A Fistful of Charms
A Fistful of Charms
Жанр: Фэнтези про драконов
Год издания: 2019
“Sit,” she said. “Or watch. I want to be useful.” She smiled without showing her teeth, sadness clouding her clear eyes. “Where do you keep your blessed candles?”
“Um, in with the big silver serving spoons,” I said, pointing. Doesn’t everyone?
Jenks swooped in, gold sparkles sifting from him in agitation. “Sorry about the lamp,” he muttered. “They will be washing the windows inside and out tomorrow.”
“That’s okay. It was Ivy’s,” I said, thinking they could break every light in the place if they wanted. It was more than nice having them back—it was right.
“Al is a walking pharmaceutical,” Ceri said, flipping to an index to check something, and Jenks made a hiccup of surprised sound. “That’s why demons want familiars experienced in the craft. Familiars make the curses they use, the demons kindling them to life, taking them internally, and holding them until invoking them with ley line magic.”
With the first inklings of understanding, I pulled another demon book out and rifled through it, seeing the patterns in Al’s magic. “So every time he morphs or does a charm…”
“Or travels the lines, he uses a curse or spell. Probably one that I made him,” Ceri finished for me, squinting as she snatched one of Ivy’s pens and changed something in the text, muttering a word of Latin to make it stick. “Traveling the lines puts a lot of blackness on your soul, which is why they’re so angry when you call them. Al agreed to pay the price for pulling you through the first time, and he wants information to compensate for the smut.”
I glanced at the circular scar on my wrist. There was a second one on the underside of my foot from Newt, the demon from whom I’d bought a trip home the last time I found myself stranded in the ever-after. Nervous, I hid that foot behind the other. I hadn’t told Ceri because she was afraid of Newt. That she was terrified of the clearly insane demon and not Al made me feel all warm and cozy. I was never going to travel the lines again.
“May I have a lock of your hair?” Ceri asked, surprising me.
Taking the 99.8 percent silver snippers I’d spent a small fortune on that she was extending to me now, I cut a spaghettisized wad of hair from the nape of my neck.
“I’m simplifying things,” she said when I handed it to her. “And you probably noticed he has a few shapes and spells that he enjoys more than others.”
“The British nobleman in a green coat,” I said, and a delicate rose color came over Ceri. I wondered what the story behind that was, but I wouldn’t ask.
“I spent three years doing nothing but twisting that curse,” she said, fingers going slow.
From the ladle came Jenks’s attention-getting wing clatter. “Three years?”
“She’s a thousand years old,” I said, and his eyes widened.
Ceri laughed at his disconcertion. “That isn’t my normal span,” she said. “I’m aging now, as are you.”
Jenks’s wings blurred into motion, then stilled. “I can live twenty years,” he said, and I heard the frustration in his voice. “How about you?”
Ceri turned her solemn green eyes to me for guidance. That elves were not entirely extinct was a secret I had told her to keep, and while knowing her expected life span wouldn’t give it away, it could be used to piece the truth together. I nodded, and she closed her eyes in a slow blink of understanding. “About a hundred sixty years,” she said softly. “Same as a witch.”
I glanced uneasily between them while Jenks fought to hide an unknown emotion. I hadn’t known how long elves lived, and while I watched Ceri weave my hair into an elaborate chain that looped back into itself, I wondered how old Trent’s parents had been when they had him. A witch was fertile for about a hundred years, with a twenty-year lag on one end and forty at the tail end. I hadn’t had a period in two years, since things pretty much shut down unless there was a suitable candidate to stir things up. And as much as I liked Kisten, he wasn’t a witch to click the right hormones on. Seeing that elves had their origins in the ever-after, like witches, I was willing to bet their physiologies were closer to witch than human.
As if feeling Jenks’s distress, Matalina flitted in trailing three of their daughters and an unsteady toddler. “Jenks, dear,” she said, giving me an apologetic look. “The rain has slacked. I’m going to move everyone out so Rachel and Ivy can have some peace.”
Jenks’s hand dropped to his sword hilt. “I want to do a room-by-room check first.”
“No.” She flitted close and gave him a hovering kiss on the cheek. She looked happy and content, and I loved seeing her like that. “You stay here. The seals weren’t tampered with.”
My lower lip curled in to catch between my teeth. Jenks wasn’t going to like my next move. “Actually, Matalina, I’d like you to stay, if you could.”
Jenks jerked upward, a sudden wariness in him as he joined her, their wings somehow not tangling though they hovered side by side. “Why,” he said flatly.
“Ah…” I glanced at Ceri, who was muttering Latin and making gestures over my ring of hair at the center of a plate-sized pentacle she had sifted onto the counter with salt. I stifled a feeling of worry; knotting your hair made an unbreakable link to the donor. The ring of twisted hair vanished with a pop, replaced with a pile of ash. Apparently this was okay, since she smiled and carefully brushed it and the salt into the shot-glass-sized spell pot.
“Rachel…” Jenks prompted, and I tore my gaze from Ceri; she had tapped a line, and her hair was drifting in an unfelt breeze.
“She might want a say in this next spell,” I said. Nervous, I pulled the demon book closer and opened it to a page marked with the silk bookmark Ivy had gotten on sale last week.
Jenks hovered a good inch above the text, and Matalina gave a set of intent instructions to her daughters. With a whining toddler in tow, they darted out of the kitchen.
“Ceri,” I prompted cautiously, not wanting to interrupt her. “Is this one okay to do?”
The elf blinked as if coming out of a trance. Nodding, she pushed her sleeves to her elbows and crossed the room to the ten-gallon vat of saltwater I used to dissolution used amulets. As I watched in surprise, she dunked her hands into it, arms coming up dripping wet. I tossed her a dish towel, wondering if I should start a similar practice. Fingers moving gracefully, she dried her hands while she came to peer at the spell book on the table. Her eyes widened at the charm I’d found to make little things big. “For…” she started, her gaze darting to Jenks.
I nodded. “Is it safe?”
She bit her lips, a pretty frown crossing her angular, delicate face. “You’d have to modify it with something to supplement bone mass. Maybe tweak the metabolism so it’s not burning so fast. And then you’d have to take the wings into account.”
“Whoa!” Jenks exclaimed, darting to the ceiling. “No freaking way. You aren’t doing anything to this little pixy. No way. No how!”
Ignoring him, I watched Matalina take a slow, steady breath, her hands clasped before her. I turned to Ceri. “Can it be done?”
“Oh, yes,” she said. “Much of it is ley line magic. And you have the earth charm ingredients in your stock. The hard part will be developing the supplemental curses to fine-tune it to limit his discomfort. But I can do it.”
“No!” Jenks cried. “Augmen. I know that one. That means big. I’m not going to get big. You can forget it! I like who I am, and I can’t do my job if I’m big.”
He had retreated to where Matalina was standing on the counter, her wings unusually still, and I gestured helplessly. “Jenks,” I coaxed. “Just listen.”
“No.” His voice was shrill as he pointed at me. “You are a freaky, misguided, crazy-ass witch! I’m not doing this!”
I straightened at the sound of the back door opening. The curtains fluttered, and I recognized Ivy’s footsteps. The smell of pizza mixed with the rich scent of wet garden, and Ivy came in looking like a frat boy’s fantasy in her rain-damp, sex-in-leather coat and a square box of pizza balanced on one hand. Short hair swinging, she noisily dropped the box on the table, taking in the room with a solemn, quiet face. She moved Ceri’s rain cape to a different chair, and the tension ratcheted up a notch.
“If you’re big,” I said while Ivy got herself a plate, “you won’t have to worry about the temperature fluctuations. It could snow up there, Jenks.”
Ivy flipped the top open and took a slice, carefully putting it on a plate and retreating to her corner of the kitchen. “You want to make Jenks big?” she said. “Witches can do that?”
“Uh…” I stammered, not wanting to get into why my blood could kindle demon magic.
“She can,” Ceri said, skirting the issue.
“And food won’t be a problem,” I blurted, to keep the subject to Jenks and off of me.
Jenks bristled despite the gentle hand Matalina put on his arm. “I’ve never had a problem keeping my family fed,” he said.
“I never said you did.” The smell of the pizza was making me feel ill as my stomach knotted, and I sat down. “But we’re talking almost five hundred miles, if they are where I think they are, and I don’t want to have to stop every hour for you to fight off roadside park fairies so you can eat. Sugar water and peanut butter won’t do it, and you know that.”
Jenks took a breath to protest. Ivy ate her pizza, scooting down in the chair and putting her heels on the table next to her keyboard, her gaze shifting between Jenks and me.
I tucked a red curl behind an ear, hoping I wasn’t pushing our delicate working relationship too far. “And you can see how the other side lives,” I said. “You won’t have to wait for someone to open the door for you, or use the phone. Hell, you could drive…”
His wings blurred into motion, and Matalina looked frightened.