The Witch With No Name
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Crap on toast. I wasnt going to make it. Id have to beat him off.
Ivy hung on my shoulder as I came to a heart-pounding halt, her head down and her breathing frighteningly raspy. A lousy twenty feet was between me and the line, and the suave man smiled when he rocked to a silent stand before us. He was the expected eight feet back, his hair moving in the light breeze as he assessed my determination, feeding off my fear even as I found a firmer stance. Eight feet. Hed fought magic users before. It was just far enough that he could dodge anything I might throw at him.
Fine. He was between me and the line, but I could still pull on it, and I allowed the lines energy to funnel down to my hand and gathered it in a tight ball of frustration. He was stunning in his black suit, but it was more than his sculpted, carefully bred-for beauty. It was his attitude of a complete and utter lack of fear. He was wearing sunglasses, and an old scar on his neck said he was someones favorite. Behind him, the woman screamed at both Jenks and Sharps as she tried to get out of the water.
Morgan, the living vampire said, his voice holding layers of emotion, and Ivy stirred, drawn awake by either the screams at the lake or the pull in his voice.
Go to hell! Ivy managed, and Jenks joined me. Together we faced him, my knees shaking and Jenkss wings clattering in threat.
The mans eyes flicked to Ivy, then back to me. Give it up.
Not happening, and I found a better grip on Ivy, my bellyful of ever-after waiting for direction. Come and get me, I mocked, trying to lure him a foot closer.
Youre not who Im interested in. Shes almost dead. All I have to do is wait.
Son of a bastard . . . This wasnt the original team sent to kill Ivy. It was probably the one sent to collect her body, and theyd be eager for the extra kudos killing her would bring them. Behind me, a car door slammed. I didnt dare look, but from the edge of my sight, three more men in suits started across the grass. Damn it, I couldnt fight off four of them and protect Ivy, too, even with Jenks.
The living vampires beautiful brown eyes went black as he breathed in my fear. Let us finish the job, or we beat you up and we finish the job anyway. Shes dying her first death before the sun goes down.
Over my dead body. The sun was nearing the horizon, but there were hours left in its path.
And my broken wings, Jenks added, dusting Ivys scalp again as blood began to mat her hair.
They were almost to us. I had to do something, his being out of range or not. I thought of Trent. Had he gotten my text? Was he on his way?
Dead? the vampire said, recapturing my attention. No, he wants you alive. For now.
My frustration rose. The hazy read smear of the ley line was just behind him. Twenty lousy feet. It cant be done! I shouted, Jenkss dust tingling against my skin. Tell Cormel it cant be done!
Then you owe him for the year hes kept you both safe, the man said. Watching you suffer Ivys second life will do.
I already saved him once! Im not paying the same debt twice.
The man chuckled, motioning for the arriving thugs to circle us. I could smell them, the rising scent of vampire incense bringing Ivys eyes open and a new tension to her face. You prolonged his misery is all.
He gestured, and I moved, throwing a single burst of energy at the beautiful man before turning my attention inward. Rhombus! I shouted, relief a slap when Jenks, contrary to his instinct, dropped down, safe inside my circle.
The rushing vampires skidded to a halt, stymied. Before me, my black-and-gold fist-size unfocused magic slammed into the head vampire, throwing him back four feet to hit the ground hard.
Nothing could get through my barrier unless it held my aura: not bullet, not vampire, not demonunless he was very determined and Id left an opening. But we were trapped in it, trapped twenty feet from safety. Damn it! This was so not fair. Every other demon could shift his aura to slip into a line, but I couldnt jump on my own, couldnt jump a lousy twenty feet. The line was so close I could almost feel it humming.
Dazed, the vampire found his feet, his beauty ruined by his snarl. Shes going to die in there! he shouted, stalking forward to halt so close the barrier hummed a warning and I could see the first wrinkles about his eyes. Shes going to die, and then she will fall on you!
Ivy stared up at me, clearly in pain, clearly feeling the pinch of instincts and desires she had lied to herself were under control. Tears filled her black eyes, and she reached out, her hand shaking as it found mine. Im sorry, she said, and anger filled me that they had brought her to this. Please dont let me wake as the undead. I wont remember why I love you. Promise me. Promise me you wont let me wake as an undead.
My throat closed, and as Jenkss dust sifted red between us, I dropped down, my arms going around her. She wanted me to kill her if she should die. I couldnt do it. I promise.
Liar. She smiled at me, hand shaking as she touched my cheek.
Panic renewed, and I felt unreal, dizzy as I looked at the vampires ringing us in the late afternoon. There was no one to help me. I had to find a way.
She wont last an hour, the beautiful man said, anticipation making his eyes black. She will wake undead. You will fix her soul to her, or die at her own hands.
Ivy shook, and I let her go, resolve filling me as I stood until the shimmer of my circle hummed just over my head. Jenks, I need you to do something, I said, and his face went white.
Im not leaving you, Rache.
I eyed the twenty feet and four vampires that separated us from the line. Im going to kick some vampire ass and get to that line. Ivy and I can wait in the ever-after.
With the surface demons? Jenks barked, his wings clattering harshly.
I had no choice. Go try to wake Bis up. He can jump us to Trents. I looked at the pixy, seeing his fear in his tight, angular face. He didnt want to leave us, was terrified we would die without him. He was probably right.
No! His wings clattered as he understood what I was saying. Its hours until sunset. Dont ask me to leave you!
I dropped down to grab Ivys elbow to help her stand up. Im sorry, Ivy. You have to help me get you to the line.
But she can hardly walk!
Which means she still can! I shouted, and Ivy clutched at me, halfway to a stand and heavy in my grip. Jenks, please, I said softly, and hehovered, helpless and angry, before us. I cant jump on my own and Bis cant find me. You have to tell him where we are.
Slowly his expression shifted from anger to a frustrated understanding. Keep her alive, he said, and I nodded, again making promises I couldnt keep.
Scared, I turned to the vampires watching suspiciously. Behind them, Cincinnati drowsed in the late afternoon sun. Al could have jumped us right to Trents, or the hospital, or the church. But I wasnt one of them any longer. The break with the demons had been cleaneven if the jagged edges of it still dug into my soul in the quiet parts of the night.
Breath held against the pain, Ivy got her weight over her feet and wavered to a rise. I felt her clench in agony as she fought to keep from coughing, her grip on me hurting. She took one breath, then another. Head up, she stared at the men ringing us. At the bridge, the woman finally got out of the water, dripping and bleeding from scratches and with a malevolent gleam in her eye. Five now.
I sucked in the line energy, feeling it hiccup and stutter. Does Al know Im using his line? I wondered, feeling Als utter abandonment of me againjealousy, heartache, and hatred too much for him to forgive.
Let me go, Ivy. I have to fight, I whispered, and after the briefest of hesitations, she did, her eyes closing as she uncrimped her fingers from around my arm. I could tell it had taken all her resolve, and she swallowed her saliva back, refusing to give in to her instinctsbut instincts die last and hard.
I like it when you say my name, she said as her eyes opened. It doesnt hurt anymore.
Shit. This wasnt good. Not good at all. Im glad, I whispered, wishing my knees werent shaking. Im going to have to kick some ass. Can you get to the statue on your own? Maybe critique me when its over?
Over a beer, she said. Her hand wasnt so tight against her middle. I didnt know a charm for this. I had nothing.
Ivy slowly lost her balance and leaned into me again, unable to stand on her own. She wasnt going to make it, no matter what happened, and I shoved my panic down deep. Thank you, Jenks, I whispered.
His wings clattered, and he wouldnt look at me, that same black dust sifting from him and making my skin tingle. I held Ivy close, the chill of her pressing into me as her head hung down and her breathing grew shallow. She was close to passing out. Slowly I lifted my chin and found the eyes of the waiting vampire.
You first, I said, yanking a wad of ever-after into me. My breath came in with a sharp sound. Ivy stiffened in my grip, and I wondered if she felt it as I pulled everything I could handle into me. Jenks, grab something! I shouted as the building energy crested, lapped the top of my abilities, and, with a spasm that seemed to shake me to my core, edged into pain as I took even more. I had to take it all. All.
Rache! Jenks shrilled, tugging on my hair as he wound himself up in it. What are you doing?
I had one shot, and I wasnt going to waste it, even if it burned my synapses to a twisted mass. Corrumpto! I shouted, letting the energy explode from me.
My knees buckled. I felt airy, light and unreal. The line hummed through me, smelling of ozone and stardust. A soundless wave sped out, flattening the grass and bowling the vampires head over heels, making them look like crows. Ivy shuddered, her eyes opening black and deep. Together we straightened as a distant bell rang, and then another. Across the river, the basilicas bells tolled, and tears threatened when I recognized my own church bells ringing an echo from the force of my blast.
My skin was tingling, and I almost went down as Ivys weight suddenly became my responsibility. Ivy! I called, bringing up my second sight and looking for the ley line. The vampires were down. We had to move. Come on! Just a few steps!
But then panic took me, not that the head vampire was getting up off the pavement, but that the ley line was gone! It wasnt running where it should, through the man-made ponds and beside the statue the vampire was leaning heavily against.
Where is it? I shouted, and Ivy sagged in my grip. Bewildered, and head humming as if it held a hive of bees, I strengthened my second sight until reality wavered under a broken landscape of dust, cracked rock, and bloated sun hazing an empty landscape and dry riverbed. The desolation of the ever-after was complete, and the gritty wind lifted through my hair even though I still stood in reality. But there was no line. What have I done?
Jenks hovered before me, blinking in shock. Youre in it, he said, a weird greenish dust sifting from him. How did you move it, Rache?
My mouth dropped open, and I spun, shocked. I moved the line? How?
Get her! the vampire screamed, and the present rushed back.
Rhombus! I shouted, staggering under Ivys weight as my circle sprang up heady and thick since I was standing right in the middle of the line. Id moved it? How? I had only tapped it. But Jenks was right. I was standing in Als flimsy line, and it was growing stronger, no longer dampened and drained by the ponds. Id shifted it. I had moved it to me.
The vampires slid to a halt, one of them screaming as he touched the circle and a snap of energy struck him like lightning. We were in the line. Ivy was with me. I looked past the angry vampires, knowing the line had been behind them, knowing it couldnt be moved. But it had.
And somehow, I didnt care that Id done the impossible.
Sorry about the beating, I said as I melded my aura around Ivys to shift her with me to the ever-after.
Beating? The vampire leaned closer, not knowing what had happened. That wasnt a beating.
I tightened my hold on the line, feeling it start to take us. No, the one your master is going to give you. Thank you, Jenks. I will keep her alive.
The mans eyes became round, fear shimmering his motion for the first time, making him somehow more captivating with the contrasting shadows of fear and power. Wed bested him, and he was going to be punished.
No! he shouted as I shifted my aura and the world moved around us. The red of sunset became the harsh red of the ever-after sun. His howling cry of denial evolved, peaked, and became the scream of the gritty wind. The image of his crooked fingers reaching for us dissolved, and I saw it mirrored in the broken rock surrounding us. The sound of Jenkss wings was gone. We were alone and the world was brokenjust like me.
My heart thumped and I shifted Ivys weight until she hissed in pain. I squinted at the distant, red-smeared horizon, then brought my eyes closer, sending it over the remains of the Hollows, already in shadow. The spires of the basilica rose over it all, the bastion carefully preserved where most everything was left to crumble. The space where my church would have been was nothing but rock and grass. My idea to walk to it vanished. Ivy was done.