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Black Magic Sanction: Page 63
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"I only ask that you keep Jenks alive through it."
My tears started, and I swallowed hard, grief rising from hope, seeming all the harder for the brief respite. No? Why?
"Mattie," Jenks protested, and her bird-bright eyes fixed on his. She was seeing around corners. Damn it. Not again!
"I don't want to start over, Jenks. I'm tired. But I'm proud of you, my visionary." Her hand shook as she touched his cheek, leaving a smear of blood. "For you to see the endings of what you've started is right, but I don't want to live beyond my children. I'm a mother first. You're a force, Jenks, and I thank my luck for having bound myself to you."
"You can be a force, too, Mattie," he began, his voice breaking when she shushed him. There was an ugly stain of red seeping from under her, and I knew she had only moments. Still, she smiled, giving him her love to the end.
"No," she said firmly. "I want you to stay when I go. Break tradition again, my love, and burn me alone in the home we built. I don't want you with me. You aren't done. You see too far ahead. You need to make the world in your thoughts a real one that our children can fly in."
"Take the charm, Mattie," Jenks said roughly, "and we'll see the future together."
"I'd rather hear it from you," she whispered, and my throat tightened as the tears slipped down. "I want to watch your eyes light up when you tell me. I'll wait for you under the bluebells. I'll be there always."
"Mattie?" Jenks cried, pulling her closer as he sensed her slipping away. "I don't want to be without you. I need you!"
Matalina's eyes opened wide, but I wasn't sure she was seeing him anymore.
"Not as much as you... think," she said carefully. "Look what you've done. I'm going to die happy. All my children will survive. What mother can say that on her last breath? Thank you, Jenks. Sing to me? I'm so tired." Her eyes closed as she struggled to take a last breath, not to continue her life, but to breathe her last words. "I love you."
"Please, Mattie!" Jenks cried, desperate. "We can do this together. We can do anything together! Please..."
But she was gone, and he was alone though he held his wife, rocking her as he cried.
I could do nothing, helpless as I looked down on them. Jenks... My tears hit the ground beside him, and I struggled to do something - anything - but I was useless. I was too damn big. "Jenks?" I whispered, my hands corralling him.
He blinked, the green of his eyes going deep into me. "She's not here...," he warbled, as if in shock.
I was too big. I couldn't hug him. I couldn't tell him it was okay by holding him until he found himself. "Ivy!" I shouted, then dropped to my elbows, trying to get closer. Matalina's face was streaked with blood and a silver dust, making her look like a weary angel. "Jenks, I'm sorry," I whispered, my throat too tight for more. God, I'm so sorry.
His eyes were wide, and the tears still spilled from him, turning to glittering sparkles as they dried. A smear of blood was on his cheek where Matalina had touched him last. "She went to guard the back door," he said as if dazed. "They must have been holding back," he said, and my chest clenched. "I should have sung her to sleep. She was so tired, and she wanted me to sing." Bewildered, he looked at me, his wings unmoving. "I'm alone," he said as if in wonder. "I promised to stay with her forever. And here I am. Alone. And she's gone."
"You're not alone. Jenks, please," I said, unable to stop the tears from slipping down. Somewhere I'd heard pixies died of heartache when their spouses died. "It's going to be okay. You've got Ivy and me. We're here. We need you. Matalina told you to stay with us."
The clatter of pixy wings came just before Ivy's footfalls. Rex hunched furtively. In a swirl of blood-stained silk, the entire clan dropped to the ground as a great keening rose. Unable to take it, the cat ran away. Ivy stood above us, and as I looked up, her eyes spilled over with tears. I could say nothing, my heart aching for his pain. Matalina.
"Oh, Jenks," Ivy breathed as she dropped to kneel. "I'm sorry."
He had turned back to his wife, trying to smile as he brushed her face and arranged her hair. "She's here, but I'm alone," he said as if trying to figure it out. "I don't understand."
The keening lifted and rose, and Ivy's jaw tightened. "You're not alone, pixy. Don't you dare go somewhere to die!"
Face riven, he stared blankly at her. "I am alone," he said simply. Getting up, he found Jax standing miserably, holding Jih as she cried into his shoulder. "Jax, the garden is yours," he said, and the younger pixy jerked. "Keep Rachel alive if you have an ounce of respect for your mother," he finished bitterly. And as Ivy and I stared, Jenks took Matalina and walked into a shadow that hid the back tunnel to their home.
A wailing grew, turning into harmony with no words, heartrending in its beauty. The pixies joined together, rising up with wings turned blue from sadness, the tears sifting from them to make them glow. All but Jax, his feet riveted to the wet earth.
"No! I don't want the garden!" he shouted at the small opening. "I don't want your dreams, old man! I have my own!"
I turned to Ivy, scared. "What does he mean, the garden is Jax's?"
Jax rose up, and I sat back on my heels to keep him in sight. "I'm to find a wife and keep the land," he said. Wings clattering, he flew to the empty tunnel but didn't enter. "I don't want it! You can't make me do this!" he raged into the darkness. "This isn't what's supposed to happen!"
"This is Jenks's land," I said, scared. "He's my backup, not you."
Ivy was crying, the tears slipping down her pale face with a slow misery. "He's gone to ground with her," she said. "He's not going to come out. Ever."
Fear pulled me straight. "What do you mean, ever?
He's going to kill himself to stay with her."
"Jenks!" I shouted in a panic, dropping down to put my face beside the hole and seeing for the first time the small black stones that lined the walls to hold back the earth and make the opening look like a shadow. "Jenks, I need you!" I shouted. "Come back!"
There was no answer, and I turned to Jax, shaking inside. "Go in and get him."
Jax bowed his head, his arms over his middle. "I can't," he said, turning away.
He cant, I thought, confused. Heart racing, I stood. The morning was just as beautiful, the trees just as green and the soft sounds of the city coming faintly as humans headed to work. But now it was different. Broken. There had to be a way to fix this. I wouldn't accept this end. Not by a long shot.
As if in a dream, I started back to the church, my shoes getting wet from yesterday's rain.
"Ceri?" I called, jerking to a halt when Pierce stepped from behind his own tombstone.
"Jenks?" he asked, eyes hopeful but his stance weary.
My mouth opened to tell him, and grief hit me, shocking my breath away. "Matalina," I choked out. I couldn't say the words. If I did, I would start to cry again and never stop. It was so awful.
Pierce took my arm to pull me close in comfort, and it didn't matter how brave I wanted to be as my next breath came out in a sob. "She's gone," I managed. "Jenks is going to kill himself to stay with her. I have to get small." Eyes wet, I looked up as Pierce pushed the hair from my eyes. "Do you know the curse for that?" I asked.
"No," he said, gently, the pain in his eyes echoing a loss from his past.
"That's okay," I said, head hurting as I struggled to stop my tears. "Ceri probably does." Disentangling myself from him, I started back across the graveyard, skin tingling as I passed through the ley line. I could hear Pierce behind me talking with Ivy. Desperation kept me moving forward, and finally I reached the knee-high wall separating the graveyard from the garden - the dead from the living. Miserable, I stepped over it, wondering if the spirits of the dead could watch us by crossing a barrier just that easily. Thoughts of my dad made the tears prick again, and I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand. "Ceri?"
It was obvious by the way she stood with her hands clasped before her middle that she knew what had happened. High above the garden, I could hear Jenks's children filling the world with their grief. Tears glistened in her eyes, and she held out her hands to pull me into a hug when I came close. "You'll miss him dearly," she said, smelling of cinnamon and earth.
Hands going to her shoulders, I pushed us apart. "I need your help," I said, heart breaking. "I need to get small. I have to save Jenks."
With my peripheral sight, I saw Sidereal turn, shushing the fairy woman he was talking to. Ceri's eyes widened, and dropping back a step she asked, "Why?"
Desperation turned to frustration. "Why? He won't come out, and I have to tell him it's going to be okay," I said. "Shrink me down so I can fit in his stump. Can you do it?"
Pierce's voice rose over the distance, telling me that either he was using his magic to listen in, or Ivy was relaying the conversation.
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