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Black Magic Sanction

Black Magic Sanction: Page 42

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I'll allow the elves must have rejoiced for their continuing lives, even banished as they were, until the sun rose and the same demons who'd cursed them were flung back, trapping all together in an almighty wrathy state."

"Until the elves learned how to travel the lines and come home," I said, my eyes rising to his. "Witches learned to do it first, though." And then demons killed all the gargoyles who knew so no one could travel the lines hut them.

Pierce turned from me to wash the plates with careful attention. "A reasonable truth when a body knows the secret of our origin," he said, reminding me that he was one of the few people to know.
"Demons created the ever-after and are slung back to it when the sun rises."

"Jenks can't stay in the ever-after after sunup," I said, taking up my cup and warming my hands around it. "He popped right out. And when I was in the ever-after, it felt like the lines were running from the ever-after to reality."

Pierce set the rinsed plates in the dry sink. "Perhaps because pixies are of such a small stature. I've not the learning, uh, I don't know. The lines flow like tides. When the sun is down, ever-after flows into reality, allowing demons to visit. When the sun is up, reality flows into the ever-after, pulling them back. It's the tides that make a caution of their realm."

I thought about that, remembering the broken buildings. Standing, I started pulling drawers open to hunt for a drying towel. "So ley lines are the paths the demons took to return to reality that first time, and they flow back and forth like tides, trashing the place."

"You have it like a book!" Pierce said, clearly pleased. "The entirety of the ever-after is pulled behind us like a man hanging behind a runaway horse, fixed fast by the ley lines."

"So how do you travel them?" I asked as I dried a plate, remembering what all this history was supposed to lead up to. He hesitated, and I added, "I want to know, even if it's just theory. I won't tell Al you told me. Give me some credit, will you?"

Hands dripping suds, he squinted as if in pain, and I added, "I'm going to need something to think about in Alcatraz besides your stunning Latin syntax, okay?"

Emotion drained from his face. "You won't get there. I'll not allow it," he said, his soapy hands suddenly on my shoulders. "With Bis's help, I can find you, follow you anywhere."

My impulse to pull away vanished. As I stood there, my shoulders became damp. I searched his expression, too jaded to believe in white knights. Happy endings were never handed out. You had to fight for them, earn them with bruised hearts and sacrifices. And I just couldn't do it right now. It hurt too much when it fell apart. "Don't make me promises," I whispered, and the earnest glow in his eyes tarnished.

Head down, I ducked out from his hands, going to the table and recapping the corn syrup as if nothing had happened, but my shoulders were cold, making it feel as if he was touching me still. I couldn't let myself like him. It was too stupid to think about.

"Look, I've traveled by ley lines a lot," I persisted, wanting to change the subject. "I can even hold myself together without help. Al hasn't had to keep my soul from going all over the continent for weeks. Can you at least tell me how gargoyles fit into it?"

His head down, Pierce returned to the sink and dumped the pan of sudsy water.

"Oh, come on!" I cajoled as I slid the corn syrup in next to the cornflakes and shut the door hard. Why does Nick have six bottles of corn syrup? "I won't tell Al!"

Still Pierce said nothing as he rinsed the dishpan and put it away damp. He was frowning when he turned back, and upon seeing my arms over my chest, he held up his hands in surrender. "Holding your soul together is but a small part," he said, and I made a satisfied huff, turning to dry the silverware. "To put it all on one stick, you need to shift your aura to match a ley line."

I pulled three drawers open looking for the silverware, dropping it in when I found it. There was no order, just everything all jumbled together in an otherwise empty drawer. Ivy would have an OCD moment. "I didn't know you could do that," I said. "Shift your aura. What, like make it a different color?"

"No. Color shifts slowly with our experiences, but the sound it makes is... flexible."

I bumped the drawer shut with my hip, turning. "Auras make sounds?" I questioned.

"Apparently," he said sourly. "Mine never says anything that I can hear."

I smiled, relaxing at the drop in tension. "How can you change something you can't even hear?" I complained. "It's like teaching a deaf woman how to speak immaculately."

"That," Pierce said as he put the plates away, "is an almighty fine comparison. And why it takes a gargoyle to teach you. You need to know what sound your aura needs to be, and gargoyles are the only creatures that can hear auras and ley lines both."

I leaned back against the kitchen counter, wondering if this was as close to a normal life as I'd ever get: a few hours in someone else's apartment, cleaning up after breakfast and talking shop with a man who had been dead for a hundred and fifty years. But dead no longer.

"Bis can hear auras," I stated, and Pierce took the dishcloth from me, drawing it through my fingers. "So if I want to use the ley lines like a demon and go back and forth, all I have to do is learn how to make my aura sound right?"

He nodded. "Death on," he said, his eyes fixed to mine. "When Al totes you in a line, he first changes the sound of your aura until it's consistent with that of the nearest ley line. That draws you into it. You settle somewhere else by making your aura sound like the line you wish to be in. A body's soul will find itself there most quick, and from there, you allow your aura to return to its normal sound to push you from the line back into reality. Demons can't hear the lines, nor can witches or elves or pixies, but with practice they can learn to shift their auras. "

"And you."

He inclined his head. "And me. Because I studied on it. Most diligently. It is one of the reasons the coven branded me black, saying it's a demon art because it makes your aura smutty. But, Rachel, it's not evil. Bis is neither cursed nor smut-ridden because he can travel the lines."

"You're preaching to the choir here, Pierce," I said, watching him dry his fingers. "So, assuming I go along with this and Bis can tell me how to shift my aura, how do you do it?"

Dropping the dish towel, Pierce sat down at the table, looking excited for the first time. "Think on it like this," he said as he folded a napkin into an informal cup shape. I stayed where I was, and he looked up with an innocent expression. "Come along, Ms. Schoolmarm," he said, and I tugged out the chair opposite him and sat down.

Pierce eyed the space between us, then shook a bunch of salt into the napkin. "Be of the mind that the salt is like your aura," he said, "and the napkin is the barrier the ley line makes with all creation. The salt can't get through, agreed?" he asked, and I nodded. "But if you make the space that abides within the salt bigger, spread it out... "

I gasped when he dumped his cold coffee into the paper-napkin cup and coffee predictably went through the napkin and all over the table. "What are you doing?" I protested, my motion to stand halting when he reached across the table and grasped my wrist. Smiling, Pierce squished the napkin in one hand to get the last of the coffee out. Taking my finger, he traced it through the puddle and touched it to my lips, bringing the nasty taste of salty coffee to me. That's not why I shivered, though. Stop it. Just stop it now, Rachel

"Just like the salt, your aura can be tuned so the gaps within it are bigger. It is still your aura, unchanged, but when the holes match up with the holes of the line, you can slip through right smart. Like magic. Each line is different. Know the line, and you can travel to it."

My lips were salty, and I felt another quiver as he held my wrist with the width of the table between us. "YouVe made a mess," I said, not looking from his eyes. They were blue, but not like Kisten's. Not like Kisten's at all.

"Do tell?" Pierce leaned across the table until he was inches away. His eyes were glinting. I didn't care if it was him or what he had told me that got my pulse racing. He was holding my wrist, almost pulling me closer. "Are you of a mind to try to shift your aura?" he offered. "Without Bis, you won't know what to match it to, but if I should make a die of it, my wicked witch tucked away in Alcatraz will have something to ponder."

The memory of Alcatraz was like a slap, and I jerked from him. "God, yes," I said as my hand slipped from his. "What do we do first?"

He smiled, taking a moment to swipe the coffee up with the dish towel before he held his hands out over the table, palms up. "We bring our souls to perfect balance."

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