he was in for the wrath of Miss Petrenko. She was in an even worse mood than usual.
‘Yes it IS’. Miss Petrenko looked most disappointed that Bertram had the got the answer right, and quickly slithered off to find her next victim, releasing her invisible grip on the back of Bertram’s scarlet school blazer.
Bertram dropped to his seat in a wobbling heap. ‘Phew that was a close call’. Molly, who had been staring hard at the floor to avoid Miss Petrenko’s gaze, looked up at him and smiled reassuringly as only a best friend can.
‘And what do you suppose we call the streams that feed into a river? I bet NONE of you know the answer do you?’. Miss Petrenko had singled out a shy girl, who was now stood trembling in front of the nasty teacher. The girl was looking very pale and pasty, and it was no surprise to the rest of the class when she fainted on the classroom floor. Every student had fainted under Miss Petrenko’s beady eye at one point or another, especially when stood at close range.
‘Oh for goodness sake. Someone take the child to the school nurse’. Miss Petrenko shrieked at the top of her voice as she stepped over the girl and flicked a speck of dust off her jacket.
‘Tributaries.’ Molly answered to no one in particular. She looked incredibly bored. They had been going over the same lesson for the entire school year, for no other reason, than Miss Petrenko was lazy and couldn’t be bothered to come up with more than one lesson plan. The only reason she got away with it, was because all the other grown ups were terrified of her. Not one of them dared enter her classroom, let alone challenge her about her teaching.
‘Bertram.’ Molly whispered, but Bertram didn’t hear her. Molly gave him a kick under the table.
‘Psst. Bertram! Let’s go and see your aunty in the old ash tree. At least we might ACTUALLY learn something’.
Bertram rubbed his leg. He would love to see his aunty again. He didn’t even know he had an aunty until recently, and now he had four aunties; one of whom was a witch who lived in a house inside an old ash tree, and the other three were the witch’s younger sisters.
Bertram’s stomach gave a loud rumble. At least his aunty would feed him. He was starving. He would have had lunch, but a boy called Angus had stolen it from him at breaktime, along with the lunches of all the other free school dinner kids.
Angus was the biggest boy in the school and it wasn’t like he was starving. His mum packed him enough food for a lifetime, and that was just snacks in case he got hungry around his hot dinner at school.
Molly felt around inside her school bag under the desk, careful not to let Miss Petrenko catch her. It would be a disaster if the two pairs of golden goggles fell into the wrong hands.
With the goggles and bag secured beneath the table, Molly passed them secretly to Bertram, and raised her hand to get Miss Petrenko’s attention. Now was the perfect opportunity for them to leave the classroom, with the excuse that they were taking the girl who had fainted, to see the school nurse. No one else had dared offer, so there was no way Miss Petrenko could refuse, and Molly would OF COURSE need help to carry the girl.
’Shall I take her to the school nurse for you Miss Petrenko? I don’t mind doing it’. Molly’s plan was pure genius.
‘What? Oh yes, yes. Take her away’. Miss Petrenko waved Molly away, not wanting be bothered by such trivialities.
‘Bertram. Can you give me a hand? I think I might need some HELP to carry her to the NURSE’. Molly winked at Bertram.
Bertram knew immediately what Molly’s plan was, and grabbed her school bag from under the desk, hiding it behind him as they backed away through the narrow classroom door. Luckily the girl who had fainted was quite light, but they did their best to make her seem much heavier than she actually was. They didn’t want to get caught at this stage, or worse still, separated. Then they would be forced to sit here and would miss out on a visit to Bertram’s aunty in the tree.
‘Thank you so much’ the girl whispered as they reached the school infirmary. The girl had long since come around from her fainting spell, but couldn’t face the rest of the lesson with Miss Petrenko. So she kept her eyes closed until she knew they had reached the safety and understanding of the infirmary nurse.
Bertram knocked on the door and was greeted by the school nurse. She gave the three of them a big smile. ‘Ahhhhh! Miss Petrenko’s geography lesson I’m guessing? That woman really does have a SPECIAL way with children. I’ve had four students in already this week, and it is only MONDAY!’.
Bertram and Molly left the girl with the nurse and made their departure as quickly as they could.
‘We’d best be going nurse. Miss Petrenko will have out guts for garters if we are late back by even a second’. Molly was very convincing and the nurse was impressed at their commitment to their education.
Of course Bertram and Molly had absolutely no intention of returning to class. They were about to go off for another time travelling adventure.
As quietly and cautiously as they could, they snuck into the boy’s toilets and put on their shiny, golden goggles. The cogs already starting to turn on the side straps as they prepared to travel through time. It took a fraction of a second to reach the old ash tree where Bertram’s aunty, the witch lived and she was very pleased to see them.