Copyright © 2016 by April Klasen
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Also by April Klasen
Blair: Salem’s Daughter
Blair: The Sleeping Daughter
Thank you Nanowrimo.
Thank you Brothers Grimm.
Thank you Bek.
Thank you editor B.
Thank you Mum and Dad.
Thank you Readers.
Once upon a time Blair Fitzpatrick came home after eight years and forgot about Alizaria. She no longer had magic.
The police were confused and interrogated her. She had no memory.
The doctors were amazed and did test after test. She had not aged.
Mr and Mrs Fitzpatrick were ecstatic their little girl was home and bought a new house in town. She lived with her family, finished her HSC and they were happy.
But Blair found herself constantly drawn ‘home’ and to the man who had found her. Little by little, Blair and Dathan fell in love.
spirit of Alizaria and blood of another land,
a daughter of two worlds:
She will be loved by an heir.
She will sleep till Alizaria needs her.
She will bring fire and flood.
She will be the greatest queen for a thousand years.
She will be alone.”
Blair woke suddenly to the crack of thunder. She shivered as the fan blew cool air over her sweaty skin. The heat was broken. Rain shattered itself onto the tin roof, its echoes drowning out all other sound inside the house.
A shaft of bright white light illuminated the bedroom for a second before it returned to the black. Then came another crack of thunder. “It’s close,” Blair mumbled to herself.
She laid on her back staring at the ceiling, more like darkness, above. Her mind was blank.
Rolling her head to the side she checked the time on the clock. Its glowing red numbers said one thirty-six. She groaned. “I haven’t been asleep for a full hour yet.” She felt exhausted but she just couldn’t settle in for the night.
Blair sat up in the bed, the sheet pooling in her lap. She wore an old singlet and a pair of blue cotton boxers, anything that wouldn’t feel like she was being smothered to death in cloth. Dathan was sleeping next to her.
“How can you do that? Sleep through anything?” She asked Dathan.
His face was peaceful, unaware of her words. Mouth slightly open, he snored a little. Thankfully the rain blocked out the sounds. Many nights she had to go sleep in the spare room on her own just to get any shut-eye.
He never seemed to be bothered by the fact it had become a problem in the last three months. They would have good intentions and go to bed together but then after an hour of staring at the ceiling and becoming more and more annoyed with the drone-and-honk she would finally make her way out.
As she stared at the man her hand went straight to her belly.
The foetus inside there was being a pain in the neck again. “I want something… salty. Chips, yes I want chips.”
Crawling out of bed, Blair didn’t need to use the bedside lamp to guide her; she knew the way across the floor to the door. Understood she had to shuffle across so she didn’t end up kicking her toe into the foot of the bed.
Once on the other side of the door, she turned on the hall lights and made her way down to the kitchen.
On autopilot Blair reached into the pantry and retrieved the salty chips. She sat at the table and began shoving handful after handful into her mouth, licking the salt from the tips of her fingers as she did. The doctor had told her she would crave things that her body felt it had not sufficient amounts of.
The storm was easing up, the rain no longer sounded like it was trying to force its way into the house. It pattered.
The silence irritated Blair. She fidgeted, shifting in her seat. “Why am I so restless?”
Occasionally, while Dathan slept she would go out into the back garden and walk around the perimeter. Sometimes she would walk up and down the steep driveway just to make herself exhausted before collapsing into sleep.
“I was never this much of a pain in the neck when I was a kid… you better not be planning on taking after me, little one,” she whispered to her belly.
It also terrified her. This baby tied Blair and Dathan to each other permanently. She would never be able to leave him now. Which should’ve brought a smile to her lips.
“I’m going to be a mum. I’m not sure if I really want to be one, or if I would be any good at it. How do you know if it’s the right time to start a family?” She placed her hands on either side of her belly. It was slightly bigger and would be massive by the end of things. “I thought a happy child could only be conceived in perfect trust and love…and Dathan is hiding something. Actually it feels like he’s hiding a lot of different things from me.”
The chip packet was empty, it shifted in the slight breeze.
Blair frowned. No fan was on inside the kitchen nor was there a window open anywhere. She turned round in the seat to look over at the back door.
“Why is that open? I could’ve sworn I locked it before going to bed.” Her heart skipped a beat. “How long has it been open? Must be baby brain,” swallowing the sudden fear she stood and moved to the ajar door. “We’re too far out of the way for an axe-murderer.” That was what her dad always said. She believed that.
With a hand resting on the door handle she stood there enjoying the breeze that blew in, the slight moisture in the air kissing her cheeks and eyelids. She sighed. It was too nice not to go out onto the veranda at least.
Making sure the door wouldn’t lock her out if it swung shut, she moved out onto the squeaky floor boards. The rain had been vicious, shooting further into the veranda than expected. The cool damp boards felt amazing under her feet.
Outside it smelt clean and fresh. She wanted to lay out on the grass and roll in it.
Blair blinked as she realised she was walking out into the light rain now, her toes touching the grass. “What am I doing? I can’t risk catching a cold.”
Her hands came back to cradle her belly. No matter what she felt about the prospect of becoming a parent at such a young age Blair didn’t want to jeopardise the health of her unborn.
She retreated back up to the veranda and then into the house, after taking one last gulp of lovely fresh air. She closed the door and locked it. It clicked into place with a decisive clunk.
“Now what am I going to do?” She didn’t feel like she could go back to the bed and lay there for hours waiting for sleep. “I guess I’ll just make a cup of tea and maybe sit out on the veranda for a little while. I might go stir crazy if I have to stay inside for much longer.”
The kettle boiled and she prepared a cup. She stood patiently, tapping her fingers against the counter. With the tea made and milk put away, Blair turned to go outside, mug in hand.
Someone sat at the head of the kitchen table.
Her heart went off at double time, ramming itself back and forth against her ribs. She shook, tea slipping free of the cup. What do I do? He’s so close, anything I do he can get at me in seconds. Dathan, oh god, how can you still be sleeping? I need you!
“Hello Blair. How have you been?”
She barely registered that this stranger knew her name, focussing on dropping the cup and reaching for the sword at her hip.
Where’s my sword? She thought in a panic.
She blinked. Sword? Since when did she ever think she carried a sword on her hip?
“Well my dear girl, let me tell you how I’ve been these last few years. I’ve been going out and collecting all kinds of special magical abilities, growing stronger each time.” The strange man smiled.
Blair was panicking now. So why the hell didn’t she start running? Race for the phone? Scream out for Dathan? Why wasn’t she doing anything except reaching for a sword that was never there to begin with? How stupid was she?
Swallowing what little saliva was left in her mouth she found a voice. “I don’t know who you are or why you’re here but if you just stand up and walk out of that door right now, I won’t call the police. We can forget about all of this.” Even as she spoke the words she knew they were lies. She would be calling the cops on this maniac. For all she knew he was an escapee from an insane asylum.
The man frowned. “What are you talking about?” His tone had deepened.
She was shuffling along the counter heading closer to the hallway. She had to be smart, get to the end of the hall and lock the door after her. Then she would wake Dathan. Yes, that’s good.
“Look, you have the wrong house.”
He shook his head. “Blair, stop pretending to be innocent. What’s wrong with you?”
“How do you know my name?!” the words burst out in a panicked scream. “Who the hell are you?”
The man carefully assessed her. “Ha,” he laughed humourlessly. “That’s rich coming from the prince and that vampyre. That they should use such basic magic on you of all people. Ha.”
“What?” Okay, crazy person is inside the house. I really need to get away from him. Right now.
“Boiled magic. A simple trick that’s all.” His eyes slid down to the abandoned mug on the floor. “Tea, I bet that’s what it was… yes, I agree too.”
Certifiably insane. Blair moved the last few steps so the table was between them and the hallway right behind her. “I don’t care who the fuck you think you are, be it Jesus or Elvis, I want you out of my house right this fucking instant! Take your crazy shit elsewhere!”
The man sighed. “We’ve been through this already. My name is Roy-Samuel Salem.”
“Salem? Are you somehow related to my mum?” He did look vaguely familiar. She shook her head. “That doesn’t give you the right to break into my house and scare the shit out of me. Now get out!”
“Yes, we are related. More so than you would like to believe,” his eyes shifted in colour again and grew a little glassy. “You are after all, Salem’s Daughter.” The chair scrapped over the floor as he stood and shoved it back.
Her hands rose up, palm facing outwards. “Don’t you dare come any closer. I’m not alone in this house, my boyfriend is sleeping at the end of this hall. If I scream he’ll come running.”
“Then why haven’t you screamed already?” His head tilted to the side.
Blair’s mouth moved but no sound came out. Why hadn’t she screamed out for help yet? Why was she still standing in the kitchen talking to this crazy guy instead of making her escape down the hall already?
What happened to her initial fear?
It was shock when she saw someone sitting at the table. But it seemed so natural to see him there, like de ja vu. Maybe its curiosity… or I really just need the adrenaline hit.
“Why are you here?”
“Oh,” his eyes grew round in surprise. “I suppose it is very rude of me to arrive so late at night. But I needed to speak to you right away, without delay and without interruption.” His knowing smile made her stomach tighten in fear.
“I already told you my boyfriend…”
“Can sleep through anything. I remember Dathan and his inability to be woken for anything in the middle of the night.”
She gasped. “Have you been watching us? How the hell do you know his name?”
“Because I am Roy. He and I, like you and I, have history. Only ours goes back further because we are blood related and we were both the same sort of witch, before Lucy that is. Little bitch she is.”
“Lucy… that’s a name I’ve put aside…” Blair muttered the words under her breath. It was on her list of girls names.
Roy looked at her sharply. “Put aside? Just how happily ever after have you been living?”
Blair returned the sharp look with a glare. “That is none of your damn business.”
“How old are you?”
She blinked. That was quick jump in conversation. “Twenty-two.”
“Five years… strange how the times are the same.”
“The same as what?”
“This was a basic rule, time moves differently over there to here, sometimes faster other times slower but never the same. So why is it the same?”
“Tick tock… crazy much.” Blair stepped to the left and yanked open the cupboard below the bench. Bringing the frypan out she raised it in front of her body, both hands gripping its handle tight. It started to slip a little, she readjusted her grip. Damn sweaty palms. “I’ve had enough of this. I have repeatedly asked you to get out of my house, I have even offered to ignore the fact you’ve broken in. Now you have just pissed me off. Either get out or I will use self-defence.”
Straightening his shoulder Roy looked at her calmly. “Blair Fitzpatrick! Alizaria needs you. You need to come back home with me and complete the prophecy. If not, then this world will be next when Alizaria is gone.”
The frypan came down and Blair stared mouth agape at the man. “Alizaria… how did you know that word? I’ve never told anyone about that.” Then she was shaking again. “It was just a dream. That place was just a dream, some place for my mind to escape. The doctors said I had vivid dreams as a part of PTS syndrome, it was a way to cope with my lost memories for eight years…”
“And you believed it? Silly girl. You know the last time we met you wanted to kill me. I guess you have grown up and matured if you are letting me talk.”
“Because I’m curious…” was all she said.
“Well. Let me make you a little more curious. Did you know that gate has been open for five years now?”
She suddenly felt light headed. “The gate… no, it has to stay shut, dad always told me that… but I’ve always wanted to go back through it.”
“Back through?” Roy goaded her.
She touched the finger of her left hand to her temple. It was starting to throb inside her skull, painfully rhythmic. “No, I mean I’ve never been through it. No point there’s no fence. You can just walk around.”
“What would happen if you walked through?” he asked innocently.
“I would be in Alizaria… No!” She raised the frypan again. “Stop it!”
“I haven’t done a thing. Now remember damn it!” Both of his beefy fists came crashing down on the table top, so the sauces in the middle jumped and clattered.
“Get out.” She brought the frypan back to her shoulder and threw it across the table top.
Roy side stepped around it towards her. Using the bench for support she kicked both legs out at a chair so it flew into him.
He grunted from the cracking impact and stumbled back into the bench behind him. “That hurt. Don’t you know how to treat your elders?”
“I gave you an ultimatum, now I get to use self-defence.” That felt amazing. I feel like I can fight back and do some actual damage… it’s also a little familiar, like muscle memory. When was the last time I fought?
“Haven’t you already started questioning? Why there’s a secret you don’t even have a clue about?”
“Leave Dathan out of this!”
“I never said it was Dathan,” he smirked and shoved the chair back at her. She jumped again, hoisting her legs up onto the counter top. Blair stood there as he approached. “But you know what I mean right?”
Why was her head aching so much?
Roy was almost in front of her, his hands raised as if he was expecting her to kick him in the face. She gripped the cupboard handles behind her.
“What does he do? Brush off the nightmares as an over active imagination? Pretends not to hear you if you say strange words in another language you never remember learning?”
How was he getting everything right? None of those things had happened in a few months because I’ve given up on trying to share them with Dathan… so how long has this crazy guy been stalking me?
Her fists were a flurry as she threw drinking glasses at him shattering against his head one after another. He screamed and stumbled back, knocking into the kitchen table.
She didn’t wait. Leaping at the man, she yelled a warrior’s war cry and slammed her knees into his upper chest. What did she care if he seemed to be an old man? He came at her… and he was scaring her.
She rolled across the table top and dismounted swiftly.
Roy coughed, clutching his chest with both hands. He made his way around the table, glass crunching under his boots. “Don’t do that! I’m not your enemy. We have to work together or else they win.”
Blair was backing up with every step he took forward. Then she yelped as her foot stung from the glass now buried in it.
She gasped. Unable to go back, table to one side and wall on the other she was stuck. The panic spiked in her blood. Her hands rose up as an ineffective deterrent.
It felt so natural and familiar… but it didn’t happen like it should. There was a shift inside of her and a blast of air rushed its way out from her in the way of a force field. It was so strong, making her clothes billow and hair lift up from her scalp in a rush before settling down again.
The door behind her was ripped open, slamming itself into the wall.
She watched as Roy went flying far from her and crashed into the back door. Slowly he pushed himself upright and stared at her.
Her hands shook. “What… what was that?”
He sneered. “I thought it was gone! How can you still have spirit magic?”
“Spirit magic?” the words felt so familiar on her tongue. “But I didn’t do it… it was lower.” Her hands came down on her belly.
“Blair!” From the end of the hall she heard Dathan’s feet slam into the floor and rattle the house as he ran. “Blair!”
Roy looked panicked. “Alizaria needs you.” With those words he stumbled to his feet and fled out the back door.
Blair stood in shock. Slowly she felt even lighter-headed, the head-ache growing worse. She wobbled… then black.
“Blair? Open your eyes. Honey, look at me. Please Blair, just look at me.”
Dathan came into focus. His face was creased into a frown which smoothed in relief. “Oh thank the Gods! What happened? Why is there glass all over the floor?”
I glared at him. “Honey, I just had a family reunion with my great-great-great-great grandfather. Of course there would be glass on the floor. But that ain’t nothing compared to what’s going to happen when you explain why you took my memories.”
He stared at me. “Blair, how? It was meant to be permanent.”
I shoved his arms open and moved away from him. “I’m talented I guess. Start talking mister.”
“So yeah, Roy is back and he has magic. A lot, from what I could see. It looks like he’s been using the same technique as the Lord Drakes, taking the soul of another being into his body which can only work if that soul has magic attached to it.” I rubbed a hand over my eyes and sighed. “If he was collecting from those with blood magic he wouldn’t get a thing.”
Dathan put the dust pan and broom away. Nodding, satisfied with his cleaning he finally sat in a chair. “Is that even possible?”
“Collecting magic? Yes, I think. At least he’s proven it. Roy was always a little kookoo but tonight he was switching between personalities.”
Something else was bothering me. What did he mean by this world would be next? Next for what? Who was this new enemy now targeting Alizaria and what did they intend on doing?
“Are you alright?” He reached across the table and touched my hand.
“Hmm, I feel a little woozy. Probably from the last of the boiled magic in my system… why? I can’t wrap my head around why you would take Alizaria away from me.”
“I wanted you to have a clean slate. When you came back it was… different. We were complete strangers and you wouldn’t let me in.”
“We were complete strangers. I’d been asleep for one thousand years and you had been living here for eight.” Deep breath, my head was pounding. “Not to mention the shit that happened…” even though he sat directly across from me I could still recall the ache I’d felt when I learned one thousand years had passed. “I thought you had died.”
“See, this is what I wanted to free you from.”
Excuse me? What did he think he was? A part of the Fates and could decide what was best for me? I sat up straight. “You had no right to choose for me.”
He blinked. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what else I can say. After I had given you the potion I realised I fucked up. You left notebooks, filled with your Alizaria on this table. If only you had given them to me earlier, half an hour…” the sentence trailed off.
If only… if only he had just waited for me.
Staring at the man I loved, the same one who wanted to have a happy family with me, I could feel an anger brewing in my chest.
Keep it together Fitzpatrick. Don’t go losing it just yet. He had reasons, they suck but he was… oh fuck it, he was being selfish.
“Uh? Going where? It’s still dark outside.” He jumped to his feet and reached over the table for my arm. I could see the panic in his eyes.
“I’m going to Alizaria.”
His grip loosened. Pulling back, Dathan sank down into his chair again. “Why?”
“I have to protect Alizaria… it’s a home to me,” I had to stop myself from saying it was my one and only home. “Come with me, please.”
He sat immobile.
What was he thinking? Was he considering the option? Or was he trying to come up with an excuse not to go?
Did he even consider Alizaria his home anymore? He left it so long ago, had made a life for himself here – one that included me.
The urge to go back was stronger than my feelings for him. “We have to go back.”
“No,” he was shaking his head now. “This is our home, not Alizaria.”
“Roy has magic. We’re going back. Now!”
“Blair, think for a minute.” He stood and this time walked around the table to grab my arm.
“I have been thinking.” I pulled back. “And we have to talk, properly. But that will be after we get to the city.”
“I did it for everyone,” he whispered.
Did what? Take my memories? Leave Alizaria? The questions burned my throat but I knew it would take too long to ask them and get answers and by the end of it, I might not care for any of it anymore.
“I’m going to pack. You have ten minutes to decide.” With that, I walked out of the kitchen and into our bedroom.
I pulled out an old backpack from the wardrobe and proceeded to fill it with clean clothes. Then I stopped. I don’t really need all of this stuff… I emptied the pack and instead put inside two clean shirts, some underwear and a warm jacket.
Next I changed into jeans and an old t-shirt. As I put on socks I noticed the slice in my foot was bright red but sealed. Not questioning, I rubbed my belly. “You did that didn’t you? Clever little spirit witch. It’s going to be fun trying to teach you how to control your magic since I have nothing left.”
I stopped by the kitchen door way, dreading the feeling of breaking up.
Dathan had food and drink sitting on the table. He looked up from his chair. Between his hands he gripped my joggers. “I was checking for spiders. Just give us a second and I’ll get changed.”
He stood and moved around me. “Yes. I’m not letting you go on your own.” With those words he kissed my forehead and went into the bedroom.
I should be relieved, not having to travel alone… but, even though I told him to come, I felt uneasy. It was like he was back to normal. Like nothing had happened.
We would go on an adventure… actually it would be our first. With the Nameless Sword he’d sent me off on my own to complete the curse. Once I’d woken he was on the other side of the gate and I had to find my own way back here. Strange that we never fought together in Alizaria.
I packed the food into my bag, slipped my joggers on and headed out to the veranda.
The back garden was neat and tidy near the house yet wild as nature intended further away.
Rubbing my belly, I spoke to the baby. “This is going to be your first time over on the other side. There’s a gate just over there, in amongst the bush. No fence, just the gate. Your daddy had the area around it cleared and even had it repainted when he was waiting for me. But since I’ve been here he’s let it go back to normal. I like it like this, reminds me of the first time I went through it.”
This probably was crazy. Talking to my unborn kid. But I could imagine her listening. I could also say this was practice for when I would be explaining to her where she really came from.
An uncontrollable smile broke across my face. Yes, her. I just knew she was a little girl. I would’ve been happy with a boy, I know that. But it was also nice to be so sure.
“Anyway, we’re going through that gate and into a magical land called Alizaria. The last time I was there things had changed a lot. They use renewable energy like wind and solar. No cars, but they have trains and still use horse and carts. The country side is beautiful. The city… um, well I’m not much for places like that so I’m biased. There’s magic everywhere and danger so we should always be careful.”
“What are you talking about?”
I leapt at the sound of his voice in my ear. Spinning I slapped his arm. “Don’t sneak up on me!”
He chuckled. The house keys spun round and round on his index finger before he shoved them into his pocket. “Who were you speaking to?”
“Um, the baby.”
At the mention of the word baby his eyes lit up and a goofy smile spread from ear to ear. “So you’re not as freaked out about it now? You’re happy with keeping it?”
I shrugged. “It happened a lot sooner than I had wanted but I’m not going to get rid of it just because it doesn’t fit in with my schedule. Plus, I would like to be a mum someday.”
The old fear was still there. It was a baby, something that would be dependent on me for life. I wouldn’t be able to just disappear for a day and do my own thing ever again.
But what freedom I was giving up… I was getting something just as precious back.
“We should get going while the rain has eased.”
Dathan flicked open an umbrella and held it over the both of us as we walked across the lawn. Once under the cover of the trees did I stop and look back. Lights off, all doors locked. How long would I be away this time?
Looking over my shoulder I saw Dathan standing on the other side already.
The poor gate, with one swirl in its pattern broken off, squeaked as I opened it all of the way.
“What are you doing?”
I ignored him for a bit as I propped it open with broken branch. “I’m not risking it slamming shut on us while we’re over there. I can’t leave mum and dad like I did last time.”
We walked, single file at first since the path had over grown. Slowly the trees changed from the usual eucalyptus and wattles around our house, to tall and pine-like. Things are always similar but never the same. I smiled a little.
It was nice to be rhythmically marching, in sync with Dathan’s footfalls. My mind began to wander again, letting my body take over the well-known actions.
What will happen when we get to the city?
Will everyone hate me and shoot me on sight?
Is Leslie still around… and her son? he was, what last time… Just a kid. So he wouldn’t be too much older.
Would he still glare at me?
I stumbled into Dathan where he stopped. “What?” Looking around his shoulder I saw it standing in the middle of our path. “Is that a black unicorn?”
“Yeah. I thought they were only things of legend.”
“Hmm, even here they don’t exist.”
We stared in awe at this beautiful beast. A black beauty of a horse, long flicking tail and mane that had flecks of gold throughout and finally a horn of pure gold glinting in the patchy sunlight.
It threw its head and snorted.
“So um, should we walk around it or run like hell? Is it going to try and impale us with that horn?”
Dathan’s shoulders lifted and fell.
The unicorn pawed at the ground and tossed its head more, almost saying: Come Here Now.
I stepped around Dathan, unconscious of the action.
The unicorn lowered its front legs to the ground and whinnied.
“Don’t,” he grabbed onto my arm.
I suddenly realised I was walking to the animal. “But it doesn’t feel like a danger to me. I think he wants to help us.” Pulling away from Dathan I moved slowly along the path till I stood in front of the creature. “You are beautiful. I’m going to touch you, so don’t panic and decide to trample me to death.”
I touched the space between his ears. “So soft.” The gold horn jutted out just below it so I skimmed to the side and crouched so I could stroke his nose.
His snorting breath blasted over my palm.
“Hello, who are you?”
The eye that looked back at me looked familiar. It rolled.
I tumbled backwards in shock. Horses eyes don’t roll like that, with sarcasm, at all in fact. “Brodie?” I glared over my shoulder at Dathan. “You told me he was dead.”
“I never said that. I said he went missing and so I assumed he had died.”
The dark unicorn, who might be Brodie, nuzzled his head into my chest. I turned back to him. “Whinny if you are Brodie.”
Tears burst into my eyes. “How?” I threw my arms around his head and held him tight. “How are you still alive?”
“I guess it’s true then,” Dathan stepped forward. “Drace creatures will only die if their owners do.”
I pulled back. “Why didn’t you find me the first time? I woke up five years ago, you could’ve found me then.”
He shook his head and then nodded.
“Wait… were you the one in the stables? I wasn’t paying attention, but you chose me that day and brought me here… then you got scared and ran off. Useless as always,” I said the words but there was no malice in them. “This is so wonderful.”
With Dathan’s help I stood up and dusted my jeans off.
I looked at Brodie. “I have to say Brodie, is a ridiculous name for a unicorn.”
He snorted in agreement.
“Blair,” Dathan clicked his fingers in front of my face. “We need to get to the city fast. A horse will – “
“Unicorn,” I corrected him.
“Yes, that too.”
“I get you.”
Without further discussion I moved to Brodie’s side and climbed onto his back. My legs tightened around his flanks and I gripped his mane. Before Dathan could follow, Brodie stood up and turned around on the path.
“Hey, we can’t leave Dathan. Brodie! Brodie stop!”
But he wouldn’t. Kicking up his heels he charged forward at a great speed. The trees blurred with the dirt and the sky into a tunnel.
I held on tight. Legs squeezing and fingers gripping Brodie’s mane so hard I felt some hair pull free. I was lying almost flat along his back. The air ripped at my rough ponytail, pulling it free.
We raced for a few minutes before he suddenly slowed to a canter, then a trot and then to a standstill.
I looked around, confused.
“How the hell did we get to here?”
We stood in the open plain and straight ahead of us, barely a kilometre away was Amber City.
“Brodie, did you use some sort of magic?”
He tossed his head.
“And why didn’t you use it when we first came here? It would’ve saved us so much time and effort.” My fingers loosened and I rubbed affectionately at his neck. “I’m so glad you’re alive. I missed you.”
He started a canter and took us the rest of the way to the city.
“But we shouldn’t have left Dathan back there. I need him.”
Brodie tossed his head from side to side. I took that to mean he didn’t care.
“Well I give a damn about him. He is the father to my unborn child after all.”
Brodie came to a sudden halt. I was jolted but remained seated. “I really don’t like riding bare back, I feel like I’m going to slip off at any moment.” I touched my heel to his flank, hoping to propel him forward. “Come on.”
He didn’t shift.
“I’m sorry for not telling you as soon as we met again. But it sort of just happened.”
He dropped down so his belly touched the ground.
Unsure I slipped from his back.
Brodie stood upright once again.
I took his nose into my hands and forced him to look at me. “What’s wrong? I’m pregnant not infected with a contagious disease.”
There was worry in his eyes.
“I know, I’m not meant to be riding while pregnant. But this kid is different. She’s like me, or like what I was. She has spirit magic. So I don’t think she’ll die on me so easily. When Roy came to our house she defended us with her magic.”
When he lowered his head and nudged his nose against my abdomen I guess he accepted the new developments and my judgement.
“Now, go get Dathan please.”
He jerked his head back up and shook it from side to side.
“Yes. I can’t have him wandering around the country side by himself. And you were the one who took off and left him there.” I grabbed hold of the horn and held him steady. “Do it. I’m not asking anymore.”
With a swish of his tail he kicked his heels and galloped off, disappearing in seconds.
Inside the city, things looked the same. It was crowded, loud and bustling. Shop fronts ranged from the derelict to freshly painted and inviting.
Finally, I made it to the palace gates, the guards halted me there. “This is a restricted area.”
I gave the men a surprised look. “Restricted for whom?”
“Civilians,” one answered the obvious.
“Well then you better lift that stupid rule right now because this civilian is about to walk right on through.”
“No you’re not,” the biggest of the two moved to stand in front of me and flexed his muscles.
I smiled sweetly. “I have business with Leslie. She and I go back a few years.”
“Move it little girl.”
I sighed. Physically he had strength and most likely skill with his fists. But Leslie had insisted I learn how to fight without using magic.
One, two, the guard was on his back staring up at me.
The other guard charged.
One, two, he ended up exactly as his friend.
“Sorry, but I really need to talk to Leslie. It’s about Roy-Samuel.” As I stepped through the gates other guards charged forward yelling at me. Their voices blended and I couldn’t hear a single word.
I raised my hands to show I wasn’t dangerous. “My name is Blair Fitzpatrick.”
They fell silent.
It was a bit of a power trip, being able to use my name like that and have them react. I smothered a grin.
“I need to speak with Leslie.”
One man stepped forward, his sword was held out in front of him. His hazel eyes stayed steady on me. “Hello Blair.”
I blinked at him. Well, he grew up very nicely. “Hello Herrick. How old are you?”
“I’m eighteen.” He frowned.
I guess it was a question out of the blue. “Then how many years have passed?”
I gasped. Why would Roy say that it had only been five? Had he really gone insane from all of the magic he had collected?
“I need to speak with your mother, can you please take me to her?”
The sword didn’t waver. “I’m not sure that’s wise, to let you of all people back into this city.” The hatred tinged his words.
I guess he still didn’t like me after what I had done with the dragons.
“That’s fair. But I had Roy at my house only a couple of hours ago. He has magic, which is a very bad thing. So please ignore my past antics and let me see Leslie.” I can’t believe I was pleading with this kid… actually, he was a man now.
I could see he was considering what I had said. “Roy. Are you sure he has magic?”
“Yes. And he said he needed it. He told me that Alizaria is in danger and that I had to come back and complete the prophecy.”
Slowly the sword was lowered. “Not matter what, you have always done what you thought was best for this country. Even if it is not your home.”
I glared. “I consider this place my home, more than anywhere else in the universe. Now take me to Leslie, or do I have to find my own way.” I snapped at him.
His mouth opened, ready to snap back, but he was cut off.
A familiar voice called out. I turned towards it and stared.
“Welcome back Blair.” Lucy smiled at me.
I opened my eyes and found I was staring at a ceiling. “What happened?”
“You passed out,” said a gruff male voice. His arms shook me a little and supported my back as I slowly sat upright.
“I don’t know. You’re a girl, I guess it’s what you do.”
I resisted the urge to smack Herrick up the back of the head, especially since I still felt very woozy. Lucy. I saw her and then I blacked out. Was it the shock of seeing her or was it some residual effect from the boiled magic as it wore off completely? Or was it the pregnancy?
My hand was resting protectively over my belly. Is it alright in there?
“Where is she?” the sound of shoes smacking the floor echoed in the room. I looked around. “Are we just inside the palace?”
“Yeah,” realising I didn’t need any support, Herrick moved his arms away from me. “I got you in here and then you started to mutter so I put you down.”
“Thanks,” that was nice of him.
I looked up at Leslie. She stood between two guards, who supported her weight on either side. Herrick took their place so she leaned on her son. Her hair was frighteningly white and she looked sickly yellow in the flesh.
“Leslie! Oh my Gods! Are you alright?”
She vaguely nodded. “Just an illness. Happens to all of us. What are you doing here?”
“Roy came to me on the other side of the gate. He has magic again and was going all crazy on me.” I didn’t try to stand, the floor was nice and cool under my legs, very soothing. “I couldn’t understand what he was going on about so I came back.” Leaving off the part that Dathan was somewhere, I looked around at the people in the hall. “Um, what’s going on here?”
“We’re preparing for an all-out war.”
“Go figure… wait, why? He has magic but he can’t fight an entire army.”
Leslie closed her eyes and took several breaths before answering me. She shook. How much pain was she in?
Herrick watched his mother with concern but remained silent.
“Roy has followers.”
“This might be a stupid question but, what does he want?”
Lucy suddenly stepped forward, her blonde locks bouncing with each step, she raised a hand to stop Leslie from continuing. “He wants power. Again.”
I stared up at the woman in men’s clothing who still looked like an angel. “That can’t be it. He was babbling about protecting Alizaria from some strange fate, the same that would happen to Earth if he didn’t stop it from happening here. So what is going to happen?”
It was brief, but I could’ve sworn I saw a strange flicker of interest in Lucy’s eyes. “Nothing is going to happen to Alizaria. Our only enemy is Roy right now.”
Hmm, she knows something and I’m not meant to know about it so she’s pissed… actually I’m pissed too. “What are you doing here Lucy? I thought you and all of the other vampiric angels had ascended. Did you fall again?”
Lucy looked at her hands with disappointment. “Yes. It seems no matter what we do, no matter who we help, we will always be a disappointment to the Gods.”
“Are you still a vampyre?”
Great. Slowly I got to my feet, checking to see if I would pass out on the way. Leslie shoved at her son, instead he shook his head and held tight to his mother.
“Lucy, I only have one thing to say to you and it concerns the fact that you took my magic and then gave Dathan boiled magic to erase my memories; you’re a bitch.” I swung at her.
She didn’t try to dodge. My fist landed hard against her cheek and stung like hell. I grimaced. She clutched her cheek. Lifting her head, she had to flip her long blonde hair back to look at me.
I stepped forward and wrapped both arms around her in a tight hug. “Don’t do it again.”
When we parted I looked around the gathered circle and frowned. No way could all of these beautiful people be soldiers.
Lucy wrapped an arm around my shoulder. I was still shorter than her by a lot so it made it easy for her to lean on me. “It’s fine. This is Blair Fitzpatrick. Salem’s daughter.”
There was a murmur rippling through the crowd, till someone suddenly cried out, “She still has it!”
“What? Has what?”
Lucy’s fingers dug into my shoulders and she turned me about to look into her face. She searched my eyes. “There’s something there… but it’s not the same. I swear I took the lot of it.” She snarled, her face contorting horribly.
“What are you talking about?” Panic made my voice rise in pitch. I could hear the distinct shhh sound of swords being drawn from their scarabs. I smacked Lucy’s hands away and turned around the circle. “Who the hell are you people?”
“Fallen angels,” Leslie tried to yell. “Stand down. There must be a logical explanation for this,” she broke off coughing.
They glared at me with such hate I could feel the heat from their eyes. It made me shiver in fear.
“I… I don’t have magic! Lucy took it five years ago.” One hand lifted to let them know I was unarmed and not a danger. My other went straight to my belly. I had to be careful, I couldn’t let them kill me because they wouldn’t be killing just one person. “There is an explanation…”
“You’re just like Roy! Abomination!”
I turned towards the voice only to spin the other way as someone else yelled out. “No! I’m not like him. Please don’t do anything stupid.”
“Stupid,” Lucy hissed behind me. “Like you? Taking magic that isn’t your own into your body is disgusting. How can you be so desperate to be a witch again?”
That stung more than it should. I really wasn’t a spirit witch anymore…
“We need to kill her. She must be working with Roy, how else would she know about collecting magic?”
Their swords rose.
I gasped. “No. Think about this…” could I attack one of them and get out of the circle? Without using magic? I didn’t have the physical strength to do that, nor the speed. Somehow I would be hurt and most likely killed in the process. What else is there? Think Fitzpatrick! Think before they kill you and the baby!
Suddenly someone was standing in front of me, blocking half my view of the angels with his shoulders. Dathan?
“Stand down. My mother gave you an order.”
Herrick? I was stunned into silence. Looking around I saw guards now surrounded the angels on the outside and pointed their swords at them.
They didn’t lower their weapons. “Herrick,” Lucy cried out. “Get away from her. If she has magic then she’s exactly like Roy and is extremely dangerous.”
He glanced over his shoulder at me. What was he hoping to see? Confirmation of something evil or good?
“An order was given by the Leader of Alizaria. The Fallen have sworn allegiance to Leslie and so must obey her command.”
“That was before she showed up with magic.”
How could Lucy be like this? It was like she was a completely different person to the gentle woman who protected and guided me through my first trip in Alizaria. She was reacting with fear, like an animal baring its fangs getting ready to fight to the death.
At the order I wrapped my arms around my belly and dropped to my knees. No! I couldn’t fight angels with my bare hands, not so many of them, I had no magic to protect my baby. They were going to kill us.
Then the shift happened, just like it had back in the kitchen.
A pulse went out and knocked everyone back and down. I opened my eyes. The only people standing were Herrick and Leslie who leaned against a guard for support. “Oh Gods.”
“What was that?” Someone called out.
“No!” I took a handful of Herrick’s shirt and dragged myself to standing upright. “That wasn’t me. I’m pregnant and it happens to be a spirit witch. She was the one to defend me against Roy and the one to break the boiled magic. I don’t have any magic.”
Well, I tried not to think about the fire from the dragons buried deep inside of me. That explained why I was never cold. Why hadn’t Lucy taken that as well?
Lucy leapt to her feet and marched straight towards me.
Herrick must’ve seen something in her eyes and stood in her way. “Easy there vampyre. You were about to kill an unborn baby because you jumped to a conclusion.”
Lucy’s eyes didn’t leave mine. “I just want to make sure it’s true. I’m not going to hurt you.”
My instincts told me to run.
But then they would just continue to assume I was working with Roy. So I stepped to the side of Herrick, though I kept a grip on his shirt.
He shot me a strange look.
“Check. I’m not lying.”
Lucy reached out and just before she touched my belly with the backs of her fingers she jerked back. “She will be a strong witch.”
I was shaking uncontrollably. I felt Herrick grip my elbow and wrap an arm around my waist, pulling me in tight against his side. That felt nice and safe, especially since he had his sword still gripped in his hand, the one around my waist, dangling near my hip.
“I’m fine,” I straightened my shoulders. Still in my clenched fingers I had the back of his shirt. I noticed it was pulling free from his breeches. “I think.”
He led me over to his mother. She nodded and together, with help, we walked up the stair case. Looking over my shoulder I saw Lucy watching us. What happened to her to make her so fearful of me? How did I lose her trust?
Or… was it a performance?
I rubbed a hand over my face and scrunched up my eyes. My head ached. Too many questions, too few answered and of course too many shocks.
Was it possible that Lucy had wanted to keep me as a “friend”, someone she could use later as an ally? But when she thought Roy had gotten to me I became her enemy?
“I doubt she’ll think otherwise,” I murmured.
I looked up at Herrick. His eyes were straight ahead as we moved down the hall, towards what I vaguely remember was the Queen’s personal chambers.
“The Fallen think that we owe them for something and so believe they can pass judgement on everything.”
“Right.” Of course they would think that, they were angels, celestial beings of great beauty and power. “How bad are things here? I mean if the angels are here and you’re gathering an army, it must be bad.”
He looked at me with those hazel eyes and frowned. “It’s worse than the invasion. Roy is determined to take over Alizaria at any cost and the ones who follow him are not ordinary.”
“But what will he do once he has power?”
“We don’t know exactly, but it can’t be good.”
The questions still bugged me, what was Roy really after? He could be king and rule Alizaria, or was he aiming to become immortal and be a god?
And why would he come to me for help?
Again, it must be something about our family connection, he needs my help because we’re blood relatives and spirit witches. Sort of. He didn’t know I was pregnant so Roy didn’t come to make my baby help him. I was intensely curious now about what he wanted from me.
I looked around the room and stumbled to a halt. My hand automatically went to Herrick’s sword and ripped it from his hands. He yelped as I shoved him back.
The Elders and the five Wizards sat around a table in silence.
“You have got to be kidding me! How desperate can you be to have these assholes help you?”
Leslie, who was lowered to a seat at the table, raised an eye brow at me. “The Fallen brought them with them.”
“Hello Blair,” ten voices spoke at once inside my head.
The pounding head ache got worse. “Get the hell out of my head you freaks!” before I could do anything physical two arms came around me and held me in place.
“Don’t. They have magic and you don’t.” Herrick’s voice was steamy against the side of my neck as he hissed. He took the sword away from me. “We need their help to stop Roy.”
“Don’t trust them. They are liars and all they do is hurt people for their own joy,” tears burst into my eyes as I remembered waking up in the crypt, slowing making my way up to the surface. The final pain was when they laughingly informed me that Dathan was dead. I knew they enjoyed it. They were psychopaths!
“Blair.” Leslie pointed to the chair opposite her. “Sit down now. The stress isn’t good for the baby.”
Sudden eruption of mutterings inside my head made me cringe.
Herrick pushed and prodded me towards the seat, then with a heavy hand on my shoulder he pushed me down into it. He remained near.
“Is it a spirit witch?”
“Who is the father?”
“Stop it! Get out of my head!”
The fingers dug into my shoulder sharply. I glared at Herrick who simply shrugged. Fine, stay calm Fitzpatrick.
“Tell us what happened with Roy?” Leslie kept her eyes only on me.
“Well, he broke into my house. I didn’t know who he was because of the boiled magic,” I controlled my reaction to say something snarky about boiled magic and wizards. “He told me that Alizaria was in danger and I had to come back and stop whatever it was from happening, because if I didn’t then the same thing would happen to my world on the other side of the gate.”
“What could he mean by that?”
“Something to do with the Gods? They are angry and have cast the angels from heaven.”
I couldn’t distinguish who was talking. It was so annoying. “He was goading me a lot, trying to make me react to him and it worked. I think he was trying to break the spell on my memories by getting me to act like I did when I was a kid.”
Leslie frowned at me.
“Anyway. We fought, I think I panicked which made the baby react and protect me. He was surprised that I had any magic, I think he was pissed actually. But it isn’t my magic, it’s the baby’s. Then he ran and I woke up.”
The entire time, Leslie held my gaze, making me focus on her. I could hear the Elders and the Wizards talking inside my head but it didn’t bother me as much as long as I could focus on her. I was telling her the story.
“I felt a little responsible for Roy and even more curious about what was making him so damn crazy so I came back.” And it feels amazing to be here. It feels right.
“And how long ago did that happen?”
“An hour or so.”
“What? You got to the city in under an hour?” Herrick, this time, gasped in shock.
“I had help. There was a black unicorn,” I wasn’t going to tell them that it was Brodie. I couldn’t believe it was true he was back… though he was taking a long time collecting Dathan. Maybe that had been a dream, not reality.
“Wow, you mean you actually saw one?”
I nodded. “It brought me here so quickly. It was a shock.”
“They are extremely rare, I can’t remember the last time one was seen. That’s why they became legend.”
“Well, after that I came to the palace, was shocked to see Lucy here. I thought she would be in heaven still. How did they fall?”
“Who knows?” Leslie looked like she was about to fall asleep, just slump forward and rest her nose on the table. “Anyway I think it is time for some dinner.”
I stood up and was about to move around when Herrick stopped me, yet again. “This is getting very annoying.”
“So don’t do anything stupid.” He countered.
“I was going to help your mother to her feet.”
“The other guards have her.” I saw a muscle twitch in his jaw. He didn’t like to leave her but for some reason he was reluctant to leave my side.
His head snapped round to his mother. “Yes?”
“Take Blair to a room so she can rest, then go get her something to eat.”
“Leslie, I’m fine. I can eat with everyone else…” I started.
“You’re pregnant and have just travelled by unicorn to get here. I don’t think you need many more shocks for today.”
That and I don’t think the Fallen would be too happy to see me wandering around the palace unattended. Sighing I turned to Herrick. “Lead the way.”
With an eye roll he did. Taking me up a series of stairs Herrick led me to my old room. The Queen’s bedroom. “Why here?”
I almost smacked him up the back of the head. God, he was still a little shit. “This was Queen Nisha’s room. Isn’t this where Leslie sleeps?”
“Mum sleeps a few levels down.” He closed the door. “Why did you come back?”
I was moving about the room looking at everything that was different and the same. Of course a lot of the valuable stuff had gone, but the furniture looked the same as ten years ago. “Hmm, oh because I wanted to.”
“Do you believe Roy?”
“Roy and I have a strained relationship. I know he uses people to satisfy himself, but he has never been clear about what he wants or why he needs more power… so I don’t know. I think I believe him that something bad is coming but I don’t know what.”
“And if you want to know the truth, I don’t know who is on the good side or the bad side this time.”
Herrick waited for a heartbeat. “Same.”
“Stay here and don’t open the door till I get back,” Herrick was almost outside when he said this.
“Hey! Why? Do you honestly think the angels will try something? And if so how the hell is hiding in a tower like some dumb princess meant to keep me safe?”
Herrick glared back at me. “This part of the castle is meant to be angel-proofed. At least that is the rumour.” Without giving me a chance to respond he slammed the door shut. I heard a distinct click as the lock fell in place and then his echoing footfalls as he hurried away.
Pouting I moved to the window.
The sun was setting. That was strange. Back home it would be morning, how come the times weren’t keeping pace if our times were the same? “Great so I’m going to have jet lag. How the hell am I going to sleep tonight?”
Looking out over the city I could see the surrounding lands, traditional farms and energy farms patch worked together in greens, yellows and whites. Around that were the thick trunks of trees. Over to my left I could see the River of Realisation cutting through the land in with its shining blue waters.
“Pretty. I wish I had my art supplies to try and capture it… like I did before,” the last part I whispered. There were tonnes of paintings and sketches of the landscape and the creatures that inhabited it. But I had drawn them from memory, thinking they were dreams.
The doctors who saw the work explained how it was all part of a made-up world so I could explain away my missing time. They had carefully searched through each drawing thinking it could be a real place on Earth, a place where I was so traumatised I blocked the memory and turned it into a fantasy world in order to cope.
But they couldn’t find any location like it.
Dathan looked over my shoulder. Smiling shyly I looked up at him. “Do you like it?”
There was a flash or something in his eyes like he was caught doing something he wasn’t meant to and now had to lie. He wrinkled his nose. “You have talent, but fantasy landscapes don’t really do it for me.”
“Oh. Well, this one I was going to send it into a children’s book publisher and see if they would let me work for them as an illustrator.”
“Are you sure you want to do that?”
“Yeah. I like drawing and I have some skill… otherwise what am I going to be doing all day? And I just feel like I have to draw, get these images out of my head and onto paper.” Self-doubt was already niggling at me. Maybe he was right, the people they selected for illustrators were brilliant artists, award winning ones who had talent in bucket loads or had trained at the very best universities.
“I just don’t want to see you get hurt if they don’t love it the same way you do.” He added a chaste kiss to the top of my head.
I felt like a kid who had been told the truth by a parent. You’re not that special, reality is you won’t be able to hold your own with the real professionals.
Looking up now at the sky, the bright yellow ball was descending towards the horizon altering the sky as it did, I looked at things more objectively.
Dathan had discouraged my drawings and the stories I had written based on the dreams I had, saying they were silly little things. He subtly and consistently made me doubt myself.
Now I realise he was trying to hide Alizaria from me and the rest of the world. Imagine if I had gotten my work out there, imagine that I had become a famous artist, that would mean hundreds of thousands of people would have some knowledge of the secret world through the gate. They might write it off as fantasy but some might question if it’s real. Would that make the potency of the boiled magic weaken? Could I have broken the spell if I had just believed?
Believed? Wow, that sounded really fanciful and childish.
The graduation of colour in the sky was amazing. Soft blue closest to the horizon, followed by a yellow where the sun was hanging, then pink to purple and a dark blue descending from above, chasing after the sun. There was nothing in the world that could look that beautiful, no man made thing.
Knock, knock. “Blair, its Herrick. Can you open the door?”
I scampered over and held the door. Steamy smells of gravy and cooked meat floated up my nose as he walked into the room, a tray in hand. “Oh, thanks for that.”
He grunted and placed it down on the dressing table. “I looked like an idiot walking up those stairs with that thing.” He turned to me. “Eat.”
“You know the ordering me around bit is really obnoxious. So stop it.” Even as I said the words I moved to the tray and took a bite. “Hmm. That tastes great.”
He didn’t speak again, just went and stood beside the door with his arms crossed.
I ate the entire meal, drank all of the strange milk and then sat on the bed. “It’s going to suck when I have my morning sickness. Or more like all day sickness.”
“You won’t. Mum made sure the doctors gave you some special herb in your dinner.”
I looked at the boy suddenly. “That was thoughtful.”
“Mum made it happen.”
“I know… are you doing all of this because of her orders?”
“So you still hate me?”
“You killed a lot of people ten years ago with your stupid flood and fire. You could’ve killed my mother as well.”
I clenched my jaw. “I know. I’m sorry for that I just couldn’t see any other way to get the invasion to stop.”
“But what’s worse,” he continued over the top of me. “You ran away. Left the mess you had made for my mother to clean up. You should just run back home right now, cut to the chase.” He stomped over to the table and snatched the tray up, knocking the glass. It tumbled down to the floor and smashed.
Muttering he dropped to his knees and began to pick up the pieces.
I joined him. “I was stupid and didn’t deserve to be Queen. Your mother is a great woman, the people love her and trust her. That’s why I left and how I knew that Alizaria would become great again.”
They were the wrong words. Slamming the tray on the ground he got to his feet and stormed out of the room. Through the doorway I watched as his tense shoulders disappeared around the corner.
“I am sorry.”
Sighing I went to the door and closed it, making sure it was locked for the night. Once I had cleaned up the mess I stood awkwardly in the room. Now what? I couldn’t go walking about the palace, there wasn’t a book lying around or even pen and paper for me to use.
The only thing I could do in that room was sleep.
So I kicked off my shoes, un-hooked my bra and settled onto the mattress. “How is this room protected from angels?”
Why would it be? Unless someone in the royal family knew something about them… like they were dangerous. Maybe someone who influenced Roy.
Ha, that was an interesting thought, to think there was someone else who was just as crazy as Roy. But then again, angels had tried to kill me because they suspected I had magic. Am I really that dangerous?
The angels feared me, so did the wizards and most of Alizaria’s population.
I shook my head. I did what I had to before, I protected myself and Alizaria the best I could, using the resources at my disposal.
Roy. I had wanted to know more about my family history, especially when I found out about the baby, but Dathan had again placed some seeds of doubt in my head and stopped me from delving too far into the past.
“What’s the point?”
I had shrugged. “I want my kids to know where they came from.”
“Well it would be nice, but I have no idea about my birth family.”
Lies. He was hiding so much from me and I was stupid enough not to push ahead. Why did I give in so easily?
Love? Or was I afraid of losing him if I did something that I knew he would be upset with?
Gods, I hated myself for all of that. Why did I act like such a girl? No wonder he… right, there was no way I was going to get any sleep.
The sun had gone and the sky was dark. But the room was still light. I looked around. There they were, the crystals.
I stared at the dimming light of the crystal. They glowed no matter what time of the day it was, but more brightly when a spirit witch blew onto them. Getting out of bed I walked over to the nearest one.
I knew I had no spirit magic, so why did I lift the stone to my lips and breathed out?
It glowed brightly.
Was it the baby’s magic doing that? Or something else. I had spirit magic once, the fire from the dragons when they gave back my magic.
And then there was that strange power, the one I had used at the wishing well and before that as we crossed the burnt field. It was hard to pin down, it was like I summoned everything to me and then released it. Like I had done at the wishing well, called all of the trapped souls up from their watery graves and then released them to go to heaven and then onto reincarnation.
I could feel the two remaining powers inside of me.
Why hadn’t Lucy taken them when she took my spirit magic?
It was too confusing and not like I could walk up to Lucy and ask why. She might not have known about the other… or because it wasn’t a part of my spirit she couldn’t touch it nor sense it.
“Just stop it. Don’t worry so much.”
I placed the crystal beside the bed and lay back down. Finally, I was beginning to feel sleepy.
Morning came all too quickly. I had rolled towards the centre of the bed in the middle of the night and was curled around something. Something warm and large in size. And moving.
I yanked back and tumbled off the edge of the bed to the floor. There was someone in my bed. Someone had gotten into the room in the dead of the night and fallen asleep next to me. I could’ve sworn I had locked the door.
Sitting up quickly I looked at my intruder.
He laid there peacefully on his back, a slight snore in his breath. How hadn’t I heard that? The early morning light glinted off his dark hair and showed the shadows of his growing beard.
Quickly I got back on top of the bed and reached out a hand and poked Dathan several times in the chest. He normally was awake before I was.
He gasped. Eyes popping open he looked around confused. “Blair? What are you doing up?”
“I’m always up early in Alizaria. What are you doing here?”
He yawned and stretched lazily. “Hmm, I’m waking up.”
I slapped his chest. “Don’t be stupid. I thought you went back through the gate, back to home.”
He cried out from the attack. “How could you think I was going to be that heartless, leave my pregnant girlfriend to fight alone in a fantasy world? Come on, my mother raised me better than that.”
“Sorry, I just didn’t know what to think.”
He sat up and wrapped both his arms around my shoulders. “I can’t ever lose you again Blair.”
I shouldn’t have snuggled in, but it felt so nice to be held by him.
There were several clicks and then a creek. I looked over Dathan’s shoulder and into Herrick’s eyes. He blinked back at me. “Am I interrupting something?”
Dathan pulled back and rolled off the bed to his feet. “Hello son.”
Herrick looked my boyfriend up and down before crossing the room to my side of the bed. There he dumped an armful of cloth beside me. “Mum sent these up. You need to hurry up and get dressed.”
“Thanks. What’s happening today?”
That was specific. “Am I needed for them?”
“Yes. You’ve found Roy before using blood magic so you can find him again.” He turned to leave.
Gasping in shock I called out to the boy. “Wait, how did you know about that?”
“Roy told stories to us kids. Particularly the legend of Salem’s Daughter.” He refused to look back at me, but at least he had stopped and answered my question. “I’ll wait outside for you.”
He and Dathan shared a look before he left, closing the door over but not completely shutting it.
Dathan looked back over at me.
I shrugged. “That’s Herrick. Leslie’s son.” I said.
“Charming little bastard.”
“He can hear you.” I pulled the pile apart and inspected what was left behind. There was a large white shirt, stockings and a set of breeches. Methodically I undressed and climbed into the new clothes only after I changed my underwear with a clean set from my pack.
Dathan ignored my tasks.
I tucked in the shirt tails, trying not to count back to the last time he had looked at me in any sexual way… even the night we had conceived he didn’t look at me. In fact, we were drunk. It had been a long time since we had fumbled with each other’s clothes, trying to get naked quickly so we could get it on, which had felt amazing.
“I’m done.” I walked to the door and threw it open.
Herrick didn’t look back at me he just started to walk down the stairs. I followed, not looking to make sure Dathan followed. I heard him sigh heavily and then he trailed after us.
Herrick led us to the same meeting room. This time Lucy was seated at the table as well. She looked up and smiled at us as I took a seat and Dathan stood behind me. The rest of the spaces were occupied by wizards and Elders and Leslie.
I looked up at Dathan who smirked.
What was that about?
“Blair, who is this?”
I turned back towards Leslie. “This is Dathan, my boyfriend.”
“The Dathan?” there were murmurs galore inside my head now.
The wizard beside me shuffled his chair along and clicked his fingers. A chair materialised from thin air, this one was different to all of ours, it was ornately carved.
Without a word of encouragement Dathan sat in it.
Leslie looked worried.
What was going on? Why were they treating Dathan like a king? Each question was directed to Dathan who took his time answering.
I struggled not to yell at them all that Dathan was the one to run away from Alizaria, to abandon his throne for an easy life in my world. Just as I could feel the words coming an interesting question was asked aloud by Herrick.
“How did you get into Blair’s room?”
“It is a family secret, but the palace is riddled with hidden passages.”
“But that doesn’t explain how you knew where she was.”
He was right. How did Dathan know which room?
“Well,” his eyes darted over the table to Lucy. “I had help there. Lucy met me at the palace entrance and had explained what had happened earlier with Blair. She was the one who told me she was placed in the Queen’s quarters.”
Was I going crazy or was there something more than friendship there? It was the sort of look between… lovers. No. I had to be stupid, Lucy respected Dathan. She didn’t look at him like that when I had first come to Alizaria… or had I missed it? Was I so wrapped up in my own problems I had missed what the adults had been up to.
Well, it wouldn’t be the first time Dathan had an indiscretion.
“Let’s get back to the real issue. Blair,” Leslie raised her hand. “Do you think you could find Roy? Like you did before?”
“Is it possible?”
“Yes.” I answered both questions. “At least I think I can do it again. It was strange I used my blood and my spirit magic to find him. So I think I can do it just by using blood magic.”
“Okay, we’ll try that tomorrow. For now, I think it’s time to call this meeting to an end.” Herrick swooped in and lifted his mother from her chair. “I’m fine. Just tired.” I heard her mutter as he walked her from the room.
I was worried now. What kind of illness was it? Would she ever get better?
I turned to Dathan, but his eyes were fixed on Lucy.
Scraping my chair back I stood and walked out of the room. Dathan called out my name moments later.
I didn’t know where exactly I was going but once I had made it to the stairs to go out through the front doors I realised I had come the wrong way. Fallen angels, all of them looked up at me and grinned. It wasn’t a nice grin, more of a ‘why hello, thanks for making this an easy kill’ type.
I spun round and crashed into a solid wall.
I pulled back from Dathan. “I need to get back to my room, I don’t feel so good.”
“Is it the baby?”
He placed a hand on my elbow and led the way.
Once we were safely on the other side of the door I shoved at him with all of my strength. “Tell me what Lucy is to you?”
“What? Blair, you’re not well. You need to lay down.”
“I’m perfectly fine.”
“Then why did you want to come back here?”
“The angels want me dead. That’s why. Now tell me the truth. Were you and Lucy lovers at any point?” my heart was teetering, ready to split in two if he answered truthfully. I knew it already and it made me sick.
“Lovers? Well,” he squirmed. “Blair you were gone for a long time.”
My eyes stung from the confirmation.
I threw my fists at him. But still he didn’t react. When I slapped him across the face, Dathan finally had enough. He grabbed my wrists in a tight grip. It hurt, I could feel the bones flexing slightly. I just couldn’t care anymore if it hurt. It hurt so badly inside my chest. “How could you fuck Lucy?!”
“It just happened. I had no idea if you would ever wake up. Did you expect me to be a monk for eight years?”
He had made love with an angel. She was beautiful. How could I ever compete with that? “Lucy. I trusted her, I thought she was my friend.”
“I love you and always have.” The tears were bubbling over now.
“No you haven’t. I’ve always loved you, but, you have not.”
“Stop acting like a child.” He yelled.
“Stop acting like a slut!”
“I’ve not been with…” He finally noticed my face. “How long have you known?”
“A while. Does Lucy visit you in your dreams?”
“How long is awhile?” He demanded.
That was a slap. Oh Gods. I answered him. “When I went to visit my parents I had planned to leave you. However…”
He let me go to scrub his hands over his face. “Don’t say it. Please.”
“I found out I was pregnant.”
I gasped. The old fear had returned. “What was I supposed to do? I was scared shitless. I didn’t want to be a single mum so I came back.”
“Fuck! Blair, how could you use our kid like that as an excuse to stay with me?”
Anger flared and the tears stopped. “How could you not love me enough to be just mine?”
“You weren’t you.”
“Face it. You never liked me as me. You wanted someone who could be your girlfriend and when you made me into that by taking Alizaria away from me, you still didn’t want me.” I threw back in his face.
“I’ve always loved you, but once you had no memories of me or Alizaria… it hurt.”
“You took them. You made me into the perfect girlfriend. You couldn’t love me like that then, so how about now?”
He shook his head. “You’re still not you.”
I bit hard on my tongue, blood trickled across my taste buds. Metallic. Disgusting. I struggled not to let it slip but the words escaped on their own. “You’re not the man I’ve always wanted.”
His face darkened. For a second I thought he was going to yell back again. Instead he stormed out of the room leaving me to cry.
Why couldn’t it be simple? Boy and girl meet, fall in love, get married and have a family. No cheating, no fear of being alone, no lies.
That afternoon I was summoned to the throne room. Herrick was yet again my escort. When would it be alright for me to walk around safely on my own?
“Where’s prince charming?”
I scrubbed at my puffy raw eyes. “I don’t know.”
He must’ve noticed something different in my tone because he looked over his shoulder at me before speaking again. “Well, I guess that’s the price you pay for royalty.”
“Just saying. They are a law unto themselves, they were born into privilege.”
“We should always receive by merit not by birthright.” The words were so familiar on my tongue. I knew I had said the words before and I still believed in them, it was just different this time. The words would never apply to Dathan, he was of nobility, born into the royal family and raised to be expected to rule one day.
“Yeah, well tell that to everyone who was fawning over him at the meeting.” He shoved open the doors and we stepped inside.
I could see the worry creasing his face. “What sort of illness is it?”
“The type that will kill her. There’s no cure but it could be managed if she left the city and took things easy.”
“She would never do that.”
I frowned and looked around the room. The place was still absolutely magnificent, with intricate tapestries hanging on the walls, tall windows that gave panoramic views and of course the ornately carved throne up the short steps at the end of the hall. But it was empty.
“Um, what am I meant to be doing here?”
Herrick shifted uneasy and closed the door, throwing the lock in the process.
Fear spiked in my system. “Maybe the angels weren’t my real enemy.” I stepped back away from the man, ready to run if I had to.
Giving me a humourless laugh, Herrick faced me. “I am not your enemy. But there is more to this than we could ever know if we simply waited for the angels to tell us.”
Jaw clenched he charged forward. He gripped my arm and pulled me over to the window. “Look down there. Do you see how crowded the city is getting and that’s not half of the refugees who are afraid to be in the country. The rest are huddled against the city’s walls.”
I winced. “Let me go, you’re hurting me.”
He did as I asked. “Please, Blair. Just look out.”
I couldn’t make anyone out as an individual. They all looked like little ants mingling together, running in between buildings. “Why are they afraid? Is it because of Roy?”
Shaking his head, he stared at the people below. “Partly. But there’s something else, everyone can feel it and that’s why they are afraid.”
“What something else?”
“You’re delusional.” I backed away from him. Even though I didn’t feel threatened I still tried to think of the best ways out. I wouldn’t make it to the door and unlock it in time. There was the entrance behind the throne… other than that I had windows I could smash and leap from. And while I was at it I could sprout wings and fly to safety.
“No. Don’t be so blind. Look at everything around you. The Elders, the Wizards and the Fallen who have always been your enemy are here together and have been raising an army, don’t you want to know what they really are afraid of?”
“Lucy was my friend before.” Yes. Of course I wanted to know. Roy, even with the magic he had collected wouldn’t be anything against the Fallen. Add in the strange mutated intelligence of the Elders and now the Wizards and he would have to have the Gods on his side.
“They took your magic after they had you do all of the hard work the last time.”
He was right. Lucy had been my friend but she wouldn’t help me with the sword, not in the way I needed her. I thought it was part of the curse but maybe it had been a test.
“And now that they think you have magic again they want you out of the picture. They are afraid of you.” As he spoke Herrick pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and scrunched it into a ball. “This means they have some other agenda and Roy is just a convenient excuse.”
“All you have said is a conspiracy theory. I will admit it is very strange and what Roy said to me back on the other side of the gate doesn’t help, but we don’t know anything.” I straightened my shoulders. “Now why are we in this room? When no one else is here, I want to know why you brought me here.”
He sighed and finally faced me. “We need answers and the best way to do that is to send a spy to the enemy. But we can’t trust anyone from the Fallen’s side.”
“I’m not sure I’m following. I don’t understand half of what has happened.”
“Just do one thing for me right now.” He was pleading with me.
“Use what little magic you still have and call to Roy.”
I blinked and gasped. “How did you know?”
There was a slight smirk twisting his lips. “I am human but sometimes I have these vivid dreams where an old lady talks to me. She told me all about the dragon’s fire and the other special magic. That’s why I told mum you could still summon Roy like you did the first time.” His left hand came up and fingered a pendant around his throat.
“I used my spirit magic then.” I clarified.
“It can’t hurt to try.”
He had me curious now. Could I do it? Could I find Roy like the last time? “But Leslie said I was to try tomorrow, when she would be able to give some orders to go to the place I say.”
“Please.” His fingers closed fully around the pendant.
I sighed heavily. I wanted to find Roy right then, get to him and demand answers. The Fallen were hiding things and the Elders and the Wizards were just as bad. “Fine. But only if you explain to me your part in all of this and what the hell you have on your necklace.” It was bugging me.
He frowned. “This is a protection charm, something to do with the Gods. My dad gave it to me. And I want to know the truth. Just like you.”
“Then what’s with the dreams?”
“Gods.” He said it so matter of fact like I felt like an idiot. Of course it was something divine, beings like that could only ever communicate with those alive through their dreams. That’s why Lucy had come to me only when she had ascended.
I closed my eyes and conjured up the image of Roy, his slightly slumping shoulders, the jowls, wrinkles and white hair with slight red streaks. It was like he was standing in front of me again. [_ Roy- Samhairle Salem, where are you? _]
As I asked the words inside my head, I felt a sudden pull and gasped.
“I feel him. I can’t say where exactly, but I feel where he is.”
“Good, now don’t fight this.” Suddenly there was a smash. When I opened my eyes I saw smoke rising up from the floor, great pink plumes. I started to cough as it finally reached my mouth. It tasted like fish and made me gag.
Herrick had stepped back and lifted the handkerchief to cover his mouth. “Focus on Roy!”
I did as I was commanded. The smoke enveloped me and I couldn’t see anything.
Then there was yelling. I swiped my hand back and forth to clear the smoke, when it did I looked around in confusion. “Where am I?”
Roy stood in front of me, exactly as I had pictured him. Around him were four others and when I looked closer at them I realised they were Lord Drakes. “What in the name of the Gods?”
The room we were in was small and curved and completely white. There were two doors opposite each other in natural dark wood and a large window that made up one wall. Outside I saw nothing but clouds.
“Boiled magic. A teleportation spell.”
Turning back around I stared at Roy.
“Hello Blair my darling granddaughter. I knew you would find me.”
I swallowed hard but couldn’t stop my lunch from coming up.
Roy sat across from me. Between us in the middle of the table was a delicate tea set. The rest of the room was blank white walls, like the first room I appeared in. We were alone.
“Well my dear, what can I do for you?”
I blinked. This was completely surreal, to have teleported to right where Roy was and then be ushered into a different room to have tea? It was jarring. “I came for answers.”
“To what questions?” he sipped his tea.
“Why do the angels want you and I dead?”
He smothered a chuckle. “So they turned on you too. Well, it has something to do with the magic we both possess, yours more than mine. They just don’t like me because they know I’m close to surpassing them and becoming a God and creating the world anew.”
“But I have no magic.”
“Yes you do. You have always had more than what was expected of a simple spirit witch and then you went and stole a lot more. When you returned the sword, you did die.”
I took a deep shaky breath. I’d known it had happened but no one else did. I had felt the moment when the darkness took me.
“I wasn’t sure if you would survive. It was amazing. Years later when the sword was called upon to be used it was pointless, because you had stolen its magic. You, Blair, took in all of the magic in Alizaria and brought yourself back to life, but you kept some of it after.”
“What do you want with me?” I asked.
“You want to be Queen?”
“Wanted. Past tense.” Liar. He knew it too.
Roy smirked. “Do you honestly believe that if given the chance you wouldn’t take it? The Queen of Alizaria, a generous and responsible ruler who righted the wrongs of generations of monarchs.”
I said nothing in response, didn’t move, I only listened and imagined. What I could’ve done if I was Queen… it was impossible now.
“If you help me, I will make you Queen.”
“I am not fit to be Queen.” Facing him I made sure he knew I was being serious about the next sentence. “You are not fit to be a God.”
“And what makes this world and its people so right?”
No answer. There was never going to be an answer to why. “Explain it,” I whispered instead.
Roy acted surprised. “Pardon?”
“Explain how you creating a new world and doing whatever you please is right? What would happen to this world?”
“I’m not sure if I want to tell you. You look so scary right now.”
I had to blink hard. Was he all there? Had I missed the insanity because I was oblivious or because it was new, a part of the other magic he had been collecting? “Please,” I pleaded.
He smiled brightly, excitement shining in his eyes. “I would seal this world, this universe, everything, inside a crystal and allow it run its course. And in doing so I will trap the angels here in a prison.”
My eyes flickered to the crystal beside the sugar pot. Why hadn’t I noticed it there before?
He must’ve read my face. “Yes. It has been done before. Thousands of universes sealed away. Why do you think the angels keep on falling from Grace?”
“How do you know this?”
“You’re not ready,” he said this time with a serious tone. Roy stood and wandered away, hands behind his back. I wasn’t with his cause completely, he needed to be sure. My heart had to be in it before he told me the rest of the story.
“Before you go,” I called out to him as he slid the door open. “I have one last question.”
He looked over his shoulder at me.
“Is this world in a crystal?”
“Not yet. But can you feel the walls being built around us?” The door slid quietly shut after him.
I sat for a while just processing what little information he had given me. So Roy wanted to be a God and seal the Fallen inside a crystal, which would also seal everyone else in Alizaria in their prison. The angels wanted to stop that… but they had done it before and were thrown from heaven because of it. Which meant that they too wanted to seal this world in a crystal, but I wasn’t sure what their motivation for doing so would be.
Then what was so scary about me?
I had no ambition to become a God and create a perfect world. What was wrong with this one? It existed, so to me it was fine. Realistically it was up to the inhabitants to treat this world right, not to throw it away when we screw things up.
The door opened and in walked a Lord Drake woman. She kept her head lowered as she cleared the table.
“Hi,” I said awkwardly.
She gave me no response.
“Um, can I ask where are we?”
“Okay, um, do you speak at all?”
Silently she lifted her tray from the table and left the room, but didn’t close the door. I followed her out and into a white hall, with one side completely covered in glass. Not that it was much of a difference, all I saw was white clouds.
“We have to be pretty far up,” I muttered to myself. I didn’t know too much about Alizaria geography so I couldn’t say for sure which mountain was the tallest in the land. I sensed the walls were carved into the rock face around the top of a mountain. The woman walked into a new room, this one filled with benches and people. Steam rose high to the ceiling amongst the clamour. I could smell all kinds of delicious scents. “The kitchen.”
Still no one made eye contact with me. They bustled around where I stumbled to a stop and continued on with their chores.
On the other side of the room I saw another door.
Quickly and without disturbing too many people I hurried to it and went through. On this side I found a huge feasting room, because of its curved wall I couldn’t see the far end. Even the long table was curved to match the wall. Men lined the sides. Again no one looked up at me.
I walked along, closest to the glass, catching snippets of conversation as I went. Words like angels, gods, good men, caught my attention. Once on the other side of the curve I spotted Roy sitting at the head of the table. I stormed up to him. “Where the hell is this place?”
He chuckled. “It’s the opposite of hell.”
“Is that meant to be a riddle? Wait… are we in heaven?”
“Are we dead?”
This earned me some recognition of existence. Those near laughed.
“No. This is not where the dead go to reincarnate.” Roy said.
“Then where is this place?”
Turning to me I saw his eyes dancing with mirth. “We are in the home of the Gods, the place where the angels have time and time again been cast from for their indiscretions and the birth place for all spirit witches.”
Whoa. Now that might have been more important to have mentioned earlier when I asked for answers. “We’re here with the Gods?”
The Gods, the creators of Alizaria… and those who threw the angels from the heavens, they should have more answers for me.
Roy was watching me intently, all with a satisfied smirk. He knew what I was thinking and probably had been hoping it would come to that.
I sighed heavily. “What is it Roy?”
“I’m just waiting on you my darling dear.” He tilted his head to the side. “Is there anything you would like to ask me?”
“Yeah,” I could play this game. “If the Gods are meant to be more powerful than the angels then why didn’t they stop them from crystallising worlds?”
Bingo. Roy was shocked. “Um, the angels are barely less powerful than the Gods and because there are so many it is hard to control them.”
“Then why were they created?”
“To care for the worlds, all of them at once.”
“Enough! Ask the question you really want to ask.” His voice roared through the room, quickly followed by silence. All eyes were now turned to us.
I had to hide my smirk behind my hand. He was volatile but still very simple to manipulate. I knew which question he wanted me to ask because I was dying to ask for it, but if I did what would I find out from it?
Would I then have to choose a side in which either way this world would be frozen in a crystal to live out its final days alone?
I shot a look down the table, making sure it was my most haunting glare. It worked. Everyone turned away and began to murmur. They were low enough that they could still hear our conversation if they were careful.
I looked back at Roy. Bending I leaned in close to him and whispered into his ear. “If I ask will you make the introductions?”
He pulled back and frowned at me.
“I need you to promise that you will make the introductions and then leave me alone.”
For several seconds he was tight-lipped.
Would he do that for me? Did he dare give over a wealth of information to someone he never before could control?
He nodded. “You have my word.”
“Thank you. Now please take me to the Gods. I wish to speak with them.”
Night time was falling, it was strange to be inside the clouds as they changed from fluffy white to glowing orange, pale pink and then finally dark blue. Roy led me along an outside path. The clouds brushed against my cheeks, hands and any other exposed parts with cold tendrils.
I shivered and wrapped my arms around me. Inside I felt the dragon’s fire flare slightly, but it couldn’t combat the cold fast enough for me.
“Tell me about the Gods.”
Roy came to a sudden stop. I almost ploughed into him.
“There are five of them. Fate, Mother, Hecate, Father and Grace.” Was it just my hearing, or did his voice soften as he said Grace? He started to walk again. “They created the different universes and everything inside of them. Even on the other side of the gate they are recognised for their work in different cultures under different names.”
We walked through a new door into a forest. I blinked and looked around confused. “A floating forest?”
Looking back, I could see the clouds just on the outside edge. It felt like I was on solid ground. How could this be possible? Thick trunks with old roots that burst to the top of the ground, it smelt like damp dirt. Up above, the leaves were jewel-coloured orange and honey. They floated softly and slowly down to the ground in surreal swirls.
I started forward again, dashing to catch up to Roy who had kept moving while I gaped. How could anyone not be amazed by all of this?
Up ahead there was a squatty little stone cottage with a thatched roof. Smoke drifted from its tall chimney. As we got closer the front door swung open and a woman stood in the way. She wasn’t angelic or serene, she looked like any other human woman.
“Are we in heaven still?”
“Yes, why do you ask?”
“Well, she doesn’t look like a divine being.”
“Don’t be rude.” He rushed forward the last few steps and reached out for the woman’s outstretched hands. “Fate! It is always a pleasure to see you.”
She smiled broadly and let her hands be carried up to Roy’s lips. “Roy-Samhairle, a charming old bastard as always.” She looked beyond him to me. Her brilliant silver eyes lit up and she grinned with pleasure. “And you have brought this darling little girl back home to us.”
Roy urged me over.
Reluctantly I moved. Once I stood in front of Fate she reached out both hands and rested them upon my belly. “Hmm, she is a strong little girl, just like her mother.”
“Though,” her eyes went from silver to brown. “Her fate is something I can’t see. You have to make a decision about her and soon. It will have to be a quick choice.” Moving from my stomach, the woman took both my hands and raised them to her lips as Roy had done.
I heard him scoff at the action and pout.
“Blair… our darling little girl, you have been through so much to come back to us.”
“Pardon? What do you mean come back to us? I’m not sure I follow, I come from the other side of the gate.”
She shook her head. “Like all spirit witches you were born here your first time, in this very house… though not as you.” She looked over her shoulder and into the cottage. Outside may look shabby but inside was richly furnished with rugs and throw pillows, it was very Nights of Arabia in design, thin strips of silk were strung from the ceiling and drifted in the cool breeze. “Where are my manners, please step inside for a little bit.”
I followed as she tugged on my hands. Her grip was strong and dry, her skin like paper.
Just as Roy was about to step in after us the door slammed shut on its own and the lock slid into place. I heard Roy curse and hit the door in response.
“Ignore him. He’s always been a drama queen. Now sit! Sit down and relax.”
She sat too close, I felt a little claustrophobic. I tried to shuffle back on my cushion but she dragged me forward again. “Please don’t do that, my eye sight is terrible and I want to look at you my darling girl.”
“Why do you keep calling me that?” I asked, feeling rather uncomfortable.
“That’s not my story to tell. And you have come to listen to stories so I will tell you one.”
“Wait, whose story is it?”
“Silence. It was cute when you were a child, now it is only annoying. Learn to control your tongue and use it only when necessary.”
Okay, I nodded and remained silent even though I so wanted to know who I had to speak to find out that story.
“Good. Now all of the good stories started with Once upon a time. This isn’t one of those good stories so I will begin instead with; long ago we five Gods created all kinds of life in all kinds of universes, some we even linked together so those creatures could stumble in and out of each other’s lives. There were thousands of lands and as we began to favour some over others, many fell into disrepair. So we created the angels. They would embody all that was good in life and strive to be perfect guardians of the worlds they were charged with caring for. And at first they did so perfectly, they were fair and just. Then bit by bit they began to not care for their worlds, they complained that they were uncontrollable and unchangeable. The beings who lived there didn’t want to live the perfect lives the angels did. Life has no rules.
“The first time some angels sealed one universe away into a crystal, Grace punished only those directly responsible by casting them from heaven and left it at that. That universe was no longer reachable by Gods or angels and so it slowly died. Choked to death.”
I swallowed hard.
“Then the angels did a mass crystallisation of worlds. Each one they were responsible for was suddenly gone. Only our favourites remained unsealed.”
Fate stared at me with ruby coloured eyes, she looked like a demon. “It was our fault, we grew tired of the toys, we had so many. In fact, it didn’t really bother us that so many were disposed of so quickly. Many we hadn’t glanced at for some time. But Father spoke sternly of how if left unchecked the beings of great perfection we had moulded would turn on us, the five creators. So this time Grace cast them all from here, scattered across the different lands that were left available.”
“Then how did they ascend again?”
Her eyes changed again, blending into a pale pink. “We are not infinite. Someday, we five will die and there will be nothing to stop them.” Abruptly her eyes flared silver once more. “Then there’s you. Our darling girl. You can stop them.”
Repulsed, I pulled my hands out of her claw like ones and stood. “How is any of this my responsibility!? From what I understand you created our world so you can play, then made the perfect angels so they could take responsibility for the toys you didn’t like. You made them both, you need to fix this yourselves!”
“Wait!” she pawed the air in front of her, losing her balance. Fate went face first into the pillows. She rolled over onto her back. “If you don’t stop them then it will happen over and over till there is nothing left in any realm. The angels and Roy with his noble notions will kill everything we have created.”
“That’s because you didn’t make them flawed.”
“They don’t recognise their flaws.” Sighing, Fate sat upright, her back to me. “We have not the strength or the magic needed to stop them. That’s why when you were born we knew you could, we sensed it right away. Please Blair, every universe needs your help.”
I knew I couldn’t say no. How the hell could I when my life was also on the line? If Alizaria was frozen in a crystal, then the angels would just move onto Earth and then onto the next one and the next one after that. Would they try and create their own world of perfection after? Did they have the power to do that?
There was nowhere left to run and hide from the angels. Fate was right, they didn’t recognise their weaknesses. But how could I stand against such power when I didn’t have my spirit magic anymore?
“I want to know about the spirit witches.”
Fate’s head spun round. “You need to go see Grace. She is the one who created the spirit witches, by accident of course. Silly woman. But she did finally do something right with that.”
“Great… so where can I find her?” My patience was almost to its limit. To me, this God seemed to be more like a spoilt brat, begging for someone else to fix everything.
“Through the back door.” As she said the words the door itself swung open. On that side it was snowing gently.
I walked towards it in wonder.
“Though you do protest, you and I both know you will help us all.”
I stumbled to a stop. “Get out of my head. I can still say no.”
“But you won’t,” she gasped and moaned. “Oh, I know it now. I know that you will help but it won’t help you. I’m sorry for that, so sorry.” She screamed out. “Please forgive us.”
Crazy, absolutely crazy. I hurried away from her and plunged into the snow on the other side of the door. It swung shut behind me.
My breath puffed in the cold but I felt warm. With each step I sank several centimetres into the snow and had to yank on my legs to pull them free with a shuck sound.
I didn’t know where I was going. Maybe I would walk on and on for the rest of my life and die here, maybe I will come full circle and find Roy and we leave. I just knew I had to keep moving forward even though that last conversation gave a horrid foreshadow to every thought of the future. I should have stayed with Dathan back in our house. I was resentful but I would die living a simple life.
Oooooooh fucking hell… ironic considering where I was.
I was outside amongst the trees once more, but there were no pretty autumn leaves slowly sinking to the brown earth below, only pale blue mounds of snow. I couldn’t see a single building. Looking back, I couldn’t see the stone cottage anymore.
“Have I really walked that far?” Turning my head back around I gasped and threw myself backwards. But my feet were trapped in the snow, so I went down. “Yuck,” the moisture was soaking through my pants.
I stood and realised steam was coming from my clothes. “Huh?” touching every inch of my body I made sure I wasn’t on fire. Nothing was wrong. Soon my pants and the hem of my shirt was bone dry. “The dragon’s fire?”
I took in what had shocked me into stopping. The unexpected appearance of a miniature castle would stop anyone. It was made of pure ice and stood no taller than an eight-year-old kid. It looked like a fairy-tale castle, with turrets and a draw bridge, just like the Amber City palace. Only I could see right through the walls.
Tiny women in ball gowns and men in uniform were frozen still inside each room.
“What is this?” I marvelled at its peculiar beauty.
“It would’ve been yours.”
I spun around fast. Another woman, who didn’t look anything like I would expect a deity to be, stood before me. “Mum?” The word left my mouth before I could stop it. No, that wasn’t Mum. she was too short and had dark hair.
“Our daughter.” She flung open her arms and charged at me, sweeping me into an embrace before I could side step her and protest. Her face was buried in the crook of my neck, I felt her sniff. “You have finally come home… but that means things are nearly at the end.” She pulled back and started to stoke the sides of my face.
I smacked her hands away. “Who are you?”
“But you recognised me.” She looked at me blankly.
“That was a mistake,” I felt my face starting to heat up with embarrassment. “Who are you?”
“I am Grace. And you are Blair,” lowering her eyes she touched my abdomen. “And you are someone new.”
Again I slapped her hands away. “Don’t touch me. I’m not here to be your new doll to play with. I just need you to tell me about the spirit witches.”
Her eyes lost their glimmer of happiness. “Oh. Alright then. If that’s all you want, I will tell you the story.”
I felt like a bitch, I shouldn’t have been so harsh with this one. It was Fate who had made me grouchy. “Please.” I remembered to use my manners after the fact.
“Then follow me, this isn’t a story to be told outdoors. And I will need to show you certain things.” She started to walk briskly, leading us away from the little ice castle. What did she mean that it would’ve been mine? Was it linked to the same comment Fate had said?
She stopped in front of a huge tree with a door in its trunk. Opening it she stepped inside and beckoned me to follow. “Come.”
I did. It was tiny and cramped inside the hollowed-out tree. In the centre stood what looked like a stone bird bath. I peered at it closely, it could’ve been made from marble, with its perfect creamy smooth texture.
Inside the bowl on top of the pedestal was water. What was something so mundane doing inside a tree?
Grace moved to the opposite side of me, the bowl between us. “Give me your hand.”
“Because this is the only way I can tell you the truth.”
Slowly I lifted my hand and moved it over the top of the bowl. She snatched at my wrist, yanked it, twisted it so my wrist was exposed and finally she sliced through my wrist with a knife. I screamed in horror.
My blood ran over and dribbled into the water, disturbing its surface. It danced with the blood till it showed a series of pictures.
One woman, a younger-looking Grace stood alone. “That’s me.” She pointed with the knife’s tip as her image clapped hands then rubbed them together to create a second person from thin air. A man.
“Who is that?” My wrist was throbbing but the flow of blood stopped, the cut healing right before my eyes.
“Roy-Samhairle. He was the first spirit witch I created because I was lonely. I wanted a friend, at first. Then I created the others to hide you.”
“What do you mean hide me?”
I directed my eyes down again and watched as Grace and Roy cuddled a baby close. Then it clicked inside of my head. “That’s me. That baby is me?”
The image changed and I watched as Grace stabbed Roy in the back several times before taking the baby and throwing it into a fire. I panicked, fear making my heart race, I yanked my arm free and shoved my way out of the tree.
I started to scream banshee screams of horror and pain. My hands bunched the fabric of my shirt in front of my abdomen and I dropped to my knees.
I knew she stood behind me, I could sense her waiting there as I cried. “Why?!” I demanded. “Why did you murder me?”
“To keep you safe. The angels knew you were born, the product of the love between a spirit witch and a God. They feared that you would be something powerful.” She stepped forward and stoke my hair. It felt strangely familiar. “They wanted to take you from me and seal you inside a crystal world. So I did the only thing I could, I kept you away from them by making you reincarnate. Each time we’ve kept you safe and watched you grow.”
I stumbled to my feet and turned to the woman who created me. I may be the flesh and blood of different parents but she was the one who made my soul. “So what am I?”
“You have such power that the angels are frightened of what you could do to them.”
I shook my head. “But Lucy took my magic.”
“What do you mean?”
“I left you more and each time you have found it. It’s yours.”
“The sword…” I started to say as the thoughts formed.
“And…” She prompted me.
“You loved dragons when you were a little baby, we had a pet one in our house. You and it would sleep in the same cot.” She smiled as brightly as the sun while she remembered. “So I made sure to leave some magic for you with them. And Roy did the rest by getting you to the resting dragons, and waking them.”
I felt my head shake but it didn’t help me think at all. “You mean Roy stole the sword so he had some excuse for getting me to Alizaria?”
“That and he thought if he could gather enough magic on his own he could take the angels on without bringing you into it.”
“But he’s always acted like an asshole to me.” I said.
“He just doesn’t know how to be a father. It was such a brief time for him.”
“Just like you didn’t know how to be a mother?” God I was so grateful for my parents on the other side of the gate now. I felt sorry for every royal child.
The words stung, I saw it as the corners of her lips drooped. “I did what I had to, to protect you.”
“You saved me because you wanted to use me as a weapon against the angels. If you truly loved me then why didn’t you leave me alone living a peaceful life?” That’s all I wanted for my baby. I would give anything for her to have a safe and happy life, I wouldn’t depend on her in anyway.
She snorted. “How peaceful would it ever be if the angels were never defeated? Hmm?”
I gritted my teeth. She was right. “But if you created the angels then why can’t you stop them?”
“We are losing our strength and we never had the right amount of magic to do it. But you will.”
“You have the basic magic, but once you take mine and the rest of our power and combine it with your own you can defeat the angels.” That gleam of happiness returned to her eyes. “And then you can live a peaceful life and have lots of babies.”
She blinked at my sudden denial.
“I don’t want to live a life like that, I never have.” I saw her watching me intently. “I want that for this baby, but I don’t want to be like all other mothers who give up everything for their family.”
“She was an accident?”
I nodded, unable to accept the real truth.
“But you love her anyway.”
“Yes…” I think so.
“Then what do you want?”
“For Alizaria to be free. For all of the worlds to be free.” I swallowed hard. “But how is that possible? If the Gods have no way of stopping the angels, how the hell am I meant to with your magic? That doesn’t make sense.”
I tried to process all of this information, but it was too much, my head was throbbing. What could be done against the perfect angels? Against Lucy?
Oh, that bitch. Lucy had taken everything from me; my magic, my freedom, and Dathan.
No, I wasn’t going to let her take Alizaria from me also. Never. “I want to free Alizaria.”
“Then fight for it.”
As soon as I heard the words I knew that’s what I wanted, permission to do what I had always wanted. To fight for what I loved, throw my heart and body into it. I was never going to be normal, not as a girl, woman or mother.
Grace stepped up and grasped either side of my face. “You never stole anything; it was always yours. No other magic will do. The sword is yours, it will never answer to another, just like the dragons will always be your friends.” She tucked a stray hair behind my ear. “I am proud of you.”
After we left, tracing our steps back along the path, I didn’t sleep at all that night. Each word they had shared with me echoed in my head. I couldn’t escape the blood and water re-enactment that replayed permanently behind my eyelids.
“So only I can stop them… that’s convenient. Not.” And what’s the deal with the sword? No one had seen it in over a thousand years. How was it supposed to be mine alone if I couldn’t locate the thing?
Absent-minded I rubbed my belly. “I’m sorry… it’s true you were an accident and I am growing to love you. Maybe it will be instant love at first sight when you’re born. I don’t know. You scare me and I don’t want to be like every other mother out there who gives up adventures to look after their family like a good little housewife.”
The verbal vomit halted.
I sounded crazy.
In all honesty I didn’t want to have a baby, maybe if we lived in Alizaria and we could go on adventures and live abnormally… but Dathan didn’t want that, that was evident with the fact he took my memories so I would act normal. Plus, there were my parents, I didn’t want to cut them out of our lives, they were so excited about being grand-parents.
“But there will be no home to go to if I don’t stop the angels and Roy.”
I need to go back to Amber City. But I can’t let them know I know mostly everything. I still need them to trust me a very little and let me get close… wait what am I thinking? Lucy had been a friend, could I really kill her and all of the others? Yes, they fear me and would’ve killed me in a heartbeat if Herrick hadn’t intervened but it was still Lucy.
But she screwed Dathan. Dathan screwed Lucy.
“If I kill everyone who pisses me off then the world will be a very empty place.” I sighed. There must be some other way around all of it… negotiations?
How do I even stop them? Is there even a way to? How do you kill an immortal when those who created them couldn’t do it?
My fingers tapped restlessly against the baby. “I just need to go back… and talk to Herrick and Leslie, see if I can get them away from everyone else and just talk to them, explain everything I know now. I can always trust Leslie…” Er…not really. You can never always trust someone and you can never always distrust.
Roy. I trusted him then wanted to kill him and then trusted him for a little bit and again I want to kill him, he is that much of a pain in the neck. The perfect example of the rule.
The only one you can depend upon is yourself.
I must’ve dozed off because the next time I opened my eyes there was bright white light in the sparse room. I felt terrible, tired and grouchy. I rolled up from the mattress and then desperately looked for a bathroom. Twenty minutes later I was lying next to a chamber pot, waiting for the next wave to hit me.
“Damn baby.” The other perfect example of the rule.
This was the first time since coming to Alizaria that the nausea hit back at me.
“What kind of herbs did Leslie give me?”
There was a knock at the door. “Come in,” I called out. A middle aged woman waddled in and then halted and stared. “Don’t worry, it isn’t contagious. I’m pregnant.”
She began to grin broadly. “You need an herbal tea. I did that with all seven of my children.”
“Seven?” I felt my eyes bug out and stomach tighten again.
She laughed. “The menopause happened and they didn’t need me to breed anymore.” Over her shoulder she called back, “I’ll go get some of those herbs. Have you taken any before?”
“Yes. No idea what they were though.”
Five minutes later she had me sitting upright and drinking tea. We chatted for a little while about family stuff before she remembered that she was meant to summon me to Roy.
I nodded and stood up. No nausea. “Thank you for that.”
“Every woman should know about it, but they don’t.”
“It’s a Lord Drake potion.”
“Right,” I nodded as I realised how unpopular they were with the general population of Alizaria. “Okay, I’m feeling great now. Let’s go and see Roy.”
He was in that first room I appeared in. This time he was alone. The Lord Drake woman stayed on the other side of the door as I closed it after myself. I looked at him.
I chewed on my bottom lip. I didn’t want to have the conversation yesterday so I ignored his questions on our trek back. Now, there was nothing else to it. “Well, you’re meant to be my father.”
His face remained expressionless. “Not about that. The angels.”
I blinked in shock. Didn’t he care that he was meant be the one who fathered me… well my soul, which sounds really creepy and confusing. My dad was Luke Fitzpatrick and he was kind and warm and loving as a parent. My mum was Lara Fitzpatrick, an over-protective mother. Roy and Grace were something entirely different and I’m not sure if I will ever acknowledge them as parents. So why did it annoy me that he brushed that aside without batting an eye?
“Well, I know what they have done and what they want to do here. I know what you have been trying to do by collecting magic but I don’t agree with your method.”
“It is the only thing we have left,” he folded his arms and stared me down.
“No. We have me. Grace,” I didn’t stumble over the name, only barely, “explained my magic and the fear the angels have of me.”
“So you will help us?”
Slowly I nodded.
“Good. We need to start planning our attack…”
“Wait. I’m going back to the city.”
This time he frowned then he grinned manically. “Yes, you will be like a sleeper agent.”
I bit my tongue. I didn’t know what I was going to do or how it would happen, I just wanted to talk to Herrick and Leslie. But he wouldn’t understand that. “I’m thinking it would be best if I stay close to the angels for now.”
His eyes shifted again and he lost his smile. “But you don’t know how you’re going to do it.”
Damn it, I almost forgot that he had other souls inside of him, all paying close attention. “I’m going back, end of discussion.”
Something about the set of my shoulders and the look on my face halted any further protest. “Fine do as you please.” He reached into his pocket and dug out a small vial. Tossing it in the air he stepped back from me as far as the room allowed.
I caught it quickly. “What is this?”
“Boiled magic, a teleportation spell.”
“So all I have to do is think of one person and it will take me?”
He nodded. Then after a second of thought he threw another vial. With a smirk he rolled out an arrogant sentence. “You’ll need that to come back when you’ve finished playing the good little girl.”
I jammed it deep into the pocket in my pants and ignored him.
Think of one person. Dathan… no. I don’t want to suddenly appear in front of him while he’s off chasing after Lucy or some other girl.
Herrick… yes. I need him.
I closed my eyes.
He was tall, taller than me. I had to crane my neck to look into his hazel eyes. Poor kid wasn’t handsome, but he wasn’t bad-looking. In fact, he was a rather attractive man, kind of. He always has a sword on his left hip. There he was inside my head looking at me like he didn’t want to be anywhere near me, only his mum told him he had to play nice.
Once I had the image firmly set inside my head I smashed the vial on the floor and breathed in the foul smoke. I gagged and my eyes began to water even though they were closed.
Doubling over I coughed hard as the smoke hit the back of my throat and choked me.
Suddenly a set of hands were grasping my shoulders and lifting my torso so it was upright again. I opened my eyes and found concerned hazel eyes. Weakly I gave him a smile. “Hi Herrick.”
“Sit quickly.” He tugged me over to a chair, it scraped along the wood floor. I sank onto it.
“Is she alright?”
When I could finally breathe normal again and see out of my eyes I looked around the room we were in. Leslie was laid up in a bed under a mound of blankets so that she looked like a severed head that blinked. Herrick and I were the only other people in the room. He was kneeling in front of me, staring intently.
“Are you alright?”
I nodded. “Sorry, the smoke tastes bad.”
“Herrick, get the girl a drink.”
He did as he was ordered, returning quickly from the side table beside his mother’s bed. He pushed the glass into my hands and clasped his own over my fingers.
I pushed him away. “I’m not useless you know.”
“Fine, whatever.” He stood and moved back from me. I guess his well of compassion was all dried up now.
They waited patiently in silence as I gulped the water down. Once I could talk again I threw out the obvious question. “Why did you send me to Roy?”
Herrick glanced to his mother who nodded. “We knew you had to be the one who talked to him and got the answers we needed. Did you?”
“Yes, and more than that.”
Leslie coughed. “Tell us how to save Alizaria.” She coughed again.
I shrugged. “Roy took me to see the Gods. Damn, they were crazy. More than what Roy is.” the two others occupying the room gasped in amazement. “And they told me the angels want to crystallise this world, seal it off from any other world and from the Gods, continue to do that for all of the other universes out there and then create their own perfect Eden. But Roy is no better, he wants to seal this world with the angels inside it so this would be their prison. The Gods don’t have the strength to stop either and I don’t think negotiations will help anything.” Deep breath in, I finally stopped talking.
Herrick’s shoulders sagged.
I guess I should trust them. “The angels fear me and for a good reason. Apparently, the God Grace created Roy, or at least his soul. Then had a child with him.”
“You,” Leslie forced out before coughing again. She looked worse than the last few times I saw her.
I nodded my head. “I think I have magic that might help us, or I have access to it. I just have to figure out how to get it and control it.” My head was spinning with possibilities but none sounded right, they sounded like real frights of fancy. What can I do?
Then I wondered what will Leslie and Herrick do now that they know the truth? Did they even believe me?
“Leslie, what will you do now? The angels will turn on you in a heartbeat once you let on you know something and we don’t have any way of stopping them.”
She didn’t answer. Herrick straightened his shoulders. “We have to find a way. Till then we play along with their game. They are strong enough to stop Roy and he is a real danger right now.”
“But he might be the one who could stop them.”
“And we still end up with the same result.” He snapped back at me. “You need to find whatever magic it is and work on a way to stop the angels. Do your job and I will do mine.”
“What if we both run out of time? How will any of this help anyone?”
He sighed. “I don’t know. But I don’t know what else to do. There are no easy answers.”
We fell silent. I contemplated what it would be like to live the rest of my life trapped inside of a crystal, unable to shatter it. Would it be a short existence? Would my daughter ever grow up and find her own adventure?
I didn’t want to be trapped. I wanted freedom. Anger surged in my blood making everything feel like it was on fire. How dare anyone presume to know better and make the decisions for me? I am not a child!
“Take Blair to get some food.”
I stood up and followed him to the door. As I did I looked back at the head of Leslie poking out from under the mound of blankets. How much longer did she have? I was frightened she would die, she was so frail and sickly. What would we do when she was gone?
Herrick reached back and tugged on my sleeve.
I nodded. “Bye Leslie.”
“Good bye Blair.”
As I closed the door it felt like I had just said my final farewell to her. It took a firm tug on my wrist for me to let the door go and move away. Didn’t he feel it? His fingers gripped hard around my wrist and his shoulders were rigid. Yeah, he felt something alright.
We walked into the mess hall where dozens of soldiers were talking, laughing and chewing all at once.
Then I heard my name being yelled above the din, just before it went deadly silent. Dathan stood and rushed over to me. “Blair, where have you been?” Both of his hands came to rest on either shoulder.
I stiffened in suspicion. Where have you been, dear boyfriend? Hanging out with Lucy?
He shook me and asked again.
“I… um.” Words rattled out of me. This was jealousy more than anything. I knew that, but it didn’t change the fact I wanted my heart to do something different at the sight of him. Maybe leap in relief. Anything.
Herrick came to my rescue. “The doctor ordered her to have some uninterrupted rest, so she was in his care.”
Dathan ignored him and kept his eyes focused on me. They didn’t look convinced. “Why did you need to see the doctor?”
I flushed. “Morning sickness,” I murmured under my breath. “It’s been getting worse.” Not entirely a lie, only hours ago I was puking up my guts. If it hadn’t been for a fresh batch of herbs, then I would still have my head buried in a chamber pot.
“Oh,” finally I saw a look of belief in his eyes. “Is everything alright now?”
“Hmm, he just wanted to watch me for a little bit, making sure he gave me the right stuff for it.”
His eyes slid down to see the hand Herrick held tight. I saw a twitch in Dathan’s jaw. “Will you please release my girlfriend?”
Herrick looked down to and realised what he was doing. But he didn’t do as he was asked, instead he pulled me in closer. “Sorry, I’m under the instructions of Leslie, the leader of Alizaria, to see that Blair is fed.”
“I can look after that from here.”
I couldn’t believe it. Were they honestly fighting over who the hell got to watch me eat? “Both of you stop it.”
They continued to eye each other carefully, almost challenging the other to throw the first punch. I wriggled my way in between them, forcing them both to step back a little and look at me instead. “Dathan, I’ll talk to you later, but right now I will follow Leslie’s orders.”
He was pissed. I could see the way a muscle in his jaw jumped. “Fine. I’ll see you in our room.” Sulkily he turned on his heel and stormed out of the hall.
Slowly noise returned, first as a mutter and then as loud conversation. “Come on, let’s get this over with,” and I pulled Herrick along.
Once fed I stuck close to Herrick as he did his rounds around the palace, talking to people and making sure they were doing as they should. “Aren’t you meant to be meeting Dathan for a talk?”
I nodded. “I will, much later.” I dreaded it.
He must’ve understood the subtlety in that comment because he didn’t push any further.
What was I going to tell Dathan? Could I trust him with the truth? I don’t know.
Herrick took us to the training room. The floor was lined with mats and against one wall were weapons of all sorts stuck to it. Wooden sticks jutted from pots. He motioned to a bench. “If you want to stay you can sit.” He bent over and undid his boots, hopping on one foot and then the other as he yanked them off and threw them towards the bench.
I wandered over to the weapons and pulled a wooden stick from its pot, weighed it in my hand before swapping it for a heavier one.
Herrick frowned when he came over to select his own. “What are you doing?”
“I need some practice.” I swung the stick around and around, flexing my wrists as I did. That felt great.
Out in the centre of the room we came to stand facing each other. “You shouldn’t be doing this.”
“Why not?” I raised my practice sword and pointed it at Herrick.
He didn’t match me at all. His practice sword’s tip was resting on the mat. “You’re pregnant.”
I was about to argue then stopped myself. He was right. I had to be responsible and protect my baby, but did that mean I couldn’t do a thing anymore? What would I do if I did end up having to fight and I haven’t practiced and instead I lose the baby then? The kid should be alright with some moderate exercise… right? The first trimester was always the most difficult, the doctor had told me.
Herrick, who had been watching me rolled his eyes and raised his sword.
We sparred for a long while.
“You’re out of practice,” Herrick gasped for air.
I was doing the same. “It has been a few years.” Giggling I went to the wall to place the sword away. Sweat was dripping from everywhere. I smelt really bad.
“What are you doing here?”
I spun around and saw who Herrick was addressing. “Dathan?”
He looked mad. “I was waiting for you in our room.”
Oh, I hadn’t expected that sort of dedication. “Sorry, I just needed some time to think.” I thought he meant later at night.
Herrick picked up his belongings and headed for the door. “I’ll be waiting outside, Blair.”
Once the door was closed Dathan started to yell. “What are you doing with him?”
“Yeah right.” He rolled his eyes. “I don’t want you anywhere near him.”
“You don’t get to tell me what to do, Dathan.”
“So you won’t listen to me when I say we need to go home.”
I blinked in shock. “No. I’m needed here.”
“I want us to go. The angels can look after Roy.”
Oh, he really didn’t have any idea what was going on… should I tell him? What would Leslie and Herrick say, especially if he went back to Lucy and told her everything? There was one thing I could tell him. “Go home. You’re right, this isn’t your fight.”
“I don’t want to leave you. Or our child.”
He grimaced. No-one wanted to be the coward but sometimes that’s who you are. He walked away from me and out of the door.
I stopped myself from crying. I loved him but I wasn’t in love with him anymore. It had been a long time since that feeling. In truth, I realised I was never truly in love with Dathan, more the idea of a prince.
The man I loved as a teenager was only half of Dathan. The man I lived with; he was unsure if he wanted the throne; he abandoned Alizaria, a wife and child and lived peacefully for eight years on the other side.
I didn’t blame nor did I hate him.
But I would miss him, I knew that instantly as my heart finally broke completely.
Despite my best effort tears had slipped free as I contemplated my life without Dathan. By the time I closed the door to the training room my face was dry. In reality, I would always have a part of him with me, in our child, which also meant visitation rights and major public holidays split between two realms.
Herrick either didn’t see my eyes which felt dry, puffy and scratchy or he chose to ignore it. “Come on. It’s getting late.”
I ducked my head and followed him wordlessly.
But there was an obstacle at the end of the hall. He stopped and withdrew his sword from his hip and raised it.
I looked around his shoulder.
Lucy and six other angels stood in our way. “Blair, where have you been?”
“With me,” Herrick called back. “So take your friends and leave now.”
She barely gave him a second glance. “I was speaking with Blair Fitzpatrick, Salem’s Daughter. This doesn’t concern you or Leslie or the good people of Alizaria… depending on her response.”
“I don’t care. I need you and the other Fallen to go away right now.” Herrick continued.
I could feel the level of threat in the hall go through the roof. The angels wanted something from me and they wouldn’t stop till I gave them it. I rolled my eyes at Herrick and side-stepped him. “What is it Lucy? I’m tired.”
She smiled sweetly at me. “Where did you disappear to yesterday?”
“I was with the doctor, he wanted to monitor my reactions to some herbs he gave me for morning sickness.” It was plausible. But the moment the words had left my mouth I realised it didn’t matter what I had said, Lucy wouldn’t believe me because she knew the truth.
I could stick with that story and be tripped up on some detail or I could admit the truth. Either way Lucy would see me identified as enemy number one.
“No… I was with Roy.”
Herrick swore behind me. The angels blinked at first and then began revealing their weapons. I should’ve been feeling frightened or at the very least worried about what they would be doing next. Instead I was calm.
“How did you find Roy?”
I shrugged. “Blood magic, like the first time I had to search for him. Why? Do you have some sort of problem with that?”
She puffed out her cheeks. Was Lucy, the beautiful angel, at a loss for words? Of course not. “I’m sorry Blair. You should’ve stayed on the other side of the gate; this was never your fight to begin with.”
“Not what Grace told me.”
Her eyes flashed.
“I know the truth Lucy. I have met the Gods and they told me what happened and what will happen if you are not stopped.”
“Like the Gods are innocent.” She spat out in return. “I will not say that what we want is wrong, it has to be done to stop the spread of stupidity across the worlds.”
“But you have no right to make that choice!” The sudden flare of anger made me yell. It roared down the hall. How dare she try and rationalize with such a shit excuse? How dare she even think she was justified? “You have no right to take everyone’s freedom. The people of each universe have the ability to make choices.”
I saw Lucy ignore my words as she charged forward, her blade glinting in the afternoon light streaming in through the window. “You Blair, have just admitted to associating with the enemy. We can no longer trust you.” She raised her sword high.
I panicked. Then there was shift and the baby’s magic threw Lucy back several steps, along with the rest of her comrades.
“That was an attack!” One screamed out. “She’s with Roy! She’s one of his spies!”
From behind, someone grabbed hold of my arm and yanked me around. I could feel the baby starting to respond to the sudden man handling. “You have to get out of here.” It stopped when I realised it was Herrick hauling my ass back to the training room. He slammed the door shut after us and threw the lock.
The banging began on the other side, along with yells for help.
“Why were you so stupid?”
I threw my hands into the air. “There was nothing I could’ve done or said to have changed this outcome. The angels are out for me. One way or another they would’ve found a way to start an altercation.”
“But, if you had kept silent about Roy then I could’ve dealt with them.” He looked like he was in physical pain.
I realised he was counting on me to stop the angels and now I had blown our cover, that wasn’t going to happen unless I got out of the palace quickly. “I’m sorry. But there was no stopping the truth in the long run… this is really bad.”
“Yeah.” He moved across the room looking out of the windows. “Maybe you can escape out this way…”
I shook my head. “Don’t worry about me, I have a way out. What about you? The angels will attack you. Guilt by association.”
He ignored my concern. “Did Dathan tell you about the secret ways out of the palace?”
“No.” Reaching inside my pocket I withdrew the other vial. “Roy gave me this boiled magic. I guess he thought I would come running back to him and his insane ideas.”
Herrick paused for a second. “Things will escalate dramatically now. They will want to finish what they have started quicker than planned. I’d give them a day at most.” He came charging back from the window and grabbed hold of my right shoulder, he still had his sword in hand.
Funny, it looks sort of familiar.
“You need to work fast and figure out a way to stop the angels and then get Roy back to the city within twenty-four hours. Do you think you can do that?”
Vaguely I was aware my head bobbed up and down in a nod. “But what about you here and now? Do you honestly believe they won’t kill you straight up?”
His grip tightened, before that I felt a little shake in his hand. “Don’t think of anyone else but yourself right this moment. We need you to get out of here and find the way to end this.”
“Okay,” I tried to avoid the image if angels skewering Herrick as soon as they broke down that door: Just don’t think about anything like that. He’s a smart kid, he’ll find a way out of this mess. He takes after his mum that way. Oh Gods, Leslie. If they do kill Herrick, then they would definitely go after Leslie next.
He shook me. “Concentrate on Roy.” Noticing a look of panic in my face he sighed. “Trust me, have a little faith in humanity.”
“That’s a hard thing to do considering what I know now.” I sighed. “Step back.”
Like before I pictured Roy in such detail I could’ve sworn he was standing in front of me with a smirk on his face. I smashed the vial on the floor and tried not to choke on the vapour that rose and surrounded me.
As it cleared I found Roy standing in front of me in a white room again. He looked startled and confused. Then that cleared and a smirk took its place. “That didn’t take long.”
I felt sick again. The smoke made my eyes water, my stomach threatened to throw up what little was inside it. “No. And we no longer have any real time before the angels will be making their move to crystallise this world. We need to move within twenty-four hours. Herrick seems to think that’s when we will have our best chance of stopping them.”
I shuffled my feet a little and tried not to look guilty. “I may have let slip that I knew everything and that I had seen you.”
“Why?” He asked.
“Because no matter what Lucy was looking for a reason to kill me. If I had stuck with the lie, then she would’ve tripped me up somehow or she probably had a backup plan. Some way to provoke the baby and I and make sure that we look like the enemy.” I took several breaths, the nausea passing a little. “They really do fear me.”
“Have you figured out how you will defeat them?”
I shook my head.
Roy sighed. “Then there was no point in coming here if you will not stand with me.”
I shot him a harsh glare. “What is that supposed to mean? If I don’t come up with a better solution than crystallising this world and trapping the angels inside, doing exactly what the fallen want to do anyway, then I’m of no use here?”
That was blunt. “Please don’t do it that way. Just give me some more time, if I can think of a better way which stops this world and any other one from being isolated and left to die inside of a crystal then we can save so many lives. I just need a little more time.”
He considered it for a moment, his eyes flickering between each spirit inside of his body as they all had an internal conversation.
“Please,” I pleaded. If Grace and Fate and all of the other Gods had hope in me to figure out this solution, then Roy and everyone trapped inside of him should give me a chance.
He slowly nodded his head. “Fine. But if you don’t come up with a way to stop the angels soon I will do it my way.”
I wasn’t convinced with how he said it… it felt like he was placating me, saying yes to distract me from something else so I’m happy and will leave him alone. But there was nothing I could say at the time. That was good enough. I had to trust him a little even if I didn’t believe he would entirely keep his word. “Thank you.”
“Now, we need to rally our troops.” He clapped his hands and rubbed the palms against each other with glee. His eyes twinkled. “After all we don’t have very long now.”
I followed him out of the room and down the hall, cringing as he barked out orders to everyone we met on the way.
What was he doing in a room by himself, I wondered. There was no furniture and he wasn’t talking to anyone… was he? Maybe he was communicating with the other souls inside of him. I still couldn’t believe he would do that to himself, it seemed too much like mutilation of his body and soul.
Jayden. How could I forget that Jayden was inside of him? The Lord Drake who had possessed a girl ten years ago had been the first to move over and into Roy. In fact, that was where the idea had come from, Roy had been fascinated with how well the girl Jade and the Lord Drake Jayden interacted within the same body. But there was no point to collecting Lord Drakes or any other being with only magic in their blood.
He needed to have those with magic attached to their souls.
I stifled my gasp.
Spirit witches? Could Roy have been collecting all of the spirit witches in Alizaria? I touched a hand to my belly. Was that why he had come to me? To try and steal my soul? Would he try and do something like that with my baby, while she is inside of me?
Roy pushed his way through a set of double doors. On the other side I glimpsed people rushing about just before the door swung shut. I could hear them all talking at once.
Why can’t I move?
I looked down at my feet. I froze, unable to make myself follow Roy into that room.
Fear. Panic. All of the good anxieties that have kept me alive over the years. If I gave in and just did what Roy wanted, then what would be left? Anything?
“I have to find a way to stop both Roy and the angels.”
Right at that moment the angels seemed more dangerous. They naturally had the power to destroy everything and everyone. Roy was secondary, he had done all of this to himself to make his whole body and soul into a weapon… I didn’t think he would try and steal my baby’s soul, as long as I’m still trying to find a way to access the magic Grace told me about and use it properly. Though I suspect that as soon as I can’t do it, he would attack.
The door opened and a teenaged boy poked his head out. “Roy says that I have to bring you inside right now.”
I nodded my head. Still I couldn’t move forward. What was I afraid of on the other side of that door? Ritual sacrifice?
The boy stared at me. “Did you hear me? Dumb woman, do you understand what I’m saying?”
Anger flared inside. “Of course I do you moronic inbred little brat,” I snapped and finally charged forward. “Do you know who I am?”
He looked scared as he stumbled back. I grabbed onto the door so it wouldn’t slam shut, cutting me off again.
“Do you know who I am? Come on, you ill-mannered annoyance. Tell me who I am, so then I know whether to kill you right here and now or send you in with the first wave of soldiers to die at the hands of the angels.”
The boy sputtered.
“Blair,” Roy’s warning was clear in his voice. “Don’t scare the troops.”
I laughed. “Troops? This lot?” Looking around the auditorium type room I had to cringe. They were all Lord Drakes and none of them looked like they could swing a sword. So many kids and to the other end of the spectrum so many older men.
“They fight with magic.” Roy announced. “That is how they will keep the angels at bay long enough for either you or I to defeat them.”
“Then they will die as soon as they get there.”
The room fell silent.
“Of course some will die, we are going to war after all, Blair.” Roy chuckled. Awkwardly others followed his lead and laughed as well. “But it is for the best, we have to stop the angels at all costs.”
“The angels will laugh at this gathering of people. It doesn’t matter which elements they all can control, they will not last very long against the angels.” I added.
Though I didn’t know what a fire would do to Lucy, I knew that no mortal weapon could… mortal weapon?! Nothing man made or of this earth could harm them. If the Gods created them, it was with magic, if they can’t destroy them it’s because they don’t have the right mix of magic to do it. But that also meant that it had to be a Godly power that would have to be used against them.
Perhaps there was a way of stopping them with magic.
“Hmm?” I suddenly realised there was silence, punctuated with a school kid giggle.
Roy shook his head. “Don’t worry your pretty little head about any of this Blair. We can see your head is in the clouds.”
I glared back at him. “Your method won’t work. Collecting the magical souls of spirit witches isn’t enough to stop the angels, nor will it be enough to crystallise this world so it becomes a prison for them.” I turned to look at the Lord Drakes. “Do any of you care that you will be trapped inside a crystal for all of eternity?”
“That won’t happen,” Roy answered before anyone else could.
“We are not in Alizaria. We are in the heavens, in a different universe.”
I couldn’t say another word. The Lord Drakes were to be his chosen people for the new world he would create? What about all of the others who would be trapped inside of an Alizaria crystal till it no longer glows?
My head grew light and airy. It was no longer attached to my body, or that was how it felt anyway. Then there was something hard under my body, my shoulder throbbed for some reason. Above me hovered several faces, they blurred as I tried to focus on them.
It was ringing inside of my ears. I could just make out what people were saying.
“Get the doctor!”
“What’s wrong with her?”
“Is she dead?”
“Don’t let her baby die!” That voice I recognised as Roy’s. “It is a powerful spirit witch.”
So I was correct. Roy really wanted the soul of my baby to add to his collection, “Sick bastard.”
Then I heard him chuckle. “She’s fine.”
“I’ll be the judge of that,” a face with a beard took over my vision. “I’m a doctor, Blair. Can you speak?”
“Can you tell me what you’re feeling right now?”
“Are you pregnant?”
“Yes. About three months along.”
He nodded as he ran his hands over my body, checking my pulse on my wrist. “I’m just making sure nothing is broken,” he murmured when I squirmed. Once he touched my shoulder I yelped. “It’s just some bruising, probably where you landed. You’re lucky you didn’t crack open your head.”
“Now, I need you to try and sit up. Do you think you can do that?”
With some assistance I lifted my torso from its horizontal position to vertical. My head was swimming, it felt stuffed full of cotton wool. I gripped the doctor’s arm tight.
“Talk to me Blair.”
“I’m really light-headed.” I pushed out.
“Roy told me you have been teleporting with boiled magic.”
“But I’ve been fine for hours.”
He shrugged. “Maybe it’s a delayed reaction to the chemicals. That and you being pregnant doesn’t help.”
I gasped in panic. “The baby.” My hand gripped tighter.
“From what I can tell is fine. But no more travelling with boiled magic… actually I am ordering you get some rest.”
“No, she is needed. We need her now more than ever.” Roy protested.
The doctor shook his head. “She will be of no use to anyone if she cannot think straight. Now, you two boys help me get Blair to the infirmary.”
They mumbled but still bent down and hoisted me upright, one shoulder under each armpit. My feet couldn’t touch the ground. The doctor packed away some items into his bag. I spotted a crystal as he slipped it away, but was too weak to act on my screaming instincts.
The door swung open. In rushed a little girl with plaits streaming behind her head. “It’s happened! It’s happened!”
“What has?” The doctor dropped to his knee and looked the little girl in the eye. She was gasping for air. “Calm down and take one deep breath, hold it, hold it, slowly let it go and now speak.”
“The leader of Alizaria – Leslie – is dead and her son has taken over.”
My heart stopped.
I cried for so long the doctor gave me some sort of sedative. Before long I was completely out, no longer hearing what the doctor was saying above me about taking deep breaths and counting back from ten.
There was nothing, just black. For a long time that was all I was conscious of, not being alive, not thinking about anything, just being part of the black.
The black was neither void nor substance. I accepted this non-existing feeling. Even liked it.
I noticed a bright pin light, like a star over in the dark. I couldn’t say if it was left, right, up, down or even over that way.
“Blair. I need to talk to you.”
Suddenly I was aware of myself again, I wasn’t part of the black anymore. I had a head, limbs and a mind. Blinking, the small star light disappeared. When I opened my eyes again I wasn’t there anymore.
Bright sunlight stung my eyes, crickets whined in the background and there was a soft breeze that tickled my bare arms. Blades of grass lightly stabbed at my back. I pushed myself upright. “Home?”
The house was there with the back door to the kitchen wide open. Looking over my shoulder I saw the gate was just like I had left it, propped open with a broken branch. No bushes or trees crowded around it though.
I was confused. What was I doing here? The doctor had given me something to make me fall asleep… so this wasn’t real. “Shit.” I had been here before. This was the place Lucy used to bring me to when I was dreaming so we could talk.
I leapt to my feet, almost tripping over the long skirt. “What the? Again?” It was my funeral dress, long and white; this time with no tears in the fabric.
I turned around and spotted her sitting on the veranda’s edge. Lucy was in the exact same dress. Unusual, she normally wore something similar but completely different. Not only that, Lucy didn’t look solid., Her image flickered like an old film that had been watched too many times, because the film had stretched.
“What are we doing here?”
Her legs dangled over the edge and she swung her feet back and forth. “I needed to speak with you. This was the only way I knew I could reach you.”
I snorted. “You had a chance to talk to me back at the palace, before you decided that you wanted to kill me off.”
“I’m not going to apologise for that. You are dangerous.”
“I don’t even know what I can do.” My hands flew out and I shrugged. “I don’t know how I am meant to stop you from destroying this world and all of the other ones out there.”
“Don’t think of it as destroying. We simply want to separate the worlds from each other.”
“Why?” I demanded.
“Why must they be together? Why can things not follow rules? Why must people have to learn more and more and try different things and make changes?”
“Because we live and there are no rules. But we all have a right to make choices for ourselves.”
“No one has made the right choices. In the world we will make everything will be as it should and no one will ever have to make a single choice, they will know exactly what they have to do and just do it. As it should be.” She snapped.
“That’s not a life. Tell me the truth, you and all of the other fallen just want to be Gods.”
She smiled a secret smile and looked even more beautiful as she did. “Why wouldn’t we? The Gods created us, but we will never succeed them in anyway. We will always just be their dogs.” She spat out the words.
“So you’re jealous of the toys the big kids get to play with.”
“Perhaps. Not all of us are as lucky as you Blair.” Lucy sneered.
I frowned. “How the hell am I lucky?”
“Salem’s Daughter, half spirit witch, half God. You know the truth now, don’t you?”
“Yes.” Stiffly I replied.
“You know the Gods are not as friendly as they make out. They are very selfish and self-centred.”
“So they made the angels in their own image, did they?” I asked, snark slipping into my tone.
She lost her smile. “Don’t compare us.”
“Why not? The both of you want to have control over everyone inside a little world and don’t want to share the fun with anyone else. You and the Gods are exactly the same.”
On the last word from my lips Lucy launched herself from her seat and came directly at me. But she didn’t land a hit. Couldn’t. Her hand passed through my face. I felt nothing. It was like we didn’t occupy the same realm of reality.
She clenched her fists, bunching her skirts in her hands as she did. Her lips were pressed into a thin line. Then a thought must have passed into her head. She relaxed and giggled.
“What is it?” I demanded.
“Me what?” This was irritating. How was it that even now, after everything, we fell into this little banter?
“You said you don’t know how to stop us… we know Roy doesn’t yet have the magic he needs to complete the spell needed. So what are we afraid of?” Lucy wrinkled her nose.
“You tell me. You seemed pretty damn determined to kill me.”
Her hair shone in the sunlight, a halo surrounding her perfect face. “I doubt you will come up with the solution in time. There is nothing you can do, Alizaria will be sealed away inside its little crystal to play out the rest of its pathetic life alone without any guidance or help from above.”
“What is this obsession with crystals?” Then it clicked in my head. The only way to destroy something the Gods had created was to turn it into a crystal, cut it off from the God’s love and magic and let it starve to death. So if I was able to acquire the power of the gods or at least that equal to the angels then I could crystallise them. Individually instead of on a mass scale.
Surely something like that could be done, it didn’t have to be done only to a world.
“What are you thinking?”
Shit. I was quiet for too long. “When did Leslie die?”
Lucy blinked in surprise. “Oh… a little after you left.” Her voice had softened as she spoke. “Herrick is now the leader of Alizaria.”
“Good. He will do the right thing.” I said.
“Hmmm. Perhaps. How well do the two of you know each other?”
“Not very. I knew Leslie better, which is why I had to stick close to him in the palace, she ordered him to protect me.” I replied.
Lucy shook her head. “You should never have come to Alizaria. If you had just stayed on that side of the gate and not broken the spell, then everything would be fine. You brought it upon yourself. You should never have interfered with things that don’t concern you.”
“I guess I just can’t help myself.” I took one last look around the imaginary back garden. Maybe I would never see this ever again, or the real thing. Who knew what would happen next. “Okay, I’m done here. Send me back now.”
Lucy scowled at me. “I will let you know when we are finished.”
I rolled my eyes. “What else is there to talk about? Other than the fact you never trusted me. In fact, did you befriend me in order to try and control me?”
She nodded her head. “We thought that if we got to you while you were young then you would be our ally and turn on Roy.”
That stung, even though I had suspected it for a while. We had been friends ever since I was fifteen. To cover the pain, I snorted. “Do you think that worked?”
“Where are you right now?”
I gave a humourless laugh. “Right. Are we finished now?”
Lucy gave me a curt nod.
As I blinked the bright light disappeared, when I opened my eyes again I found a white ceiling above my head. I sighed. Tilting my head, I looked around the infirmary with its trundle beds, on the other side of the room one wall was an entire window.
I pushed myself upright. “Hello?”
Throwing my legs over the edge of the bed I stood upright. No light headedness. In fact, I felt great after sleeping for a little while. Looking out the window I saw the clouds changing to orange. “What time is it?”
I wandered down to the doctor’s desk at the end of the room. The bag was there. Maybe it would be inside… I dug till I found the crystal.
It was a small one, a quarter of the size of my palm. I remembered, they used these things to check someone’s health, the crystal changing colours to indicate what it has found.
“I wonder if you were a world. Or maybe you’re small because you were someone’s soul crystallised… could that be done? Could that be what Lucy did to my magic? Taken it and crystallised it?”
Possible. The more I considered the more I like the possibility of doing it on a small scale and just imprisoning the angels like a sculpture or a very tight coffin.
Would they die inside?
More likely their energy would pass into the crystal and be used for things like light or to detect illnesses. “No energy can be created or destroyed, just transferred.”
As I weighed the crystal in my palm I could feel its power fluttering warm against my skin. “It’s just a trap, so maybe if I could break it open then what is inside would be free… but what type of magic would I need to use?”
What magic did I have inside of me?
I guess I could identify that other magic as half of what I inherited from Grace, a magic of the Gods. Then there was the dragon’s fire that was left behind. And the baby’s magic, but I had no control over that and I couldn’t use it; it was not mine to wield, ever.
“How do I open it up? Can I use my other magic just like I once did with my spirit? Imagine and it will happen?”
Even though I was alone, I still looked over my shoulder to make sure no-one heard me talking to myself. I shivered in the silence. Where is everyone?
Walking over to the exit I poked my head out into the hallway. A little girl, no older than five, was playing on a tricycle. She looked startled when she saw me, wobbled and crashed into the wall, knocking her little bottom from the bike onto the floor.
I rushed over, picking her up off the ground. “Are you alright?”
She pulled away, her bottom lip trembling and big fat tears rolling over her round cheeks.
“I didn’t mean to scare you, I thought I had this place all to myself.” I was using my kid voice, it was slightly higher pitch to the way I regularly spoke to adults. “My name is Blair. What’s your name?”
“Aislinn,” she mumbled.
“That’s a pretty name. Are you a Lord Drake child?”
She shook her head.
That made sense, normally their females were kept hidden from the rest of the world, kept for breeding only. To ensure their blood magic wasn’t watered down with inferior blood. So who the hell was this kid?
“Where’s your mum?”
Her tiny shoulders lifted and then drooped back down.
Cute kid. “Why aren’t you playing with your friends?”
“Don’t have none.”
Oh, I could sympathise with that. Only child and living outside of town made it difficult for us kids to meet up without a big fuss being made by the adults over driving us to our friend’s house, meeting their parents and making sure I remembered my manners.
“Sometimes it’s more fun playing by yourself. You don’t have to share the dragons when you do.”
She tilted her head to the side. “Dragons?”
I nodded my head. “Yep. They’re good fun to play with and if you have been really good they might even take you flying.”
Her little chubby face lit up. “I love dragons! My mum does drawings of them for my room. And she draws fairies and unicorns and elves and wolves and foxes and bees.”
If I let her keep going she would probably list every animal and insect in the universe. I chuckled. “Wow. That is a lot of drawing. Who is your mummy? Is she a really famous artist?”
This was getting frustrating. “What’s your mummy’s name?”
She frowned and lifted up her arm, pointing a finger in my face. “Why are you being silly Mummy?”
What? My heart stopped. Did she just call me mummy? I finally noted her pale skin and reddish hair, she took after Dathan more than me. She was so pretty, and her name suited her perfectly. She was like a little fairy.
But how was any of this possible?
Unless… I hadn’t woken up.
“See what you could have?”
I spun round and stood, placing Aislinn behind me. Her tiny fists gripped at the hem of my shirt as it dangled past my bum.
Lucy was looking down at her. “Hello child.”
Aislinn wrapped her arms around my leg and buried her face in the back of my thigh. It felt so natural to have a child hanging off me.
Lucy flickered just like she did when we were back in the garden. “She looks like you. How could you not recognise your own child?”
“Easy, if you are still only pregnant. What is all of this?”
“I told you I decide when we stop talking. I wanted to show you what could be when things are over, if you stay out of the way.” She added the last part forcefully.
“How do you know what will happen?”
“Because, though the angels are not gods, we all possess some of their qualities. In small quantities.”
“Fate.” I said obviously.
“Yes. I can see different fate lines for you. In this one you have your daughter and are happy living in the heavens. We don’t interfere with you and you leave us to our world.”
I swallowed hard. What was she getting at? Will I not have my baby if I interfere?
As if she read my mind she nodded. “It is a choice you have to make. Several actually. Not all of them end with her never existing. Just most.”
I felt sick. Automatically I reached down and picked up the child, hoisting her onto my hip. Her little arms went around my neck and her head buried against my ear. A wave of love crashed over me and I tightened my hold on her. No. No-one was going to ever take my baby.
She was mine.
I walked back into the infirmary, slamming the door after us. Over to the window wall I looked out and saw through the gaps in the clouds something glittering below.
Aislinn lifted her head. She gasped and pointed excitedly down at the shinny thing. “Look, it’s the Alizaria crystal mummy.”
“Are we alone here?”
She bobbed her head up and down.
How was this any better? This wasn’t a life I wanted for my child. Where was Dathan? On the other side of the gate? I didn’t have the heart to ask Aislinn about her father.
The door opened behind me. “You can’t have it all.”
“Ha! Of course I can, I’m a twenty-first century woman. Now let us go.” I ordered.
Lucy tilted her head to the side. “And what are you going to do? Don’t you like this world? Your child?”
“Don’t question me, vampyre.” I spat out the last word. “My daughter will grow up free and with friends and family. I’m not going to let you win.”
Lucy pursed her lips. “I look forward to our meeting again then, Blair Fitzpatrick.” The image of her turned to static and then was gone.
Aislinn threw her arms around my throat again, choking me this time. With one hand I tugged her off. “What is it?”
“You’re going to leave me.”
“No I’m not. See this is a dream world. In reality you haven’t been born yet which means you are inside my belly right now so I cannot leave you. And I never will. Because I love you.”
Placing both her tiny palms of either of my cheeks she leaned in and kissed me with a dramatic smack of lips.
Then I did wake up.
My arms were empty I was lying down on a bed and there was mumbled chatter at the end of the room. I pinched my arm and counted my fingers. It hurt and I had ten, five fingers for each hand. “I’m awake.”
I rubbed my belly. “Hey Aislinn. I’m looking forward to holding you in six months’ time.”
I felt worry niggling at my gut. What if I made the wrong choices and I lost her forever? I’d die. Simple as that, I couldn’t live in a world where she would never exist… but what kind of life was that back there? No friends or family to play with and love, no chance of her ever growing up and meeting the person she would want to spend the rest of her life with and start a family with.
I was scared of losing her.
But I didn’t want her to have no hope for her life.
“I have to fight… I have to win.”
“Hmm,” the doctor stopped at the foot of my bed. “You’re awake.”
He frowned as he looked at my face. “What is it? Did you have a nightmare?”
I shook my head gently, a dull throb in my temples. “No, I just feel like I overslept.”
“Well you did…”
“You have been asleep for a long while. Roy and the army have left; they will be storming Amber City within a couple of hours.”
I’m such an idiot. How could I be lolling around in bed when I had work to do? I shoved the sheets aside in disgust and launched myself out of the bed.
The doctor hurried to stop me. “Where are you going?”
“I need… I’m not sure where but I know I need to get more magic and fast.”
“Why? There is nothing to really worry about. Roy will conquer the angels; he has the power to do so.”
“No he doesn’t. And what he would do is no better than the angels. I can stop them both and save so many people.”
This must have meant something to him. He lowered his hands and stepped aside. “What is your plan? Something similar?”
“Technically. The only way to destroy something the God’s made is to isolate it and starve it of the creator’s love and guidance. To do that you need to crystallise them. Both Roy and the angels want to do it on a large scale, trapping an entire world in a crystal prison and start fresh with a place of their own creation.” I paused to breathe.
“And you,” he prodded.
“I want do it small and trap the angels inside their own little prisons. I will be the ultimate bitch and place them in permanent isolation.”
“With what magic?”
There it was again… “I’m not sure yet.”
“Grace! Grace, where are you? I need to speak to you. In fact, I need to speak with all of you!” I was screaming at the top of my lungs. I didn’t have the time to go looking through the entire floating forest with the glacially slow leaves drifting down in a rain of orange and brown, so I stayed on the edge and screamed out like a little kid crying for attention. “Please, I need your help now!”
“Yes our darling girl?” Fate stepped out from behind a tree.
“I need your help,” I repeated.
“Anything for you,” a man said, as he too stepped from behind a tree. “I am Father.”
“And I am Mother,” a woman this time.
“My name is Hecate.”
Finally, Grace strode from behind her tree and took my hands into her own. “I think I know what you want.”
“I hope so, because I’m not entirely sure.”
“More magic,” Hecate said gruffly. “In fact all of the magic we possess. That is what you need.”
I stared at her. She was the one who looked most like the angels, but a more natural earthy beauty with her long blonde tangled curls.
“I guess. I need the magic to create crystals.”
Grace’s hands tightened around my fingers.
“I’m not going to do what either Roy or the angels want to, I want to do it on a smaller scale and crystallise the angels individually… and Roy if I have to. Do you think that is possible?”
Father placed his hands behind his back and strode forward two steps. “It will work, as long as you have a way to direct the magic. Else it will envelope the whole world and trap you inside it.”
“You will need a powerful wand.”
Oh great, so I will look like a real witch for the first time since I stepped into Alizaria. All I needed to finish the look was a hat and a broom. “Where do I get one? The wand shop?”
Father chuckled, even though it was a stupid joke. I didn’t respond.
Grace took my attention. She pulled on my hands, making me follow her. “You already have the wand and it will come to you in your time of need. But first you need to take on all of our magic. Come with me.”
We picked up pace and wove in and out of the trees. I could hear the crunch of leaves under foot on either side of us.
“Where are we going?”
“Home.” All I saw was a quarter of her face, tears were rolling down her cheek. What was wrong with Grace?
We came to a halt in front of a tree. It was massive, several metres round in diameter. Tilting my head back, I was in awe, spotting only the lower branches and nothing else above. When my chin came back down I found the others were pushing ahead of me to step through the door I had missed.
Grace beckoned. “Come inside girl. There is much to do and so little time.”
I did as I was told. As we raced up the carved wooden spiral stair case, I dragged my hands over the handrail. It was smooth from use I guess. Several turns, I finally found the top landing, an open space with polished timber floors, the walls made from the branches of the tree coaxed into shape so they boxed in the space.
I felt uneasy in this room, it was so familiar yet I’d never been here before.
“Welcome home.” All five of the Gods smiled at me as they said those words.
I didn’t want to be inside this place. Something bad happened here, I could feel it.
Grace tentatively placed a hand on my arm. “This was your first home. Your crib used to swing over there.”
“And?” I prompted her. I think I already knew the answer, but I needed to hear her say what else happened there, explain the awful feeling inside this place.
“And you know the rest of the story.” Her chin jutted out.
Forever, she will always believe she had done the best thing for her child. I don’t think I would ever understand how it couldn’t have been different. Back in the beginning, surely they had the strength and ability to have stopped the angels. Why didn’t they?
“Let’s begin.” Hecate folded her legs gracefully under herself as she sank to the floor.
“Some cushions would be nice,” Fate pouted but sat anyway.
“Or a lounge,” added Mother.
Finally, Grace led me to the centre before moving to the edge. They had formed a circle around me. Cautiously I sank to the floor. “How does this work?”
“You will use the magic inside of yourself to call to ours,” Father began to explain.
“And then, once we let go of it, it will go to you and be your own,” Mother continued. “That will be the next tricky thing, you have to contain it inside of yourself and hold it back.”
“If not?” I asked, a slight tremble in my tone.
“Then the magic will be released and return to the original owners.” Hecate answered. “This sort of magic can only ever be loaned out to those with similar power. And the strength of it depends on the strength of the individual wielding it.” She looked down at her hands. I hadn’t noticed how creased with wrinkles they were or how they shook. An odd contrast to her beautiful face.
“Is that why you cannot stop the angels yourselves anymore?”
Hecate glared at me. “Have more respect for your elders, girl.” She snapped.
I rolled my eyes. “I figured it was always a part of growing up. Losing that magical innocence of childhood and being strong enough to stand up for what is right and always speak your mind; but the trade-off is to be careful how you express yourself, do the best thing and be content with what you have while you lose your passion.” Where did that come from?
They ignored my comments. “By taking our magic,” Fate continued with the earlier thread. “We will no longer be immortal.”
I shot a look to Grace.
“If anything happens while we have no magic then we will die, just like any mortal being. It could be a sneak attack from the angels or even just from old age. However, knowing the risks and having seen the possible futures I give my magic to you dear girl.”
“And I,” each one added their consent.
“Now relax and call on your magic.”
I felt a panic settle in. What if I couldn’t use it on command? The only other times I used it was to call lost souls in the wishing well to me and then release them on. How was I supposed to hold onto their magic if I couldn’t hold onto anything else? “Wait.”
“Yes?” Grace asked.
“Will this affect my baby?”
“It shouldn’t. She is a strong witch herself and takes after her mum,” Grace smiled indulgently. “Yes, she will be fine.”
I sighed, a little relieved but not much. If I didn’t try, then she would grow up in a world with no freedom.
I have to try.
“Okay, let’s give this a go. No worries. Absolutely nothing to worry about.” I closed my eyes and relaxed my shoulders. Deep breaths. Clear my mind of any other thought than what was necessary.
I looked inside of myself, searching for the magic there. In my head I saw it as a golden light that surrounded my body. I don’t know why I chose to see it that way, it just seemed to be a natural selection. It was warm and hugged my body close, not enough to smother me and make it overly uncomfortable. It was just right.
Now, I imagined what the other’s looked like. Father with his strong emerald green glow, Mother and her mahogany brown, Fate and her glittering sapphire blue, Hecate and her violet light. Lastly I imagined Grace. It was pink, pale baby pink and it rippled and pulsated with magic. That definitely felt right for her; pink – the colour of hope.
I took a deep breath. This next part was going to be the most difficult. Maybe if I make a hole in my magic, call it in and then seal the gap up quickly. I tried it, visualising the whole thing happening. But the gap wouldn’t seal and the other magic rushed back out.
The Gods gasped.
I flopped backwards, smacking the back of my head on the floor. It stung. “Shit.”
“What was that?” Mother groaned.
“I can’t do it. I’m not strong enough to hold the magic inside of me. I tried and failed. What can we do now?”
“Try again.” Hecate snorted. “You are part God, surely you cannot honestly be thinking of giving up? We have created hundreds of thousands of worlds to make the perfect ones.”
I rolled my head to the side to stare at her. No way would earth or Alizaria be her favourites. It would have to be something dark and sinister, where she would fit right in.
“Sit up Blair,” Grace ordered gently.
Rolling up I found my centre again. So what would be a different way of doing it? With the souls from the wishing well I had swallowed them, taking them physically inside of me. But I couldn’t hold them and had to release them quickly so they could move on.
I visualised their magic as well as mine again. I called them, pulling them close. Taking a deep breath, I swallowed each lot of power and clamped my lips tight.
My body shook. I felt light headed.
“Release, Blair,” came the bored voice of Hecate.
I breathed out and all of the magic rushed out and back to their owners. Gasping for air, I braced my hands on my knees. “I don’t know how to hold it.” Slowly my breathing returned to normal. “How do you guys do it?”
They looked at each other, puzzled. “We have never tried before.”
I blinked. “Excuse me? Never tried this before, yet you have been giving me instructions on how to, even explaining the finer points of how it is on loan and will always return to its owner.” I couldn’t believe it. What a joke, they lecture yet have no real clue how to do it themselves.
“Well, we understand the basics of the transfer,” Father defended. “It was never required to do it in practice.”
“So you never thought the angels would be this bad and so never had to stop them. That’s why they are still here and causing the same trouble.”
“We cannot destroy them.”
Then it clicked. “Because they are your children…” I got it, I think. They created them and nurtured them and so can’t do the deed themselves. Glancing over to Grace, I wondered how it was she could kill Roy and I? What did it do to her mentally?
“Try again.” Hecate ordered.
I didn’t do it. Instead I spun round and faced Fate. She was squinting to see what was in front of her. “Fate?”
“Hmm, yes my girl?”
“What do you see? Can you tell me of the successful way of collecting everyone’s magic and holding it inside of me?”
Her lips twisted in a rueful grin. “Clever girl. There is a way, but it won’t last for long. You will be able to hold the magic in your heart for a short time, if it stays there for too long then it will break and the magic will leave you. You don’t want that to happen.”
I considered for a moment. “Would it be possible for you guys to come to Alizaria with me? Why are you shaking you heads?”
“We cannot leave the heavens.”
Hmm. It just wasn’t possible for me to get the magic and hold it long enough to get back to Alizaria, find a wand and use it. Why the heart? Didn’t I have something stronger to contain it?
Wait. There were the dragons. They had taken on my magic before, could they do it again? Could they contain the magic of the gods for me until I was ready to use it?
Could I trust them with it?
“Speak child.” Mother sighed. “We are not mind readers.”
“I’m just thinking.” I tapped my forefinger against my lip. “If I take the magic could I pass it onto the dragons to hold for me? Then when I need it they can give it back,” if they wanted to. I had no idea if I could trust them at all or if they would answer my plea for help.
Fate blinked and looked confused. “I have not seen this possible future.”
Was this a good thing or bad? Did it really matter if she had seen it happen or not?
She started to shake her head. “I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.”
Can’t what?! I had to stop myself from screaming at her in frustration. Time was running out, I needed to get this magic and hurry to the battle before either Roy or the angels decided to end things.
“I can’t see anything.” Tears began to stream down her face. “I can’t tell you anything, this possible future is not there.”
“So you don’t know if it is possible?”
Father shot me a look. “She’s saying that just this one change with the dragons could alter everything in a way we have no idea of knowing about.”
“But it seems to be our only option.” I snapped back. What else was there to do? I couldn’t hold the magic myself, Fate had told me how it would have to be done and it just wasn’t possible. So what did they expect of me? Blood? My first born child?
“We can still do it the other way, we just have to get her there quickly.”
Fate was rocking back and forth. Abruptly she gasped and came to a stop. It looked like someone had hit the pause button on her, she was frozen in place.
I crawled over the floor and grabbed onto her shoulders. “What is it?”
Her eyes focused on me. “It will work. Take it into your heart, but before you are finished with the magic it will leave you. If you pass it to Roy, it will kill him. But it is completed.”
That was a future I could accept. Strange, Roy and I share blood, history and even in the beginning of it all he was my father, yet I could accept his death easily. But there were variables that we had no control over. The future could change in a second if something else happened outside of our control.
“So the dragons would change things how?”
She shook her head. “I can’t…”
“See it. I know.” My jaw clenched. It was the only thing she had said on the idea, repeatedly too. But what would the dragons change? Would it be bad?
“Blair,” Grace called out. “Remember the dragons have always been your friends. You can trust them, like before.”
Was that a hint? Did she know something about the dragons and knew that it would be in our best interests to use them? Oh Gods this was insanity. Why didn’t she just come out and say it plainly?
“It is your decision.”
“You have to make the choices.”
“It is up to you, Blair, to do the deed.”
I felt the pressure bearing down on my shoulders. “Why? Why is it up to me? I’m not anyone special.”
“Don’t act stupid,” Father rolled his eyes.
He was right. I was first a spirit witch, then half the child of a God and finally to wrap it all up one very stubborn woman. But that didn’t explain why the decision had to be mine. I wasn’t responsible for creating the angels.
“Choose.” All five said the word together and in perfect harmony.
Choose. Choose what? I felt in my heart that the dragons would be the best choice, all because they could carry the magic for me. We could pass it back and forward whenever I chose. I wouldn’t have to use Roy for anything.
Glancing over at Grace I added to my thoughts: He would still be alive.
She smiled. “Dragons are our friends.”
Did she think like me? Was she hoping I’d save Roy instead of letting him sacrifice himself? Could they still have love between them even after reincarnation?
It was a sweet idea.
The dragons would take the uncertainty away of Roy not helping me or dying before I needed him or the fact I have no idea about this wand I need. And the dragons can get me back to Alizaria quickly.
“I will summon the dragons and ask them to help.”
As I spoke the words aloud Fate bawled her eyes out and slapped her hands on the wood floor. The power from her hits, be it from pain or a physical strength, shook the tree making the leaves rustle.
“You have decided. Now call them.” Hecate climbed to her feet and walked to one wall, slipped between the branches and disappeared from sight.
Father and Mother did the same.
Grace came to comfort Fate. There was a smile on her face. I peered at it carefully. “Do you know something?”
“I have hope.”
“So you love him still?”
Grace nodded his head. “Thank you for giving us a second chance.”
Strange, I felt a little foreboding as she spoke. The dragons I trusted… Roy I don’t know. He might be fine and give up his ideas of creating his own world and becoming a God and just settle down. Or if he still wanted he could create his world and leave Alizaria alone, which I could accept.
“Okay, I need to call the dragons.”
I went to the wall and searched for a gap big enough before slipping outside. The branch under my feet was thick and reached out far from the trunk. My heart raced as I looked down, nothing but leaves. Above I saw the night sky. A smile spread across my lips. Heights were thrilling, especially as I took slow careful steps out towards the end of the branch.
The wind made me wobble. I felt a little scared. Bending down I gripped the branch and lowered myself so I straddled the branch, gripping it tight with my thighs. The air lifted my hair and tickled behind my ears.
I prodded at the fire they had left inside of me the last time we met. I gasped as it flared to life and then screamed as it burned a searing hot pain inside my chest, burning me from the inside out.
Then it stopped.
I clutched my chest and rolled forward so my cheek rested against the wood. “What was that?”
That was hell, painfully hot. It throbbed inside my ribs now with after burn. But I could feel a pull.
“That’s them,” I whispered to myself.
The pull was consistently growing and I figured that meant they were coming they were flying up to the heavens to me, following the same pull I felt.
Soon I heard a loud Whoosh! Whoosh! The leaves rattled and then they were blasted from the branches, their sides scraping my skin as they went flying away. Air pushed at me.
I lifted my head and saw them both. They had grown since the last time. “Hi there,” I yelled.
Nessebit, with his long skinny body and blue glistening scales, tilted his head and glared down at me. What do you want this time? His voice spoke inside my head.
“I need your help.”
The two dragons hovered above, their wings spread out and beating wind so the trees bowed down. Nessebit, the larger of the two carefully tried to lower his body so it would lie flush against a tree trunk, claws digging into the bark.
His younger sister, with her fat body, elongated neck and huge wings, remained airborne. All I could see of her was her red scaled belly.
Then ask, he barked in my head.
My fingers tightened around the branch, the bottom of my stomach dropping away as I wobbled. “Do you know about the angels?”
We have heard things.
“Have you heard they want to turn Alizaria into a crystal?”
Nessebit tilted his head to the side. He watched me intently.
I licked my lips. Don’t stammer, I begged myself. “I want to… no, I have to stop them… but the only way I can is by taking on the magic of the Gods.”
“You will no longer have your freedom.”
Hot steam shot out from his nostrils. We were trapped for so long! Only now do we have our freedom back.
His sister whined before shooting up into the sky and disappearing from sight.
“We can stop them. I don’t have the strength to hold the magic of the Gods for long, but I know I can use it to imprison them inside individual crystals, without letting it spread to the rest of the world,” I hope.
Nessebit chuckled deep in his throat, rumbling and vibrating the tree. Leaves rained down. Serves them right.
“I need you to take the magic and hold it for me. When we get to Amber City then I need you to give it back to me so I can use it.”
He was silent.
“Please,” I added.
What makes you think I can hold that much magic?
Uh? “Because you’re a dragon and dragons are awesome.”
If his scales could blush I swear that’s what he was doing. He looked away from me, the corners of his lips twisting upward.
“Will you help me?” I pleaded.
“Thank you… um can you drop down to the ground and wait for me there please?”
Rolling his eyes, he released his claws and slid straight down the length of the tree with another Whoosh! Unsteadily I climbed to my feet and wobbled back inside the tree.
Fate had calmed, she laid with her head in Grace’s lap, still muttering under breath. Grace stroked her hair back and was humming a lullaby. I jumped down, my feet slapping the floorboards. They looked at me startled.
“Get up.” I stomped my way over to where the others had left.
I didn’t stop to answer. Poking my head between the branches I looked out and found nothing. Deep breath in to my diaphragm. “Father, Mother, Hecate! Come back here!”
“What is it?”
I twisted my head to the side.
Hecate stood on a branch obliquely above me, leaning her back against the tree.
“We are doing it now, down on the ground with the dragons. Where’s Mother and Father?” I explained.
Hecate looked down on me and sighed. It was a long drawn out breath. “I’ll go find them and meet you on the ground.” A step forward off the branch. She dropped, the dress and her gold tangled curls dragging after herself.
I watched till the leaves blocked her from my view.
Back inside I found Grace and Fate hadn’t shifted. They still watched me with concern. “What is it Blair?”
“The dragons are here. We need to hurry and transfer the magic now.”
Fate broke into a cry again. What was with her and the dragons? But Grace was smiling. “Help me get her downstairs.”
Together we held Fate suspended between us, one of her arms draped over my shoulder. Grace had to bend her knees to match my height. Slowly we ambled down the stairs. Fate’s head flopped over and buried itself in my hair. She sobbed, “I can’t, I can’t see what’s coming, everything is dark.”
Once outside we placed her gently on the ground beside Hecate. To her left Father lounged and on his far left was Mother. In the centre Nessebit curled himself into a spiral, his tail tucked under his chin.
His eyes watched intently as we moved into position.
Grace sank to the ground, completing the circle. I stepped up to the dragon. Hesitantly I placed a hand on his nose. He snorted, covering me in steam. I glared back at him in return.
No one dared to speak.
I focused on visualising my golden glow of magic, noticing how it rippled and flowed over and around my body. The others I imagined their magic just like before. Emptying my lungs of all other air, I prepared to breathe in.
Picturing it to be like airstreams, I sucked in their magic. They pulled away from their owners and into me, filling my lungs with their shimmery light. All around me I heard groans, light and hard as the last of their magic left them.
I clamped my mouth shut and turned to the dragon. Bending forward I pursed my lips and pressed them against the scales between his eyes. Slowly I released the breath.
Nessebit blew out more steam. It surrounded us, making my hands sticky with sweat. I didn’t stop till all of their magic had left my body, passing over to him in streams of light.
I pulled back and opened my eyes.
Nessebit winked at me.
“It worked,” my voice was hoarse. There was a residual glow where I had kissed him and I could see the magic flowing through Nessebit.
Stand back, he gruffly ordered.
I leapt out of the circle and watched as he stretched out and then with a flap of his wings shot off into the air, shoving branches and leaves aside. “Don’t forget me!” I called after him, grinning.
The response was a chuckle.
Abruptly my grin disappeared. “Grace!” I rushed over to her slumped body. The others were the same, fallen to the side and not moving in any way. Why weren’t they breathing?
I lifted her into my lap. She was dead weight and limp. Shaking, slapping and screaming didn’t elicit a response from her at all. With shaky fingers I checked for a pulse.
“What is going on? Why aren’t you answering to me?!”
I looked over at Fate. Had she known something? Letting Grace down I scrambled over to Fate, twigs cutting into my palms as I did.
She had scribbled something in the dirt, had cleared a space in the leaves and left a message. Dark = Death. Goodbye darling girl.
“What?” my body went into shock. I shook violently. Rocking back forth I cradled this woman’s body close and let the tears stream and the cries rack my body. I shuddered with each gasp for air. My nose became blocked and throat tight, each breath was a fight.
Why had this happened? Fate had told me I could take her magic… was it because of the dragons? Did it have to do with them holding the magic now?
I laid her down gently, crossing her hands on top of her chest and brushed back a loose strand of hair from her cheek.
Air was pushed down on me and Nessebit landed.
I climbed to my feet and stumbled over. “What happened?”
He used his nose to nudge at Hecate. They died.
Because of me.
If I had taken the magic it would be like to like, I was half a God. By giving it to a dragon it was like it was stolen from them… did that mean the magic could never be returned? Was it what kept them alive before?
I dusted my hands over my pants and looked away from the lifeless forms. Jutting out my chin I climbed up Nessebit’s leg and settled myself in behind his head, slipping my finger under a scale and holding tight. “Let’s go.” There was no time for processing this, no time for more sentiment.
He rolled an eye backwards. Are you sure? We could be able to save them if we gave back their magic.
Could we? But then what? I would have to rely on Roy to help me finish off the angels… and I felt in my heart, it was time for the Gods to go. They were no longer needed to play with their toys anymore.
“We have to go. We can mourn them later.”
No other comment was needed. Nessebit bunched his body up like a spring and then leapt, pushing off from the ground, his wings flapping hard. Branches and the edges of the leaves sliced at my cheeks and arms. I huddled down low, keeping close to his neck.
We broke out from the tree tops, into the open sky.
I gasped and sat upright. It was like flying into water colour painting as it was drying, vibrant blues, violets, pinks and oranges running to each other and mixing along the edges, bleeding into the other. The wind whooshed by my ears, it was chilly and drew out tears.
Unexpectedly Nessebit’s sister appeared beside us, wings beating hard.
“What’s your sister’s name?” I asked out of curiosity.
They cut through the sky quickly, heading downward. Once we left the heavens I looked back. It was a floating disc from below, looking like the moon in the sky. I could just see along the edge the trees that crowded the topside.
Turning back around I stared in wonder. We were heading directly for one planet with a blue green marbling effect on it. Right beside that, just touching in places but spinning faster was a similar colour, only a little duller and with different shapes. On the other side was a planet in reds, yellows and oranges and again it was just touching.
Tilting my head, I saw another cluster of planets off to the left, then another lot to the right. Twisting my neck, I saw a gathering of five under the heavens. So many still alive and free. How many worlds had the Gods created?
Nessebit sighed, the sound rumbling through his body and into me.
“What is it?” I screamed, but the wind carried my words over my shoulder instead. Calming down I focused on the dragon’s fire inside of me and connected it with him. “What’s wrong?”
This magic… it is strong, unbelievably.
“Can you hold it?”
Not for too long I think. How did such tiny beings hold such power and wield it for so long?
“I don’t know… but they gave it up so we can stop the angels and Roy, so maybe they…” I stopped it there. “So, where have you and your sister been all of this time?”
That was informative.
I marvelled. “I wonder why it is so colourful here. On Earth the sky is either blue during the day or black at night with white pin pricks for stars. Where are those?”
That down there is more than a planet, inside that is everything you see and have explored as humans.
“But it’s the wrong colour…”
He was silent. If I was a betting woman I would say he was rolling his eyes at me. We’re almost there.
My muscles were tensing up. I had to make them release and relax. Not yet, I thought. Stay calm and don’t use up all of your energy just yet. Just like Nessebit, I stretched out, rolling my shoulder, kinking my lower back and then released it all and settled back down.
The first thing to do was get the magic from Nessebit and take it inside my heart. As Fate had said.
Don’t think about her…!
Then I will have to find a sword. Next, find Herrick… if he was still alive.
Don’t think like that…!
Would he be fighting against the angels or against Roy? Or would he be waiting for me to come and then he would decide?
Don’t worry just yet! Deal with all of that stuff once you’re on the ground.
There was a slight hesitation in Nessebit as he pushed his nose through the planet. I shivered as I moved through. This was a bubble of sorts surrounding the world, gelatinous and freezing cold.
Once inside, it took a second for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. Gone were the bright shimmering colours, replaced with black and white points of light. “How is it that I can breathe in here? Are we in space?” No wind blew against us, my hair stayed in place and I had no problem speaking to Nessebit.
Nessebit’s shoulders rose up and sank back down, lifting and dropping me. It’s just possible.
“But what about the planet’s atmosphere? Won’t we burn up as we enter it?” I laid down almost flat against his neck and closed my eyes tight, afraid this was going to be the end of things. What a bizarre way too die, especially when people depended on me.
You’re with a dragon, that is very unlikely.
And he was right. As we broke into the atmosphere of the planet there was some buffering to push through for Nessebit and his sister, but there were no flames or horrible pain as we entered. It was an anticlimax. I sighed and sat upright again, pushing away the realisation that I was looking forward to pain and death.
Florence finally broke away from us and went spiralling down to the land on her own.
I stared after her. “Where is she going?”
Sneak attack on the outer walls. We are going to be one giant target as we fly straight in for the middle of the action.
I swallowed. “I should take the magic now.”
Do you know how?
“Yes,” I answered. “Do you think we should do it now?”
We are almost there…
The choice was mine, again. I closed my eyes and focused on blocking out everything around us. The wind disappeared, as did the rhythmic pulsing of wings underneath myself.
There was the magic, inside of the dragon’s head, just under the scale. I called to it with my own golden light which sung softly like a lullaby. Its colours were blurring together turning into a coppery hue.
It pulled from him, poking first it’s head out from under the scale and then dragging the rest of the tail out. The magic slithered through the air to me.
Inside I visualised my heart to be like a box with a lock and a key. It was small and wooden, with decorative carvings all over it of animals from either world. The lock was gold and plain. The key I pushed into it was old fashioned and sparkling gold as well.
I twisted it gently and the lock clicked, releasing the lid. Lifting it I didn’t dare to look inside, instead I coaxed and invited the other magic in.
It pushed its head against my chest and shoved its way in. My back bent backwards and I cried out, but it wasn’t painful and horrible, there was an edge of pleasure to it.
Once inside the magic went diving into the box. I slammed the lid back down, twisted the key and pulled it out. The magic settled inside coiling in around it and waited.
It was heavy in there, weighing me down. But the magic didn’t fight back or make a nuisance of itself.
I opened my eyes. “We’re here already?”
The city glowed amber in the afternoon light. Even from high above I could hear the clanging of metal and the screams of people being injured. My shoulders tightened. So close.
Nessebit swooped down and landed on the wall, his claws crushing the stonework, some blocks falling to smash whatever was below. He lowered his tail until the tip touched the ground. Go! He ordered.
I spun round in my seat and pushed off, sliding down between his wings, along his back and off the end of his tail. Once I was off he lifted his tail and pushed off, flapping into the sky, roaring as he went. His sister, Florence, suddenly appeared and dropped several people from her claws just metres from me. She swooped away.
I ducked automatically. “Whoa!”
Looking about I spotted someone dead, their sword still clasped in their hands. I ignored the smashed-in skull but snatched the sword from him and ran, heading towards the palace.
As I raced along the street I came across a few fighters in opposing uniforms, duelling it out. A couple stopped when they spotted me and attacked. I sliced them down, letting my body take over. It felt amazing to let go. They had no real skill like Herrick.
I rushed to the gate and found it wide open and the battle in full rage inside. A Lord Drake was laid out in the entrance gasping for air. I crouched beside him. “Where is Herrick?”
His eyes were unfocused.
“Where is Roy?”
Nothing. As a mercy I drew the blade along his throat. His breath gurgled. I ignored it and stood up.
“Where is he?” As I yelled I sensed something coming. Heading fast. Determined to kill me.
Then I saw it.
A force field went up and the arrow froze mid-air. It hung there for several seconds, centimetres from my face, before shooting backwards the way it had come and impaling the shooter through the eye socket. She screamed out in pain, dropping the bow to clutch her eye.
I felt nothing in empathy. I’d become desensitised.
Touching a hand to my belly I was reassured that she protected me. “Let’s do this Aislinn.”
I stumbled to a stop. That voice… what was he doing here? Spinning on my heel I stared at Dathan. “What the fuck? I thought you went home?”
He threw his leg over and slid down from Brodie’s back. The dark unicorn tossed his head in the air and snorted before clip-clopping over to my side. Using his nose, he shoved at me, getting me to move away from the gates and into Dathan’s arms.
I shoved them both away. “What the fuck are you doing?” Confusion made me blunt.
“Getting you out of trouble.” Dathan beckoned me over. “I want you to get out of here safely, let me go and fight.”
I shook my head violently. “I don’t have time for this. I know what I have to do to stop the angels, I have the magic to do it, only I can do it. Please don’t make me go. Not because I’m pregnant or because you love me and want me to be safe or because I’ll just get in the way out there.”
I stared at him, my jaw hanging open. I hadn’t been expecting that.
“I knew you wouldn’t leave the battle just because I asked… I had hoped. So I won’t force you but I’m not leaving you to fight this on your own.” He withdrew a sword from his hip and lifted it in front of his face before slicing it to the side and flourishing a bow, all with a completely serious face. “I will not abandon you. My sword is your sword. My life is your life.”
A bubble of hope rose up in my chest. I bit my tongue. No way could I refuse him… but what if he was working with Lucy and was planning on killing me as soon as I turned my back on him?
Tell me little one, internally I asked the baby. What do you sense about your daddy?
The bubble of hope was joined with more, little bubbles, dozens of them filling my chest with the emotion.
I nodded my head. “Okay. Are you ready then?”
“Yes.” he straightened up.
I frowned at the sword. “Where did that come from?” I didn’t recognise it. It wasn’t the Nameless sword. I hoped Dathan would have what I needed to get the job done.
He flushed bright red and lowered his eyes. “From home. I kept it in the shed up in the rafters.”
“Okay. Well, I need to find Herrick first.” I moved quickly in my mind over what had to be done.
Even though he stiffened at the mention of the other man’s name Dathan nodded. “Fine. You will be better off riding the unicorn in through the crowd. That will give you some advantage over your enemy. Who are we fighting?”
“For now, anyone trying to kill us.” And I hope that isn’t you. I swallowed. Please, don’t give your loyalty to my enemy.
Nimbly, I swung myself up and onto Brodie’s back and took a handful of his black mane into one fist. My borrowed sword I kept in my right hand. Dathan threw himself up behind me on the horse and kicked his flank.
I looked over my shoulder at Dathan as Brodie whinnied from the attack. He shifted uncomfortably under us but started forward.
Dathan’s arms snaked around my waist and he took a handful of mane. We started moving back into the fray.
It was frustrating. “Let go Dathan.” I snapped.
He did as he was told but only so he could turn in his seat and chop at those who came within swinging distance. Hack and chop, the blade sliced through flesh and sent limbs flying. Screams grated along my nerves.
“Go Brodie!” I urged him on. He surged forward and when he came against a group of fighters he reared up flailing his hooves and smacking those in front. I hugged his neck.
Dathan had no hold on the beast. His warm presence disappeared from behind and around me. I turned around as the hooves landed with a sudden thud.
Someone grabbed Dathan roughly by the scruff and hauled him up to his feet. Once there, Dathan swung his sword with speed and accuracy, cutting the man down.
Spinning around he clashed swords with another man in a different uniform.
Brodie carried us through quickly, not stopping for anything in front of him. I heard people squeal as they had to run out of our way. Brodie reared up then settled. I looked at the ground and saw a young Lord Drake trampled underneath, still twitching.
The further we moved in the thicker the people were and the more trampled over the uneven path littered with flinching bodies. Brodie’s hooves slipped on the pooling, flowing blood.
He went down hard, knocking me from my seat. I landed awkwardly on top of a warm, dead body. I groaned and shoved myself upright. My hands were wet and covered in blood. I wiped them and re-adjusted my grip on the sword.
A war cry spun me around on instinct, thrusting my sword into an attacker’s belly. He groaned and fell.
Standing I yanked the blade free and turned back around to dodge a swinging axe.
I don’t have time for this. I have to find Herrick. Where are they fighting?
Not once had I seen a single angel nor Roy. So where the hell were they?
Above, the air pushed down on us, causing many to cower. I looked up to see the Florence hovering, her belly blowing up like a balloon. I gasped as I realised what she was planning on doing.
Slipping and sliding on my way I rushed over to Brodie, who found his way upright and was now picking his way out of the mess, heading to the doors to the palace.
I threw my arms around his neck and screamed. Panic constricted my airways making it painful. There was a shift just at the right moment and a pulse of a force field went out.
The heat from the flames pushed its way into our protected little bubble and beared down. Sweat rose up and broke over my neck.
It lasted for only a handful of seconds. Once the sound ended I felt the force field fall and the magic returned to inside my belly, to Aislinn. I looked over myself, nothing wrong. Brodie was fine.
Finally, I turned and the stench hit. It was sour and stung my eyes and sat heavy in the back of my throat. Flames were burning the flesh and clothes of the fallen on the ground. Screams, from those whose bodies were melting as they still lived, made me gasp in horror.
Then I realised I had missed someone.
I stumbled over to where I last saw him before pulling back the smell of burning fat causing my gut to clench and forced everything inside up. I doubled over and retched.
He was dead. Oh God, Dathan could be one of those melting men!
I cried out. My heart was breaking.
Or if he was lucky he could be being killed with a sword, axe or hit in a vital artery with an arrow and be dead before the fires.
Or… I looked up with hope, swiping at my mouth. I know it was hopeless that when the force field went out I didn’t feel it reach out to protect the father of my unborn child, but I still looked.
No-one stood unharmed.
I cried, the tears pouring from my stinging eyes. My hands clutched at my belly. “Dathan!” His name was torn from my throat as I screamed.
No doubt about what happened.
Behind me Brodie neighed and knocked his head into my shoulder. The door behind him swung open and there I saw two angels.
They poked their heads out, perfectly clean and unharmed.
White hot anger took hold of me. I gripped the sword in my hand tight, my knuckles going pale against the blood smeared over my fingers.
They stared at me, a couple showing fear as they recognised my face, and its anger. “Close the doors!” one yelled and began to slam them shut.
Brodie rushed forward, rearing up and kicking at the angels who stood in the way.
They fell backwards.
I followed closely behind my unicorn, using the sword I had to hack and slice at those on the floor. They may be immortal and immune to any man made weapon but their screams made me feel pleased. Brodie stood on top of them, his hooves burying themselves into their limbs and drawing out blood.
My arm froze as it was ready to descend on my victims again. I looked up. Herrick stood at the top of the stairs, his sword in his sheath. Beside him stood an angel whose face was contorted in anger, lips curled back and teeth barred.
Herrick looked at my black unicorn and then back at me.
I felt my lips twist in a sick smirk. “I know how to now…”
He nodded. “Okay, well then I have something for you.” With swiftness he smoothly withdrew his sword, swung it round and cut the angel from hip to shoulder before kicking him down the stairs. With a yell he threw the sword.
It spun several times in the air, flipping over its self before striking the wooden door beside me with a loud thunk, embedding the blade deeply.
I knew that sword. It had been years since I had seen it and I had never looked upon it in its whole form. “The Nameless sword.” On its own, my hand grasped the hilt. It felt good, like it belonged there in my grasp. The other sword dropped from my hand as I pulled out Nameless.
It slid out effortlessly.
Brodie lifted his hooves and moved further out, rearing up to kick back the hissing angel Herrick sent down the stairs. He lashed out.
Imagining the magic seeping out from my heart, just a little bit, and mixing with the golden light of my own I saw it stream down my arm and pour into the blade. The sword vibrated in my hand.
Dramatically I pointed the tip of the sword at the angel attacking Brodie and visualised him turning into a crystal.
Screaming the angel stumbled back then stopped as his legs froze, a layer of something jagged and shiny began at his feet and worked its way up. He slapped at the crystal. Then he stood still.
My shoulder ached, I dropped the sword down and tried as hard as I could not to collapse.
Behind me the other two stumbled to their feet and charged at me, parting and aiming for opposite sides of me.
I aimed not at either of them but down the middle and visualised the stream of magic splitting and hitting both at the same time and freezing them. But it didn’t happen. The magic split but hit behind the angels, one crystallising the front door making it impossible to cross the threshold again. The other stream of magic smacked the wall and scattered like a snowflake pattern.
I gritted my teeth and aimed at one and shot the magic as his partner brought a fist down on my outstretched arms, knocking the tip of the sword down and into the floor. The tiles there froze.
Herrick threw himself at the attacking angel. They hit the floor with a grunt and rolled away from me.
My attention zeroed in on the angel who was partly frozen. His legs were stuck and one hand. The other arm flapped out as he tried to pull away or do something. I lifted the sword. The absolute fear on his face made me hesitate. “You will regret this!”
Which galvanised me to continue.
Turning from the new crystal sculpture I found Herrick was on the bottom, arms raised up and curved around the sides of his head as the angel rained fists down on him. I couldn’t do it, not with Herrick in the way. I didn’t have enough control over the magic to direct it properly. “Herrick!” I yelled at him.
I could hear footsteps above getting louder, along with voices.
We had to hurry. “Get out of the way!”
“Hard to do that.” His response was muffled but I could still hear it. “Just do it!”
Gritting my teeth, I charged over and stabbed the sword into the angel’s exposed back… then twisted it. The angel arched his back, his arms flapping out to the side and screamed.
Again, I saw the magic flowing from my heart and into the sword and in turn into the angel and turning into crystal as it passed.
Herrick wriggled his way out from underneath and stood back to watch. He wiped some blood collecting at the corner of his mouth.
I pulled the sword out and saw the crystalline hole I’d made. The screams stopped.
We heard more approaching.
“How many are here?”
Herrick closed his eyes and frowned. “One hundred. I think that’s all of them.”
“And they’re all upstairs?”
“Yes, except Lucy…” Herrick added.
“Where is she?” my heart stopped when he said her name. Where could that woman be and what was she doing?
“The last time I saw her she was sleeping on the lounge in the library and no-one could get her to wake up, even though the battle had begun.” He looked around, his eyes stopping on Brodie. “Is that a unicorn?”
“He’s a Drace creature, a shape shifter. Don’t ask.” I shook my head and turned to face the stairs. “I wonder if I could try and freeze them together?”
Herrick came to my side. “What are you doing?” there was wonder in his voice. His hand rose and reached out on its own to touch the sword. Then looked at me and lowered his arm again.
“The sword is like a wand and helps me to direct the magic. But how do you have it? And how did you know I could use it?”
He shrugged. “I’ve had the sword for years. One day it was there instead of my regular blade… then I had a dream where a woman told me to keep it with me at all times and only ever give it to you.”
I focused on my objective. “Where is Roy?”
“I don’t know. Haven’t you been fighting by his side?” His face paled.
This was bad. How could we have lost one of the most dangerous people to Alizaria when we needed him the most to be in our sight? I feared I would have to use the magic on him… it was just a gut feeling that he wouldn’t stop even if there were no more angels.
“No. But I wouldn’t worry too much, he won’t be able to help himself. He has to come here and fight with someone. Either way we will find him.”
“But can you stop him?” Herrick insisted on an answer.
I paused. Fate had said I would need Roy if I had taken the magic directly into my heart like she had said, that he would finish the job off and forfeit his life in the process. But with Nessebit, shouldn’t that mean I wouldn’t need him at all and in fact I could be the one to kill him?
“Good,” he nodded. “First you need to get rid of them.”
Together we rushed up the stairs to see the hall filled with angels charging. When those in the front saw it was me and recognised the sword in my hand they turned around and tried to flee. But those behind them didn’t know what was ahead and pushed them forward.
I raised the sword and took aim.
Herrick stepped back.
I summoned out more of the magic, making sure to leave some still trapped inside of my heart for Lucy or anyone who did escape. It flowed warmly from me and into the blade before shooting out. One by one and then a couple at a time were hit by the stream and turned into crystal blocking the hallway.
“Get back! Run! She has the magic of the Gods!”
About thirty remained, all on the other side. Their footsteps retreated.
I growled and kicked at one crystal angel, before swearing because it hurt.
Herrick tapped me on the shoulder. “What?” I snapped.
“The unicorn.” Beside him Brodie stood and tossed his head.
I leapt up and onto his back and gripped his mane with one fist. “Go,” I urged him.
Lowering his head, he charged at the crystal sculptures in front. His gold horn crashed into each one and shattered them. He began to gallop. Once we were free I aimed at the backs of the running angels and shot the magic at them.
It was done. I jumped down from Brodie and leaned heavily against his flank. My head ached and all over my joints were stiff and sore.
“Blair! It’s over!” Herrick came running, pumping his fists into the air as he did.
He was wrong.
Lucy appeared in front of me. She used her own blade to knock Nameless from my hand before grabbing me with her other, pulling me forward. “You and I have to talk, Blair.” With those words she forced her lips onto mine and kissed me hard.
I shook my head trying to dislodge her, my face scrunching up. I shoved at her shoulders and finally she released me and stepped back.
We were no longer inside the palace
We were back in the dream world, in my back garden again. The sun glistened off the wet grass. I guess it must have rained while we were gone.
I tried hard not to look at the house, not to remember all of the time Dathan and I had spent together inside that place. Everything we had said and done. Every feeling.
My heart was breaking. Maybe I could use the magic left inside of me not to kill Lucy but to bring him back. It was the power of the Gods after all, surely I could do something.
We’d argued and the love that was between us was almost gone but I didn’t want to live in a world where he was dead. I didn’t want our child to be born without her dad. I gasped for air.
“Stop crying,” Lucy ordered.
My fingers reached up and found my cheeks damp with tears. When had I started? “I can’t.”
“Why? Why are you crying?”
She didn’t know. Obviously she had no clue that Dathan had died in the dragon’s fire when the two armies were fighting while the angels were relaxing inside. That thought made my tears dry up quickly. I clenched my jaw. “Dathan died.”
“No,” she whispered. I could hear pain in her voice. When I turned to face her I could see it etched over her face. Did she have honest feelings for him? He had confessed they’d had a relationship, which may have continued for all I knew. Of course she would feel something, she was a woman. That’s what makes us women.
“You killed him. If it wasn’t for this stupid war between the angels and the Gods and Roy, he would never have gotten involved and he would still be alive.” I stormed over and took her shirt front into my fists, shaking her. “My daughter wouldn’t be fatherless before she is even born!”
Something in what I said made Lucy change. Her eyes focused and she began to cackle. Using one hand she unlatched my fingers, painfully bending them back till I let go of her. “What do I care for your brat? It’s just going to be another screaming little beast that will grow old and die.”
I slapped her cheek. It smartened a bright red.
She smirked. “Do you want to know something? Angels can never have children. It is a physical impossibility for us to do so, no matter how much we want to have a baby of our own. Yet we must be the midwives at the births of all spirit witches. We have to help a mortal become a mother to another being, when we know about the pregnancy.”
Her hand reached out and brushed gently against my abdomen. I stumbled back several steps. “Don’t touch me!” I snapped.
“Your family is rather annoying at how you keep secrets. One, Roy, we did not know about. We could easily accept that; he was born on this side of the gate. But two in one family and both had been born over here? That is too much to be a coincidence. It would seem Fate was interfering.”
“You will never lay a single finger on my child,” I warned her. “I don’t care what I have to do, you will not be present for her birth.”
Lucy giggled. “I know that. You have killed all of my brothers and sisters. You want to kill me now… but where is your sword?”
I clenched my fist around nothing but air. What could I use now? I could try using just my hands. Wrap them around her slender pale throat and squeeze the magic into her.
“I know what you are thinking. You have no control over it, do you?”
“That doesn’t mean I won’t still kill you.”
“No, but without something to direct the stream of magic you run the risk of turning everything else, including Alizaria and your beloved home on the other side of the gate into crystals.”
Ignoring reason, I threw myself at the woman, tackling her to the ground. We rolled but I got on top first and slammed my fist into her face. Still she laughed like it was nothing. Didn’t she feel any pain?
As I raised my arm to hit her again she rolled her hips, dislodging me from my seat and climbed on top of me. She reached for her sword and aimed the tip at my throat. My hands flopped back onto the grass, the miniature green blades pricking the skin there. “Why do any of it?!”
She tilted her head to the side.
Before she could anything, the baby reacted.
Inside of me I felt the shift. The baby was under threat and she reacted by sending out a pulse of a force field. Lucy was lifted and tossed several metres away from me, her sword landing out of her reach.
I sat up and looked at it. I needed my sword, Nameless, that Herrick had been carrying around for years just to give to me when I needed it most. I needed its magical abilities.
Picturing it inside my head, eyes closed, I willed myself to wake up from this world of Lucy’s and to have Nameless within reach.
The light changed. It was dark and the warmth in the day was gone.
I opened my eyes and looked around.
I was no longer in the back garden. The throne room looked the same as last time. I frowned. What was I doing in here? Where was the sword? I had focused on the sword and it had brought me back from that other world.
“Blair? Is it over?”
I turned to look at Herrick. In his hand was Nameless and beside him, Roy.
Shaking my head, I strode over to the men. “No. And she will be here any second, so I need the sword once again.”
Roy stepped between us.
“Move!” I boomed.
“No. We had a deal and you haven’t completed what you have set out to do.”
Was he insane? “I killed all of the angels but Lucy. And if you step aside and let me take that sword, I can finish what I promised.”
He eyed me carefully.
I straightened my shoulders and moved in close. “You will not take my baby away from me. I refuse to give you any more magic, so move before I kill you here and now.”
His eyes flicked away and he stepped aside.
I snatched the sword from Herrick before anyone else could stop me. This was my sword, I needed it to protect everything I held dear.
“Come back!” The words echoed in my head so loud I slapped my free hand over one ear and squeezed my eyes shut.
What was that?
When I opened my eyes I was greeted with the sight of Lucy charging at me, her sword raised.
Quickly I lifted my blade and clashed with her. She snarled. We broke apart and began to circle each other, careful not to take our eyes off the other’s weapon.
“I didn’t let you go.” She muttered
How did I do it? I had never teleported on my own before. The only times I had done so was with the help of boiled magic. So where did this come from?
“You can’t be one,” she sliced through the air with her blade.
I leapt back. “One what?” This time I lunged at her.
I stumbled backwards out of range. Did she just say the word God? That’s what Roy wanted to be, someone who could create and destroy in seconds and control beings. That’s what the angels had wanted, to take what the Gods had and play their own games.
How could I be compared to them?
“I don’t know what you are talking about?”
She rolled her eyes. “Grace told you about your origin, didn’t she?”
“Then you know already you are part God. With the magic from all of them, that makes you one of them… how did you get them to give it to you?”
“They wanted me to stop you. They knew I could do it no matter what.”
She rushed at me. Again the baby felt her anger was directed at us and reacted. Lucy went sailing in the air and landed beside the gate. She groaned and didn’t leap up with the same energy.
Slowly, I strolled over to her. “I know it isn’t fair to use the power my child has to defend during a fight.”
“Then don’t.” She was still on her knees, struggling to get up.
What was wrong with her? It was startling to see someone like her so hurt, a woman I once looked up to when I was a teenager, someone I envied for her beauty and grace and strength. So why the hell was she so affected by a little throw from an unborn spirit witch?
“What is it?”
She looked at me surprised, her blue eyes shining in the sunlight. “Haven’t you noticed the difference?”
“Difference in what?”
She gave a humourless laugh, grimaced and then bent to the side to spit out a mouthful of blood. Where had that come from? “That child of yours is more than an ordinary spirit witch. Due to the fact you are a daughter of the Gods and have taken their magic on it has been passed onto your own child.”
My left hand settled over my belly. There was strange warmth there, like she was glowing on the inside… similar to the way I pictured my other magic glow. I struggled not to throw up. What had I done to my child? What kind of mutations were taking place inside of me because of the magic I had acquired? Would she be part dragon from the fire there?
No, worse. Would she be a God? Was she absorbing the residual magic from the gods as we speak? What had she inherited because I was a freak of nature?
Lucy made it to her feet. “If she had been just a normal little witch, or even you for that matter then you know there would be no effect,” she said in a matter of fact tone.
“I know. So this is why you were all afraid of me and wanted to take my head off my shoulders.”
“Yes. First we tried to make it so you would never want to come back to Alizaria.” She smiled. “I know you loved Dathan.”
At the mention of his name my heart clenched.
“But you loved Alizaria more. You should never have been with him.” A single tear rolled down her cheek and landed on the ground.
I focused on that, not wanting to look her in the eye. “Shut up. I loved him.”
“Not really.” There was a hiccup in her voice.
“Why? Why do you have the right to mourn him? He was my boyfriend! We were having a baby together! Maybe one day in the future we could marry and live happily ever after! It was part of the prophecy that he and I would love each other! So why do you get to cry over him?” My throat caught and I realised I was shaking hard. Pressing the tip of the sword into the ground I leaned heavily against the handle. My chest ached. I doubled over and rested my forehead against my clenched fingers.
“I’m not human,” she whispered. “But I’m still a woman.”
“And this is what makes us women?” I screamed out the words. They bounced back at me from the ground in an echo.
The pain of loss and giving up the things we love was excruciating. Would it ever stop? Would I ever be happy? There was a little flutter inside of my belly. There was my answer, of course I would be, I would have her with me.
I wouldn’t be alone.
Then it hit me. Lucy was completely alone now. Everyone she had ever known and had considered to be her family was dead… because of me. I had killed them. And now I would have to do the same to her.
I straightened, forcing myself to stay strong and not to fall to the ground crying. This was the time to be an adult. “I’m sorry Lucy.”
Roughly she brushed away the tears. “I’m sorry too. Don’t take it personally when I kill you.”
I snorted. Swinging the sword around my shoulders in little circles, only turning my wrists as I did. “I will not die today.”
She raised her own sword and calmly walked over to me.
I frowned. Where was her fighting spirit?
I circled her as she approached.
“Now stand still.” Her voice was flat.
Either she was crazy to think I was going to fight her like this or… she wanted me to just end it all and was going through the motions so she didn’t have to ask.
I pointed the tip, aiming it directly at the centre of her chest. Using the magic trapped inside of my heart I poured it into the blade.
She gave a mighty battle cry and rushed me.
I should’ve closed my eyes. As soon as I looked at her face, beautiful as it was being contorted as she yelled, I hesitated.
Three steps forward she twisted her hips and disappeared from my line of vision. I knew instantly where she had gone and what she was about to do. Lucy was a predator.
Reversing my sword, the blade tucked under my arm, the tip stabbing into the person behind me. She hissed in my ear and I shivered. That sound will always be trapped inside my head. I turned her into a crystal, yanking the blade free at the very last moment. The noise of the crystal forming was light and chimed like little bells, over the top of her gasps. Then there was silence.
It’s a statue now, just think of it as a statue, not Lucy imprisoned for ever.
Her arm was lifted, a knife gripped in her palm, it had curved out and around ready to slice through my throat. The tip of her sword was positioned low approximately where my lower back had been.
My knees gave out and I landed on the grass with a thump. Tears streamed down my face. For the second time that day my heart broke.
“Haven’t you noticed the difference?”
She was right, the words echoed throughout my head as if she was saying them right into my ear. Desperately I clutched the sword with both of my hands. “Please,” I pleaded. “Take it. Take all of the magic I have. I know I can trust you to protect it.”
I knew it was still inside of me. It would never leave me if I let it stay, the magic had no other home to go to… other than to Aislinn.
“Please.” I begged the blade.
It responded. Glowing brilliant blue, the blade whispered back to me, yes. Then the magic was being sucked from my body. All of the power I had taken from the gods was leaving my heart and entering the sword.
I cried out when it finished, collapsing exhausted, the back of my head smacking into the earth. It felt empty in my chest now, hollowed out
I could feel Aislinn’s spirit magic. But the dragon’s fire was gone. As was my own other power. The sword had taken everything.
“Thank you,” I whispered to it.
Then my hand was empty. I closed my fist around nothing but air. Rolling to the side I looked down, searching for the sword. It was gone.
I smiled. It would go to someplace far away and secluded, a place where it can rest like it did before. I just knew it would be alright. If Nameless was ever needed again, then anyone whose cause was worthy and heart pure could call upon it and it would answer.
“See my darling,” I rolled back over and stared at the sky, my hand lazily drawing circles over my belly. “Everything will be fine. This is for the best.”
Mustn’t forget Roy.
Startled by the voice I shot straight up. Standing in front of me was the little girl again, Aislinn, my little girl. A smile broke across my face. “What do you mean why not, sweetie?”
“Why can’t we forget about Roy?”
Freaky. Could she read my mind? Or had I mumbled the words? Then it dawned on me, she was a part of my brain, not the real flesh and blood of my baby. Not yet anyway. So she of course knew what I was thinking, sort of.
“Well, he is still very dangerous to Alizaria.” I opened my arms.
She climbed in and snuggled her little nose against my neck, each inhale and exhale tickling me there. I rolled us backwards and stared up at the sky. She was so light, I gripped her tighter to my chest just to make sure she was really there.
“Hmm?” With my free hand I rubbed her back.
“Where are we?”
I couldn’t tilt my head to look her in the eye, her little skull was tucked under my chin. She had to be joking. “We’re here… right?”
Wriggling, Aislinn escaped and jumped to her feet. I followed suit and watched as her large brown eyes scanned the back garden, searching for something familiar. She shook her head. “I don’t like here.” She took a step closer to me and reached for my hand.
“Well, this isn’t the real place exactly. But this was my home growing up. See over there, that’s the gate to Alizaria.”
We moved around the house, the entire time Aislinn was glued to my hip. But she refused to go inside. I squatted down and tried to look her in the eye. “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t want to go inside,” her hair flicked out as she shook her head.
“That’s okay we don’t have to go in if you don’t want to…” now I was curious. What was really on the other side of that door? What was scaring my baby?
I straightened up. My feet moved on their own, carrying me across the grass. Then I stopped. The yank on my hand bringing me back to reality. “Mum! Mum! Don’t leave me!”
I turned back around. What was I doing? “I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking.” I wiped away the angry tears streaming down her face before pulling her in tight for a hug, my hand cupping the back of her head. “Hush, don’t cry.”
“But if you go in there, then you won’t ever ever come back. Ever.” Her tiny arms clutched around my neck.
Placing one hand under her bum I hoisted her up and stood, taking great strides away from the house. “We don’t ever have to go in their sweetie.”
Those words stung. But I knew that no matter what, I would give up everything for her., She was my world now. Goodbye home, Australia, Mum and Dad and everyone I knew on the other side of the gate. I will miss you.
She turned her head to look at the gate to Alizaria. Again she cried out. “Mum! No, don’t go.”
I came to a complete stop in the middle of the yard. “What is it this time?”
“I just want to stay here with you, Mum. Forever.”
Oh. If I went either way I would break free from this world of Lucy’s creating. Aislinn wasn’t born yet, she wouldn’t exist outside of here. I understood now. I squeezed her tight in my arms.
“We can stay for a little bit… but I’m going to have to leave sometime soon.”
Her eyes shot me straight through the heart. She felt such betrayal! I was learning already that children couldn’t understand the choices adults had to make. And now I was on the other side of that understanding. I’d grown up.
I sank down to the grass, crossing my legs and settling her in my lap. “I won’t be leaving you, I promise. This world isn’t reality. In any world I go into, you will be born. Right now you are in my belly, still with me.”
I’m not sure if she did understand what I was saying to her or if she believed it.
“I love you… you scared me before when I first found out that you existed… but I love you, always have.”
Her huge eyes blinked back at me and she said nothing.
I gave her one last squeeze, soaking in the warmth of her. This wasn’t going to be goodbye forever, just a see you later. She would be born in six months’ time and then I would get to hold her as much as I liked.
When I pulled back I knew I couldn’t just leave her. “Sweetie,” I rolled onto my back and allowed her to drop to my left side, where she cuddled in close. “Go to sleep, okay?”
She nodded her head and closed her eyes.
Softly I hummed a lullaby. It was the same one Mum sang to me as a child, using it whenever I needed to be comforted. I spoke the words to her. Her grip on me loosened, she went limp in my arms and her breathing changed.
Laying there in the sun I tried to commit all of it to my memory. This was what I would be looking forward to with her, just being with my daughter.
Carefully I extracted myself from her, making sure her head rested on top of her arm. She was curled up in the grass, looking like a fairy with her dirty bare feet and grass in her hair around her temples. One last kiss to her forehead, I stood and walked to the gate.
This was it. I would have to wait years before I could see her like this again. I walked through the gate backwards, never taking my eyes off of my little girl. Please don’t wake up, I wished. I couldn’t deal with her crying out; I would have to stay in this world.
But I had to go back to reality. I touched my belly. She was there still, I had to do everything I could to make Alizaria safe for her and make sure she came into the world as healthy as I could make her.
As I blinked the light changed.
When I opened my eyes, Aislinn was gone, the gate wasn’t there and the warmth of the sun bearing down on me was missing. Instead I was back in the throne room.
Herrick was facing me, he had another sword in hand and his face was bloodied.
“Herrick,” I gasped and rushed forward to him. My hands grasped his shoulders. He yelped at the contact, I pulled them away and looked at the red painting them. “What happened?”
“I am so glad you have returned my darling girl.”
Everything froze in my body. Spinning slowly, I faced Roy head on. Nothing was out of place with him, he was immaculately dressed and looked like he was about to entertain court, not kill someone. His lips were twisted into a smile.
“What happened here?” I repeated my question.
Roy tilted his head to the side.
Herrick answered me. “Stay away from him… Roy isn’t going to stop.”
I gasped. “It’s over Roy. You don’t have to imprison anyone, the angels are gone completely and we don’t have to fear them ever again. We can go home now.”
He snorted. “Home? Where is that Blair? This side of the gate or on the other side? Is this even our right timeline?”
I stared at the crazy lunatic. What was he babbling on about? “Roy… what is this really about?”
“You know that neither of these worlds is home for us. Don’t bother denying it, I can see it in your eyes. Earth was the place your body was born, but you spent too long away from it and everything changed on you again. Alizaria is where your spirit belongs but you have too many enemies here. This can never be a place for you to raise a child in a quiet safe home.”
Herrick lurched, I slipped under his arm and supported his weight against my shoulder. He tried to pull away, I held him tight. “Don’t.” Whispering to him, I kept my eyes on Roy.
“You have been to the heavens… in fact you went so far in, you’ve seen the entire place.”
I snorted, “There wasn’t much to see then.”
That comment made him lose his smile. “That is our home. That has always been the place for us.” He snapped at me.
“Do you think the Gods would want you to have their home?”
“They will welcome us in with open arms,” to demonstrate just exactly how they would he swung his arms out wide and grinned. “Because we are one and the same beings.”
“Well the Gods are dead.”
His smile broadened.
My heart dropped. No, he never wanted them to live… was that why he let me go to them and take their magic? Not because he hoped I could save Alizaria but he wanted me to be the one to kill them? “You sick bastard. Grace loved you!”
Something in his face shifted briefly, then it was gone. He shrugged.
“She wanted you to live, to survive all of this so then you guys could get together and be happy. How the hell can you not feel anything? She encouraged me to ignore Fate’s warning and use the dragons… that’s what killed them.”
“She knew what I wanted and this was her final gift to me.” Smug bastard.
Herrick hissed into my ear. “Blair, we have to kill him. There is no other way to stop Roy now. Where is the sword?”
My face burned. “It’s gone. The sword took the last of my magic and disappeared.”
“What?” Herrick’s face crashed. “What do you mean the magic and the sword are gone? You don’t have anything to fight him with?”
“I do.” Looking over at the man who was technically related to me in so many different ways, I felt my hatred for him peak. “I can still defeat him, on my own.”
A slight flush of hope spread across Herrick’s face and his body relaxed against me. But his voice was hard, as if he was preparing himself for the worse. “Don’t do anything stupid Blair.”
“Can you fight still?” I ignored his warning.
“Okay, let’s do this.” I glanced at the sword in his grip then turned away from it. Against Roy, it would be useless. I strolled back over to the centre of the throne room. Outside the windows the sky was turning orange.
Herrick stayed close to my side. “Roy, you don’t have the magic to crystallise this world and then create a new one.” He yelled.
“That is why I need her baby.” He sneered.
My hands automatically gripped my lower belly tight. No way was I giving her up to him, I was here to stop him and give her a safe future. “That isn’t going to happen.”
“Oh my dear girl, it has to. That daughter of yours possess great spirit magic as well as a slice of the power of the gods. I can see the glow clearly from over here.” He chuckled, then tilted his head to the side, considering for a moment. “Then again, you have an exceptionally stronger glow than before.”
“What?” He was wrong. I had no magic anymore. He must be completely bonkers… maybe I could use that against him… “Great, so now you want my magic as well?” I played along.
“Yours, coupled with your child’s and everything else I have collected will suffice.”
My eyes flickered to Herrick. “Where are the Elders and the Wizards?”
He pointed a finger at Roy.
Shit. “That’s disgusting.” I spat out the words and struggled not to let my growing fear show. Don’t shake, don’t let your voice break and don’t run.
“Their magic is strong, but it wasn’t the right sort… I need you.”
“I don’t need you.”
He cackled this time and took several steps forward. “Over all of the years you have yet been able to kill me… why do think that is?”
“Because I’m not a murderer.”
“Liar. You have killed many. Just not me.”
My tongue flicked out and licked my lips quickly. Think Fitzpatrick, think. With each step forward he took, I took one back. “Roy, think about this rationally. If you take my magic and that of my baby, you have to take our souls which means you would kill the only two living relatives of yours. You will be completely alone then.”
Did any of that get through to him? Did he want to stop at all?
“Blair. If you don’t want to die, that’s okay. Join me and we can create a new world together.”
Something got through to him, just not enough. “No. I can’t help you, I will not help you in anyway.”
“Then give up your magic,” he reached out a hand, a flash of lightening shooting from his palm. It arced across the room.
Aislinn blocked the lightening.
I had no magic other than Aislinn’s and that was a defensive. How am I going to stop him?
I tried one last time, pleading with him. “Roy, please stop. That’s enough. You don’t have to make anything new, Alizaria is fine as is.”
“My dear, we have everything we need now. We can start afresh. Maybe even bring back those who have died.”
My heart clenched. I shook my head. “You know that can never happen. You know that as soon as a soul pass over it will reincarnate in another body, so stop trying to tempt me with the impossible.”
“I’m sorry my dear, I just thought perhaps you would like some hope.”
“But I won’t give up. I will have my way no matter what I have to do to get it,” he snarled at me.
Herrick shoved me behind his back and readied his stance to charge. “Don’t!” I yelled the word at the same time Herrick started forward.
Roy barely glanced at him before knocking him to the side.
Herrick slid along the floor and crashed into the wall. He lifted his head and groaned.
I screamed. “Herrick!”
The side of my face hurt like hell. Why was I on the floor? Roy towered over me, his fists raised high again.
“Give it to me, you little bitch!”
The windows above Herrick shattered. I covered my head in a panic. Rushes of air pulled at my hair. Looking up I saw Roy cowering, he stumbled away from me, never taking his eyes off of the dragon.
I lurched forward, my head aching like hell and stumbled over. Nessebit reached out a claw. I grasped it, using it to support my weight.
“Give me your baby’s magic and your own.” Roy demanded.
“No.” I swallowed hard.
“Then I will just have to take them from the both of you.”
The talon I had been pressing against shoved me forward with a flick. I stumbled and glared over my shoulder. “Help me,” I begged Nessebit.
Nessebit shook his head. Some friend. He pushed off from the windows edge and flapped his wings. The wind howled through the window.
I faced Roy. No matter what, he was going to always try to take something from me. And I would never be strong enough to stop him.
Maybe it would be best if she was never born.
I shook from the shock of what I had just considered. Could I kill my child, send her soul off to reincarnate inside a different mother? Was I seriously considering sacrificing her to stop him?
Tears streamed down my face. With her I could do it, I could end Roy once and for all. But what would be the point if she no longer existed? I couldn’t live on without her, not after holding her close to me… knowing that even if I was scared of being a mother, I would love her no matter what.
“Give it to me,” Roy charged forward, greed shining in his eyes.
I had no choice. There was no other way of stopping him. I couldn’t trust that he wouldn’t kill me anyway. Maybe she would reincarnate with a nice family, ones who would make sure she was safe and well looked after, unlike what I could do for her. I gasped and raised my hands and summoned all of her power to my palms, as if it was my own to command.
She let me do it.
As soon as his chest touched my hands I sent the magic out in a pulse.
He came to a complete stop and gasped, both his hands coming up and clutching at his chest. Slowly the crystals began to form and coat his entire body.
I screamed out and collapsed to the ground in front of him. There was a tearing pain deep inside. No, no, no, no. I’m begging you, please don’t go. Tears streamed down my face.
What had I done?
Between my legs I felt something wet streaming out. I reached a hand down there, even though I knew what I would find.
I pulled my fingers out and stared.
I’m sorry. So sorry. Please, forgive me Aislinn.
“Blair?” Herrick’s voice echoed in my ears. I couldn’t turn my head to look at him. I couldn’t do more than feel the hatred growing inside of me. What had I done? How could I do that to my own child?
Tentatively Herrick laid a hand on my shoulder. “Blair, what just happened?”
I pulled away from him. I couldn’t accept his comfort. I wasn’t allowed to, not after I had just killed my child.
“Blair?!” he ignored the fact I didn’t want to be touched and grasped both of my shoulders, pulling me around so I was forced to look him in the eye. “What happened? Why are you crying on me?”
“I killed her,” it sounded like it had come from a small child. My voice wasn’t my own. I gasped the tears pouring out. “I shouldn’t have done it, but I couldn’t see any other way of stopping him, so I used my baby’s magic and I killed her for it. She’s gone forever.”
What was that strangling cry? Was that coming from me?
My body couldn’t hold me anymore, I slumped forward, resting my head on the floor.
Herrick’s hands disappeared.
I was grateful for that. Leave me alone Herrick. Everything I touch is destroyed. I am not a good girl, I am the devil, I don’t deserve to live. “I just want to die.”
“No.” The voice came from above my head. “I won’t let you go like that. You can’t leave me alone.”
Lifting my head, my hair falling like snakes around my face. “Alone. That’s all I want now. Get out.” I whispered these words rather than yell them.
“Herrick… I just sacrificed my daughter, a little girl who was my entire world, who was the last of Dathan’s line to stop Roy… I’m a monster. Do you honestly think I can flick a switch and move on just like that? Because you can’t handle a hysterical woman?! Get out! I want you out of here! Now!” I roared the words this time. They bounced around the room before the silence gulped them up.
The sun was gone but there was light glowing. I stared at the giant crystal in front of me. How many hours had passed?
I glared at Roy.
“You made me do this.” My voice scratched on its way up, ripping my throat. “I was going to let you live. But you couldn’t stop.”
I hated myself.
I hated him.
Stumbling to my feet, the stench of dried old blood wafted into the air. I brought both my hands up and placed them centimetres away from the crystal. Anger. Focus on that hot flare inside, the hatred there. Feel it burning.
“I hate you!” I screamed as it burned, dropping to the floor in a jumble of limbs.
I rolled around in the sharp glass shards from the windows, letting them cut me.
Morning light streamed in through the holes in the walls. The wind had howled throughout the night, but I didn’t shiver.
I laid there prone. How could I ever move again?
Had weeks really passed? Or was I delusional again? I can’t tell what is happening around me anymore. At least they placed me in a room out of the way. No one talks to me. Occasionally a doctor will come and check my vitals, the same one to confirm I had lost Aislinn.
A tray with food is placed beside my bed as I sleep. I don’t know who brings it. I eat it in bed.
For hours I lie in the dark doing nothing, thinking of nothing and wanting nothing more than to feel nothing, empty. The aching is pummelling me from the inside out. It’s what I deserve.
“Get out of bed.”
The curtains are yanked back with a loud Sshick. I cringe and burry my head under the blankets. They are ripped from the bed and my clutching fingers. “What?”
“Get up,” this woman insists. She’s Mum’s age, just short and round around the waist area. “This is over. Now get up and help me.”
I groan as I roll to the opposite side of the bed to this woman. What could I help with? I destroy everything I touch, so what was there for me to do in this world?
“Here,” she threw the top sheet into my face.
Irritated now, I ball it up in my hands and throw it back.
She pulls off the bottom sheet and together throws them at my face, again.
“What’s your problem?” I snap.
She doesn’t answer my question. “Follow me. We have two more rooms on this floor to do before we can go down stairs.” Not waiting for me she walks out of the room.
I chase after her, the sheet bundled in my arms. In the hallway I see she’s pushing some sort of trolley with a huge basket in the centre, brimming with washing. Once the other rooms had been stripped of sheets she rolled to the stairs. “Come on girl. Take the front.”
I stare at her. “Excuse me? I just want to go back to sleep.”
“Are you really going to make me carry all of this down the stairs alone?” she pauses for effect before sighing. “Fine.”
“Okay.” I move to the front of the trolley and take it.
Down the stairs, across the great hall and out the back of the palace was the laundry room. “Girl, throw these in there.”
“My name isn’t girl,” I snap back.
“It is till I say different.” She walks away from me, leaving me alone to do as she said. When I had done as ordered I look around feeling lost and confused. What was I doing down here?
I turn towards the voice.
“Come and give me a hand.”
Strangely enough I nod and head over. For the rest of the day I work in the laundry room, the steam making my hair frizz and the rest of me to sweat.
“End of the day, go get some dinner.”
I stumble. Food. The thought of eating something made my stomach grumble loudly. I slap a hand over it, then realising what I had just done, I drop it. Following the other girls into the mess hall I sit at the far end and inhale the stew in front of me.
The following morning, earlier than the day before, she came in and told me to get up and help. This woman’s name was Ashley.
It still hurt. But each day I would wake up and go to work in the laundry with the women. Every night I cried myself to sleep.
I turned towards the one who called my name and searched through the lines of hanging sheets that flapped in the wind. I knew that voice, it belonged to someone…
He stepped around the side of a sheet and stared at me.
“Herrick. Hi there.”
“Hey. What are you doing?”
Self-consciously I touched the bandana covering my head. “I’m working, um, in the laundry.”
He gave a polite smile and nodded his head. “Okay, that’s good. How are you?” his face cringed as he asked. I guess he wanted to be careful around me still.
“Alright… I think. Better when I’m doing something.”
“So you went looking for work to do?”
I shook my head. “Ashley, the head of laundry dragged me from my bed and made me work. I owe her a lot now.”
We fell silent for a little bit.
“What about you? What are you doing?”
Before he could answer he turned towards someone calling out “Sir!” Then over his shoulder Herrick nodded to me. “I’ll talk to you later. Sorry, I’m needed.” And he was gone.
As I continued to put the washing out on the endless lines I wondered about Herrick. What was he doing now? Did he think I would’ve just left Alizaria? Who was he? I knew his mother but I never really took the time to get to know him.
Picking up the basket I walked back into the laundry room and found a new job to do.
For a little while there, I had assumed Herrick had sent Ashley to look after me, get me moving again. I guess not. I glanced at the woman in question. She had done it out of the goodness of her heart?
“Get back to work, Blair,” she snapped at me.
I had a dream… or it might have been real? I can’t tell anymore.
I was back in the heavens, the trees had changed from autumn to winter, completely bare of all leaves. I found the bodies of the Gods right where I had left them, on the ground. They hadn’t changed at all.
Not till I reached down and touched Grace, then her body disintegrated into dust.
I found the cottage, no fire in the hearth. Through the back door I stumbled into the winter waste-land where the winds blew violently, as if they were trying to push me off of the ground, into the air and away from the heavens. I struggled on my way, heading for the tree.
Once I found it I threw myself inside and slammed the door.
I had to see it happen again. I sliced open my wrist and dropped blood into the water dish on the pedestal. No image came.
I clenched my teeth and drew another line over my wrist, dropping more blood into the water till it stopped bleeding. Still nothing showed itself in the water.
Come on, please show me what happened…… I can’t see it clearly in my head any more… I don’t want to forget her, like she never existed.
I gripped the sides of the dish and leaned into the water. “Please,” I pleaded.
Still nothing. Losing my patience, I screamed and smacked the underside of the bowl, overturning it so the water splashed against the wall and streamed down to puddle around my bare feet.
I stomped and screamed.
It felt like hours had passed. I stumbled out of the tree and back the way I had come, back to the cottage. Once inside sat there for a while amongst the mounds of cushions on the floor.
There was no-one left, no angels, no Gods, no meaning. What would happen to this place? Who would guide us when we needed it?
Do we need guidance?
It seemed like the Gods and the angels needed it more than we did. They didn’t understand things fully, couldn’t tell us what was the right and wrong way because there is no right and wrong way. Only what we can do.
I curled up into a ball.
I don’t want to forget.
If I had chosen differently when taking the God’s magic, if I had listened to Fate, then maybe, just maybe, I would still have my baby. But I had no other choice once I realised. I had to stop Roy and there was no other magic to use.
“I’m sorry Aislinn. So sorry. I’ll always love you.” I whispered. The pillows muffled my sobs. The ache in my heart changed a little, my hands went to my belly and cradled there. I didn’t pull away.
When I woke up I was in bed under just a single light sheet, yet I was sweating like I was sitting before a great fire that roared. Shoving myself out of bed I bathed in the small basin and got dressed quickly.
Judging by the light outside my window I had ten minutes before Ashley would be yelling at me if I wasn’t in the laundry room soon. Enough time for me to get to the stables.
Once there I found him. “Hey Brodie,” I reached out a hand for him to nuzzle.
He pawed at the door, begging to be released.
“What are you doing in here? A mighty unicorn such as yourself shouldn’t be locked away in a stable like any ordinary horse.” I unlatched the gate and swung it quickly out of his way.
Brodie bumped his head into my chest and stayed there, leaning into me.
“I’m sorry I made you wait… I just needed to be alone.” I stroked the spot between his ears. “So I take it you waited for me.”
He rolled his eyes.
“Of course you did, which is really sweet of you. Thank you.” Leaning up, I gave him a kiss. “And I need to ask a favour of you.”
Without me elaborating, Brodie dropped down to the ground and neighed at me. I smiled at him and climbed onto his back, my knees gripping him tight and my fingers curling into his mane. Up he surged.
“Hey!” Someone called out from behind us.
Ignoring them Brodie leapt forward and charged off out of the stables, through the palace gates and down into the town. People leapt out of the way and threw insults after us as we passed. I didn’t care.
The feeling of the wind tearing at my hair, pulling it back from my face and neck and tangling behind me, was exhilarating.
Once we made it to the outside of the city itself Brodie didn’t wait. He went full gallop into the zone, the lights streaking and blending together.
Slowing down, the trees became distinct and I could hear again. I bounced up and down in my seat as we cantered along the path. I trusted Brodie completely, he would take me to the place I needed and give me some time alone.
Reaching forward I stroked his neck. “You are one good friend”
He snorted and glared at me over his shoulder.
“I’m just saying,” I giggled. Then stopped. When was the last time I had made that sound?
The gate came into view. “Whoa, Brodie stop here please.”
I slid down from him and walked the rest of the way. It was exactly how I left it, propped open with a broken branch. As I moved in closer the bushes crowded in on me. I shoved them aside, only for them to come back and snap in my face.
It was a snap decision. I kicked the prop out of the way and swung the gate closed… trapping me on the Alizaria side.
I could see the house clearly. I’d burned the last chance I would ever have of being here.
“I’m sorry Mum and Dad. I don’t mean to run off again without a word… I just can’t come here again. I’m not the same girl, I no longer belong there with you guys.” I whispered the words.
I’m just a different girl, I’m me now, not me five years ago or the me Dathan had wanted or the me anybody else wanted.
I turned away from the gate.
It wasn’t even mid-morning when Brodie got us back to the palace. At the stables we were greeted by some very angry looking people. I slipped off from his back and walked him into the stables where I had found him.
“What were ya thinking?” One screamed at me. “Taking Herrick’s horse like that?”
Herrick’s horse? No, Brodie was my drace creature. I turned around and he was gone. A normal white horse stood in his place. Where was Brodie my black unicorn?
“I didn’t ride this horse. I swear the one I was riding was black and was a unicorn.”
“I saw what ya were on as soon as ya came into the yard, little girl. Now Herrick demanded to see ya as soon ya got back.” Snorting, the man spat on the ground.
I hurried away from him. Was I going insane? Where the hell did he go and who was that other horse?
Inside the palace everyone stopped and pointed me onwards. I hurried.
I shoved the library doors open and stumbled in to find it absolutely silent. “Herrick?” Softly I called out.
“Down the back,” he answered.
Weaving my way around the shelves I discovered him at the very back sitting at a table with all sorts of paperwork spread out in front of him. He looked up at me. “You’re back.” He smiled at me shyly. “I was afraid you would’ve left.”
Shaking my head, I sank gratefully into the seat opposite. My knees felt suddenly so weak. “Alizaria is my home.”
He grinned now. “I’m glad you think so… That’s why I want to offer you the throne.”
“I don’t want it. I would be a terrible ruler. You on the other hand, are so much like your mother.”
His eyes grew sad for a moment. “If you won’t take the throne then please stay in the city… with me. I need someone I can trust.”
I frowned at the man… no boy. He was still so young. “Herrick, how old are you?”
“My Gods, you’re just a baby.” The words slipped out before I could catch it. They stung.
“I’m an adult. You were seventeen when you fought in the resistance.”
“One thousand and seventeen, actually.” I corrected him.
He smirked. “Please. My mother would’ve wanted it this way. She knew you were a good person and that you loved Alizaria.”
I bit my lip. “You don’t need me. And in all honesty I owe you nothing.” That was harsh, I knew I shouldn’t have said those words.
“I did save your life.”
I looked at him pointedly.
“Okay, you saved me. We’re even.” He corrected.
“Maybe… but I will stay.”
It is not by birthright but by merit we should receive.
Grace had dared to hope when she created me, gambling on my heart. It stopped with me. She was right to have hope.
I am Blair Fitzpatrick and the horrors have ended. We are finally alone.
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The beautiful dress, that fitted her perfectly as if it had been made by order, wasn’t allowed to get dirty.
While standing on the pedestal in the shop, Abigail thought about the three hundred pounds for that one dress. Yes the perfect dress… but three hundred pounds? For one occasion?
That was six hundred Australian dollars.
Kate, her cousin’s girlfriend and employee of the shop, hurried about. It was empty bar them. “Okay then. Just don’t spill anything on it or tear it or sweat in it. Or else we can’t return it and my boss will find out.” She came to stand beside Abigail. “It’s a shame you can’t buy it though.”
“Right,” she ran a hand through the fabric. “I think this dress would have to be my wedding dress/ party dress/ funeral dress all in one, if I did buy it.”
“Are all Australians stingy?”
“Only those of us who see the real worth.” Finally she tore her eyes away from the reflection. “When do I have to have this dress back by?”
“Before Monday morning. I’ll come round your room on Sunday and get it.”
Abigail stepped down from the pedestal. She lifted the hem of the dress and flashed Kate her battered red converses.
Kate gasped. “You need shoes for tonight!”
“Don’t worry. I have a nice pair of flats.” She allowed the hem to fall to the floor. It pooled over her toes. “Um. I think we might have a problem.”
“Oh no. We can’t alter the dress in anyway. It has to stay at that length.”
Abigail rose up onto her toes. Better. She sighed. “I’m going to have to wear heels.”
“Shoes are not easy to return to this place. There is a nice shoe shop down the road.” Her eyes twinkled as she thought of the boutique shoe emporium. The smell of leather.
Abigail frowned at the woman. “They’re just shoes and won’t be seen at all. Is there some discount place I can go to? I don’t need anything special.”
Kate’s excitement disappeared. Why was she being nice to her? Surely Kate’s boyfriend didn’t really expect her to be friends with his cousin? It wasn’t like they would see each other ever again after that weekend, Abigail’s holiday was almost over.
Leaving the shop, Abigail felt relieved and smiled for no reason, other than the fact she was on the other side of the world and alone. That should be very scary and lonely, but not to her. Not even when she had been passed around from extended family member to another, and had to be grateful they were taking the time to entertain her.
She had the afternoon to herself.
With a skip in her step she wandered down the street. People bustled all around her. The shops varied from boutique to convenience stores. London was like any other city, which was somewhat comforting.
She paused and smelt something greasy. Abigail followed it to a plain takeaway shop and entered. Ten minutes later she left with a hot paper package in her arms and strolled to the park nearby. There were no picnic tables available so she plopped herself under a tree and ate her lunch.
Once finished she checked her phone and sighed in content. Mum had sent another message, asking how she was. “Fine,” she messaged back.
She was fine… though a little disappointed. Where was her excitement? The giggling and bubbling happiness because she was travelling overseas, where was that? Surely she deserved some of it. Or was that reserved for the girls who made friends easily and travelled together?
One week before
“This will be better than going to a club.” Jasper said.
Abigail felt her eyes narrow at her cousin.
“Well, it’s an open bar and nibblies. Famous people will be there. You can talk to any good writer from London.”
“Just don’t mention how you got in… and maybe you should use an alias and make up some life story. It should be easy for you.”
“You will owe me for this.”
“All you need to do is keep my girlfriend company, enjoy yourself a little and tell my mother that I have fulfilled my duty. Then we can go our separate ways.”
Deep breath, closed eyes for a second. “You better send a taxi. If you tell the truth and there is an open bar, then I’m going to need transportation.”
“Please don’t get drunk.”
“I won’t embarrass you. Promise.” Smiling sweetly she crossed her fingers.
Of course there was another reason why she was attending this charity ball. How do you create that easy friendship with someone like Kate in one evening so she would spill her guts?
Tell her the truth?
“Hey, the whole family thinks you’re cheating on my cousin. What’s the deal?”
The easiest solution: tequila.
All that Abigail could hope for was that Kate had a low tolerance.
“Do you have lipstick?”
Brought back from her day dreaming, Abigail shook her head.
Kate dug through her clutch. What did she have inside? It was like the tardis of a hoarder. Finally she withdrew a tube with triumphant. “Cherry red goes with anything!”
Abigail applied it, using the ghost reflection in the window as a mirror. “You should’ve told me you had no clutch I would have brought an extra one. Then you could’ve brought a lippy.”
Abigail handed the tube back, smacking her lips for drama. “It’s all good. You’ve helped me far too much already.”
“Where are you keeping you room key?”
“In my bra.”
Kate laughed. “That’s normally where my phone lives.” They shared a smile.
The taxi stopped back from the long line of other cars delivering guests, and journalists and reporters lined the entrance. Abigail and Kate hopped out of the cab after paying and went around to the back entrance. Through the kitchen they met Abigail’s cousin Jasper. He tapped his foot impatiently. “I thought you guys would be here earlier,” he kissed Kate on the cheek.
“Sorry, there was traffic.” She grinned at him. “Can we go in?”
A stiff nod in the direction they had to go and Jasper disappeared himself, back to work ensuring nothing went wrong.
As they moved along the hall to the ballroom, Abigail felt sick, she wanted to throw up and go back to the hotel room, maybe even magically click her heels together and be back home. Kate clutched at her hand. She almost bounced with excitement. “Isn’t this great?” They stepped out from the dim hall and into the glittering chandelier lit ballroom. “Oh. My. God!”
Abigail twisted her head from side to side to take in all of the glittering ball gowns and jewels. So much to look at. Then she stumbled. Kate was walking over to a group of beautifully dressed women, tugging Abigail after her like a slow moving child. “Hello, my name is Kate. It is so nice to meet you all.”
The women looked her slender figure up and down, assessing the dress and the wide smile before answering. No one gave their names. But Kate spoke to them like she already knew them, maybe they were really famous? They could be models. Kate was into fashion so it made sense.
“Oh and this is my cousin, Abigail.” She finally dropped her hand.
Shifting awkwardly under their assessment, Abigail gave a little wave. “Hello.”
One woman widened her eyes. “An Australian? How strange. Did you, by any chance, come to London on a jumping kangaroo?”
Great. Another comedian. “No. I flew on a kookaburra.” And parked it beside your broom stick. She kept that last bit silently inside of her head.
The girls stared at her. “A what?”
“Never mind,” shaking her head, Abigail looked around the room and ignored the conversation as it turned to something they all agreed upon. Shoes.
That was when she saw him in the middle, surrounded by people. No, it couldn’t be him, she shook her head. But as he turned around she felt her heart stop.
Oh God. It really was him. He was grinning. Everything matched; peroxide hair, powder blue suit, cocky swagger.
The Korean pop star she had been crushing on for years now was within walking distance.
She could talk to him.
She could touch him.
She could throw herself at him and beg to have his baby.
But she wasn’t insane. Well, not by much.
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Blair Fitzpatrick was living a form of Happily Ever After. Dathan. Pregnant. Home. With no memories of Alizaria. Until Roy came back and broke the spell, causing her to remember everything. And Blair is pissed. ~ Dathan came into focus. His face was creased into a frown which smoothed in relief. “Oh thank the Gods! What happened?” I glared at him. “Honey, I just had a family reunion with my great-great-great-great grandfather. Of course there would be glass on the floor. But that ain’t nothing compared to what’s going to happen when you explain why you took my memories.” He stared at me. “Blair, how? It was meant to be permanent.” I shoved his arms open and moved away from him. “I’m talented I guess.” ~ This is Blair's final chance to stop Roy... and to stop the real enemy of Alizaria. The final book in the Blair Trilogy