Authors: Bonnie Lamer
I find Grandmother in the kitchen and she is not alone. Dagda is with her as well as Kegan. “How could they have planned this?” Dagda asks to no one in particular as he paces the room. “No one knew that I was coming here today except the guards I brought with me and even they did not know until we were on our way.” He stops pacing and looks Grandmother in the eye. “It had to be someone here who passed along the knowledge to Xenia.”
Grandmother’s voice is icy cold when she replies. “I will not have you sit in my kitchen and accuse me or anyone in my house of treason. If you feel that you are in danger here then you are more than welcome to go back to your palace and defend yourself how you see fit.” That is the way I see it as well.
We sit in angry silence for several minutes, each of us keeping our mouths closed for fear of what we are going to say if we do not. That is how Xandra finds us when she comes into the kitchen. She looks around the room taking in our demeanors and then turns to Dagda. “I’m assuming that you didn’t make a general announcement as to where you were going today?”
Dagda stops pacing long enough to glower at her but his response is civil. He is getting smarter. “I left word that I would be retiring to the country house. The only ones who knew where I was going were the five Fairies I brought with me.”
With possibly a tiny bit of superiority in her voice, Xandra says, “And as I said earlier, you cannot trust anyone right now.”
“It is just as likely that they were aiming for you,” Dagda replies.
Xandra shrugs. “True, it’s probably a package deal.” He raises his brows almost up to his hairline. He must have thought she would argue that point. “Now, we have to make sure they don’t succeed.” Her eyes turn automatically to Grandmother.
Grandmother responds to her unspoken question. “It would be too much of a drain on Kallen, Dagda or myself to place a house this size in a circle and maintain it.” Xandra’s face falls a bit. “There is however a spell I came across years ago that could be the answer.”
Now Xandra looks confused. “You want to use Witch magic, not Fairy magic?”
Grandmother nods. “I believe your Witch magic is not as susceptible to Fairies as other Witches’ magic. The particular spell I am considering is supposed to be worked by at least five Witches, but I believe you will be able to perform it alone.”
“Where did you read about the spell?” Fear is creeping onto her face now. She turns pleading eyes to me. I believe she wants me to argue that her Witch magic is too dangerous but I believe Grandmother knows what she is doing. I give Xandra a slight shake of my head and she narrows her eyes into a hard stare that makes me want to squirm in my seat.
“I have a grimoire that was given to me by a dear old friend who happened to be a Witch. She loved the study of ancient spells and the art of crafting. She kept records of spells that had long been abandoned as impossible.”
Xandra looks aghast. “Are you saying that you want me to do a spell that hasn’t seen the light of day in forever, and was abandoned by modern Witches because it’s impossible to do?”
Okay, now I am starting to get nervous. “Grandmother…” I begin but the look she gives me tells me that I had better not say another word.
Dagda says it for me. “Isla, I understand that Xandra is able to wield a tremendous amount of power, but she is still an inexperienced girl.”
“Um, what happens if I don’t get the spell correct?”
“We will be overrun by rabid spiders.”
We all turn questioning eyes to Grandmother. She generally does not joke about such things but that was so outrageous she must be joking. “You’re kidding, right?” Xandra asks with a nervous laugh.
“No, I am not.”
“I have to do an impossible spell that has something to do with
Grandmother smiles at the dismay flowing in her direction from all of us. “The spiders will only become rabid if you do the spell incorrectly.” Well, good thing Xandra’s spells never go wrong then. Is she insane? “On a weight-to-strength ratio, spider silk is five times stronger than steel. Given enough of it in one place, it could be strong enough to defend against bombs, fire and even cutting or ramming.”
“And a couple of spiders are going to provide this much protection?” Dadga does not quite sound belligerent, but it is awfully close.
“That would be ridiculous, now would it not?” Grandmother replies. “It will take millions of spiders.”
All the color drains from Xandra’s face. “Millions. Of spiders. And I have to call them.”
I cannot help it. The look on her face is so cute it is funny. The fearless Xandra is terrified of spiders. I try not to laugh but it is hard. Kegan and Dagda are facing the same struggle. Xandra is not at all amused. I am finally able to school my face when she starts to pull magic.
Without another word, Grandmother rises from her stool and leaves the room. I hold my hands out to Xandra and she walks to me. I pull her into a hug and kiss her cheek. “You are a lot tougher than spiders. There is nothing to worry about.” It is really hard maintaining a serious tone at the moment.
Xandra looks up at me with narrowed eyes but I do not laugh. “I’m glad you find this so funny. Are you going to chase off the rabid spiders when the spell goes wonky like all of my other ones?”
I smile and push back a strand of hair from her cheek. “Not all of your spells go wonky.”
She is not convinced. “No, just most of them.”
“I will kill the spiders for you,” Kegan says. I raise a brow as I look at him. He is serious. Bastard. He is sucking up to her.
Xandra smiles at him. “Thank you.” Turning to me, she says, “I’m going to go sit on the terrace and wait for Isla. I have to try to mentally prepare for whatever it is I’m about to do.”
“Do you want me to come with you?”
She shakes her head. “No, I just need a few minutes alone to try to become a little more Zen with the situation. Okay?”
I nod and give her a light kiss. “We will come find you when Grandmother returns with the grimoire.”
After Xandra leaves the kitchen, Kegan asks, “Is it really that dangerous for her to do Witch magic?”
I sigh. “Yes. I explained to her once that it is like getting a tornado when all you wanted is a gentle breeze. She puts so much magic into them that the collateral damage can be devastating.
He shakes his head in awe. “If what she did to me when you first returned is any indication of her power, I hope Grandmother knows what she is doing.”
“It is always so heartwarming to have one’s grandchildren doubt your wisdom,” Grandmother says as she walks back into the room with the ancient tome. “Where is Xandra?”
I gesture with my head towards the terrace. “She is attempting to meditate on the terrace.”
Grandmother snorts. “I like the girl very much but I do not see her reaching a thoughtless state of self-awareness any time soon.”
I cannot help a chuckle because I know she is right. “Do you really believe she can do this?” I ask.
She nods. “I have seen it.”
That is somewhat comforting, but things do not always happen the way they do in a seer’s vision. “Okay, lead the way.” The three of us go in search of Xandra so she can call millions of spiders. It is going to be a really long day.
Kegan reaches the terrace first and he lays a hand on Xandra’s shoulder. Which causes her to flood herself with magic. He jumps back with his hands in front of him. “Whoa, it is just me. I thought maybe you needed cheering up. But if it is target practice you need, I will leave that to my cousin.”
“Yes, only the strong survive when Xandra uses her magic. You would wither like the delicate flower you are,” I say punching him in the arm. Dagda has joined us on the terrace now and Xandra is eyeing him warily.
“I understand she has brought you to your knees more than once, cousin.”
“That may be true, but on those occasions you would have been turned to soup.”
Kegan says something else but I am not listening. Xandra has moved her chair to face farther away from Dagda and she looks more worried now than she did in the kitchen. I walk around her chair and kneel in front of her. “I believe Kegan was right, you do look like you need some cheering up.” I bring my lips to hers in a sweet, gentle kiss.
And then I am being pulled by my shoulder and shoved onto my back on the terrace. Dagda is standing above me with a murderous expression. “You will not disrespect me by treating my daughter like that in front of me.”
I do not care if he is King. He will not lay a hand on me. I get to my feet as I pull magic and am about to lunge at him when Xandra rises and stands between us. “Kallen, please, let me handle this.”
I do not need her to fight my battles. Bringing my eyes from Dagda’s to hers I am prepared to say that when I see the dangerous glint in her eyes. I suddenly understand that this is not my fight at all. Fuming, I stand back and cross my arms over my chest. I will let her handle this but if I am not satisfied, I will have my say.
As soon as she can tell that I have backed off, Xandra rounds on Dagda. “First of all, don’t ever refer to yourself as my father. I have one of those and you are not him. And secondly, if I want to kiss the guy I’m planning to become
with, you have absolutely nothing to say about it.”
“She is correct, Dagda,” Grandmother says and it is his turn to be startled. Good to see he is on guard while the kingdom is out to kill him. “The hand-fasting is to occur when this
will not mar the festivities.”
Dagda looks even more pissed now. “Then why have I not heard his petition for permission?”
“As High Chancellor, it is my job to hear petitions for hand-fasting, not the King’s.”
He cannot possibly be stupid enough to say what I think he is going to say. “I am not speaking as King. I am speaking as the girl’s father.” I guess he is.
I have to admit, I like the sight of him flying off the terrace. The best part is that he looks so surprised. I just shake my head and chuckle. He had better learn soon what to say and what not to say around Xandra or he will find himself wishing Xenia had gotten ahold of him.
Xandra looks over the terrace wall at him. “You really should start listening to what I say.
You are not my father.
Do not act like you are.”
Dagda picks himself up. “You are pushing me too far.”
She shrugs. “Thanks for sharing.”
I hear Grandmother say softly behind her, “Xandra, tigers and sticks.” A little louder, she says, “We are ready to begin. Dagda, if you want to be inside of the protected area, I suggest you come back up here.” Dagda glares at Xandra as he is brushing the sand off his clothes. She ignores him and returns to her seat. “Um, Isla?”
“I still have Rhiannon pinned to a chair in the sitting room.”
There’s a tiny tightening around Grandmother’s eyes but that is all. “Let her go so you can focus all of your magic on the spell. I will ask Tabitha to see to her until we are finished here.” I am glad she did not assign me that odious task.
Grandmother is all business now. She points to a spot on the terrace where she wants Xandra to stand and then she hands Kegan and me a handful of crystals with precise locations where we must place them. We both jog off the terrace and then in opposite directions around the house. When we are finished, we return to the terrace to watch the rest of the preparations.
Grandmother lights four black candles and places them around Xandra in the north, east, west and south positions. Then she pulls out a jar of bugs. Odd thing for Grandmother to have lying about. Then again, she did say she had seen this in a vision. I guess she made sure she was prepared.
Next Grandmother places the ancient grimoire in Xandra’s hands. It is heavy and she almost drops it but after a brief struggle she is able to hold it open to the right page. She reads the spell silently before she recites it out loud. “As the wind blows south, east, north, and west, I call my plea to you, the great mistress. During this, my hour of need, as malicious forces come to feed, grant me your power and wisdom, as in this realm I create a schism, between virtuous and baneful, well-being and peril. With sand and earth, crystal and flame, I offer a sacrifice in your name.”
Grandmother hands her a small silver knife and she uses it to cut her arm. She winces but then watches as a stream of blood begins to run down over her hand. Turning in a circle, she lets the blood flow onto the candles, dousing each one.
“Brightest day, turns to blackest night, guide me with your eternal light. Magic black, I am forced to use, justified as thine enemy pursues. An unnatural course of nature and time, your sacred creatures I will bind. Bend their will to run this course, protect us from this evil force. In your name, eight legged creatures I will hold fast, arachnids, I beg, answer this call for your next repast. Bring your silk, more precious than gold, a fortress now, your gift will hold. Nature has bestowed upon you the power; spin me a web in this darkest hour. Your mighty strings will hold all at bay, only I may choose who will stay. Hear my call, come to feast, leave your gift, your will unleashed.”
Xandra hesitates a moment. Then, with a deep breath, she says, “If you find my mind and soul untrue, this body of mine I offer to you. If my heart is just and pure, my safety you will help ensure.”
Magic bursts from the ground using Xandra as a conduit. She falls to her hands and knees and her face is twisted in pain. I rush to her but she holds up her hand to stop me from touching her. It takes me a second to figure out why. Magic, like water, takes the path of least resistance. If I touch her, the magic will split and use me as a conduit as well but I am not strong enough to hold it all. It seems like forever before her body can finally rest as the last of the black magic shoots visibly outwards in all directions like it has a life force of its own. Even Dagda’s and Grandmother’s mouths are hanging open as they watch the fireworks of magic explode around us for as far as the eye can see. Then as quickly as it started, it subsides as it finds its targets.
For a moment, there is nothing except the gasps from Xandra as she tries to recover her breath. The rest of us are holding ours. Even the sea seems to quiet. And then it starts. A rumble at first, and then thunder, and then an explosion of sound as from every direction of the sand and forest, spiders big and small come out of their hiding places and converge around us. The ground has turned black and the pounding of millions of eight-legged creatures is unbelievably deafening.
We are all silent as we watch them come. I believe each one of us has a fear deep down inside that the spell only half worked and that the spiders are not coming to build a web but to eat us. We all try not to show that on our faces.
A scream from the doorway causes all of our heads to swing in that direction. Rhiannon is standing there halfway to a serious emotional meltdown. With all the magic is channeling through her, I would have guessed that Xandra does not have the strength to do anything else. I am wrong. She finds it within her to divert a tiny bit of magic in a different direction. She takes Rhiannon’s voice away. I think I love Xandra even more now.
But that tiny bit of magic pushes her over the edge and she falls to the terrace floor unconscious. I am sitting next to her in a millisecond and I scoop her up into my lap. I check her pulse and her breathing and both are fine. Thank god. I will never forgive Grandmother if anything happens to her because of doing this spell. I cradle Xandra’s head against my chest, comforted by her slow, even breaths, and I watch with the others as the spiders do their job. It is absolutely amazing.
It is quite a while before anyone speaks. Finally, Kegan asks Grandmother, “How long is this going to take?”
Grandmother shakes her head, “Honestly, I do not know. Xandra’s magic is powerful but the spiders can only move so fast. Even with millions of them working I think it will still be at least several hours.”
Several hours. Which means that Xandra will probably be unconscious for several hours. I had better get us comfortable then. I would move her inside but I am worried about moving her too far from where she started the magic. I pick her up and carry her to the terrace wall and then sit down again so that my back has support.
After a moment, Tabitha comes over and puts a cushion behind my back. “Several hours is a long time to sit with her in your lap. Are you sure that you do not want to spread out cushions and lie her down?”
“I do not think his nerves could handle that at the moment,” Grandmother says softly. Tabitha nods and tries to make me as comfortable as possible.
Kegan comes and sits down next to me. “If she gets heavy I will hold her.”
I give him a sharp look but he looks sincere. I do not believe he is trying to be anything but kind at the moment. I give him a nod in appreciation and then we all sit in silence for a long time watching the horrifying spectacle before us.