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Updated: Sep 13, 2021

Chapter Thirty-One

The Sealing of a Soul

About half an hour into waiting, I start to feel a strange sensation. I guess it means the potion’s working, but I don’t like how it feels—it’s a tug, not dissimilar from how my magic feels when Soren ignites it. This, though, is less like catching fire, and more like prying—like I’m wearing my magic as an overcoat, and some force outside of my body is yanking at it.

It’s uncomfortable. It makes me feel itchy and exposed, heavy as if something is weighing on top of me, lingering there. Like both my body and my magic are holding their breath.

The feeling only worsens as the moon creeps higher in the dark sky, visible through the folds of white blossoms of wardleweed. Everyone feels it now, and the effect is becoming visible.

Tuesday starts first, emitting a soft blue light. It’s faint, but totally detectible in the darkness of the room, shimmering there around her body. Soon, I notice we all leak with color, varied in hue and brightness. Tomorrow’s is red, Sabbath’s is golden, Nik’s a dusky tan. I’m surprised to see mine is shimmering a soft, but undeniable, magenta.

I kind of hate that.

Soren glows the brightest. It’s difficult to describe the particular way he luminesces, since it’s dark, swirling around him like evil Northern Lights.

We know what’s happening. We’ve gone over every aspect of this spell, calculating what the intention might be, postulating how the magic might work. Right now, our essences are rising to the surface, our natural magic manifesting outside of us with raw potency, each specialty in our blood awakening the power of transference.

Glancing at us all for a moment, I think how we look like galaxies in what could be a universe, moving lights full of stars and worlds and thoughts, all mingling in darkness. It’s a nice image, one that nearly makes me forget the awful sensation it brings with it.

“It’s time,” Tuesday announces quietly.

She’s read the spell dozens of times already, but she reads it again so we don’t miss anything.

“‘Draw the Liferune in the center of the gathering of five using bone dipped in ash. Place five red candles at the center, one for each member of the gathering, with their names carved into the wax. Each should light his—’”

“Or hers,” Tomorrow cuts in, as she does with every reading.

“‘—own candle, using only the power of their risen essence,’” Tuesday continues. “‘The subject’s candle should be the tallest and must sit in the middle of the others. Rest a mirror in the air above the flames, facing the subject. The middle candle should remain unlit; when the magic is complete, it will light of its own accord.’”

We do as the book says, putting the candles carefully in place, lighting them with our fingertips, and propping the charmed mirror at eye level with Soren. He stares at his reflection grimly as we orient ourselves toward the chants we’ve rehearsed.

Soren begins. “‘Self beyond self I call thee near, wandering soul settle without fear. Fragmented spirit secure thy claim, and when thou dost settle, alight the flame.’”

He continues to mutter it softly as the rest of us find our words individually. As we grow more confident, the words swell to a chorus.

“We bid you return, soul of our own, take residence in heart, and blood, and bone. We call you through the corridors of time and space, to inhabit and claim your very own face.”

The words seem to resonate, to echo in the recesses of the room, and I realize it’s because the spirits are mimicking us, chanting the same words in a low murmur. Omens, the spirits are impressionable. Letting the spirits take over for us, we return to the directives.

“‘Two vital offerings given in austerity, one as a life gift, and the other for spell achievement,’” Soren quotes, and Tuesday nods gravely.

“What does that mean?” I ask.

“It’s rune language.” Soren withdraws something else from his enchanted pocket—a mouse, held up by its tail. “It means there has to be sacrifice in order for the spell to work.”

Sabbath locks eyes with the mouse. “No. That’s not part of the spell.”

“You assumed a high-level soul spell wouldn’t require sacrifice?” He frowns at Sabbath and it hits me. “It’s basic knowledge that soul magic is based in runes, and runes require sacrifice.”

“We read her spell like a hundred times. That wasn’t in it,” Sabbath insists.

“That’s because it’s on my page,” he says, withdrawing a yellowed piece of parchment that looks as if it’s been torn from an old book.

“There’s another part to the spell?” Tomorrow’s voice edges toward a cliff. She looks to her sister. “Did you know?”

Tuesday bows her head, opening her mouth. No sound comes out.

“Tu, you lied to me,” she says, shocked.

Grief wipes across Tuesday’s face. “No, I—”

“You did! You didn’t tell me what he was up to. I can’t believe this.”

“I didn’t lie—I—” She looks helplessly at Soren. “He said he would bring Zach back, Morrow.” Her voice cracks.

“I will,” Soren promises, no threat or malice marking his voice. But I realize he’s kept secrets, leveraged them among us. I may have the luxury of knowing what Soren is, but I certainly haven’t been told of another page to the spell.

“He wants to do a spell that he didn’t even let us look at? No. I’m out.”

“Tomorrow has a point,” Nik says, looking from the mouse to Tomorrow, seeming unclear on which is the worst path to follow.

“Morrow, please—”

“Why did you lie to us, Soren?” Sabbath asks, voice wavering.

Finally, I look to Soren through the swirl that’s gaining ground.

“Sit down,” he commands.

Tomorrow looks shocked—not only to be told what to do, but to actually find herself heeding his order.

“Sit down,” Soren repeats, “because we have to complete this spell now. The potion is in each of us, and if we don’t see this through, we’re all going to face a very sour fate.”

“Yeah? And what fate is that, Soren? Or is it another secret?” Tomorrow barks.

“Right now, our essences are being drawn out, and along with them our powers. If we don’t complete the spell, there’s a chance that our powers will be lost to the spirit world. As you know, this rune opened the door to the spirit world and the potion has increased our sensitivity to it. The only way to stop the spiritstorm is to make the sacrifice.”

We all look at Tuesday who bashfully nods. “He’s right,” she admits, afraid to lock eyes with her sister.

“I can’t believe you,” Tomorrow whispers. The glare she gives Tuesday is laced with a hurt I don’t think I’ve ever seen on her face.

“Soren, Sabbath’s not going to do it,” I whisper.

Hearing me, Sabbath shakes her head. “I’m not.”

“For this to work, Sabbath, something has to die.”

“Did you not hear her?” I snap.

“I’ll kill the damn mouse!” Tomorrow lunges for it, but Soren holds it out of reach, looking to Sabbath. “It has to be you.”

Her eyes are pleading. “Why are we doing this, Mika?”

I exchange a glance with Soren. I know his secret. Why am I keeping it, again? But I see the desperation in his eyes, and something in my heart cracks just enough. I take a deep breath.

“Trust me, Sab. We need to do it.”

She knows there’s something I haven’t told her. Tears slip down her face as she reaches a hand for the mouse. It writhes in Soren’s grasp, and she rips her hand away with a sob.

The whirlpool of spirits is like a carousel around us, winds rushing, the colors of our essences sweeping into the swirl. The tugging sensation grows, and I can see it in others—a ghost of Nik’s face stretches from his head, as if his image is being sucked from the shell of his body. I feel like I’ve walked into a tundra, my face stiff, freezing.

Soren is the worst. His ghost isn’t stretching, but thrashing, dancing in and out of his body like a flame flickering to stay lit.

“KILL THE DAMN MOUSE, SABBATH!” Tomorrow screams over the howl of the wind.

The mouse chirps, fighting the hold on its tail. Sabbath’s hand is shaking so badly that at any moment, I’m sure she’s going to drop the thing and it will scamper away, only to be lost in the dark recesses of the room.

Nik reaches out for the creature, cupping it in his hands and holding it still with his thumbs. He looks irate, whether for the mouse or for Sabbath I can’t tell, but to my surprise, he offers his hands to Sabbath and nods at her.

Weeping, she sets the point of the knife against the mouse’s little throat. She can’t keep a solid grip on it, though. This one small life goes against her every sensibility, against her every promise about who she will be. I hate that we’re here. That I’ve done this to her. That I feel stuck between choosing Sabbath or choosing Soren.

But at this point, there isn’t any choice left.

Reaching out to Sabbath, Tuesday wraps both her hands around Sab’s flimsy hold on the blade. Tuesday looks Sab in the eye and tries again with the breathing exercise. This time it works as Sabbath takes in long pulls of air in sync with Tu’s instruction. Finally, Tuesday inclines her head gently.

The mouse’s cries escalate. Sabbath clenches her eyes shut, her dense curls whipping against her pained face. With a quick jolt, the mouse’s squeaks are cut in half.

A sob falls from Sabbath’s mouth and the knife clatters to the floor. Mechanically, Soren collects the dead mouse from Nik’s hands and sprinkles its blood inside the Liferune.

The spiritstorm refuses to cease. Their endless chant is limned with a distress that reflects my own. Nothing is happening. At first, I think we must have done something wrong, until Soren withdraws a second knife.

Until he holds it up to his own throat.

A flurry of shouts rise up to stop him, but I’m the fastest.

No word of dissent will deter Soren Cain. I lunge at him, my fury—my fear—crackling around the essence radiating along my skin. It pops against his, our hands igniting, quicker, more powerful than the night of the solstice.

A great blue flare drowns out everything, the ominous whir of the spirits lashing against my ears, the feeling of my own essence being wrenched left and right. I’m engulfed in a great gulp of sensation and light.

I have no idea if Soren has dropped the knife. If he’s dead, just because I chose against unbinding my magic. I don’t even know if we have magic anymore, or if we’re about to evaporate into some spiritual aether and simply cease to exist.

But as the glow settles into a bubble of blue that stretches around us, and the cacophony of wailing winds wane, a bigger question forms on my lips…

We’re no longer in an abandoned classroom, under the light of a watchful moon and an invasion of glowing wardleweed.

No. We’re in Paris, and it’s burning.

What color would your essence be?

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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