The Witch With No Name
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I think Im going to puke at all this sweetness, Jenks muttered, and I tossed my hair to get him to leave. I didnt care anymore who saw us together, but Trent was tense.
Youve done this before, I said, thinking he was stressing about the charm. No sweat.
Your soul wanted to be saved, he said as our steps became one at the apex of the bridge. You gave me permission to take it. I doubt that is whats going to happen here.
Itll be fine, I said. It has a containment circle, right? Then all we need to do is lure him into it.
He nodded, but he still didnt look convinced.
Hey, ah, Rache? Jenks said, dropping down in a column of gray dust. Weve got company.
Bis whistled from twenty feet up, pointing at two cars roaring into the park, one at either end to block anyone from going in or out. Cormels vampire thugs had turned, shouting at them as, like a clown car, the vehicles began to empty of more men than could possibly have fit in there. All of them looked eager for a fightall of them were headed our way.
How dare they . . . , Nina whispered, her hiss making my skin crawl.
Trent slowed, his gaze on the footbridge and Als line beyond it. I dont think those are Cormels people, he murmured.
Hang close, Jenks, I said, and he alighted on my shoulder. Everyone had slowed, the original vampire guards making a front at the base of the bridge. I didnt like that half of the second group was jogging around the small lake to encircle us. Worried, I scanned for Bis. Come on. Lets get into the line before they make it around the pond.
Trent nodded. What did they think I was doing out here? Having a picnic? Stop her! one shouted. Shes almost at the line!
Okay. That was enough for me, and I grabbed Trents elbow to run for it. Nina, though, had turned to face them, shaking in anger.
You fools! she shouted, feet spread wide. She isnt fleeing. She could have done that from her church. Interfere, and Cormel himself will tear his revenge from your skin!
We dont work for Cormel, one shouted back, and I heard a crack as someone broke a tree branch for a makeshift club. Stay out of that line, Morgan, or Ivy dies!
Suddenly it was making a lot more sense. Great. We were right in the middle of a freaking vamp war. Apparently Trent wasnt the only one who thought giving the undead their souls might be a bad thing. Come on, I whispered, tugging at him. We have to get into the line.
And I thought the press was bad, Trent muttered as he started to jog beside me. What is the line doing over there? I thought the tail of it was in the water.
I flushed, looking up for Jenks. I accidentally moved it.
You moved it? How?
By accident, I said again, not wanting to talk about it. Nina! I shouted. If youre coming with us, lets go!
The soft give of the grass became the hard thump of concrete, and I spun as the warmth of the line cascaded over me. Trent slid to a halt beside me, eyes bright and a smile lifting his lips. Nina was slower, backing up as she glared at the vampires jogging to a slow stop before us. Bis landed on the statue of Romulus and Remus. At the bridge, a pitched fight had broken out, but some were wading across the shallow pond to join the few whod run around it.
Dont do it, Morgan, a vampire threatened, dripping from the pond and stinking.
More cars were driving up, angled to light the brawl with their headlights. This was going to either make the international news or be buried so deep the lost-dog-found would get more hits. Nervous, I looked at Trent on my right, then Nina on my left, her eyes a worrisome black. I quashed the sudden fear that she might betray us all. We were in the line. The vampires hung back a safe eight feet, but that wouldnt last. I didnt care if getting their souls back would kill them or not.
Can you get there yourself? I whispered to Trent, and he nodded. He had shifted realities before, and thats all he had to do, not jump to an entirely new line. Good. Bis, youve got Jenks. Ill take Nina. Now!
What? Wait! Nina shouted as I grabbed her arm and shifted her aura to that of the line.
No! I heard someone shriek, but it was too late, and their cry of outrage rose, echoed, and vanished. The rank smell of burnt amber filled me on my next breath.
Let go! Nina exclaimed, tugging away, and Trent coughed. Wed made it.
Hand over her face, Nina squinted into the dusky night as the gritty wind lifted her hair. Bis hunched on a rock, and Jenks darted into my hair, muttering about pixy piss and bloody daisies. The light was dim and red, and it put an unreal haze to everything as it reflected the early night sky. The scorch marks from our fight earlier looked like wounds.
Trent spun around at the clink of a rock, and my pulse thundered at the glowing eyes peering at us from the dark. A second set of eyes joined the first. They had found us already?
Oh, this is much better! Jenks snarled from beside my ear. God, its going to take me forever to get the stink out of my clothes. Remind me again of why I wanted to come?
Immediately Trent knelt and used his hand to smooth a place to spell in. There was another shifting of rock, and Nina spun, eyes becoming black. The bluster shed shown with the vampires was gone. It was a sucky way to live, never knowing if what you felt was real and if you could back your words up, or if you were about to find yourself pinned to the floor and your neck ripped out by someone stronger than you.
Oh. Yeah. Right, Jenks grumbled. Save the world, blah, blah, blah.
Bis? I asked, and he took to the air in a single downward thrust.
On it! he called out cheerfully, and still grumbling, Jenks went with him. There might be two surface demons here, or there might be twenty. Bis and Jenks could find out.
Im going to set a perimeter circle, I whispered to Trent, and he nodded, his expression grim as he used a silver knife to carefully scrape a six-foot spiral into the ragged earth. I strained to hear any sound as I moved to the outskirts andused the heel of my foot to make a shallow groove enclosing both Trents spiral and the rock that Nina had her back against. I didnt set it, concerned that Al would feel it and show up like last timenot with Trent here.
My skin prickled. Trents magic was beginning to rise. Face pale, he backed away from his finished spiral. His soft chanting tugged at the recesses of my mind, and I steeled myself against the lure, shivering as the chill of the night seemed to cut right through me.
Uneasy, I hastened back to Nina and set my shoulder bag down beside her. You think Felixs soul is still nearby? I said as I scanned the horizon.
Neither Trent nor Nina answered me. Trent was fumbling to put his cap on, his red-stained fingers leaving marks everywhere. Lips moving in a silent prayer, he put his ribbon about his neck. Seeing him, I was amazed again at his mix of professional businessman and magic user. His motions were quick and decisive, but there was a new solemn thread to his every action that screamed his belief in the Goddess. It was no longer a game of pretend. He believed, and it made his magic stronger than a demons, and more variable than a dandelion tuft in the winddangerous and unreliable.
What if hes gone? Nina said, and we all jerked as a tiny pebble rolled almost to our feet. From the tufts of grass, eyes showed. A silhouette rose, ragged, as if he wasnt real. My breath quickened as I felt Trent pull more heavily on the line and the spiral glowed to make a puddle of green light. The glow stretched all the way to the surface demon, seeming to shred the first layer of reality from it to expose the spirit it really was.
I reached behind me for the solid feel of the rock as Trents magic pulled at me. It was a call to go home. Id been there once, vulnerable to its summons.
Scared, I looked up at the black dome the sky made. Bis? Jenks! I shouted.
I dont think thats Felix, Nina said, and I agreed. The hatred shining from the dark was too deep, too enduring. But he was someone. Cormel, maybe? Lukes master? Ivys mother? They werent demons, they were lost souls, shoved into the hell of the demons making until the body died and mind and soul became one again.
Oh God. Dont let me do anything stupid.
Stepping carefully to not touch his spiral, Trent set a thumb-size bottle at the very center, upside down and still stoppered with a black wax. A faint glow raced from it to fill the spiral. Nina gasped, and I winced at the almost unheard whine. It set the bones in my ears vibrating. It was coming from the spiral itself, waves of glowing light pulsating from it like the heart of creation.
Even more carefully, Trent backed out.
Ah, its working, I said as more eyes showed, rising up from the grass like lions.
Crouching, Trent touched the red-drawn circle around the spiral, and a not-there shimmer seemed to rise straight up, not arching closed to make a dome but making a perfect column with the spiral glowing within it. It was his containment field, and the ache between my ears grew.
Nina, he said, hair falling into his face and a glow about his hands that made him look nothing like himself. Once he shows, lure him into the spiral. You can pass in and out of it, but dont touch any of the lines. The spell should ignore you, even if you touch the spiral, but no need to take chances. Once the surface demon touches any part of the spiral, hell have no recourse but to walk it. That will force his essence into the bottle.
Is this how he captured my soul? I wondered, a faint memory of chant chilling me.
Are you sure? she warbled, clearly ready to break.
I looked at the glowing eyes inching closer, my unease growing. Wed come into this knowing what to do, but not what would happen. Trents magic was attracting every surface demon within a hundred miles. Trent, how can I help here? I asked, and Nina made a hopeless cry of despair.
Something dangerous plinked through me as our eyes met. He could sing souls to him, mine included, and I wouldnt be able to stop him. Keep the rest off us, he said, words having an odd cadence, not quite chanting, but oh so close, and it pulled at me. I dont like what your aura looks like. Stay out of the column, he added, then more sharply, Nina! On your right!
The woman shrank away, hand to her mouth as a surface demon edged in, emboldened by the others behind him. I could hear them creeping closer, and I itched to invoke the outer protection circle. Jenks! I shouted, searching for the sound of wings. Talk to me!
But the surface demon had hesitated, his eyes fixed on Nina. Try holding out your hand, I suggested, and she shook her head, eyes almost entirely black as she retreated.
Thats not him, she whispered.
I turned to Trent for his opinion, and in that instantthe surface demon moved.
Nina shrieked. Adrenaline slammed through me. I jerked Nina out of the way, my other hand extended toward the slavering soul coming at us. Detrudo! I shouted, locking my knees against the surge of power.
The surface demon skidded to a halt, but my magic caught him square in the chest, bowling him back into the darkness in a flurry of long bare limbs and tattered clothes.
Shit. Trent! I shouted, feeling his chant rising through me. Therere too many of them!
Look! Nina screamed, pointing at the dark.
I couldnt see crap. Jenks and Bis were still AWOL, and frustrated, I made a fist and pointed it at the sky. Leno cinis! I shouted, funneling a crapload of energy through me and into the faintest imagined circle above us. A burst of amber-tinted light lit the entire area in a flash.
Nina cowered as the surface demons hid from the light. I didnt want to invoke the perimeter circle unless I had to, and I breathed a sigh of relief as the grass rustled like dead cornstalks on All Hallows Eve as they faded back. But they didnt go far.
I dont think hes here, I said softly, not wanting to interrupt Trents chanting.
I turned, lips parting as I saw him crouched before his circle, the amber light from my slowly drifting spell making him look covered in old blood. A memory of seeing Al like this flashed over me, shaking me.
Shit, what am I doing getting Trent involved in this?
Nina cried out in fear, and I spun. But it was only Bis and Jenks, and I yanked the energy from a rising spell back, feeling it burn as I dissolved the outer edges and it collapsed.
Do what you need to do and be quick, the pixy said, then did a double take at Trent, still chanting. Its like someone yelled free lunch.
And were the entre, I thought, flicking the mostly spent charm at the circling demons.
How do you know youre not chasing Felix away? Jenks said.