Authors: Cate Tiernan
Which made my sitting here, getting ready to do it on a bigger scale, seem astoundingly stupid, even for me.
“No,” said Daedalus. “We can set the limitations to exclude actual vertebrates and invertebrates so the energy will come solely from plants and the earth itself. Nothing will turn to white powder, I assure you.”
I nodded, thinking about Thais and Nan. They would hate my being here. Since I’d started studying with Daedalus, I’d been hiding it
every moment I was home. Usually when I felt bad, I’d go to Nan for help. I could even go to Thais, my sister. But not about this. Not about how sick this made me or how it felt emotionally. This I just had to handle on my own. It separated me from them like nothing else.
“The last time I did this,” I told Daedalus as he continued to set up the spell, “I had the mother of all hangovers. I barfed my guts up, which doesn’t do much for a girl’s looks. What caused that?”
“Everything has a price, Clio,” Daedalus said, trickling salt in a circle around us. This was a little-visited corner of the cemetery, with fine, short grass and the occasional weed popping up next to the crypts. Daedalus had set up a couple of spells to gently turn people aside if they came close to us and to make us hard to see if they somehow got through anyway.
“It will grow less with time,” he went on. “I can also give you some herbs and a spell to help counter the aftereffects. But if you want to sail through with your beauty rituals and your make-him-love-me tisanes, then you’ve come to the wrong place.”
His voice was suddenly harsh, his face forbidding. Now I felt like a wuss for even mentioning it.
“Whatever,” I snapped. We worked in silence for ten minutes, Daedalus doing his parts and me doing mine. When everything was set up, we sat cross-legged in the circle, facing each other. A heavy black pillar candle rested in its holder between us.
“You’ll be drawing energy up out of the earth,” Daedalus explained. “The earth is humming with the vibrations of the living things within it, of the life and growth and change happening on a huge scale and a minuscule scale, at every second. Deep, deep beneath the surface, where not even bacteria can live, you still have the energy of the earth itself, its inner core of burning iron.”
I looked at him. “You couldn’t tap into that. It’d be like tapping into a nuclear bomb.”
“Yes,” said Daedalus, sounding regretful. “It would take the strongest magick imaginable and would probably end up killing you. I’m just pointing it out. Now, are you ready? Do you remember the first part of the spell?”
Nodding, I let my hands rest palms up on my knees. This position is used a lot in meditation because it connects all the parts of your body to all the other parts, creating a circle of energy. Meditation and magick have a lot to do with each other.
It was much like it was before. The first part of the spell set the limitations and defined the scope of the spell. The second part put me in
touch with my own personal power. The third part sought out and identified other magickal power, in this case, from within the earth, the actual dirt, beneath us. And the
aligned the two powers, joining my energy with the earth’s.
At first nothing seemed to happen, and I was disappointed. Then, just like when the charcoal briquettes caught on fire, I became aware of power licking at the edges of my consciousness.
“Open yourself to it,” Daedalus murmured, his eyes closed. “Let it in.”
I was afraid. It was a beautiful thing, a glorious thing to feel myself become one with the earth, yet compared to what had happened with the crystal, this had the potential to be a tsunami, a terrifying tidal wave of energy that could fry my brain and leave me making pot holders at the state mental hospital.
“Don’t worry,” said Daedalus. “You will tap into only a microscopic section of the earth. You’ll feel power but will be in no danger.”
I hope you’re right, old man
, I thought, then hoped he couldn’t feel my thoughts. Damn it. Had to be more careful.
“Concentrate,” came Daedalus’s voice, and I yanked my focus back to the spell. There was a wall of energy pressing against me. It was very different—I’d held the crystal, and its energy had been right there, blooming in my hand like a flower. This was something pressing against me from the outside.
“Let it in,” Daedalus said again.
I tried to relax, to take down my natural walls.
Come on, Clio, think! Do it. You can do this. You have to do this.
I relaxed every muscle, controlling my breathing, trying to release every bit of fear or alarm I felt.
And suddenly I was flooded with light and power.
The crystal’s power had been a burst within me. This was a wave washing over me, bigger, unstoppable.
“Oh,” I breathed, inhaling it, feeling it fill every cell in my body. It was indescribable, an ecstatic feeling of omnipotence and joy. I felt like I could move cars with a wave of my finger or cure cancer by laying my hands on someone. I could topple bridges with my thoughts. Like the power from the crystal, it was more than intoxicating. This was why I was willing to risk feeling like death afterward, willing to destroy a crystal, willing to rip power away from the earth itself. To feel like this. I wanted to laugh.
The crystal’s burst of power had lasted less than a minute. This seemed to go on and on as I took in the world around me. I glanced at a
sparrow, tucked inside a shrub nearby. Instantly I became the sparrow, felt myself small and light-boned, bursting with quick-tempoed life. The world simplified in an instant, my entire existence made up of my feathers, the air moving in and out of me, the rustle of the leaves on the shrub.
Tearing myself away from the sparrow, I saw a dandelion growing in a crack in the cement. I felt its intense surge of life growing upward, felt my roots digging deeply into the thin soil for nourishment. I started crying. I felt like the goddess. I
“Yes, and now …” Daedalus murmured, singing softly.
“No, no, no!” I cried, snatching out at the air, at the invisible, seductive life force that I felt draining away from me, escaping into the wind, into everything around me. Within a minute it was gone. The colors of my world had drained away, leaving everything black and white. I came to, finding myself staring at Daedalus’s flushed, ecstatic face, his eyes glittering. He looked younger, healthier. How long would that last?
Then I fell sideways, hitting the short grass before I’d even realized I was losing my balance. I lay sprawled awkwardly, unable to process how empty I felt, how desolate everything was without that power.
That feeling was what Melita had gone to such extreme lengths to get, including even killing her sister.
I understood why she had done it.
e’s asleep?” I stood on Kevin’s front porch. It was a beautiful porch—shaded by huge oaks, freshly painted, and dotted with white wicker furniture. These people knew how to live.
Mr. LaTour nodded. “Yes. I’m sorry, honey. We’ve only just gotten home from the hospital. The doctors said he’s going to need several days of total peace and quiet.”
“Did they figure out what was wrong with him?” My voice was small, and I hoped the guilt wasn’t written all over my face.
“No.” Kevin’s dad sounded worried, and I felt terrible. “It might have been some electrical aberration that won’t ever happen again, but we’re keeping him on a portable monitor for at least four more days. Good thing you guys don’t have school next week.”
“Yeah.” I swallowed. “But he’ll be okay?”
“He should be fine.” Mr. La Tour sounded almost too hearty, and I knew he was worried—I could feel it. I was so much more in tune with people’s feelings these days, since I’d gotten in touch with my magick—the magick that had almost killed my boyfriend.
“Thais—I want to thank you for what you did that day.”
I looked up, eyes wide.
“I know that you steered the car away from the little girl and that you called 911 right away and stayed with Kevin until the EMTs came.”
I couldn’t say anything.
“The police report showed that neither of you had been drinking. I just want you to know that I was glad Kevin was with you when it happened.”
Oh God. I was going to fall apart. If Kevin hadn’t been with me, he would be totally fine, not on bed rest and hooked up to a heart monitor.
I nodded, trying not to cry, and pushed my small bouquet of Petra’s flowers at Mr. LaTour. “If you could give him this,” I said. “And this card.”
He took them from me and nodded. “He’ll be fine, honey,” he said kindly. “And as soon as he’s up to it, I know he’ll want to see you.”
I turned to go. The only time I was going to see Kevin again was to tell him I was breaking up with him.
Fifteen minutes later, I was walking down Daedalus’s street. I’d been here only once and hoped I would recognize his door. I couldn’t exactly ask anyone for his address.
I had a totally lame excuse ready—wanting to ask him about the history of the Treize, as though for a school report. All I needed was to get into his apartment for a minute, to get close to him somehow. I just prayed that he wouldn’t immediately be suspicious and kick me out.
I slowed down, looking at tall, white-painted door-ways. He lived close to a corner, in one of the fancy apartment buildings that bordered Jackson Square. I thought it was this one, on the north side….
Tourists streamed past me, most of them watching the sidewalk artists who had set up their stands around Jackson Square. Each one had a subject perched on a stool, holding very still. I’d watched them work before, when I lived in the Quarter with Axelle. Interestingly, every one of them started a portrait by doing the person’s eyes first.
Anyway. Where was it—it wasn’t the one on the very corner. The second one in? An iron-gated doorway led down a short, very narrow alley to the back courtyard, where the stairs were. This had to be it.
I rang his doorbell, wiping my sweaty hands on my peasant skirt. I had rehearsed what to say a hundred times on the way down here. Minutes passed. No one leaned out over his balcony, no one buzzed me in. Just then, a woman came down the alleyway. Not even looking at me, she opened the iron gate, then held it a minute for me to go in.
“Thanks,” I murmured casually, pretending to put a key back in my purse. My heart in my throat, I headed down the alleyway. Could I do this? I had come this far.
Now that I was in the courtyard, I was relieved to definitely recognize it as Daedalus’s. His apartment was on the second floor—all of the apartments were, since the first floor was for stores and restaurants. I cast my senses, sending my thoughts up the stairs I was climbing, seeing if I could possibly feel Daedalus or anyone else in his apartment.
Impressions came to me from other apartments. I could tell if the occupants were male or female and what kind of energy they were putting out. It was amazing, and if I hadn’t had a mission, I would have been happy to sit on the top step, close my eyes, and just see what else I could pick up.
At Daedalus’s apartment I leaned against the front door, hearing nothing and feeling no presence inside. Which didn’t mean anything—he could very easily cloak himself from me. Except none of them seemed to do that at home. We could always tell who was where if we were close enough. I didn’t know how to cloak myself very well.
I knocked several times. No one answered. Maybe he wasn’t home. Damn. I needed to do this now so I could meet with Carmela later. Just thinking about her and the ingredients she’d demanded filled me with tension and a deep sense of foreboding. Making the decision to strip Daedalus’s powers from him had been my first step on this path; meeting Carmela had been the second step; and what I was doing here was the third step.
Still, this was all reversible—if I changed my mind, no harm would have been done. But eventually I would be past the point of no return. What would that feel like?
I took a deep breath and let it out, looking at his thick front door. Okay, what to do? It came to me in an instant: the memory of the secret room at Axelle’s apartment, which had been locked. One day I’d thought about the lock opening, and I think I had actually opened it. This was before I knew I was a witch—it must have been my latent, personal magick.
This time felt different, clearer; my power seemed to flow in a clear stream from me to the lock. Within a minute I felt the tumblers fall into place, heard the faintest click of the bolt pulling back.
A door opened at the other end of the balcony, and an older couple carrying several shopping bags headed toward the stairs. Quickly I opened Daedalus’s door and slipped inside, locking it behind me. I heard the couple pass, heard them bickering quietly the way old married people do.
Now, quick, quick, quick. I scanned the room and saw the door to his bedroom. This was going to be horrible, but I had the grim knowledge that this was far from the worst thing I would end up doing. I took a plastic bag out of my purse and walked through his bedroom, seeing the fastidious neatness, the beauty of the antiques, the old mirror losing its silvering, reflecting my scared face across the room.