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Authors: Jen McConnel

Tags: #teen, #young adult, #magic, #curses, #paranormal, #fantasy, #witch, #witches, #spells, #science fiction

Daughter of Chaos (22 page)

BOOK: Daughter of Chaos
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He stepped away from my embrace. “I don’t know about before. But I know I would never help you now.”

As he went down the stairs, the lightning flashed again, and I thought I saw yellow eyes gazing up at me from the living room. I shut my door quickly and warded it, even though I desperately wanted to watch Justin to see if he would turn around. He’d have to deal with whatever was waiting in the living room by himself, I thought cruelly, although I was pretty sure it wasn’t waiting for him.

I slid down the door, tears pouring down my cheeks. How had I made such a mess of things? The damn pomegranate seeds hadn’t fixed anything! I sobbed brokenly, heaving great gasps of air. Maybe I should find Rochelle and let her kill me; it couldn’t hurt more than what I was feeling at that moment. I think I came close to discovering whether it was possible to drown in tears, and I had all but given up when I heard a voice.

“Pain is good. Without it, you won’t grow.”

I looked up to find the cold face of Persephone in front of me. The goddess straightened up and cracked her neck.

“I’ve waited a long time for you, Darlena.”

“What do you want?” I stayed crumpled against the door, craning my neck upwards to look at her.

“You.”

Something inside of me reached the boiling point. “I am so damn sick of being a toy to you goddesses! I don’t care who you are, or what you can do! I want to make my own choices.”

A hint of a smile played about Persephone’s lips. “You have. You chose to declare to Aphrodite, didn’t you? And just now, you chose to eat the pomegranate seeds. Grow up, Darlena.”

I gaped at her. She sighed, and her face softened, even if her words didn’t.

“Do you really think it’s the end of the world? There are worse things in life than making a bad choice.”

“Do you regret your choice?” Instantly, I wished I’d never asked the question, because her face darkened dangerously.

“It’s mine and I live with it. That’s the bottom line, isn’t it? Not the choices we make, but the way we handle those choices. Though”—her lips quirked in a bitter smile—“I can’t say you’ve been handling your choices very well.”

I wiped my face, feeling defeated. “I didn’t choose to have my best friend try to kill me. Is she still? I mean, is Rochelle still trying to kill me?”

Persephone looked at me for a long minute. “That depends. Are you still a Red Witch?”

I flexed my fingers in my lap and looked away. “I don’t know.”

“Then I don’t know if the girl is still hunting you.”

“I thought you told me those seeds would give me a chance to undo something!”

She grimaced. “I never said that. I only told you to eat them if you ever regretted your choice. And you must have regretted something, because you ate all three of them.”

I was silent, and the goddess slipped gracefully to the floor, sitting across from me. She reached out and took my hands.

“What do you regret, Darlena? What made you eat the seeds?”

I thought for a moment. “I regret the fact that I couldn’t turn to anyone for help.” I paused, trying to put my thoughts into words. “I regret forcing Justin to stay with me. And”—my voice hardened—“I regret not fighting harder when Rochelle betrayed me.”

Persephone nodded. “Never once, child, did you tell me you regret choosing to follow the Red path.”

“So the seeds only changed the things I was regretting when I ate them?”

She shook her head. “Magic is never that simple. You should know that by now. The seeds altered reality based on your thoughts, but what other effects they had still remain to be seen. However”—she smiled a genuine smile—“I believe that you are still a Red Witch.”

“Why does that matter to you?”

She sighed, fiddling with the robes draped over her shoulder. “You have met some of the other patrons of Red magic. What did you think of my sisters?”

I hesitated, wary of a trap. The Red goddesses I’d met all seemed pretty nasty, but I didn’t want to offend Persephone, since she’d just made it clear that she was a Red goddess, too.

She clucked her tongue at my frozen expression. “You may speak freely. Didn’t you set a ward about this room yourself? I do not wish you harm, but I cannot reveal my meaning to you unless I know if your thoughts run in the direction that they seem to.”

Surprised, I stared at her. “You mean you can’t read my mind?”

She shook her head. “Your mind is swathed in shadow; you must be very powerful to keep even a goddess out of your thoughts.”

I sat back, thinking. I hadn’t really been practicing the tricks that Aphrodite had shown me in the gym, but evidently I was doing something right. The goddess waited patiently while I decided what to say.

“Kali frightens me. Pele was … intense. And Aphrodite—” I licked my lips nervously, but continued. “She doesn’t seem to care much about anything other than love spells. She wants me to use Red magic to meddle in people’s lives.”

Persephone nodded slowly, but she still looked wary. “And this is not to your liking?”

I hesitated, but something made me want to tell this goddess the truth. “Red magic is powerful, and, I don’t know, it feels like a waste to mess around with romance when I could do something like stop a hurricane.” I held my breath, waiting for her to say something.

A slow smile spread across the goddess’s face. “Then it is as I had hoped. Darlena, you are right. Red magic is powerful. There are those who would harness that power for destruction, as Pele and Kali would wish. Then there are those who would struggle to find a balance between chaos and life.”

I was surprised to hear the goddess voicing the thoughts I had held about Red magic almost since the beginning. “It doesn’t have to be about destruction?”

She nodded. “A Red Witch who seeks balance is rare, yet she is also deeply powerful. You control one third of the world; if you used your magic to slow the inherent chaos, who knows what good things might arise?”

“But how do I do that? I’ve tried; Hecate keeps finding ways to slow me down. And now, if Rochelle kills me, she won’t work for balance; she wants blood as much as some of the goddesses.”

Persephone nodded thoughtfully. “That is a problem. It seems to me—”

She broke off and glanced around. Raising her hands in the air, she whispered a word I didn’t understand, and I saw a shimmer of Red dust encase us in a tight bubble. I moved my hand wonderingly, and the Red dust stayed fixed to my skin.

“Not that I don’t trust your wards, dear, but I wanted to add something of my own. No god can alter magic cast by another god. Remember that, Darlena.”

I nodded and leaned forward eagerly. “What were you going to say?”

She paused and looked into my eyes. “You might not like it.”

“Anything is better than this!”

She nodded. “I was going to suggest that we remove you from this sphere.”

I sat back, confused. “What are you talking about?”

She sighed and gestured around the room. “This space, this existence. Rochelle may be a creature of Hecate, but there are limits to her power. She seeks you here, in the world you’ve always known. Wouldn’t it be prudent to remove yourself to a place that Hecate would never expect?”

I looked around my bedroom. Everything was the same as it had always been: my books arranged neatly on the shelf, the small bed covered with my grandmother’s quilt, the thin blue lace that my mom had insisted on draping over the window blinds. I’d spent sixteen years in this room, in my parents’ house, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to leave. I swallowed, uncertain.

Persephone leaned forward. “They would not know you were gone, Darlena. Your parents would not miss you. Life for them would go on as before.”

“How do you plan to make that work?” I was afraid I wouldn’t like the answer.

“I will stay in your place.”

“What?” I jumped up, the Red dust still clinging to me. “Are you crazy?”

“Is it not natural for one daughter to take the place of another?”

“But you’re a goddess! And I’m … not!”

Persephone laughed. “That much is obvious. But hear me out: If I am here, it will not only spare your parents’ feelings. Hecate and Rochelle will also focus their energies on attacking me, while you are safely away, striving to undermine chaos.”

A cold feeling had been sneaking up my spine ever since I stood up. “If you would stay here as me—”

“Is it not natural for one daughter to take the place of another?” Persephone repeated her words softly. I crumpled to the floor, my worst fears confirmed.

“You can’t be serious! I can’t go to the Underworld.”

Persephone snorted. “If you paid any attention to the seasons, child, you would realize I have not yet made my annual descent. The weather is still fair, for another few weeks at least.”

I gasped, “You want to send me to Demeter?”

Persephone nodded calmly. “Your mother is sworn to follow her. She will take care of you.”

I studied her face. “Would she know who I am?”

The goddess paused, considering. Finally, she shook her head. “I’m sorry, Darlena. You would have to disguise yourself as me.” When I opened my mouth to protest, she went on. “Hecate and my mother share a close friendship, and I cannot promise you that she would not betray you if she knew that you were the Red Witch Hecate seeks.”

“How in the world am I supposed to convince Demeter that I’m you?”

“Easy.” Persephone smiled. “You must fashion a glamour.”

 

The plane lurched and the red seat belt sign began blinking. I leaned over and tried to look out the window, but the sky was black.

I was glad to have the window seat, but I wasn’t thrilled to be sharing my armrest with a hulking businessman who smelled like he had brushed his teeth with cologne. He didn’t seem concerned with personal space, and I’d tucked myself as close to the freezing window as I could get. Thankfully, he had been asleep for most of the flight, so I hadn’t been forced to make small talk.

When I had asked Persephone why I had to take a plane, her response had been curt. “Some of us do not have enough magic to transport mortals such great distances.” I didn’t ask again, and she made all the arrangements. It was interesting to think that Aphrodite had more power than Persephone; maybe I’d been wrong to doubt her. But she never showed up, so I didn’t get a chance to ask her if she was still my patron. I threw myself into planning for my trip, and the days passed in a blur.

I chewed my lip, worrying that perhaps we hadn’t been careful enough. True, there had been no sign of Rochelle or Hecate in the days after the hurricane, but I wasn’t confident that I had escaped so easily. Besides, how would I convince a goddess that I was her daughter?

“You’ve learned the art of glamour from Aphrodite,” Persephone had said to me. “I will show you how to tie off a spell, so that it will remain without your constant attention.”

I hadn’t tried that yet; I was waiting until we landed in Athens before donning the face of a goddess. I hoped I had paid enough attention when she explained how to make the spell last. I didn’t even want to think about what would happen if it really became permanent; I couldn’t worry about that now. Until I went home, I just had to think like a goddess.

After eleven hours, the plane finally began its descent. The sky outside had grown lighter, and it was late afternoon when we landed in Athens. The wind whipped across the runway, throwing my hair into my mouth, and I rushed to get inside the terminal, not even stopping to look around. This wasn’t a sightseeing trip, I reminded myself, and I moved with determination toward the sprawling airport building.

Once I had my passport stamped, I headed for the ladies’ room. With my backpack, the only luggage I had brought, I locked myself into the large stall at the end. First, I used magic to change the backpack until it resembled a small leather drawstring bag, the type my grandfather used to keep marbles in. I checked the bag: everything, including the athame and mirror, had survived the transformation just fine. I’d glamoured my tools to get them through security; I wasn’t sure what I would do with them, but I wanted all the help I could get. Drawing a deep breath, I turned my efforts to my own appearance. It was easier than ever before, and once again, I marveled at how badly I had botched the glamour I’d tried for Justin. Thinking about him was like touching a raw wound, so I pushed the memory of his face away. He hadn’t been around since the storm, and I had to accept that I’d lost him for good.

I looked in the mirror, but all traces of my face were gone; Persephone’s sad eyes stared back at me. Once the spell was cast, I imagined I could see two shimmering ends of rope in my hands. Swiftly, I knotted the rope and it pulsed and shimmered, changing from silver to gold. I looked down at my torso, now covered in a loose green linen tunic and brown pants. The goddess had suggested that simple work clothes would be best, and I trusted her. There was a gold-and-red braided cord at my waist, and I tied my bag to it firmly. Squaring my shoulders, I whispered a third spell, for invisibility, and headed out of the airport.

 

***

 

Persephone had given me very detailed directions to find her mother, so I started off with some confidence. It wasn’t long before I reached the vineyard, just as Persephone had said, set into the base of a looming hillside. I glanced up at the mountain’s peak and shivered. I would be in the shadow of the Greek gods, trying to pass myself off as one of them. It hadn’t hit me until then just how dangerous this undertaking would be. My glamour had better hold!

BOOK: Daughter of Chaos
10.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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