Authors: Randi Reisfeld,H.B. Gilmour
& Randi Reisfeld
© 2004, 2012 H.B. Gilmour and Randi Reisfeld
All rights reserved.
First published by Scholastic in 2004.
For Jess, as always, with love.
To SR, SR & MR, with love always.
The authors would like to give a special shout-out to Aimee Friedman, who used her own good magick to help and heal when it was most needed.
“I’d rather die.” Barefoot and fuming, Alexandra Fielding stalked back and forth across the bedroom she shared with her twin sister, Camryn Barnes.
more dramatic?” Cam studied her freshly painted toenails. Alex sneered at them.
It was Thursday morning, way too early for a spa moment, in Alex’s opinion. She’d awakened fifteen minutes ago knowing something important was going to happen today. Cam’s unexpected announcement was so not it.
“You mean could I be less like you?” Alex scoffed, pointing an accusing finger at her twin. “See, that’s what I mean —”
“What, that your nails are toxic-dump green and
mine are Perfectly Pink?” Cam removed the foam rubber separators from between her toes and stood up cautiously. “We’re talking about a sweet sixteen party, Alex — not some devious form of torture.”
“Right, and what I’d really like for my birthday is shame and humiliation. Are you sure you read Emily’s mind right?”
Emily was Cam’s adoptive mom, an interior designer and petite, blond bundle of energy. Yesterday evening, she’d bustled through the front door with a bouquet of shopping bags from which brightly colored tissue papers peeped. Cam, who was on her way downstairs, had picked up a curious vibe crackling off Emily.
Having visions, clairvoyant peeks into the future, was one of Cam’s special gifts. But her mind-reading mojo was nowhere near as sharp as her sister’s. Alex had been able to pick brains undetected for years while Cam had only recently found herself able to catch a mumbled thought here, a mind-mutter there. But she’d peered down at her slyly grinning mom and tapped into a gold mine.
Emily was planning a secret sweet sixteen party for them!
Exactly where and when hadn’t been decided yet, only that it was going to be a surprise — which meant that it might
be held on Halloween, the twins’ actual birthday.
Even if Cam hadn’t been able to break into her mom’s thoughts, the electricity sparking Em’s thousand-watt smile would have tipped her off. The woman was glowing with barely contained excitement.
Cam had to admit she’d gotten pretty stoked herself. Her head had instantly whirled with ideas for what she’d wear, who she’d invite, whether the party would be thrown at home — a backyard tent? Or away — if it was all girls, spa sweet sixteens were extremely cool. … All she had to do was find a way to let Emily know that her secret was past tense and Cam could so do this party —
Monkey wrench? Alex. Especially since Cam had just made the mistake of sharing the news with her joy-squishing twin.
Cam sighed now, regretting her mistake. “Get over yourself, Alex. You’re not the only birthday babe around here. I have something to say about it, too. You may not want a major coming-of-age bash, but I do. And, more important, so does Emily. She’s been planning this since —”
“Since you were a teeny-weeny little witch?” Alex interrupted. “Excuse me, Camryn, but your mom doesn’t have a clue. For starters, she thinks you’re normal. Oops, I forgot. Not exactly normal. Emily thinks you’re the best thing to happen to civilization since fish grew feet.”
Alex flopped down on the floor and leaned her
head back against her bed. It was heaped with a Salvation Army bin’s worth of recently worn clothes and a bevy of old leather-bound books. Some of the books had recently been given to the twins by their biological mom, Miranda DuBaer; a few, including
The Little Book of Spells,
had come from their cousin Ileana; the rest were borrowed from the library on Coventry, the witch-populated island where Miranda and Ileana lived, and where Alex and Cam had been born.
Born, but not bred.
From the get-go, Coventry had been deemed too dangerous for them.
Their father had been murdered on the very day of their birth. Their mother had gone mad with grief and been sent far away to recover. And their uncle Thantos, fearing they would one day take his place as head of the powerful DuBaer family, had tried to kidnap them. So the twins had been smuggled off the island as infants and entrusted to separate adoptive families or protectors, never knowing of their true witchy heritage.
At the age of fourteen, Alex, who’d been living with her beloved protector, Sara Fielding, in a tumbledown trailer in Crow Creek, Montana, had, for the first time, laid eyes — intense, metallic-gray eyes — on the twin she’d never known she had, Camryn Barnes of Marble Bay, Massachusetts.
Only then, after years of wondering and worrying, did they both discover what was “wrong” with them. They were witches. Twin witches. T’Witches.
On Coventry, they were considered “fledglings” — at least until they completed their Initiation.
The big event — which Cam thought of as their WATs, Witch Aptitude Tests, as opposed to next year’s SATs — would finally make them full-fledged witches.
As far as Alex was concerned, their Initiation was way more important than some sappy “sweet” sixteen party crammed with her sister’s snobby friends and hangers-on.
Alex grabbed one of the books from her bed and rifled noisily through its pages, to show Cam that she was too busy to care about Emily’s lame bender. That finally becoming what they’d been born to be was what
The Initiation was to begin on the first day of their birth month, October, and be completed at the end of the month, with forty-eight hours of tests and ceremonies on Coventry.
Alex looked up from her book.
Maybe that was why Cam wasn’t all that psyched. Their last trip to the island, a couple of months back, had almost turned deadly. Thanks to their treacherous uncle, the
same Thantos DuBaer who’d tried to snatch them as infants, Cam had been lured into a near-lethal trap. And thanks to another young witch in Thantos’s service, Alex had almost been sent far away, separated from Cam for good.
The most important thing that had happened, though, had been the discovery that the twins were supposed to take over the dynasty now headed by their devious uncle.
It was, Miranda and Ileana kept saying, their destiny.
Maybe, Alex thought, tossing
The Coventry Catalog of Herbs
back onto the heap of books and laundry on her bed. Then again, maybe not.
What if she didn’t want to run a dynasty?
She’d thought about becoming a musician, a songwriter, maybe even a social worker or psychologist, since she dug helping people and, with magick at her disposal, wasn’t too shabby at it.
Cam hadn’t shared what she’d hoped her future would hold. But Alex couldn’t imagine her twin leaving Marble Bay, and her friends, and the adoptive family who’d loved and protected her practically since the day she was born. Although being in command — whether of a dynasty, a soccer team, or Emily’s secret blowout — was second nature to her controlling sister.
Whatever became of them, it wouldn’t happen until after their Initiation.
Alex turned suddenly and looked at the digital clock on the night table between her bed and Cam’s. The time, day, and date shone back at her in electric red.
It was Thursday. Okay, she knew that. They had the day off from school because of a teachers’ conference. But that wasn’t it. That wasn’t why today was so special!
“May I remind you,” Alex told her sister, “that we’ve got more important things to focus on than some lame sweet sixteen party.”
Cam tried to glare at her twin. It didn’t work. She was suddenly as blue as her toenails were pink. She’d been fighting off sadness and disillusion since their terrifying trip to Coventry.
She had gone to the little island hoping to “save” a handsome young warlock who’d begged for her help. She’d left knowing that he was a fraud, a traitor, and an all-around rat. Shane was his name. Deception was his game.
Cam screwed the cap back on the bottle of nail polish and tossed it into the basket on her bureau. She glanced at her glossy toenails, which now matched her fingertips. Perfectly Pink. It was almost as pathetic an attempt to stoke her mood as the idea of planning her own sweet sixteen party.
“You’re the one who doesn’t have a clue,” she mumbled at Alex. “Has it occurred to you I may not
to think about Coventry Island right now? It feels like we
just got back. And may I remind
the trip was not a piece of cake!”
Even if she didn’t have her sister’s telescopic eyesight, Alex couldn’t help seeing that Cam was miserable. Torn between guilt and sympathy, Alex tried to lighten the atmosphere. “Speaking of cake, I’m gonna grab some breakfast. Come with?” she offered.
New as she was to the mind-reading game, Cam caught her sister’s solicitous gist. “Spare me your pity,” she grumbled.
“Oh, forget Shane,” Alex urged.
Her twin winced at the name. “Thank you, Dr. Phil,” she said, trying for indifference.
Alex shook her head in frustration and headed out the door.
“Sorry,” Cam called softly — too low and too late, of course. Her sister had already thundered down the stairs.
Duck-walking on the balls of her feet to avoid smearing her hot-pink toenails, Cam made her way over to the clothes hamper that passed for Alex’s bed. She was familiar with
The Little Book of Spells
but she picked it up anyway. It had no table of contents, so she began leafing though it… looking for? It embarrassed her to admit it, even to herself, but she wondered if she’d find, somewhere in its yellowing pages, a spell to cure what ailed her.
Love? Not exactly. More like … obsession, she guessed. Not being able to shake the memory and shame of Shane’s betrayal, not being able to do exactly what Alex had advised. Forget it. Forget him.
Right — and what, see him again when she and Alex had to go back to Coventry for the final two days of their Initiation?
Cam took a deep breath. Alex had been right. Absolutely. Don’t sweat the small stuff, she’d told Cam more than once. And Shane was small stuff. Microscopic compared to the trials and tests that would make them real witches.
What really mattered was their Initiation.
Which was coming up —
Was it possible?! Cam looked at the digital clock. The date glared back at her.
! The first of October.
Their Initiation had begun!
On the last day of their last visit to Coventry, Cam remembered, she and Alex had been taken by Miranda and Ileana to an imposing cottage at the east end of the island. The pebbled path to its door wound through herbs and flowers so lush that they towered over the twins.
Inside, surrounded by bowls of glittering crystals and stones, ancient books on the craft, and jars of potions and lotions of every kind and color, Lady Rhianna lived. She, Ileana had informed them, was to be their Initiation Master. There and then, she would explain the rules of their upcoming Initiation.
As Rhianna came forward to greet them, the plus-size witch’s broad hips and folded wings brushed against the shelves and tables holding her remarkable collections.
She hadn’t invited them to sit down. There was no place for that, anyway. There were few pieces of furniture, chairs included, that weren’t overflowing with herb jars, books, or display boxes. Sparing the small talk, she began.
“It is the tradition of this community that rites of Initiation be given when fledglings come of age. It is an event that will unfold over the course of one full month —”
Event, right. The large in-charge witch could call it anything she wanted, Cam thought now, but it was essentially a test. An evaluation. An exam. They could pass it … or they could fail. She’d realized that minutes after Rhianna began to describe the first part of it.
Each day of their birth month, October, they were going to be judged and graded. “Viewed,” in Coventry terms. “Spied on,” was Alex’s take.
Either way, certain witches — their bio mom, Miranda; their guardian, Ileana; and the Exalted Elders of the island — would be able to see and hear them even when Cam and Alex were here in Marble Bay, Massachusetts, a thousand miles from Coventry.
Every choice the twins made — big or small, trivial or serious — would be monitored and evaluated.
Starting today, now, this very minute, Cam realized, her decisions, choices, and actions were already being viewed. She was supposed to be practicing her craft, trying to rack up points in applied magick. But practice only made perfect if what she did was done for the right reasons. Reasons that upheld the Coventry creed. “That all things might grow to their most bountiful goodness.” That was supposed to be her guide, hers and Alex’s, and the end result of all their decisions.
They were also, the buxom old witch had said, expected to know close to one hundred spells. Whether or not they used them was also their choice.
One hundred spells! Cam remembered how she’d begun to panic — until Miranda had tossed in the tidbit that all one hundred were variations on the basics: Truth, Travel, and Transformation.
Score! She and Alex had already done all of the above; in the past, they’d made use of the Big Three with excellent results.
Rhianna had overheard Cam’s mental back-pat. That was when their Initiation Master had explained a crucial rule: No help.
Neither of the twins could get an assist from any
witch or warlock during their Initiation period. No way, no how, no matter how they tried to manipulate it.
Hearing the news, Alex had cut her eyes at Cam and sent a mind message:
Yo, that’s messed up.
“Deal with it,” Rhianna had curtly advised. “Your Initiation begins on the first day of October —”
“But we’ve got school,” Cam had interrupted.
Rhianna glanced at Miranda, who’d been standing between her daughters.
“Now is the time to listen and learn,” their mother quickly urged them.
“In school and out, on the mainland and on Coventry,” the winged witch clarified, to be sure they really understood, “your every act must include one or all of the following virtues: wisdom, intuition, trust, courage, and honesty. The more of these qualities you use in making your decisions, the more worthy you will be considered of being true witches.”
“And the more stones you’ll earn,” Ileana had blurted.
Cam and Alex thought at once.
“Points,” Miranda explained. “Each sacred stone is worth one point. And you must each earn one hundred during your Initiation month.”
Wisdom. Intuition. Trust. Courage. Honesty. Twenty
points for each would do it, Cam had reckoned. Perfectionist that she was, she had itched to take notes. But Ileana caught the thought and, with a disapproving frown, shook her head no.
“That your choices must be steeped in sympathy and empathy goes without saying,” Rhianna went on, “and that your decisions are made in a spirit of kindness, compassion, justice, and love. More than ever before, this is the time for you to come to the aid of your peers when they are in need. You are free to use all the magick at your command; in fact, you are encouraged to do so. Your memory of spells — of herbs, crystals, and incantations — will thus be honed.”
A mind message from Ileana had warned that they’d better bone up on the entire contents of
The Little Book of Spells.
“But it is your actions — when, where, and how you choose to use your gifts — that will most decide the outcome,” Rhianna had added pointedly.
That was part one of their Initiation. Doing the Right Thing, it could have been called.
And then they were to be summoned to Coventry for part two, which Cam had instantly dubbed the Q&A.
There, at the Unity Dome with the entire population of the island looking on, any Elder could ask them any
question about anything to do with their witchy heritage, powers, magick, and craft.
From alchemy, the fabled science of transformation and transmutation, to zircon, a false diamond not approved as a sacred stone, they were expected to know the history, ingredients, incantations, purposes, and powers of every spell, and when and how to use them.
After each answer, Rhianna had explained, the Elders would vote on how well they’d done. And whether they’d made the grade.
Exactly when would it take place? Cam had wondered silently.
“You will be called at the auspicious moment,” Rhianna answered dismissively.
Just as Cam was about to ask what would happen if they blew a question or two, Rhianna delivered one last Initiation bulletin: There was a part three to the proceedings!
And it wasn’t going to be anything as simple as an essay.
No number-two pencils to sharpen, no clock ticking, no teachers pacing the aisles. No chance to prepare, either, because, as it turned out, they would not even be
the topic of part three beforehand.
Ileana had tried to coax Rhianna into revealing
some small bit of info on the final phase, but the impatient older woman’s wings ruffled menacingly and her piercing gaze had been enough to silence their guardian.
“We will not discuss that now,” she announced firmly.
Whatever that part of their WATs was, they’d have to deal with it later. Not knowing was the worst, as far as Cam was concerned. She couldn’t prep in any way. What if, for the first time in her life, she was faced with a test she couldn’t ace?
“What happens if we … you know … fail?” she’d worked up the nerve to ask.
“You can take the test again,” their mother had assured them. “Your uncle Fredo took it several times —”
“Yes, but as with your pitiful uncle, your powers will be diminished,” Rhianna informed them. “Some of them will weaken after the first failure. And more will be lost after any later failures, until —”
“Until we have no magick left?” Cam asked weakly.
Reluctantly, their mother had said softly, “Yes.”
“What happens if we pass?” Alex cut to the chase.
“Your powers will increase,” Ileana said.
“You’ll be able to help more and more people in need —” Miranda explained.
“No longer fledglings, you will be welcomed into our society as equals,” Rhianna announced. “Our ancient
and powerful community will nurture and protect you as long as you live.”
“So that’s it?” Alex had turned to Ileana. “We get spied on at home and do a Q&A here, and we’re in?”
Before their guardian could respond, Lady Rhianna had slapped her hand down on a glass-front cabinet, causing it to shudder and tinkle, and causing the twins to swiftly face her again. “Apolla! Artemis!” Their birth names rolled like thunder in Rhianna’s mouth. “As I told you, there will be one more test to face. It will tell us how well you handle … new situations. Situations that will present the most difficult yet valuable challenges you’ll ever face.”
“Why does it have to be a secret?” Cam had blurted, her nerves getting the best of her.
“Can’t you at least tell us what form it will take?” Alex had backed Cam up.
Rhianna sighed mightily. Her cinnamon breath swept Cam’s cheeks and ruffled Alex’s seriously gelled hair.
“Lord Karsh, in his infinite but extremely bewildering wisdom, wished this on me,” the wide, old, wise witch murmured. “That I should be your Initiation Master. That I should view and guide you during this momentous time. Why, is anyone’s guess.” She drew a deep breath. “As I said, your Initiation begins on the first day of your birth month and will culminate here on Coventry. I look forward to it.
You will be summoned at the proper time. For now, enjoy what’s left of your summer.”
In Marble Bay, Cam glanced again at the digital clock.
Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
The cheesy expression came to her — and it had never seemed so true.