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Authors: Richelle Mead

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BOOK: The Indigo Spell
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She sighed, her relief nearly palpable. “Just as I’d hoped.”

“What?” I asked. Even if I sensed nothing special about it, the garnet felt heavy
around my neck.

“It’s masking your magical ability,” she said. “No one who meets you should be able
to tell that you’re a magic user.”

“I’m
not
a magic user,” I reminded her sharply. “I’m an Alchemist.”

A small flicker of a smile played over her lips. “Of course you are—one who uses magic.
And to a particularly powerful person, that would be obvious. Magic leaves a mark
on your blood that permeates your whole body.”

“What?”
I couldn’t have been more shocked if she’d said I’d just contracted a deadly disease.
“You never told me that before!”

“It wasn’t important,” she said with a small shrug. “Until now. I need you hidden.
Do not take that off. Ever.”

I put my hands on my hips. “Ma’am, I don’t understand.”

“All will be revealed in time—”


No,
” I said. At that moment, I could have been talking to Stanton or any of the countless
others who’d used me and fed me pieces of information throughout my life. “It will
be revealed
now
. If you’ve gotten me into something dangerous, then you either need to get me out
of it or tell me how to.”

Ms. Terwilliger stared at me for several quiet moments. A gray tabby cat rubbed up
against my legs, ruining the seriousness of the moment. “You’re right,” she said at
last. “I do owe you an explanation. Have a seat.”

I sat down on one of the stools by the table, and she sat opposite me. She clasped
her hands together in front of her and seemed to be having a hard time gathering her
thoughts. I had to force myself to stay calm and patient. Otherwise, the panic that
had been gnawing at me since the desert would completely consume me.

“You remember that woman you saw in the picture?” she asked at last.

“Your sister.”

Ms. Terwilliger nodded. “Veronica. She’s ten years older than me and looks half my
age, as you could undoubtedly tell. Now, it isn’t difficult to create an illusion.
If I wanted to appear young and beautiful, I could—emphasis on
appear
. But Veronica? She’s actually managed to make her body young and vibrant. It’s an
advanced, insidious kind of magic. You can’t defy age like that without making some
sacrifices.” She frowned, and my heart pounded. Creating youth made all my Alchemist
sensibilities reel. It was nearly as bad as Strigoi immortality, maybe worse if she
was talking about a
human
doing it. That kind of twisted magic had no place in this world. Her next words drove
home the wrongness of it all. “Or, in her case, sacrificing others.”

Sacrifice.
The very word seemed to poison the air. She stood up and walked over to a shelf,
producing a newspaper clipping. Wordlessly, she handed it to me. It was a recent article,
from three days ago, talking about a nineteen-year-old UCLA student who’d been found
comatose in her dorm room. No one knew what had caused it, and the girl was hospitalized
with no indication of when or if she’d wake up.

“What is this?” I asked, not sure I wanted to know the answer.

I inspected the article more closely, especially the picture it contained. At first,
I wondered why the paper would show a sleeping old woman. Then, reading the fine print,
I learned that the coma victim also displayed some unexplained physical symptoms:
gray-streaked hair and dry, cracked skin. Doctors were currently investigating rare
diseases. I cringed, unable to believe what I saw. She was hideous, and I couldn’t
look at her for very long.

And just like that, I suddenly understood. Veronica wasn’t sacrificing victims with
knives and stone altars. She was conducting some kind of perverse magic on these girls
that bent the rules of nature, putting them in this hideous state. My stomach twisted,
and I gripped the table for support.

“This girl was one of Veronica’s victims,” confirmed Ms. Terwilliger. “That’s how
she maintains her youth and beauty—by taking it from others. When I read this, I thought—almost
hoped—some other magic user was doing it. Not that I’d wish this on anyone. Your scrying
spell confirmed she was in the area, however, which means it’s my responsibility to
deal with her.”

I dared a look down at the article again and felt that nausea well up again. The girl
was nineteen. What would it be like to have the life sucked out of you at so young
an age? Maybe the coma was a blessing. And how corrupt and twisted would you have
to be to do that to someone?

I didn’t know how exactly Ms. Terwilliger would “deal with” her sister and wasn’t
sure I wanted to find out. And yet, if Veronica really was doing things like this
to innocents, then yes, someone like Ms. Terwilliger needed to stop her. A magical
attack of this magnitude was one of the most terrible things I could imagine. It brought
back all my ingrained fears about the wrongness of magic. How could I justify using
it when it was capable of such horror? Old Alchemist lessons came back to me:
Part of what makes the Moroi particularly dangerous is their ability to work magic.
No one should be able to twist the world in that way. It’s wrong and can easily run
out of control.

I tuned back into the present. “How do I fit into this, ma’am? I already figured out
where she is. Why am I in danger?”

“Sydney,” Mrs. Terwilliger said, looking at me strangely. “There are few young women
out there with your abilities. Along with youth and beauty, she intends to suck someone’s
magic away and use it to make herself that much more powerful. You, my dear, would
be the ultimate coup for her.”

“She’s like Strigoi,” I murmured, unable to repress a shiver. Although those undead
vampires could feast on anyone, they preferred Moroi because they had magic in their
blood. Drinking Moroi blood made Strigoi more powerful, and a chilling thought suddenly
hit me. “Practically a human vampire.”

“Something like that,” Ms. Terwilliger agreed. “This amulet should hide your power,
even from someone as strong as her. She shouldn’t be able to find you.”

A calico cat jumped up on the table, and I ran a hand over her sleek fur, taking comfort
in the small contact. “The fact that you keep saying ‘should’ makes me a little nervous.
Why would she even come looking in Palm Springs? Does she know about me yet?”

“No. But she knows
I’m
here, and she may check on me once in a while—so I need to hide you in case she does.
I’m in a bind, however, because I need to find her but can’t actively do the hunting.
If she finds out I’m investigating, she’ll know that I know she’s here. I can’t alert
her. If I have the element of surprise on my side, I’m more likely to stop her.”
She frowned. “I’m honestly surprised she would come so close to me in California at
all. Regardless, I need to keep a low profile until it’s time to strike.”

Ms. Terwilliger looked at me meaningfully, and I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach
as I began to put together what she was saying. “You want me to hunt her.”

“It’s not hunting so much as gathering some data. You’re the only one I can trust
to do this. She and I can sense each other if we’re close, no matter how much we try
to hide our magic. I know this is going to sound shocking, but I actually think it’d
be best if you hunted her—even if you’re the one she’s after. You’re one of the few
I can trust completely, and you’re resourceful enough to pull something like this
off.”

“But I’d be putting myself out there. You just said I’d be a big catch for her.” The
twists and turns here were mindboggling.

“Yes. Which is why I gave you the amulet. She won’t sense your magic, and if you’re
cautious in your investigation, she should have no reason to notice you.”

I still wasn’t following the logic here. “But why
me
? You have a coven. If you can’t do it yourself, then there must be someone else—a
stronger witch—who can do it.”

“Two reasons,” she said. “One is that you have excellent investigative skills—more
so than others older than you. You’re intelligent and resourceful. The other reason . . .
well, if another witch goes after her, she might very well kill Veronica.”

“Would that be such a bad thing?” I didn’t like violence and killing by any means,
but this might be a case where it was justified, if it could save other lives. “You
said you were going to ‘take care of her.’”

“If I have no choice . . . if I must kill her, then I will.” She looked dejected,
and I had a moment of empathy. I loved my two sisters. What would I do if I was ever
in a deadly conflict with one of them? Of course, it was hard to imagine Zoe or Carly
committing this kind of atrocity. “However, there are other ways of neutralizing and
subduing a magic user. If there’s any way—any way at all—I can do that, I will. My
coven sisters won’t feel that way, which is why I need your help.”

“I can’t.” I pushed the stool back and stood up, nearly stepping on a cat in the
process. “There must be some other way you can do this. You know I’m already bogged
down in supernatural affairs.” I actually couldn’t bring myself to admit the real
reason I wanted to dodge this. It was about more than just risking my life. So far,
all my magical interactions had been with Ms. Terwilliger. If I signed on for this,
I would be plunging into the world of witches, something I’d sworn I would never do.

Ms. Terwilliger tapped the article, and her voice was quiet when she spoke. “Could
you let this happen to other girls, knowing there’s a way you could stop it? I’ve
never heard of any of her victims waking up. The way this spell works, Veronica needs
to renew it every few years, and it requires five victims within one month. She did
this once before, and it caught me off guard. This time, we have warning. Four more
people could suffer this fate. Do you want that?”

There it was. She’d called me on the other part that had been nagging me because she
knew me too well. I couldn’t let innocents suffer, not even if it meant risking myself
or facing the fears that haunted me. If I could stop this, I had to. No one deserved
the fate of that girl in the paper. “Of course not.”

“And let’s not forget that you could soon be one of her victims.”

I touched the garnet. “You said I’m hidden.”

“You are, for now. And I hope against all hope you’ll stay that way.” I’d never seen
her so grim before, and it was hard to watch. I was used to her prattling, bumbling,
no-nonsense nature. “But here’s something I’ve never told you about how magic users
sense each other.”

Something I’d learned over the years: it was never a good thing when people said,
“Here’s something I never told you. . . .” I braced myself.

“Untrained magic users have a particular feel that’s unique from the more experienced,”
she explained. “There’s a oh, wildness about the magic that surrounds you. It’s easy
for advanced witches to sense. My coven keeps track of novice magic users, but those
are tightly guarded secrets. Veronica won’t have access to those names, but there
are spells she can use that can pick up on some of that untamed magic if it’s near
her. It’s how she probably found this poor girl.” Ms. Terwilliger nodded toward the
article.

The idea of me having some “wild” magical aura was as shocking as her saying I had
magic in my blood.

“When she absorbs a victim,” Ms. Terwilliger continued, “she gets a burst of that
wildness. It fades quickly, but when she possesses it, it can briefly enhance her
ability to scry for another untrained victim. The more victims she takes, the stronger
that ability will grow. There’s a chance,” Ms. Terwilliger said gravely, “that it
could be enough to break apart the garnet. I don’t know.” She spread out her hands.

“So you’re saying . . . with each victim she attacks, the chance that she’ll find
me increases.”

“Yes.”

“All right. I’ll help you hunt for her.” I shoved all my fears and doubts aside.
The stakes were too high. My life, the other girls . . . Veronica had to be stopped
for all our sakes. Someone like her couldn’t be allowed to go on like this.

“There’s more,” added Ms. Terwilliger.

Really?

“More than hunting an evil witch who wants to drain me of my life and power?”

“If we can stop Veronica from finding less powerful victims, we can save their lives
and limit her ability to find you.” She produced a small velvet bag and emptied it
out onto the table. Several small agate circles fell out. “These are charms that have
some ability to mask magic. Not as strong as the garnet—that would take too long.
But they’re a quick fix that might save some of these other girls’ lives.”

I knew where this was going. “And you want me to deliver them.”

“I’m sorry. I know I’m giving you some very difficult tasks here.”

This was getting worse and worse. “Difficult? That’s an understatement. And putting
aside the fact that you want me to find a woman who could suck my life away, there’s
also the very small detail that the Alchemists would flip out if they knew I was involved
with any of this.”

Ms. Terwilliger didn’t answer right away. She just watched me. A black cat jumped
up beside her and joined in the staring. Its yellow-eyed gaze seemed to say,
Do the right thing.

“Where do I start?” I asked finally. “Finding that neighborhood is part of it, right?”

“Yes. And I’ll tell you where to find her potential victims, if you’ll do the legwork
of warning them. My coven keeps track of them. They’ll be girls very much like you,
ones with power who refuse to train and have no mentor to look after them. Once we
have a clear fix on Veronica herself . . .” Ms. Terwilliger’s eyes hardened. “Well,
then. That’s when I’ll step in.”

Once more, I wondered if I really wanted to know what that entailed.

A moment later, she added, “Oh, and I thought it would be a good idea to obscure
your appearance as well.”

BOOK: The Indigo Spell
12.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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