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Updated: Oct 4, 2021

Chapter Thirty-Four

How it Begins

The house wheezes as the Shadowmancer’s soldiers descend. Heavy thumps land on the roof and Tomorrow launches out of her seat, looking up at the ceiling with more emotion on her face than usual.

“But what would they want with us?” she hisses.

“You are each very gifted among your peers. Your Broods.”

I snort, and Tuesday pipes up in her sing-song voice, “But we’re all untrained!”

“Bah, training,” Pippa growls, swatting her hand at the air. “Training is but a small part of the equation. What did I tell you! It’s the second principle. You have drawn each other. Now, the Shadowmancer draws you. What was I looking for...” she wags her head back and forth, the end of her thought flying away.

Sabbath sets her tea down carefully, and Nik looks around questioningly as Pippa waves at us hurriedly to stand.

“Remember these words: instinct, intuition, and intention. Those are what make one powerful—either toward good or evil.” She totters unsteadily from the living room across to the kitchen. “It begins with the mark,” Pippa calls behind her. “Tell me, has Notre-Dame burned?”

“It caught fire last April,” Sabbath says, worry knitting her brow. We all remember the dense yellow smoke billowing into the sky. “The spire fell.”

“But the nave—the nave still stands?”

“Yes,” Sabbath nods.

Pippa reaches for a scrap of paper, motions for a pen. It comes spinning through the air, landing between her fingers. She sets it to the paper, scratching a mark and passing it to Sabbath. “This is how it begins.”

I peer over Sab’s shoulder to see ugly little markings that make a crude sort of rune.

“I have seen into many meandering timelines. There is always one moment—one moment that can’t be remedied, one moment that changes everything. I fear this moment is coming for you. Take it.” She folds Sabbath’s hands over the paper and scuttles into the main hall.

“Through the door, then,” Pippa waves at us.

Everything trembles and the whole house seems to let out a creaky breath, foundations shaking. Outside, a howling wind raps at the shingles. In the darkness of the long hallway, we see that our essences have dulled, resumed their place of safety back inside our bodies.

“How are we going to finish the spell?” Tuesday asks Pippa, looking down at her arms.

Pippa scoffs. “That spell was never going to work. The heart needed to be fresh, the subject needed to die,” she gives a pointed look at Soren, “and magic knows when it will be undermined.”

I frown. “Undermined?”

“None of you understand sacrificial magic. It was never going to work,” she repeats.

“What do we do then?” I plead.

“I have told you all that I can.”

Ambling through the dimmed hall, Pippa leads us to a nondescript door at the end. I think she means to hide us in a closet or a secret attic, but when she opens the door, there’s a pool of essence webbed inside the frame.

“This would drop you at Burnbright Institute, but I’m sure that’s not where you intend to go. You two must think of the same place—together—when you go through.” She nods at me and Soren, and the two of us exchange a glance.

“The classroom,” I say immediately.

“The classroom,” he agrees.

“Picture it now,” Pippa instructs. “And grab hands.”

Spellfall stands at such a distance to my memory—the moonlight, the candles, the wardleweed glowing in the night. The soft emanating stretch of our essences, which have evaporated now—

I can’t hold onto the vision. The shadows outside rail against the walls, and I’m sure they’ll dismantle Pippa’s protection spells any second. Even when the house itself seems to lurch, she remains undisturbed.

“Instinct, intuition, intention,” Tuesday is repeating, as though she’s teaching herself a new spell.

“Have it?” Pippa asks, and I nod unconfidently, hoping the image of the classroom will conjure fully at the right moment. “Now,” she says, clasping her hands together tightly. “Fayrstar is on a precipice, veering sharply toward the fate that doomed Andromeda. I have given you as much knowledge as I can, and it is up to you what comes next. This is where things must change.”

She begins to shuffle us toward the portal, but I grip the edge of the door, looking back at her frantically. “Do we seal the soul-tie?”

Pippa shakes her head. “I cannot tell you what to do.”

My heart drums against my chest as the front door handle begins to rattle. Someone is determined to get inside.

“Will you be okay?” Sabbath asks, the words a rush of fear.

Pippa scowls. “Don’t fret over me, girl. They’re coming. Now, go!”

The six of us link up, hands clasped. I see Pippa stuff something into Sabbath’s hand and whisper into her ear, but there’s not enough time to think about it as the door flies open.

Standing at the threshold is the first shadow walker I ever saw, the one who promised to take my skin. His white-blue eyes touch on me with recognition, a sinister smile curling onto his lips.

“I’ll see you soon, doll,” he grins.

Pippa shoves us through the door, and the last thing I see is her old, resilient face turning to greet her foe. "Cole Sorrow," she utters.

The veil of essence falls over my eyes and we tumble through, one by one in a chain, hands clasped as we spill through stardust and magic. I think desperately of the room, our failed spell. The dead mouse on the floor, the sickening smell of the potion.

We topple back into the classroom, smashing into the cauldron and knocking over the candles. Light vanishes and I groan, grasping at the ground for orientation. Pippa’s portal was twelve times worse than any essence portal I’ve ever had the non-pleasure of stepping through.

My stomach roils. It doesn’t help that my nose is right next to what remains of our potion. Blinking a few times to adjust to the moonlight, I groggily push myself up from the ground. Next to me, Sabbath collects herself as well, brushing her disorderly curls back from her face. She’s landed right next to the mouse’s corpse.

“How could you do that?” Tomorrow shrieks. Before I know it, she’s scrambled over what remains of the spell’s set up to give Soren a good thrust.

“Shhh,” Sabbath hisses as Tuesday yanks at her sister in an attempt to reel in the rage.

Soren doesn’t even bother defending himself. He just stares at the floor, where our months of scheming and brewing and hoping have become a mess of failure.

“I said I’d help with soul magic. You know what I didn’t say? That I wanted to help an imposter soul from a seerforsaken parallel dimension.”

“He didn’t have a choice,” I say, looking to Soren. He’s stone-faced. “Right, Soren? You were scar—”

“Stop it, Mika,” Soren snaps.

Taken aback, I persist past the twinge of hurt that arises with his biting tone. “Tell them!” I insist. “Tell them what would’ve happened!”

“What will happen, you mean? We failed.” He lifts up his hands to gesture at the ground and drops them hopelessly. “They’re right. Just leave it be.”

I can’t. “Sor—”

He turns away from me, refusing to look me in the eye.

“It’s his own body,” I plead. “Guys.” I look around, but for all we’ve been through together—all we’ve been through tonight—their empathy is coming up dry. “He’s a shadow walker, but—”

“We heard the story, Mika!” Tomorrow interrupts. “We know what shadow walkers are. Even Pippa said they don’t belong.”

“This is the only world he knows!”

“Stop defending him!” Tomorrow screeches.

When I turn to Sabbath, her expression balances on a knife. I can see in her eyes that she knows the truth, but she so wants to be wrong. “He lied to all of us, Mika. But, I guess that’s not actually true. You knew the truth.”

“Not all of it,” I retort. “Not the part where he was about to die.”

“Yeah, didn’t sign up to watch someone off himself, either.” I think Tomorrow Jones may be more livid than I’ve ever seen her, but it’s a contained wrath. Controlled, and so far painless—which is far more terrifying coming from a girl whose first instinct is to castrate before asking questions.

Watching the expression crumple on Tu’s face, I realize Tomorrow is mad for the both of them. I never asked what happened with Zach all those years ago, but it’s clear that the rumors are at least partially true about how he died. Having Soren spring his grand magical plan of self-inflicted death on us was clearly triggering.

“I’m not trying to die, Tomorrow. It was just part of the spell. Sabbath was meant to resurrect me.”

“Great plan,” Sabbath says bitterly. “Appreciated the heads up.”

“You second guess your way through every act of magic you perform, Winters,” Soren says tightly. “A warning would only have deterred your instincts.”

“Sorry,” Nik says, “but what was the spell supposed to do?”

“It was meant to seal him into this body, once and for all,” Tuesday says quietly. “He could really belong, and then the Council wouldn’t know what he was. It’d save him from the Claiming. But he had to die first, and be resurrected with the correct rites.”

“And you were going to make us watch.” Tomorrow’s jaw works, her eyes sparkling with rage. Maybe tears. “That was the worst thing my sister has been through, and you were going to make her relive it—”

“Morrow,” Tu pleads, but her twin flips on her. “And don’t you start with me. You had nightmares every night for two years after Zach. You just started getting better. You’ve known since you read the spell what Soren was doing, and you were going to put yourself in the same position again, Tu. Watching you go through that was the worst thing I’ve been through and I won’t. I won’t do it again.”

Tomorrow shoves Tu away from her and storms out. The silence is deafening. Tu stares at the door for half a minute, shell-shocked, and then she gives us one last pitiful glance before hurrying out after her sister.

“I get it, Mika,” Nik says, “but he pushed most all of us to our limits, just because he wasn’t willing to be honest. Seems like if you want people to risk their lives, you should actually trust them.”

Sabbath shoves her hands up her face, hands clenching her hair. “Omens, Soren.” When she sinks down to the floor, her fingers find the dead creature.

Nik crouches down close beside her, and they share a look. It seems remarkably like the kind of look I imagine I’ve given Soren, when we catch each other’s eyes across a room, an unspoken intention passing between us.

Sabbath swallows and drops regretful eyes to the mouse. With a delicate touch, she closes her hands over its little body, a humble tomb between her fingers. When they curl back, the mouse lives; scrambling from her grasp, it vanishes beneath the dense bed of wardleweed.

Wiping the blood from her nose, she stands. “I don’t know that I can be a part of this,” she says quietly.

“We have to try again,” I say. My voice already sounds helpless.

It’s not Sabbath who answers, but Soren. “It’s over, Mika.”

I almost wanted to title this chapter The Breaking of the Fellowship. LOL. I'm a big nerd and The Lord of the Rings is one of my favorites. The music playing at the very end of the first film is one of my ALL-TIME favorite pieces of music (obviously called The Breaking of the Fellowship), and I write to it a lot. Do you have a go-to song that always makes you emotional?

xx Jessa


Copyright © 2019 Jessa Lucas

All rights reserved. This work or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations.

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

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