We had just finished a lesson on carnivores and were packing up our dioramas when the hall monitor delivered the envelope. It was addressed to Ms. Frizzle and postmarked Beacon Hills.
“A letter from Beacon Hills!” Ms. Frizzle said. “It must be from my niece.”
Aunt Valerie, the letter read,
I hope you’re well. I’m fully recovered from the incident earlier this year. Please thank your class for the flowers.
I’m having trouble getting Aconitum lycoctonum to grow in our garden this year and wanted to know if you had any advice. Didn’t your class win a horticultural award? I’d appreciate any help you could offer.
Your loving niece,
“Lydia hasn’t asked for help since her first grade science fair project,” Ms. Frizzle said. “It sounds serious. Class, to the bus! We have a garden to rescue.”
We all headed out of the room to the bus. As we left, Arnold grabbed his lucky stick from his grey wolf diorama. The stick was light grey and had a few red berries on one end. Arnold was using it as a tree in the diorama. “I’d better hold onto this,” he thought. “With Ms. Frizzle we need all the luck we can get!”
Aconitum is Wolf’s Bane
Aconitum lycoctonum is the scientific name for Northern Wolf’s Bane. Aconitum is the genus name and comes from Greek. Lycoctonum is Latin and the species name. It has purple flowers that grow grouped around a tall stalk. All plants in the Aconitum genus are poisonous, so watch out!
After we’d made it to the highway Ms. Frizzle started quizzing us. “Beacon Hills has had several mountain lion sightings recently. Who can give me another name for a mountain lion?”
“Puma,” said Keesha.
“Cougar,” said Tim.
“Panther!” shouted Ralphie.
“Dangerous,” said Arnold, and he hunched down in his seat.
“Very good, class! Mountain lions have many names because they’re found in so many places,” said the Friz. “Who can tell me what an apex predator is?”
Wanda waved her hand in the air and said, “It’s an animal at the top of their food chain.”
“Correct! Apex predators are very important because theyhelp keep ecosystems stable by controlling the population of prey species.”
“Is the mountain lion an apex predator?” Dorothy Ann asked.
Carlos’ diorama was on mountain lions. “Sometimes, but not always,” he said. “Grey wolves, jaguars, and grizzly bears are all bigger and will prey on mountain lions if they share a habitat.”
We finally saw a sign for the City of Beacon Hills and exited the highway. Soon after that, the bus pulled over in front of a big house. We piled out of the bus and followed Ms. Frizzle to the door, where Liz hopped onto the Friz’s shoulder and rang the bell.
A moment later a teenager opened the door. She stared at us and we stared back. It was clear that she was related to Ms. Frizzle, curly red hair and all. She raised an eyebrow and said, “Aunt Valerie, were we expecting you?”
“Lydia, we’ve come to help with your Aconitum problem,” Ms. Frizzle announced.
“And I see you brought your class, too,” Lydia said. “Well, you might as well come look at the garden.
Lydia’s garden was behind her house. There were plants everywhere but, like her , they were wilted and grey.
“It’s this weather,” Lydia explained. “It’s cool in the morning and evening but it gets so hot during the day that the plants practically bake. I normally wouldn’t care, but I need the Aconitum flowers for an experiment.”
“It hasn’t been hot in Walkersville, and we’re not that far away from Beacon Hills,” Dorothy Ann said.
“Observant as always, Dorothy Ann!” said Ms. Frizzle. “Weather forecasters have been stumped by the weather in Beacon Hills. Some people are calling it unnatural.” With that, she winked at Lydia.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this!” Arnold said. We all had a bad feeling. It’s never a good sign when a teacher as wacky as the Friz winks.
“Do you think you can help?” Lydia asked.
“That’s why we’re here,” said the Friz. “To the bus!”
Once we were all on board she turned to Lydia and asked, “Where to next?”
“Everything weird that’s happened in the past has been related to the Derek Hale and his burnt-down house,” she said.
“That’s where we’ll start!” said the Friz. “Seatbelts, everyone!” she shouted and we hurried to strap ourselves in. She pressed a little green button and the bus started to shrink.
“Not again!” moaned Arnold.
But it was too late. Ms. Frizzle floored it and we shot off in a straight line. But we weren’t following the road!
“At my old school, we never went off-roading,” said Phoebe.
“Class, we’re following one of the oldest ways of all,” said Ms. Frizzle. “This is a ley line. Can anyone tell me what a ley line is?”
We were stumped, but Lydia wasn’t.
“Ley lines connect ley markers. Markers can be important stones, holy places, earth mounds, or any number of other structures, either natural or man-made. Some people believe they’re sources of magic or some other power.” She paused, and then added, “There was an article in Cosmo.”
“Wherever you read it, you’re right! They can also go along the path of the sun, moon, or stars as they cross through the sky. Appropriately, one of the structures that can determine the path of a ley line is a beacon hill,” said Ms. Frizzle. “The one we’re driving down is quite strong--this city must be overflowing with magic.”
“Magic?” we chorused.
Before we could ask any questions the bus started to shudder and buck. We all grabbed for the seats and held on tight. It was a good thing that we did, because the bus suddenly started to spin like a top, getting bigger and bigger as it went.
Ralphie’s face was green. “I think I’m gonna be sick,” he groaned. We all felt ill by the time the bus finally jerked to a stop. We were our normal size again, and we were in the middle of the forest.
What’s a Beacon Hill?
A beacon hill is an old name for a hill with a warning beacon or light on top. People used to light beacons to warn when an enemy army was on the way. At sea, a warning beacon is called a lighthouse. Beacon Hills is also the name of the city where Ms. Frizzle’s niece lives.
We peered out the windows. There was a burned down house behind us but nothing else nearby. “Where are we?” asked Keesha.
“The end of the ley line!” said Carlos. “Get it?”
“Carlos is right,” said Ms. Frizzle. “The ley line we were following ends here. If Lydia’s observations are correct, it’s also involved in the supernatural trouble Beacon Hills has been having. Let’s investigate!” With that, she left the bus. Lydia scooped up Liz and followed.
We all stared at each other.
“Supernatural?” Tim asked.
“Whatever it is, I’m ready for it!” Wanda said, and we followed her as she marched off the bus.
Lydia and the Friz were up on the porch of the house, inspecting the beams that held up the roof. We’d almost reached them when something jumped out from the bushes at Arthur.
“Aaah!” screamed Arnold, and he threw his hands up in front of his face. He was holding his lucky stick.
“Yagh!” we shouted.
“Argh!” the thing howled, and stumbled back into a crouch. It was a man, but he had extra hair and extra-sharp teeth. He was missing his eyebrows, too.
Ms. Frizzle and Lydia ran up to stand between us and the man. “Great work, Arnold!” said Ms. Frizzle. “You should always carry mountain ash or wolf’s bane when dealing with werewolves.”
“Werewolves? But it’s the middle of the day,” said Keesha. “Also, I think it’s a crescent moon tonight.”
“His teeth are plenty sharp no matter what he is!” said Ralphie.
“At my old school, we were never menaced by supernatural creatures,” said Phoebe.
Ms. Frizzle ignored us all and turned back to the man. “Derek Hale, I presume?” she said.
The man cracked his neck and suddenly looked normal. “Yeah, I’m Derek,” he said, “and you’re trespassing.”
“We’re not trespassing, we’re on a field trip,” said Ms. Frizzle. “It’s educational!”
“You’re trespassing,” Derek repeated. “And this is a terrible place for a field trip. Get out before I call the sheriff.” Then he turned his back on us and loped up to his house.
Lydia tugged on Ms. Frizzle’s arm. “Come on, Aunt Valerie,” she said, “you can explain it to us on the bus.”
All About Rowan
Rowan is another name for mountain ash. It’s a deciduous tree, which means it loses its leaves in the winter. It has white flowers and white, orange, or red berries. Rowan is often used in dowsing, which is when you use a forked branch to search for water, and for magic wands and staffs. It also provides protection from supernatural creatures like werewolves.
On our way back to Lydia’s house--this time on the actual road--Ms. Frizzle told us more about werewolves. Once she was done, Lydia asked to see Arnold’s lucky stick.
“Do you know what this is?” she asked.
“My mom told me it was rowan. It’s from the tree in our yard,” he replied.
“Hmm,” she said, and handed it back. “I’ll have to check the botanical garden. I’m sure they have some.”
“No need to scavenge the botanical gardens, Lydia,” said Ms. Frizzle. “I have a friend in town who should be happy to give you some.”
“Thanks, Aunt Valerie. I think I can use it as an Aconitum substitute in some of my experiments. Did you figure out what’s causing our weird weather?” Lydia asked.
“Oh, yes! You’re having a heatwave,” said Ms. Frizzle. “It should pass in the next week or so. If you need wolf’s bane this year you’ll have to buy it dried.”
We dropped Lydia off at her house and waved goodbye. She gave Liz a big kiss. “I’m used to kissing reptiles,” she said.
Ms. Frizzle turned the bus around so we could get back on the highway and back to school.
“Is it just me, or was this the strangest field trip we’ve ever been on?” Ralphie asked.
“Well, there was the one with the dinosaurs,” said Wanda.
“And the one where we learned about the human body,” said Dorothy Ann.
“Don’t forget the time we visited space!” said Carlos. “That was far out. Get it?”
“Or when we learned about electricity and traveled through the power lines,” said Tim.
“So it can’t have been the strangest, Ralphie,” said Keesha. “We hardly did anything at all on this trip.”
Arnold clutched his lucky stick tighter. “We met one of Ms. Frizzle’s nieces and a werewolf,” he said. “I’ve never been so glad a field trip was over!”