The Witch With No Name
- Text Font:
- Text Size:
- Line Height:
- Line Break Height:
Sucking his teeth, Landon shifted his feet. Bis around?
I nodded, glancing at the ceiling. Hes sleeping, but he wakes up occasionally. Especially when I was upset, but Landon already knew that.
From the back room Trents voice rose. Im willing to die for Lucys safety. Im not about to sell her to you for a little less blackmail or my returned standing. You dont have anything I want, Ellasbeth. Get used to it.
My God, Trent could be callous when the situation called for it, and I propped my elbows on the stainless steel counter between Landon and myself.
David had once told me Id saved Trents life, not while being his security, but by causing him to grow, to lose his at-any-cost outlook that the needs of the one outweighed the needs of the many, that the ends justified the means. Id seen it. Hell, Id lived it while a mink trapped in his office, watching him kill his head geneticist to preserve his secrets and his money flow. But hed tempered himself. Because of me, if David was to be believed, and it had saved his life because, as David had said, he wasnt going to make the world live through another Kalamack bent on elven supremacy. Perhaps Landon had risen to fulfill that role instead, and I stifled a shudder at the thought because where Trent had a conscience, Landon did not.
Why are you here helping me?
Landon rose, his mood guarded as he spun the book Trent had brought over to face him. Trent told me he thinks the undead will walk into the sun if they get their souls back. I tend to agree with him. I think its fitting that giving the vampires what they want will bring about their end. I dont mind being a part of that. He hesitated, and my heart thumped at his stillness. My question is, why are you doing this if you think it will drive them into suncide?
Because Ivys life is more important than one lousy vampire whos already on his way out. Uneasy, I rubbed a watermark on the counter. Fear that the vampires would take their revenge out on Ivy and me if things didnt go the way they wanted was never far from my thoughts, coloring my hopesand my decisions.
Landon made a sound deep in his throat, and I jumped when he shut the book with a snap. Trents charm wont work.
Why not? I said, not liking that hed startled me.
Because it uses the auratic residue left in the mind and body to adhere itself with, and the undead have completely polluted theirs with the auras they take in to survive.
It was exactly what Trent had said, and grimacing, I steadied myself for some major boot licking. You have another way?
Landon pulled his attention back from the soft conversation in the living room. In theory. The charm dates back several thousand years. Ive never heard of anyone trying it.
He was lying. I could tell in the way he was standing. So . . . its a black charm? I prompted. Elves were reluctant to label their charms as black and whitebut a white charm never went out of style. I wont kill anyone.
His eyes came up, mocking. Lucky for you youre dealing with people already dead.
Oh God. It was a black charm. What does it do? I asked, my gut tightening. I can do this without trusting him. Hell, I used to work with demons.
Landon shifted the book between us until it was perfectly square with the counter. He was thinking, and my mistrust deepened. In theory? It fixes the soul of an elder to a newborn. It was said to have been used to extend our collective knowledge past the grave. He looked up, jaw set. Ill write it out for you.
Let me guess. You have to destroy the newborns soul to do it. Yeah, the demons probably had a version of this. Ugly. It was just ugly the things magic could do.
Neck red, he didnt say anything, finally turning to pull a few sheets from Ivys printer. Pretty much, he said as he took a pen from his pocket and began to sketch a pentagram as I might draw a smiley face. The original soul must be forcibly ripped away and the old soul fixed into its place. Most times, the recipient became psychotic, which only added to the mystique of being a high priest back then, I suppose. He looked up, reading my disgust. I did say theres no record of this charm being performed for several thousand years.
But you still know how to do it, I accused.
Arent you lucky for that, he shot back. You cant get a soul to spontaneously attach itself and hope it sticks, even if its his own soul and his own body. It left once, it will again.
He was right, and I tried not to look so pensive. The thought occurred to me that he might be giving me a black charm in the hopes of damning me with it. It wasnt illegal to know black magic, just to do it. And destroying the soul of a newborn so an old man might live again was about as black as it got. No wonder the demons hate you, I said under my breath.
Oh, are we going to compare past atrocities now? he said even as he began writing a list of ingredients beside the pentagram.
I cocked my hip and watched him; his penmanship was as precise as his dress. Stealing healthy babies and substituting your own failing infants is pretty nasty.
So is a thousand years of slavery. Or creating a species for your own pleasure, one that necessitates acts of perverted brutality to survive, acts committed on the people you love.
He was talking about the vampires. No worse than destroying your enemy by attacking their unborn children.
Landon stopped writing. They did it first.
But who really knew the truth? I couldnt solve a puzzle two thousand years dead.
His motion cocky, Landon spun the paper to me. Listed was a mix of plants, objects, and ley line equipment designed to sympathetically harness intent: blood, hummingbird egg white, sunrise spider silk, aspen sap, a copper Mbius strip, silk scarf, saltprobably to scribe the pentagram withand a familiar phrase of Latin. Tislan, tislan. Ta na shay cooreen na da.
My lips parted and a wave of disconnection flooded me as the words rose from my mind. Thats the phrase Trent used to move my soul, I said, my voice sounding hollow, as if from outside myself.
Landon frowned, actually doing a double take as I blinked to find myself. Trent has done this? Are you kidding me?
Not this one, I reassured him. But he held my soul in a bottle for three days while my aura replenished itself. I remember the words.
Ta na shay cooreen na da. It flowed through me, and I held the counter as if it wasnt real. Id been trapped in my mind, standing at this very spot making cookies that faded away until Trent and I worked together, a symbol of us joining our mindsso he could pull me out.
Kalamack put your soul into a bottle? Landon said, his disbelief obvious.
My breath came in a rush, as if Id forgotten how to breathe. My aura was burned off when I fought KuSox. My mind thought I was dead, and he kept me on life support until my body was recovered and my aura was strong enough. It had taken a kiss to break the spell, seeing as it was a very old charm to wake the princess from a lifesaving coma. I was starting to think that was when Id begun to love him.
Oh shit. I love him.
The realization fell on me hard. My knees went wobbly, and I held the counter as a surge of emotion rose. I loved Trent. Sure, Id toyed with the idea before, but now, after seeing him with Ellasbeth and giving him the foolhardy chance to make amends with her, I knew it was true. Damn it, this wasnt the way it was supposed to happen. It was supposed to be romantic, with flowers and sun or moonlight, his touch on my face, and the scent of our hair mingling as we kissed. But no. It was me in my kitchen standing before a man I loathed, listening to the muted strains of the man I loved persuading his ex to get over herself and play by his rules.
Perhaps that means it might last this time.
Rachel? Landon said, and I shook myself.
Hes better at magic than you think he is. Head down, I locked my knees. Love shouldnt be scary, but whenever I fell in love, my life fell apart. I didnt want anything to change, but how could I stop it?
Hed better be, Landon muttered, looking at me as if trying to figure out why I was so distant. Same words? Are you sure?
Think about it later, Rachel. It circled my brain for three days. What does it mean?
Head down, he crossed off and rewrote things. Most of it is to gain the Goddesss attention.
Swell. And the rest?
I dont know.
It was more likely he just didnt want to tell me. Tislan, tislan. Ta na shay cooreen na da. It hung in the back of my brain like a whisper of awarenessslowly gaining strength.
She is a demon, Ellasbeth said from the back living room, her voice breaking through the singsong litany in my mind where nothing else could. Do you have any idea what people are saying? What this does to our childs chances at success?
Lucy doesnt care, Trent said back. Why do you?
Landon cleared his throat, pushing his sketch across the counter so I could see it right side up. He was uncomfortable, and I didnt think it was because of Ellasbeth and Trent. I wasnt keen on any charm he had to remember, but it wasnt as if I had much choice.
Pay attention, the man said, cementing in my thoughts that it was his skills he was nervous about. I agreed to help you, but Im not going to do it, and if anyone asks, I was here with Ellasbeth helping her petition Trent for the right to see her firstborn child.
Sure. His stubble was starting to show, and I could smell the cold plastic of airport on him over his faint woodsy scent. Distant, I looked down at the curse. Did the parents know you were doing this, or did you just steal the babies, too?
Landon pulled himself straight, the width of the counter between us. You want to be held accountable for the sins of your forefathers? Just keep throwing stones, Morgan. Expression closed, he looked me up and down. Im assuming you can get a soul into a bottle?
I scanned the spell, thinking it looked easy. But most of the bad ones were. Yes. I didnt like trusting Landon and his memory-recalled charm, but he did want an end to the vampires.
Good. He leaned over the counter and tapped his pencil on the instructions. I knew the moment he caught my scent when he froze, then pulled back. The, ah, spell calls for removing the original soul from a healthy body. I skipped that part.
You mean killing a baby, I prompted, and he stared at me until I looked away.
Step one, he said tightly. Sketch a pentagram onto a square of silk using salt. If you can match the scarfs color to the recipients original aura, thats even better.
Ill ask Nina if she knows, I said, tucking a strand of hair back.
Second, anoint the feet of the pentagram with the sap, and do the same for the soles of the recipients feet.
Using what? I interrupted, shocking myself when I looked up and found him too close. The vampire recipient is like what, lying down? This wasnt good. There were too many variables to remember, and he clearly hadnt done enough magic to know what was important and what could be fudged. Are you sure there isnt a book its written down in?
No. His voice was tight. I wont misremember it. Ive got it okay.
Youve got this okay? I accused, and there was a sudden silence from the back room. You said no ones done this for thousands of years. How do you know if its right or not?
The charm is fine, he said, face red. He was lying; they did this charm at the dewarmore often than they wanted to admitand that sickened me.
Then what do I use to anoint the scarf and his feet? My finger? I asked snarkily. The reason it wasnt written down was plausible deniability. You couldnt be brought to justice for a black charm there was no written evidence of.
Ahh, I would think an aspen rod, he said, and I took the pen out of his hand and added it to the list. Im destroying that before I leave, he said, meaning the paper.
No you arent, I thought, but was smart enough not to say it. Damn it all to the Turn and back, people were crap. How can you respect a group who sacrificed babies to lengthen their own pathetic lives?
Aspen rod, I said, setting the pen down with an accusing snap. Then what?
Landon was eyeing me in distrust, and I gave him a sarcastic smile. You do the same with the egg white, anointing the arms of the pentagram first, and then the recipients palms.
Using the same wand? I guessed, and he nodded, flushed. Can I use a chickens egg?
Not if you want it to work, he muttered, and I took that as a fact. Eggs were a symbol of rebirth, but the Mayans used to believe that hummingbirds were the souls of warriors and would make an even closer tie. I could probably pick up one at one of the more exclusive charm shops.
So let me guess, I said, pulling the paper to me. It looked funny seeing the clearly old charm on fresh white paper. Step three is to anoint the point of the pentagram and his forehead with his own blood?