01-40 Hiking

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Autumn has come to Champs-sur-Souloise, coloring the trees in different shades of yellow, orange and red. But best of all, the new uniform has arrived! Granny grumbled about the expense of buying another uniform as the first was only worn during two months. But Taïga prefers the new one, even though the pantyhose itches a bit…

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‘Salut Taïga!’ Henri kisses her cheeks twice. ‘As-tu passé des bons vacances?’

Taïga nods. ‘Great! But my friends -Mitch, Jen and Leann-were away.’ No one answered the phone, there were no one home… I haven’t heard from them since before the summer holidays… ‘What about you, Henri?’

Taïga listens to Henri’s detailed description while her eyes search for Jeanne and Agnès.

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´Salut!’ Agnès waves, but Henri has kept his protective hold on her arm.

Suddenly Louise calls out, ‘They are coming! Hurry to line up!

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The autumn sun’s rays break through the clouds as the teachers welcome the pupils back to St Sim’s after the All Hallows break.

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Taïga discovers she has been “promoted” to a new, smaller and more intimate dormitory. Unfortunately she will have to share the room with Eveline and Charlotte…

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The very next day, Taïga’s class leaves for a hike in the forest with Monsieur Lefèbvre. They will spend the whole week in the countryside, exploring the forest and the river Souloise. They will also hike up to Mont Corbeau, and picnic there.

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After biking for about 3 hours, they set up camp by the river Souloise.

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The children choose who they want to share the tent with, and Agnès, Jeanne and Taïga teams up. It’s the third time she sleeps in a tent – first camping with Derek, then Easter Camp in Midnight Hollow and now in France. It’s November, but it feels like a warm September day.

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They mustn’t let trash lay around, there are unwelcome visitors at night. One morning Henri surprises a raccoon, which gives Monsieur Lefebvre the opportunity to give a lecture about how the animal was introduced in France by members of the U.S. Air Force, who released several pet raccoons near the Laon-Couvron Air Base in 1966…

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All the cooking is done over a fire pit – sausages, beef and chicken brochettes with tomatoes and peppers, omelets with mushrooms they find in the forest.

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Taïga initiates the French kids to the succulent taste of sticky marshmallows. Clotilde de Cosnac is the only one who refuses to taste, pretexting that she can’t read from Victor Hugo’s “Notre Dame de Paris” if her mouth is full off disgusting American goo…

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It’s Taïga and Henri’s turn to fish for lunch, but Louis and Tristan soon join them taking up a position right behind Taïga…

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Even though Taïga knows you’re not supposed to talk while fishing, she can’t help laughing at Tristan’s funny comments. But Louis is unusually quiet.

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It was fun learning how to play “gnubb”. They were first two teams – the girls vs. the boys, but later they played in smaller teams, setting up a tournament.

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Monsieur Lefebvre pep talked…

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… while the boys checked out “the competition”.

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Taïga had never played before.

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And she didn’t use magic…

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But at the end of the week, she was in the finals with Louis against Tristan and Louise.

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Taïga and Louis were unstoppable.

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Of course they won!

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The hike up to Mont Corbeau started at sunrise on the third day.

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Taïga felt a strange apprehension grow as they approached the summit.

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‘Viens voir! You should see this!’ Taïga approaches the edge, where Henri is waiting for her.

‘Wow…’ The view is breathtaking.

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‘I’d love to paint this…’

‘Hey come and play!’ The other kids are running around, exploring the site.

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‘Let me show you something.’ Taïga follows Henri towards a giant oak tree. A giant dead oak tree. Suddenly the apprehension transforms into a terrible fear, and she stops, faking a stone in her shoe.

What was that? What happened here?

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She doesn’t have to ask, Henri is eager to tell her all he knows about the thrilling events that took place here: ‘In the 17th century, witches were burnt here on the stake, the most powerful of them are Morgan Le Fay and a beautiful woman with raven hair… Lady Ravensinger!’

‘Dancer.’ Taïga interrupts him, ‘Her name was Lady Ravendancer.’

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‘How do you know? It’s singer, because she had a voice that enchanted everyone – just like a siren!’

‘I’m sure her name was Ravendancer…’

Taïga and Henri continue discussing witch craft animatedly.

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Louis thinks Henri has monopolized Taïga long enough. He and Tristan decide to share their recent discovery with Henri and Taïga.

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The four of them hurry over to some bushes.

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A Spiny turtle!

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Time to have lunch!

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‘Tell us about the witches!’

‘Yes, please tell us!’

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Taïga, Henri, Louis and Tristan listen to Monsieur Lefebvre’s histories about Mont Corbeau.

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Taïga shivers… It feels like she was there with the poor women…

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The little group of children picnics happily, listening to the monstrous events taking place there hundreds of years ago. As the afternoon wears on, the shadow of the ancient tree’s branches seem to search and reach out for someone… but its target is just out of range…

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Back at school, Taïga can’t find her diary…

‘Are you looking for something?’

‘Monsters maybe? Hahaha!’ Eveline and Charlotte have silently entered their room.

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Taïga scrambles on her feet. ‘Who took it?’ She looks accusingly at Eveline.

Eveline stares back. ‘Took what?’

Taïga glances at Charlotte who tries her best to look innocent.

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‘My… my… Oh forget it.’

‘Good… False accusation is a serious thing.’ Taïga glares at them. She knows they must have taken her diary, but she also knows that to get it back she’ll have to wait for the right moment. It’s probably Louise who’s got it now…

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She goes to bed and fakes sleeping until she’s sure the other girls are asleep.

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Then she gets up, and she spends the rest of the night staring out the window, trying to find a solution without using her powers.

But, oh how I would like to transform them into frogs! Or toads… Or why not just erase the pages…

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Agnès is kind, and Taïga breaks down and tells her about her missing diairy. She leaves out her suspicions about her room mates, though. But Agnès is smart.

‘I’m sure she took it! Eveline, not Charlotte – she’s just hanging with the gang and saying yes to all they do. And it’s probably Louise who’s got it now…’ Agnès pats Taïga’s back. ’But don’t worry… we’ll get it back!’

‘But how?’

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‘Jeanne will see to it Louise and Clotilde are busy, and we’ll sneak into their room and… well, try to find it!’ … Taïga dries her tears, everything works out according to her plan…

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Taïga and Agnès hurries to Louise and Clotilde’s room during recess. Agnès starts to pull out the drawers in the nightstands. ‘I’ll check the beds!’

Taïga looks around, and is instantly drawn towards the dresser. ‘I’ll search the dresser!’

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Bingo!

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‘I’ve got it! Let’s get out of here!’

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Taïga puts the diary under her jacket and together they hurry through the corridors.

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Jeanne and Agnès told Mademoiselle Florence what he girls had done to Taïga, and they were punished for stealing Taïga’s diairy…

‘She will pay for this!’

 Part I – End of Chapter 40

Next Chapter 

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