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Black Magic Sanction: Page 65
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I could make them big, then small again to give them their wings back.
Then what? I thought. Pat them on the head and tell them to be good? If I gave them their wings back, they'd have a renewed life as well, with no promise that they wouldn't turn around and murder me in my sleep. They had already tried to kill me with that dart. Ivy, too. No, I wasn't going to make them big even for a second.
Sidereal's lips were pulled back in a long-toothed grimace, and his expression was cross. I wondered if he'd had the same thought when he turned away, hissing. "Schhhhsssss. The coven is right. You're a black witch. Cursing yourself to save a pixy."
"The coven is a bunch of jealous hacks," I said, not believing it but enjoying hearing the words come out of my mouth. "What's the point of being able to do all this if you don't do anything to help your friends? I'm not hurting anyone but myself by getting small. His wife just died, and he needs someone to hold him. And how can you call them animals when they pine to death when the other one dies?" Oh God. Jenks, we need you. Don t follow Matalina just yet. She wanted you to live.
"Your kindness hurts, witch," Sidereal said bitterly, stretching a hand behind him to hold a new pain. "It hurt my people when you saved us from death, and it will hurt the pixy. You are truly a demon."
My face warmed, and I barked, "Who asked you?" I wasn't hurting Jenks, was I? Should I just let him die with Matalina? Was I being selfish? Maybe... maybe a pixy loved so deeply that to continue on would be hell?
Sidereal's black eyes squinted at me as my face went cold, but the creak of the back door turned me around. Adrenaline pulsed as Pierce came out. Ivy was behind him, and then Ceri. Anxious, I stood and wiped my hands off on my jeans. "Where's the other one?" I asked, seeing only two potion vials in Pierce's hand. Ivy winced, and I got it. "You aren't going?"
Ivy took a vial from Pierce and handed it to me. "I saw what went into it," she said as she gave me a hug. My eyes closed and I felt the tears prick again. There was worry for me in her touch. "I can't do this," she whispered, sounding ashamed. "You can."
Why wasn't I surprised? "Am I making a mistake?" I asked her, miserable about Matalina, but wanting to keep Jenks alive.
Ivy shook her head. Seeing it, Ceri cleared her throat for my attention. "The curses need to be invoked," she said, and I took the finger stick she was extending.
Invoked with demon blood since they were curses. Numb, I snapped the top off the finger stick with my thumb and pricked it in one smooth motion, practice making it easy. The wind ruffled my hair as I massaged the digit, three drops plopping first into my vial, then Pierce's. The scent of redwood blossomed, but my face went cold in the slight breeze when I thought I smelled a hint of burnt amber. No one else seemed to notice it.
Damn it, how much more proof do I need?
Shaking, I looked at Pierce. His expression was empty, and he downed it with no hesitation. "It tastes like the fall," he said as he ran his tongue around the inside of his mouth.
"Dried leaves," I whispered, remembering Jenks saying the same thing. The fairies at the end of the table were all watching, and I wondered, if I freed them would they go back to the coven and tell them everything they had witnessed? Did I even care?
Gathering my courage, I raised the vial... then paused. "Clothes," I blurted out. "I can t walk into Jenks's house naked."
"Jih is bringing them," Ceri said patiently.
"For you and Pierce both."
Satisfied, I downed the vial, waiting for Jenks's snide comment about naked witches in his Garden of Eden, but of course it never came. My heart clenched. The dusty taste of the potion seemed to dry my mouth, and I swallowed, tongue running over my teeth to try to get it off. "That's awful," I said as I made a face and tapped a line. All that was left were the magic words. "What's the word to turn back?" I asked.
Ceri shrugged. "The same to invoke it."
I thought back to the size charm for Jenks last summer. "Non sum qualis eram?"
The woman's eyes widened, and I had one gasp of air before it was shoved out of me.
Just that fast, it took hold. There was no pain, but I could feel the rush of the ley line spill into me, vibrating every cell until I felt overly full. A sheet of smut-tainted ever-after enveloped me, making my hearing muzzy, but there was a clicking like a trillion abacuses as my cells prepared to shift, turning things on, turning other things off. Then the flow of energy hesitated.
I got another breath in before it was shoved out again. I felt as if I was being squeezed like a tube of toothpaste. Energy flowed out of me as I shrank. My eyes quit working, and I panicked. There was the shattering of something: a hard crack followed by the tinkling of shards. I thought it might be my soul.
With a final pulse echoing in from the line, the curse played itself out. My ears popped and everything sounded off. I opened my eyes to find I was in a black-sheened world of cotton smelling like soap. My shirt. I'd done it. I felt behind me, exhaling when I found no wings.
"I take the smut," I said as I felt the first ping of returning sensation from the ever-after. The rising wave of pain crested, then broke about me to lap a new film of black imbalance over me. I tasted it as I grabbed a fold of shirt and tried to cover myself, thinking the new coating had almost a metallic tang to it. My legs were hairy, as in I-can't-find-my-razor hairy. I wasn't going to look at my armpits, knowing what I'd find. I suddenly realized I'd reset my biological clock yet again. No wonder demons lived forever.
"Nice," I whispered, looking up as I heard the hum of pixy wings and a shaft of light pierced in. It was Jih, looking like an angel as she clambered into my shirt, a haze of blue sparkles about her. A green dress with gold and silver lace was over her arm. Under it was a set of green trousers and a shirt - for Pierce, I was sure. The young pixy woman pushed aside a fold of cloth and stood. She looked to be ten inches shorter than me if we had been human size. Her face was streaked with glitter from her dried tears, and she looked miserable. I knew she was a full adult with a husband and a garden of her own, but she looked ten to me, and my heart went out to her. I wasn't the only one grieving.
"Ms. Rachel," she said, holding out the dress. Her voice sounded exactly the same, which I thought odd. Mine did, too.
"Thanks, Jih," I said, quickly taking the dress and accepting her help putting it on. It crossed over itself in the back and tied in the front to allow for wings. The fabric itself was soft and so light I hardly knew I had it on, making me feel naked anyway. Silver and gold lace decorated it, and apart from my embarrassingly hairy lower legs showing, it fit perfectly. "This is beautiful," I murmured, and Jih managed a sad smile, meeting my eyes for the first time.
"Thank you," she said softly. "I made it last year. It was the first time I'd ever tried making that pattern of lace. It took me all week to convince my mother - "
Her words stopped, and my heart just about broke when she covered her face and started to cry. "Oh, Jih," I said, immediately stumbling over the inside of my shirt to get to her. "I'm so sorry." I gave the young wife a hug and she sobbed all the harder. "We are all going to miss her, but you probably most of all. You knew her your entire life."
Pulling back, she nodded as she wiped her eyes with a small cloth pulled from behind the bandage on her arm. She'd fought beside her parents, another pixy tradition broken.
"D-do you think you can get my papa to live?" she stammered, her eyes bright with unshed glitter as she looked up at me, hope in them for the first time.
"Do you think I should?" I asked, wondering if me messing with pixy culture was the right thing to do. It seemed every time I tried to change things for the better, I messed them up.
lih's tears slowed. "I don't know," she said wistfully. "I never thought about having just a mother or a father. They were always one thing."
She looked up as both the sky and the light were eclipsed. "Excuse me," she said, gathering up Pierce's clothes and darting away. My hair flew everywhere from her backwind, and alarm filled me as my footing became unstable when Ivy carefully pressed the shirt down, exposing me to the world. Pierce hadn't shifted yet, and he blinked at me in bemusement. I wondered if I looked like a woman from his time, making me feel even more awkward.
"Rachel?" Ivy's voice boomed out, and I cowered, hands over my ears.
"Not so loud!" I shouted, and she drew back, uncertainty in her big, fat face. How she looked enormous and the sun and clouds looked the same was beyond me.
"I can't hear her," Ivy said to Ceri. "She just squeaks."
"Well, I can hear you!" I shouted. Feeling exposed, I awkwardly climbed over my shirt to the ground.
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