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Black Magic Sanction

Black Magic Sanction: Page 73

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Not turning, I pondered whether I could do this without my splat gun, deciding I'd have to. "Al is on this side of the lines. Brooke summoned him," I said.

"Rachel!" Ceri said brightly. "You don't have to worry about the coven coming for you anymore. Isn't that wonderful?"

I turned, an invoked pain amulet dangling. "Brooke summoned him, not the coven, and since everyone knows Al is my demon, I'm going to get blamed for it." I hated saying that, but it was true. This sucked. But I was going to make it work for me, damn it. Don't reject, rejoice? God help me, I'm in trouble.

One by one, they reacted as they figured it out. In a flash of dust, Jenks was on my shoulder, ready to go. Telling him he couldn't come wasn't going to be fun. There was only one person joining me. One person I was sure would be okay.

"Bis?" I called, and Jenks's wings hummed as the lumpy shadow above the fridge lost the yellow of the walls and became the young gargoyle. He was really getting good at this. Ivy started, and even Pierce seemed surprised, but I'd known he was somewhere close. I could feel the lines better when he was around.

Ceri's expression was worried as Bis crawled down the fridge like a bat and made the hopping flight to the counter beside me.

"What are you doing?" Ivy said, her pupils dilating.

"Trying to save Brooke's ass," I said shortly, then turned to Bis and wiped my fingers off on the dish towel. "Think you can jump me there? Can you follow Al's aura signature?"

The gargoyle nodded, but I didn't hear what he said as everyone protested at once.

"Have you been sniffing fairy farts?" Jenks shouted.

"You can't jump. You don't know how," Pierce said.

"You're going to get yourself killed!" Ivy said, more angry than afraid. "Al's going to think you gave Pierce that gun, and you want to parade in, telling him he can't have Brooke?"

"Yup." I put my elbows on the counter to have my head even with Bis's. "I might be able to create some goodwill between me and the coven if I'm not too late. They can't help Brooke - they probably don't even know she's in trouble."

Ceri was standing at the back of the kitchen, her uncertainty clear. "I'm coming with you," Pierce stated, coming around the center counter to join me.

"You're going to help me save Brooke?" I said. "From Al? After you tried to shoot him? I don't think so. You're staying here. I don't need you when I'm with Al."

Pierce went to protest, and I raised a pain amulet. "Unless you want to take your beating like a man?" I said, and he dropped back. I'm no ones ward to be babysat.

"You can't jump," Pierce warned me. "Bis can, but not with you!"

"What can it hurt to try?" I said confidently, and Bis shivered his wings, clearly eager. "Al himself said I was slipping into a line, and I didn't have a gargoyle helping. It's just a local jump. It's not like I'm trying to shift realities."

"Rachel...," he growled, but I wasn't listening. Ivy wasn't happy, and Ceri looked just as worried. I had to get out of here or they were going to sit on me.

"Glad we got that settled," I said brightly. "Bis, we're out of here." Jenks rose, horrified as Bis took to the air. "Rache! Pierce says you're not ready - "

But I didn't want to wait. I didn't have to. I had been snatched, jailed, drugged, and treated as less than a person. I doubted very much I could save Brooke, but the attempt might be enough to get the rest of the coven to listen to me. Besides, I did have to talk to Al.

Bis landed on my shoulder, his light weight barely recognizable. His tail wrapped around my neck, and his wings cupped behind my head, unexpectedly funneling the shouts of protest. I reeled - every line in Cincinnati was singing, and through Bis, I could hear them.

"We can do this," I said, reaching out and touching a thought to the nearby ley line. If I could shift my aura to match the tone of it, I'd be inside it, even though I stood in my church's kitchen. I could feel the line outside myself, warmer than I was, tasting of chlorophyll, sour like dandelion sap. My entire soul vibrated, and I let the line pour through me, trying to match its resonance. Warmth, taste, sound, they all blended, and with a gasp, I felt the line take me.

Bis's tail tightened, and I felt him do that curious step-the-mind-sideways twist that Al always did when he pulled me to the ever-after. Yes! I thought exuberantly as I mimicked it and felt my bubble snap into place around me as my body dissolved.

And we were gone.

Listen, I thought, feeling the ley line within me, tasting it. I was everywhere, in every line on the continent. Or at least I had the potential for it. Bis's presence was with me. His mental texture slipped through my protective bubble, bringing with him the discordant sensation of another line. It was as if I could see, taste, hear, the lingering aura that Al had left behind on it, shifting the sound a little deeper, the taste a little more bitter. It was the weirdest thing I'd ever felt. Bis brought the taste of the new line in with him. Otherwise, I'd never be able to sense it past my own bubble. And now that I knew what it sounded like, I could find it.

Confident from success, I reached a thought past my bubble to pick out the line he'd used from the myriad lines crisscrossing the Cincinnati mindscape.

That was a mistake.

Shock vibrated through me - and then the pain hit.

I had no breath, but I screamed. Fire poured through my veins to illuminate my soul - the entire line filled me, unfiltered. My mind rebelled, and my thoughts went white. Tulpa! I screamed, but there was too much. I couldn't spindle creation, and my neurons burned.

Al! I begged in my thoughts, but he couldn't hear me. I'd done something wrong. My memory was charring, flaking from me in sheets of thought.

I had to get out before I burned to nothing. There had to be a way. I had... to listen... through the pain. Where was Al?

Somehow I found him. Somehow I found Al's sarcastic thoughts, bitter and old. Tired, angry, bored. Alone.

Whimpering, I shifted what was left of my aura, modifying it to match the line he had used, and with a last gasp, I shoved myself into it. With the feeling of spiderwebs made of ice, and fog made of fire, I tore my way back into reality.

My face hit a dirty flat carpet, and I dropped my pain amulet.

"Oh. Shit." I breathed, arms shaking as I tried to push myself up, failing. That's okay. It's nice just to lie here.

"Rachel!" I heard Bis cry. Al snarled something, then bellowed in pain. And then Bis was with me. "Rachel, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to leave you. I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!"

"It's okay," I said, hoping he didn't touch me. I'd freaking pass out. My eyes were shut, and slowly my mind was rebuilding itself. A savage smile curled my lips up. I had done it. Damn it, I had jumped the lines!

"Brooke, there's two of them!" I heard Vivian exclaim, but I couldn't move yet.

"Only one of them is Rachel," Brooke snapped. "Which one?"

Bis hissed, and I heard a scraping of claws. A sharp sound of a smack, and a feminine hand grabbed my wrist. "Ow!" I yelped as Al, looking exactly like me, jerked me up.

"I'd say the one not in charge," Brooke said, sounding smug.

My breath came fast, and I scanned the dirty, rectangular room as I found my balance: wood floor with a glowing pentagram laid down with salt, cement-stone walls, low ceilings, really small windows, and a broken table shoved against the big archway leading to a balcony barely big enough to stand on. I could hear water running over rocks somewhere in the dusk. Bis was slumped against the far wall by the stairs, shaking off Al's blow. Brooke and Vivian were standing before us, Vivian looking like she wished she were somewhere - anywhere - else, the skin around her neck red and blistered from being pixed, her clothes a mess, and her heels scuffed. She'd been taking a beating the last couple of days, and it showed.

Al had already gotten out of Brooke's circle by all appearances. No wonder, seeing that he looked like me in black leather and a TAKATA STAFF T-shirt. How had he known what shirt I was going to wear? And where am I? I thought, still confused.

It looked like a bad Hollywood set lit by candles, smelling of spilled wax, dirt, burnt amber, and mold. It was the last one that did it. "Holy crap, are we at Loveland Castle?" I asked, and Al gave me a shake, swinging my attention back to him. Or me, maybe. Damn, he'd even done the eyes this time, and it was like looking in a mirror.

"What the Turn are you doing, jumping with an untrained gargoyle?" he said as he held me up by one shoulder. "You could have killed yourself!"

I couldn't focus well yet, and my stomach lurched. "Well, maybe you should teach me how, then." My bile rose, and I forced it down. I was not going to barf on Al. Not in front of Brooke. Maybe later. Where's my pain amulet?

"I told you this was a bad idea," Vivian said.

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