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Black Magic Sanction

Black Magic Sanction: Page 27

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My gasp for air brought the scent of cinnamon and green things into me, and my alarm paused at a unique sensation, a twinge of something going through me. Pride, maybe, that I was on a tall horse? The hoof pick was almost falling out of his pocket, and thinking he deserved it, I yanked it free when the horse shifted, tucking it in my own pocket instead. I'd give it back once I knew he wasn't going to dump me off on the trail. It wasn't really stealing if the only reason I took it was to prove I could, right? Better than a crappy little witch, huh?

"Please don't make me regret this," I whispered. Jasmine would never speak to me again if she found out, but I didn't care. His horse was fabulous!

"I won't if you don't," he said, and my grip tightened as the horse started into motion.

Whoever was shouting my name was getting closer, and the horse eagerly headed for the door. "What's his name?" I asked as we emerged blinking into the sun.

"Tulpa, but I call him Mr. T."

I looked over the empty paddock and the fenced field beyond. Two figures were coming up the dirt road, their pace quickening when they saw us. A horse and rider stood waiting where field turned into woods. Stanley. "You named your horse after a flower?" I questioned.

"Tulpa, not Tulip," Trent said. "Hold on. We have to get out of here."

"Hey!" I shouted, grip tightening when he nudged his horse into a smooth canter. But the faster we went, the easier it was, and I found myself leaning forward into Trent. My hair was pushed behind me, and I could hardly breathe. One problem. We were heading for the fence.

"Trent?" I shouted, and he kicked his horse into a faster gait. I reached behind me, making sure the pick wasn't falling out.

"I'm taking it!" he shouted. "Hold on!"

He was going to jump it? Heart pounding, I screwed my eyes shut and put my arms back around Trent. He wanted me to fall. I knew it! Vertigo swam up, and I felt my muscles go weak. It was too much. I knew the signs, but I held on all the tighter. Not this time. I wasn't going to pass out. Adrenaline poured into me, and the tingle of magic. Breath held, I felt a thrill down to my toes as the horse bunched beneath me. My eyes opened, and I looked.

Tulpa's feet left the earth, and he stretched forward. One with him, we leaned as well, instinct older than magic taking hold. The beating of his hooves was silenced, and the thumping of my heart was all that there was. For an instant, we flew.

Tulpa's front feet touched, and the world rushed back. The cadence of his hooves beat into me, and I shouted, letting go of Trent. It had been marvelous. Wonderful beyond belief. Exuberant, I smiled, feeling breathless and powerful all at the same time.

Trent turned, wonder in his eyes, shock almost. "You held on."

"Of course I did!" I said, grinning. "Let's go!"

He took a breath to answer me, but I never found out what he was going to say. Someone was shouting our names in fear.

Trent's horse shied, spooking. My hands clutched at Trent as the horse spun. My heels went up, and I fell backward. Trent had one hand on the reins, trying to regain control and keep his horse's head up, reaching back to me with his injured hand. His fingers couldn't grip, and I screamed, feeling myself go.

I fell as the horse leapt forward. The ground slammed into me, shocking, and I stared up at the bright blue sky, now turning a beautiful, beautiful velvet black with no stars.

"Rachel!" I heard, and someone lifted my head. My eyes wouldn't work. I knew I was seeing, but I couldn't figure out what it was.

"Rachel, breathe. Oh God. I'm sorry," Trent said. "Just breathe. Please breathe!"

And then even my ears quit working. Starved for air, I passed out.

I couldn't breathe. My lungs were starving for air, burning, but I couldn't make them expand. Stuck halfway between the memory and now, I hung, able to think, but not to do.

"Rachel!" Ivy shouted, and I felt a stinging smack across my cheek. "Wake up!"

Jenks's pixy wings clattered close, and his draft cooled my burning cheek. "Knock it off!" he exclaimed. "Hitting her isn't doing any good!"

Panic iced through me, but I couldn't move, paralyzed and running out of air.

"You let her invoke a deadly charm?" I heard Pierce say, his voice close.

"It wasn't supposed to be deadly!" Ivy snarled back. "It had already passed the lethal-amulet test. Something went wrong!"

"Kalamack crafted it? I opine that's what's wrong. He's just like his father. Sloppy."

"Look!" Jenks said. "It's still in her hands. Right there!"

My heart thudded, hurting for air; I felt shaking hands turn me over. Fingers wedged among mine, and pain shot through me. A moan I couldn't afford slipped past me.

"You're hurting her!" Nick exclaimed, completing the travesty.

"Better that than she suffocates," Ivy said. Then softer, she said, "I'm sorry, Rachel."

I clenched into myself, my head bursting in pain. Oh God. I was dying. I was going to die from a frigging elf charm. Break my fingers. Anything! The sharp tug on my fingers was a stab of agony, but I didn't think she broke anything as the smooth horsehair slipped from me.

Nick's voice was close and worried. "She's still not breathing."

"Tell us something we don't know, crap-for-brains!" Jenks exclaimed.

"Smack her again!" the thief said.

My hearing was going fuzzy, and the pain of the curse's imbalance was lost in the agony of suffocation. I couldn't think, but I felt the bed dip, and arms smelling of coal dust wrapped around me as my head thumped into a masculine chest. "Forgive me, mistress witch," I heard, and then a line burned through me.

I gasped, the involuntary reaction bringing a slip of air into me. It smelled like a meadow in the sun. Nausea rose and my heart gave a weak pound, but I still couldn't breathe. Somehow I managed to open my eyes.
Pierce was holding me, Ivy standing helplessly, her eyes black and beautiful. "Do something!" Jenks shouted as he hovered close, and my eyes slipped shut.

"I am doing something," Pierce panted. "She took a breath." Smooth fingers turned my chin, and I heard Ivy say, "Trent cursed her?"

"I'm going to kill him. I'm gonna kill the son of a fairy's slug," Jenks vowed.

"It's not a curse. It's a misaligned spell. I'm going to try to burn it out," Pierce said.

I jerked again as a stronger pulse of line energy lighted through me. Almost, I got a second breath, but it wasn't enough, and my heart pounded, starved for air. I wasn't going to make it. Trent had won. Son of a bitch.

"She's turning blue," Nick said, whispering. "Do something. "

"Rachel!" Jenks shouted. "You stupid witch! What have you done!"

Pierce was shaking. "My God, how much line can you hold, mistress witch?"

"She can spindle it," Ivy said. "Give her everything you can handle, and then some."

It was as if light sparked through me. Pierce dove through my soul, reaching for a line through me and pulling it into himself. Gasping, my back arched and my eyes opened wide.

"You're killing her!" Jenks shouted, and I fell back into Pierce.

My arms moved, and my lungs expanded. Gulping the air so hard it hurt, I coughed.

"Catch them!" Jenks exclaimed, and my eyes flashed open as Ivy darted forward to catch Pierce and hold us both upright. His arms were still wrapped around me, and his head was beside mine. He was panting, lips parted and brow furrowed in pain. His breath came fast, and I could feel it on me, coming and going.

"I swan," he breathed. "You can hold a considerable amount of line, Rachel."

I shifted, and his eyes opened, finding mine. Something pinged through me again, painful in its exquisiteness. I recognized it, even as I tried to deny its existence. And I smiled, weak as a kitten as I rested in his arms. "Hi," I whispered so I wouldn't start coughing, concentrating on small, even breaths.

"Hi back at you," he said, the modern phrase sounding funny with his accent, and then Jenks was there, spilling a green dust and looking panicked.

"Rache, are you okay?" the pixy demanded. "Was it a curse? Trent tried to kill you?"

"Looks like it," I said, vowing to jam a curry brush down his throat the next time I saw him.

Jenks started swearing in one-word syllables. My thankful gaze went to Pierce. Damn, the man could hold a lot of energy. Maybe as much as me with a little stretching. And he was holding me. On my bed.

My expression became empty. I didn't have time for this, and it hurt too much when it was over. "Phone," I rasped, trying to untangle myself. The bed shifted as Ivy got off it, and the cooler air hit me when Pierce let go and moved to stand awkwardly beside me. "Where's my phone?" I asked, then remembered it was in San Francisco.

Nick's eyes were wide, and Jenks was spilling a red dust, but Ivy seemed to be thinking the same thing I was, and she handed me her cell. "Use mine."

"Tink's titties!" Jenks was saying, darting up and down, making me nauseous.

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