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Updated: Sep 27, 2021

Chapter Thirty-Three

The Breath of Shadows

“Fate gave us the Raresights and in response, the witching world launched expeditions. Raresights, if you have not been taught, are witches with the rare sight of seeing into the multiverse. Those who can glimpse beyond their own ‘verse and into other versions of themselves. It is a step beyond necromancy, a deeper communion with soul magic. No formal training exists.”

“You’re one,” Soren says.

“Yes,” Pippa answers. “And I am also one of the most learned witches of soul magic across all dimensions. That is not to brag, it is simply the truth.” She gestures to the crystal ball nestled between the more mundane looking crystals. “I scry between worlds. I cannot see all things, but there are many that I can. Such as your coming.”

“But aren’t you—blind—”

Pippa, despite this comment, turns her head to Nik. “What I have is beyond the sight of my eyes, young man. My magic feels all things. The exact shade of blue the sky was today. The colors splayed across it as it fell into night. Six witchlings standing in the ruins of a lost world. The spectrum of magic is so far beyond what mere eyes can see, that I’ve begun to believe eyesight is a bit of a nuisance. A distraction. I’m quite sure you can agree.”

We exchange looks with one another. I’m quite sure we don’t.

Then I catch Soren’s eye, and for all my irritation with him right now, my heart is a battering ram against my chest. I think maybe Pippa’s onto something; if I didn’t have to see his stupid face, maybe my chest wouldn’t feel like it’s being trampled.

“Despite having Raresights at their disposal, it seems High Councils across the multiverse could not be sated merely with seeing into other realms,” Pippa continues. “They were too distracted by their need to go. Andromeda remained untouched, until a few centuries ago. The repercussions of these dimension travelers—shadow walkers, we call them—have been detrimental. The streets of Andromedian Paris were ravaged by a plague of magic introduced by Fayrstar long ago. The ecosystem of the magic and non-magic is delicate. When it went awry, the enchantless discovered us. They revolted, and were nearly eradicated in a matter of years.”

Spoons plunk down into the tea, a chorus of rattling utensils puncturing the story. The knowledge is so vast, the learning curve so steep, that none of us know how to react except to sip our tea in silence, and let Pippa continue on.

“The Knights began in opposition to Fayrstar’s High Council. They connected with Andromeda to mitigate the damage, to set things right. By the time Kat began journeying to Andromeda with the Knights, it was far too late. So, they shifted their focus to the transport of refugees. They were bent on the High Council formally acknowledging and aiding in this effort, especially as they were the cause of it. Even after Kat and the Cain boy were elected to the Council themselves, this initiative never succeeded. Eventually, Cain’s views changed.

“I aided Kat as long as I could, though I also asked her to kindly take her hands off my dimension—history has proven that inter-dimensional involvement has never helped anyone, and the Knights’ mission had changed from setting things right to ferrying our inhabitants to a foreign world. It was most unwise. But Kat’s passion burned bright as a flame. She was certainly not to be crossed, once that flame had been stoked.”

I remember it, my mother’s fierce tenacity. I’ve seen it in myself, and I’ve wondered to what lengths my own stubborn nature will take me.

Pippa’s wrinkles are so deep that it’s impossible not to be curious about her age. How far does her knowledge between worlds go? Can her magic read my future in my eyes, see my fate coming from a distance?

“I still had my sight, the last time I saw her,” Pippa breathes, turning her blind gaze to Soren. “She was holding you in her arms. Such a tiny thing in your swaddling cloth. Couldn’t have been more than a few days old. Soren Cain. If that is still your name, as it was here?”

Soren’s jaw tightens against the five pairs of eyes that wheel to him in question. He stares at Pippa. Finally, he says, “It is.”

Tomorrow reels. “Wait—this Soren is an imposter?” She casts a hostile glance at him with the precursor of blame forming on her face. Tuesday’s brow crumples in mild concern.

“I sense that this is the Soren of my world. Isn’t that right?” Pippa’s eyes bore into him and I feel him shrink under the weight of her unseeing gaze.

“Yes,” he agrees quietly.

Tomorrow jerks to a stand, tea splashing across her black jeans. “You’ve been imitating someone from our world this whole time, asking us to risk our lives for you? Lying to us?” Her anger pitches her voice into a higher octave as she veers to pin her gaze on me. “Did you know, Mika?!”

I haven’t even opened my mouth to confirm or deny when my eyes meet Sabbath’s. Her expression wavers, doubt crowding in over her features. And then shock. Disappointment. I drop my gaze, ashamed.

“If you two weren’t my only way out of here—” Tomorrow seethes.

“Hush now,” Pippa says, her calm voice strangely authoritative. Our eyes snap back to her, but not before Tomorrow shoots me a menacing look as she plants herself back in her seat. She folds one arm over the other, looking murderous.

“There is certainly enough concern to go around without added disruption,” Pippa chides.

The tiny pitcher of cream skirts by, dipping low to spare a good splash for me. I focus in on the pale cream eddying in the dark depths of the tea, shoulders hunched, body language betraying my guilt. My eyes pass to Nik, who’s leaning forward, tea untouched, staring at Soren with his nose puckered as though he’s smelled something rancid.

Nik’s eyes slide uncertainly to Pippa. “I don’t understand. Multiverses, parallel dimensions—how can the same people as Fayrstar even exist in Andromeda?”

It’s a good question, and if “magic” hadn’t just been my go-to answer, I would’ve asked it myself.

Pippa cocks her head, intrigued by his curiosity. “The multiverse tries its best to course correct, to allow fate to steer each slice of existence back to the Righting. It’s far simpler to corral two people into meeting against the odds if only to keep bloodlines consistent, than it is to put down wars and stomp out plagues. Magic is instinct. It’s embedded in our biology.”

“The Righting?” Sabbath asks.

“The most ancient of magical theories, my dear: that there is a right way of things. An ideal. There are two main principles one must remember: Fate will always try its hand at course correcting to the Righting.”

She stares long and hard at Sabbath, long enough for Sab to grow uncomfortable and clear her throat. “What’s the second?”

“That those with power nearly always draw more power to themselves.”

Her gaze finally snaps away with Nik’s next question. “You said the timelines skewed?”

“Between Fayrstar and Andromeda, yes,” Pippa answers gravely. “Here, both the Carrows and Cains had just had children when Pandora went mad. She began picking off the High Council one by one, leaving orphans in her wake. Kat came for you, Soren.”

The way Soren’s face cinches, I can tell this is new information. “Why?”

“Many reasons, I suspect. The soul-tie behind them all. You’ve heard of it?”

Soren and I exchange a glance. Finally, I breathe, “We know about it, but not much.”

Pippa offers a curt nod. “Yes, well, it makes empaths of witches, that bond. Kat and Luca were tied, so she felt his loss when their child was stillborn, and she saw a way to lessen the pain.”

I watch Soren carefully as he drops his gaze to his tea, staring at it without seeing it. My hand wants to reach out to him, to provide some sort of comfort, but I forbid it to do so. Is this how it felt for my mom, being willed by her magic to care for someone despite all logic?

Pippa takes a long swallow from her cup, and motions with a decrepit hand for the teapot. “There is, of course, another reason she returned for you.” The teapot jostles against the table until it lifts, swinging shyly back among us like a clunky bird, its beak steaming. “I suspect she was plotting to protect her own child, should she have one who inherited the soul-tie. In which case, the Cains’ son would be needed.”

Plunking a cube of sugar in my cup, I watch as the granules dissolve, too self-conscious to look up. I wonder if it’s lonely, being a Raresight. Seeing into the crevices of the entire universe, holding the weight of your severed knowledge with no one to understand.

I wonder if, maybe, Pippa Loxely has been waiting a long time to tell this story. Longer than I’ve been waiting to hear it.

“How would the magic work, though,” Sabbath frowns, hands clasped tightly around her teacup. “If he’s from Andromeda and Mika’s from Fayrstar?”

More questions linger in Sab’s voice, carefully layered to conceal her growing sense of panic. Because being at an ancient seer’s house in another dimension while unraveling the schemes of past generations? Totally good reason to freak out.

Pippa turns her discerning blindness toward Sab with an incredulous look. “Why, Michlynn was born in Andromeda.”

Tomorrow chokes on her tea, and Tu gives a little gasp. I exchange a fleeting, wide-eyed look with Sab, hoping she can see in my expression that this is not true, and it’s not a secret I’ve kept from her.

“But that’s not possible—” I start.

“Of course it’s possible, dear. I orchestrated it myself,” Pippa sighs, matter-of-fact.

“I’m not a shadow walker,” I protest. “I’ve never had symptoms—”

“You were born here,” she waves my words away with a wrinkly hand, setting her teacup down and smacking her lips. “But you belong to Fayrstar. I told Kat she must come back to Andromeda one last time, for the spell, of course. Mysteria de Anima Translatio.”

Our eyes all whip to Soren, whose face is on the cusp of epiphany. “You...”

“That spell was not meant for you, Soren Cain.”

“You’re the reason the page was at Burnbright?” he asks slowly.

“Well, I should have been the reason both pages were at Burnbright. Birthing a child is a bit distracting, however. The day I told Kat she must return for the spell also happened to be the day her daughter would be born.” Pippa chuckles to herself, delighted by her own meddling. “Sometimes the multiverse gets tricky little ideas about who to bond and how, never hurts to give your hopes a little push.”

I stare at her, wondering what particular brand of insane this woman is.

Nik steeples his hands, lines creasing his brows. “So you got her mom to smuggle the spell we used out of Andromeda? Why?”

“I couldn’t very well leave such a spell in this world, could I?” Flicking her hand, Pippa summons a book, and it comes wheeling in from another room.

I suck in a deep breath when I realize—

“You have the Grimoire du Mage?” Awe fills Tuesday’s eyes.

“Yes, I am its keeper in Andromeda,” Pippa says, patting the tome as it settles into her lap. “After Pandora Carrow tracked down every last member of our High Council and assassinated them, the public grimoires were returned to their family lines for safekeeping.”

Soren’s eyes narrow. “Family lines?”

“The Grimoire du Mage belongs to my family, and it contains some of the oldest secrets of soul magic. The spell I asked Kat to smuggle out of it was one of the most dangerous—the spell which you all, most unwisely, seemed to have tried your hand at.”

Sabbath hesitates. “You said there are many revenants in this world?”

“Yes.” Pippa’s voice grows low with the tension of this new threat. “Without the protection of our governing body, the witching world fell. From the ashes of this city rose the Shadowmancer. It calls itself by another name, but it deals in darkness, coming and going on the breath of shadows, raising things that are not to be raised and ending things that are meant to be revived. It has awoken legions—and that mark you saw, painting the walls of the city—that is its symbol.”

“You say it,” I say carefully. “Is it a witch, or warlock?”

“Once,” she agrees. “Though it no longer wears its face.”

Sabbath shakes her head like she’s envisioned a nightmare she wants to shed from her mind. “Did the plague not destroy magic?”

“Magic is like grass—resilient, always finding a way to regrow. We have it, though we dare not use it in the open. It lures the Shadowmancer like a worm to the darkness. My home is well warded, one of the few safe places left, but the enemy’s soldiers can see shadow walkers like you. Most people in this world have at one point been dead.”

A shiver careens up my spine, and I’m lucky we’re a bunch of ordinary witchlings. In the weighty pause, I find Soren’s eyes. They’re troubled, a riddle in them that I’m not sure anyone can ever solve. But if anyone could—

“So are we?” I say, looking between Soren and Pippa. “Soul-tied, I mean?”

“Yes. Though...” Pippa motions insistently for my hand and I offer it. Flipping it palm up, she runs a finger around the circumference of the rune. “I sense deep restraint in the magic,” she breathes. “I have felt the rune’s presence since you entered. It feels like Kat’s magic. She did this?”

Returning my hand to my lap, I swallow and nod. “Is there any way to break the soul-tie?”

“Not one that I would wish on any living or unliving thing.”

“So how do we avoid it? How...” I look to Soren, concern marring his chiseled face.

“It will never, truly, go away,” Pippa says solemnly. “The two of you are conduits for each other’s magic, antidotes to it, and that is simply the way your magic was formed.”

“And what if she unbinds her powers?” Soren asks, dragging his eyes from me to Pippa.

Pippa raises a contemplative brow. “You two should be quite careful, in that case, not to offend the magic of the other. Every day will be a test.”

“I don’t want to unbind my powers,” I assure Pippa. Her lips twitch into a small smile, and I feel the urge to convince her.

Before I can open my mouth to do so, the lights flicker. Pippa stills, lifting a rigid finger slowly to her lips. Overhead, a sharp whooshing streaks just beyond the house, rattling the shingles. The glass shudders in the windows and Pippa hobbles to draw the curtains over them. I catch a quick glimpse of the night beyond—it’s totally black, the sky void of moon and stars.

Tuesday looks concerned as she stares at the ceiling, Tomorrow’s usual glower tinged with suspicion as her eyes dart toward the exits. Soren is tense like me, leaning forward, teetering on the edge of a predator’s crouch.

Pippa faces us from the windows, leaning heavily on her cane. The rumbling beyond the house grows, something stirring in the darkness outside.

“The Shadowmancer knows you’re here,” she says. “They’re coming.”

Geez Louise-us! Lots of big reveals in this chapter. Which one was the most surprising to you?

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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