A Fistful of Charms
A Fistful of Charms
Жанр: Фэнтези про драконов
Год издания: 2019
“Jenks,” she said, hiccuping. “I’m so proud of you. I—”
“Shhhh,” he said, his face twisting in heartache when he found himself unable to touch her. “Please don’t cry, Mattie. It’s going to be okay. I promise.”
My eyes warmed with unshed tears as she played with the folds of her dress. “I’m sorry. I promised myself I wasn’t going to cry. I don’t want you to see me cry!”
She darted up, zipping out into the hall. Jenks made a move to follow, probably forgetting he didn’t have wings anymore. He leaned forward and fell to the floor, face first.
“Jenks!” I shouted when he hit with a dull smack and started swearing.
“Le’go! Let go of me!” he exclaimed, slapping at me as he wedged his legs under him, only to fall back down. His towel fell away, and he struggled to hold it in place and stand up all at the same time. “Damn it all to hell! Why can’t I balance right?” His face went ashen and he quit struggling. “Crap, I gotta pee again.”
I looked pleadingly at Kisten. The living vamp swung into motion, easily dodging Jenks’s flailing arms and hoisting him up off the floor by his shoulders. Jenks was taller by four inches, but Kisten had done bouncer work at his club. “Come on, Jenks,” he said, moving him into the hallway. “I’ve got some clothes you can put on. Falling down is a lot more comfortable when you have something between your ass and the carpet.”
“Matalina?” Jenks called in panic from the hall, protesting as Kisten manhandled him to my bathroom. “Hey, I can walk. I just forgot I didn’t have wings. Le’me go. I can do this.”
I jumped at the sound of Kisten shutting the bathroom door.
“Nice ass, Jenks,” Ivy said into the new silence. Shaking her head, she picked up the second towel Jenks had left behind, folding it as if needing to give herself something to do.
My breath came from me in a long exhalation. “That,” I said to Ceri, “has got to be the most fantastic charm I’ve ever seen.”
Ceri beamed, and I realized she’d been worried, waiting for my approval. “Curse,” she said, her eyes on her teacup as she blushed. “Thank you,” she added modestly. “I wrote it down in the back with all the supplemental curses worked in on the chance you’d want to use it again. The countercurse is included, just as it’s supposed to be. All you have to do is tap a line and say the words.”
Countercurse, I thought morosely, wondering if that meant more black on my soul or if I had taken it all already. “Um, thanks, Ceri. You’re incredible. I’ll never be able to do a charm that complex. Thank you.”
She stood in front of the window and sipped her tea, looking pleased. “You returned me my soul, Rachel Mariana Morgan. Making your life easier is a small thing.”
Ivy made a rude sound and dropped the folded towel on the table. She didn’t seem to know what to do next. My soul. My poor, tarnished, blackening soul.
My mouth went dry as the enormity of what I had done fell on me. Shit. I was playing with the black arts. No, not the black arts—which you could go to jail for—but demonic arts. They didn’t even have laws for people practicing demonic arts. I felt cold, then hot. Not only had I just put a bunch of black on my soul, but I had called it a good thing, not bad.
Oh God, I was going to be sick.
I sank down into my chair feeling shaky. Ceri had her hand on my shoulder, but I hardly felt it. Ivy was shouting something, and Ceri was telling her to sit down and be still, that it was just the delayed shock of taking on so much reality imbalance and that I was going to be okay.
Okay? I thought, putting my head on the table before I fell over. Maybe. “Rhombus,” I whispered, feeling the eye-blink-fast connection to the line and the protective circle rise around me. Ceri leapt forward, joining me before it finished forming. I had practiced this ley line charm for three months, and it was white magic, damn it, not black.
“Rachel!” Ivy cried as the shimmering band of ever-after wavered into existence between us. I pulled my head up, determined not to spew. I wanted to see what I had done to my soul, and though I couldn’t see my aura, I could see a reflection of the damage in the shimmering band of ever-after.
“God help me,” I whispered, feeling my face go cold.
“Rachel, it’s all right.” Ceri was crouched before me, her hand gripping mine, trying to get me to look at her. “You’re seeing an artificially inflated shade. It hasn’t had a chance to soak in yet. It really isn’t that bad.”
“Soak in?” I said, my voice cracking. “I don’t want it to soak in!” My aura had turned the usually red sheen of ever-after to black. Hidden in it was a shimmer of gold from my aura, looking like an aged patina. I swallowed hard. I would not spew. I would not spew.
“It will get better. I promise.”
I met her eyes, the panic subsiding. It would get better. Ceri said so; I had to believe her.
“Rachel!” Ivy cried, standing helplessly outside the circle. “Take this down!”
My head hurt and I couldn’t get enough air. “Sorry,” I breathed, breaking my link with the line. The sheet of ever-after flickered and vanished, and I felt a surge through me when I emptied my chi. I didn’t want anything extra in me right now. I was too full of blackness.
Looking embarrassed, Ivy forced the tension from her shoulders. She blinked several times, trying to recapture her usual placid calmness, when I knew what she wanted to do was give me a slap and tell me I was being stupid or give me a hug and tell me it was going to be okay. But she couldn’t do either, so she just stood there, looking miserable.
“I gotta go,” I said abruptly, surging to my feet.
Ceri gracefully stood and got out of my way, but Ivy reached for me. “Rachel, wait,” she protested, and I hesitated, vision swimming as she gripped my elbow.
I couldn’t stay there. I felt like a leper in a house of innocents, a pariah among nobles. I was covered in blackness, and this time it was all mine. “Jenks!” I shouted, yanking out of Ivy’s grip and heading for my room. “Let’s go!”
“Rachel, what are you doing?”
I went to my room, scuffed my shoes on, grabbed my bag, and pushed past her and into the hall. “Exactly what I had planned,” I said, ignoring her, pacing far too close behind me.
“You haven’t had anything to eat,” she said. “You’re still reeling from invoking that…spell. It won’t kill you to sit down and have a cup of coffee.”
There was a thump from my bathroom followed by Kisten’s muffled exclamation. The door crashed open, and I stopped. Kisten was leaning against the washer, face contorted in pain as he tried to catch his breath. Jenks was holding the door frame, looking casual in Kisten’s gray and black sweats, but his green eyes were stressed. “Sorry,” he said, sounding as if he meant it. “I, uh, slipped.” He ran his eyes up and down my haggard appearance. “Ready to go?”
I could feel Ivy behind me. “Here,” I said, extending my suitcase. “Make yourself useful and get this in the van.”
He blinked, then grinned to show even, very white teeth. “Yeah. I can carry that.”
I handed it over, and Jenks stumbled at the weight. His head thunked into the wall of the narrow hallway. “Bloody hell!” he exclaimed, crashing into the opposite wall when he overcompensated. “I’m all right!” he said quickly, waving off any help. “I’m all right. Sweet mother of Tink, the damn walls are so close! It’s like walking in a freaking anthill.”
I watched to make sure he was going to be okay, reaching out when he started weaving once he lost the guidance of the walls and was in the open space of the sanctuary. His kids were with him, adding to the noise as they shouted encouragement and advice. Hoping he took the time to walk down the steps instead of trying to jump them, I headed for the kitchen. Ivy was hot on my heels, Kisten close behind, quiet and pensive.
“Rachel,” Ivy said, and I stood in my kitchen and stared at Ceri, trying to remember why I had come in there. “I’m going with you.”
“No, you aren’t.” Oh yeah. My stuff. I grabbed my shoulder bag, with its usual charms, then opened the pantry for one of the canvas carry bags Ivy used when she went shopping. “If you leave, Piscary will slip into your head.”
“Kisten, then,” she said, desperation creeping into her gray-silk voice. “You can’t go alone.”
“I’m not going alone. Jenks is with me.”
I jammed the three demon books into the bag, then bent to get my splat gun from under the counter where I kept it at crawling height. I didn’t know what I would need, but if I was going to use demon magic, I was going to use demon magic. My chest clenched and I held my breath to keep the tears from starting. What in hell was wrong with me?
“Jenks can hardly stand up!” Ivy said as I ran a hand through my charm cupboard and scooped them all into my shoulder bag.
Pain amulets, generic disguise charms…Yeah, those would be good. I pulled myself to a stop, heart pounding as I looked at her distress.
“You’re not feeling right,” Ivy said. “I’m not letting you walk out of here alone.”
“I’m fine!” I said, trembling. “And I’m not alone. Jenks is with me!” My voice rose, and Kisten’s eyes went round. “Jenks is all the backup I need. He is all the backup I ever needed. The only time I screw up royally is when he’s not with me. And you have no right to question his competency!”
Ivy’s mouth snapped shut. “That not what I meant,” she said, and I pushed past her and into the hall. I almost ran Jenks down, and realized that he’d heard the whole thing.