The Witch With No Name
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Its perfect, I said again, breathless and disoriented as I turned back to the charm, confident Felix wouldnt move for fear of losing his coming soul. Im fine, I echoed, breathing in time with the drums. Why are my fingertips tingling?
Cormel? Felix called, eyes opening and panicked. Why am I bound!
Peace, Cormel said, and Felix dropped back with a whimper.
I shivered as Cormel whispered the word. I could feel Trent behind me as I rolled the black cloth into a cord and wove it through the Mbius strip. As each inch scraped through, it was as if another layer of dross peeled from the lines and my connection deepened. My head hung, and I dropped the metal band to clank against the table. Dizzy with knowing, I shook the salt out. I didnt think my eyes were open. I couldnt tellsparkles blocked my vision.
You okay, Rache?
I blinked fast. It was Jenks. I could tell because his dust was a frightened black, and the rest of the sparkles were a white so pure they were painful.
Fine, I said, blinking again, and suddenly the sparkles were gone. It had just been the spilled salt on the table that Id been looking at. Im fine.
Oh God, everything was transparently sparkly, as if I was going to get a migraine. Black cloth in hand, I found Felixs expression, hopeful and longing. It may make you walk into the sun, I warned, and Cormel stiffened.
I dont care, he moaned. Finish it!
Someone was holding my elbow, and I shook as I covered the vampire with the shroud of finding. That same someone handed me a bottle, and I recognized Trents slim fingers as I stood and peeled the wax cover off.
Stay with me, Rachel, Trent said softly, drawing me back, and like a breath exhaled on a winter night, a haze pulled from the bottle as I wove it through the air over Felix, his soul remaining still as the bottle slipped away from around it.
Cormel? Felix whimpered, sounding like a lost child.
How can a spiderweb fend off an angry soul?
Im with you, Cormel said as he stood over him, envy and jealousy in the slant to his eyes as he gripped Felixs shoulder.
Id be lucky to escape with this one task, I mused, hazy as the elven drums became my entire world. Tislan, tislan. Ta na shay cooreen na da wove through my mind, tingling over my skin, soaking in until it found my chi and sent my blood moving to its cadence. I watched in awe as the hazy presence slipping from the bottle grew, the last of it joining the rest like water. My eyes closed, and vertigo took me.
Tislan, tislan. Ta na shay cooreen na da wove through my breath, and the freed soul pulled strength from the salt, growing more substantial. Landon had been wrong. The Mbius strip hadnt balanced the spell. It had charged the salt, and I watched the soul pull it in, becoming stronger.
Its close, Felix groaned, and Cormel pressed him into the couch, keeping him unmoving. Cormel, I can feel it!
I can see it, Cormel said in awe, and Felixs bound hand rose to his face.
Dont let him move! I shouted, and the spirit recoiled at the echoes of my voice. Hold him. Its searching!
Holy mother toad piss, Jenks swore, but the first feelings of doubt trickled through me. It wasnt going for Felix. It wasnt finding him. Why? Id done it right. I knew it to be right!
Ta na shay. Ta na shay. The chant swirled through me, but I felt the soul lose interest and begin to fade as the power of the salt was spent. It was returning to the ever-after. Id seen this with Kisten, and my panic flared, making Cormels eyes flash to black. It wasnt the charm that was failing, it was me. I needed the Goddess, and though I was saying the words, my heart wished for the opposite.
Oh God, I was going to have to call on the Goddess.
Cormel! Felix screamed, and Cormel forced him down, his eyes fixed to mine.
I will tear her apart, carefully held dream by carefully held dream, he threatened. It will not be fast, and I will enjoy every minute of it.
Oh God, I had to do this.
Hear me! I screamed into the line, silver and pure as thought itself. See what I do! Lend me your skill. Ta na shay cooreen na da!
Oh no, Trent breathed, and the humming of Jenkss wings dissolved in the thrum of the eternity bound in the cracks between worlds.
Tislan, tislan. Ta na shay cooreen na da, I begged, thinking of Ivy. I could not fail her. What happened to me didnt matter. Ta na shay. Ta na shay, I begged, letting the line take me as I looked for the bright sparkling thoughts of the mystics.
And I found them. Very close.
Jenks groaned as I shivered, feeling the touch of purple feathers in my mind. Whirling eyes not seeing me poured forth their strength all around but I couldnt touch it. Again I whispered, Ta na shay. See me. Help me.
One lazy eye hesitated, falling to me. My pulse thundered in my ears, and I lost myself to the line until thats all there was and I wasnt sure if I still stood in that tiny apartment at the edge of Als ley line. The mystic didnt recognize me, and I wrapped my awareness around that single spot of light. Please help me, I begged as it began to lose interest, searching for something else. Give your strength to me. It will make my life hell if you do.
The mystics attention darted back to me, drawn by my last thought. I cowered under its full strength, and another turned from the glory of the stars to look. Who are you? the mystic mused, more to itself than me. I remember . . . before you.
Ta na shay, I fumbled, trying to be seen but easily forgotten. Help me.
But it was too late, and my soul quailed as more feather-lidded eyes found me and opened wide.
I know you! one called in terror, but others grasped the thought raging through them like fire as if it was joy. You are the becoming!
Shit, this was not working. Im sorry, I thought, then made a quick twist in the wave of energy flowing through me. Panic flared, but it wasnt mine, and that fast, I took the power of the Goddess and made it mine.
Rache! Jenks shouted, and my eyes flashed open.
Trent was not holding me upright. He was forcing Felixs feet to the couch. Cormel was sitting on the vampire, the cloth pressed against his face and snarling. Felix was screaming, out of control as he tried to be free.
Tislan, tislan. Ta na shay cooreen na da! I screamed, convulsing at the purity of the line arching through me. It exploded from me, lighting the room in a flash of purple and silver. Jenks flew end over end into the kitchen, his face aghast as Bis caught him inches from the wall. Trent and Cormel were flung from Felix. I couldnt see Jenkss tears, but I tasted them in my mind as the mystics brought the image to me, as gentle and easy as breathing. They scintillated within the room, power with direction,just needing to be tasked.
Oh God, what have I done?
Cooreen na da! I said again, and the energy filling the room collapsed into Felix, carrying the wandering soul with it.
Felix screamed, the sound finding the pit of my soul and squeezing. It was the cry all make when they first breathe, but behind it was a world of understanding, of pain, of knowing.
For an instant, no one moved, and then Felix screamed again.
Scared, I dropped the line. Blackness hit me, and I stiffened, afraid to move. It was gone, everything, and I froze. I could feel nothing.
Rachel! Jenks called, and the world rushed back. Trent took me in a crushing embrace, and I breathed. Numb, I felt his heart beat against me. It reminded mine of what it was supposed to do. It was dark, and I didnt know why.
Breathe, Trent said, his hold never easing. Stay with me, Rachel. This is where you belong.
I know, I mumbled, but the words seemed hard to form.
Pain iced through me when Felix screamed a third time, and my eyes opened. Trent held me as I stood. Cormel struggled with a bound Felix on the couch. Beyond them, Bis stood on the kitchen counter with Jenks. The gargoyles red eyes were round, and his skin was blacker than the line was white. Am I okay? I whispered, and he nodded.
You broke the lights, he rasped.
Blinking, I realized I had. Only the glow from Jenkss dust and the candle Trent had started lit the room.
My God, Jenks whispered, and my gaze shifted to him. It worked! Hes got an aura!
The hunched shadow of Cormel let go as if stung. Shockunusual and frightening in the undeadshone from him, a forgotten, unneeded emotion. He staggered back as a faint bluish-green haze, patchy and thin, began to rise from Felix. It was his soul, and it was struggling to escape even as Felix writhed, trying to contain it.
Take the cloth! I exclaimed. Burn it! Now!
Cormel reached out, hand drawing back as if afraid to touch him.
Oh, for Tinks ever-humping loving, Jenks swore, darting down and snatching the silk off Felix.
Burn it! I cried out, struggling against Trents arms as a thin ribbon of aura trailed from Felix, mixing with Jenkss dust as he flew to the candle.
No! Felix howled, back arched and searching, and then the cloth hit the flame. It went up in a flash. Jenks darted to safety. Felix collapsed, sobbing, but it was different this time, broken, relieved, full of pain. His soul was trapped in him. This wasnt going to be good.
I can do better than this, I thought, shaking as Ivy came to my mind. She wouldnt have such a hard time of it since she hadnt been dead for two centuries.
Cormel inched closer to Felix. Is it done? he asked, and I nodded, only now realizing that I was still in Trents arms.
His hold was tight in fear, and I looked up at him, seeing the stress in the lines by his eyes. Im okay, I said, and he let go fast.
Jenks hovered close, eyeing me sharply. You sure?
My knees felt funny and my head was humming, but I nodded. Cormel dropped to his knees before Felix as the vampire sat up, hands shaking and tears of regret and guilt spilling down his cheeks. This was not going to end well. Ivy would handle this better.
Rachel is okay, Bis said, but he was still black in fear as he jumped to my shoulder, his tail wrapping tightly around me. I couldnt feel the lines at all, and for the first time, I was glad of it. I shouldnt have wrested the Goddesss power from her, even if I gave it right back. She was going to start looking for me again, changed aura or not.
Okay, Rache is all right, but what about him? Jenks said, and we turned to Felix. My stomach hurt as Felix sobbed, sitting up and trying to wipe his eyes with his bound hands. His bare feet on the carpet looked odd with his business slacks and pressed shirt. It had worked. The real question was, would he survive its success?
You can let him go, I said, my voice sounding ragged to my ears. I was suddenly fatigued, and I waved off Trents help as I sat down. Buddy was gone. Smart dog. Are my hands sparkling, or is it my imagination? Hes got his soul, I added, though it was obvious. For better or worse, he had his soul, and it seemed to be working. Ivy . . .
She is not okay! Jenks snarled, and Trent leaned closer to the hovering pixy.
Yes she is, he insisted. Look at her.
I am, cookie farts. Shes not okay!
Bis leaned to put his face next to mine. Youre okay, Rachel. I can tell.
But I wasnt sure how he knew. I started shaking, the entirety of the evening coming down hard. The Goddess had recognized me and my mystics had found me. Shed be on the lookout now. Id be lucky if I could even use the lines.
Where is Ivy? I said, and Cormel looked up from where he still knelt with Felix. I didnt like the hunger in his eyes. It wasnt for blood, it was for his soul, and I held my breath, ready to move though every part of me was pained and sluggish.
Trent moved to get between us. Its done, he said firmly, Jenks hovering beside him to create a united front. She paid her and Ivys debt. Give us a token that you free them.
Cormel turned to Felix, and my lips parted when Felix finally looked up. His eyes held sorrow, but there was hope, too. I am me, he said, voice broken. I am whole. Eyes shining with tears, he clung to Cormel. I dont hunger! Rynn, its gone! The ache is gone. His head dropped. Let them go. If she can do this, any witch can.
Cormel stood. Trent shifted, becoming a threatening shadow in the flickering candlelight. I want my soul. Hes whole and undamaged. Do it now!
I did what I promised, I said, taking Trents arm so I could stand up, awkward because of Biss weight, slight as it was. You know how to find your souls. Im not going to do it.
You refuse me? Cormel shouted, and Felix looked up, blinking.
Find someone else! I said, tentatively tapping a line and breathing in relief when I felt no change, no recognition. Im not the only demon in existence. Talk to one of them, I said softly. You cant afford me anymore.
Cormels eyes narrowed, black in the shadow light. Perhaps. Remember you said that.
What did he mean by that? I wondered as Cormel helped Felix to his feet. The once-powerful vampire was falling apart. Only time would tell if he could piece himself back together.
I want a token that our agreement is fulfilled, I demanded, leaning heavily on Trent. If you threaten Ivy or myself, youll find out what it is to face a free demon, Cormel, and youll lose.