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Authors: Jen McConnel

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

Daughter of Chaos (3 page)

BOOK: Daughter of Chaos
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“Magical Ethics.” Ms. Minch looked sharply around the room, making eye contact with a number of students before she continued. “Why do we follow the rules that we follow?”

There was an uncomfortable pause. Finally, Justin raised his hand. “Ethical behavior is just common sense. There’s no reason to do anything harmful just because we can do magic. Besides, the payback isn’t pleasant.”

Ms. Minch nodded once, but her lips were pursed and she looked disappointed in his answer. “The Rede is important, I’ll grant you that, and the threefold law guarantees that your magic will rebound on you with a magnified effect, regardless of the intention of the spell. But that isn’t what I want this discussion to be about.”

In every ethics discussion at Trinity, they harped on the importance of following the Rede, and I was sick of it. What’s the point of magical power with boundaries? At least Ms. Minch didn’t seem to want to talk about
that
today, but I still didn’t want to be there.

“Miss Agara.” Ms. Minch’s voice pulled me out of my reverie, and I jerked my head up to meet her gaze. “Would you tell us another component of the ethics of magic?”

Everyone turned to look at me, and I heard Rochelle snicker under her breath. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Justin smiling from the front of the room, but I didn’t want to think about him.

“Miss Agara, anytime, please.”

I glared at Ms. Minch. “I guess there’s the fact that we don’t show off in front of Nons.”

“Can you elaborate on that, please?”

I shot her a dark look, but her stare was unwavering. “Nons can’t know about us, so it’s better if we use our magic only when we’re around other Witches.”

“And can anyone tell us why Nons are forbidden from magical knowledge?” Ms. Minch shifted her eyes from me, and I relaxed slightly. I hated being called on in class, but the teachers seemed to love singling me out.

One of the Dreamers, Liza, raised her hand. “Doesn’t it have to do with Salem?”

Rochelle snorted. “Not just Salem. All the Witch trials.” She didn’t bother raising her hand, but she seemed unconcerned when Ms. Minch shot her a withering look.

“That’s right, Liza,” Ms. Minch simpered, ignoring Rochelle. “There was a time when Witches didn’t bother to hide from Nons. Magic and everyday life existed side by side for centuries. But with the spread of the Church, people grew more suspicious of things that couldn’t be explained.”

Justin raised his hand eagerly. “But weren’t the victims of the trials not actually Witches?”

“Some Witches were accused, but you’re right, many more innocent Nons were swept into the mania.” Ms. Minch turned to write on the board.

“Not so innocent if they caused the trials in the first place,” Rochelle muttered, but Ms. Minch acted like she hadn’t heard her.

“It took many years, but by the nineteenth century, the magical community had finally agreed that it would be better for everyone if Witches and Nons didn’t mix. Since that time, secrecy has been carefully preserved.”

Liza spoke up again. “It seems really stupid. I mean, I can’t even tell my parents about magic. They’re not likely to burn me at the stake or anything.”

Ms. Minch nodded at Liza once. “We are safe from Nons. The secrecy has more to do with keeping them safe from us. If we advertised our abilities, there’s no telling what would happen. Nons are happier believing that magic is nothing more than superstition.” She pointed to the timeline she’d drawn on the board. “Now, can anyone tell me which Witches have nearly destroyed the balance by advertising their power?”

The timeline had fifteen dates on it, all from the last two centuries. I raised my hand and pointed to 1939. “Hitler.”

Ms. Minch nodded, writing his name on the board. “Hitler was a Black Witch, but he shouldn’t be seen as representative of the dark path. It’s likely that he was insane, and his actions were only magnified, not dictated, by his magical abilities.”

Rochelle sat up sharply. “But couldn’t it be argued that he shaped the modern world? If it weren’t for World War II, things would look a lot different now. Shouldn’t we revere him for pushing us forward in history?”

The room was silent for a minute, and even I felt shocked. Rochelle was defending Hitler? Before I could ask her what she meant, Ms. Minch regained control of the discussion.

“Whether he propelled us into the modern era or not, Hitler broke the ethical rules of Witchcraft by using his power in such a visible fashion. Witches must not reveal themselves to Nons.”

The speaker over the door crackled to life, and Ms. Minch looked at it, annoyed.

“Yes?”

“Ms. Minch, Miss Agara to the front office. Immediately.”

Everyone turned to look at me, and Rochelle chuckled. “What did you do now?”

I shrugged and grabbed my bag. I really wasn’t sure why I was being called to the office, but I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach that it had something to do with my bizarre dream about Hecate.

The look on Principal Snout’s face when he spotted me crossing the courtyard told me that whatever was going on was worse than I thought.

“Miss Agara,” he whispered hoarsely, “you should not be here!”

“Where should I be?” I snapped.

He didn’t answer. Glancing warily around, he grabbed my arm and dragged me into his small office, shutting the door behind me. I sighed, wondering what I’d done now and taking my customary seat in the chair facing his desk and staring at a spot on the wall above his bald head. The office was decorated with magical objects: a row of cauldrons hung on the wall above the window, and small figures of different gods lined the windowsill. It was sort of creepy, as if Snout was trying to make his office look like a shrine; it had been like that for as long as I’d been at Trinity. Most Witches didn’t put their tools on display, but Snout wasn’t most Witches. I waited for him to begin shouting.

The shouting never came. Instead, when I glanced up, Snout suddenly looked away from me and began fiddling with a glass paperweight on his desk. A bead of sweat stood out on his forehead, and it occurred to me that he was nervous. What could possibly make the principal nervous to be around me?

He dithered around a bit longer before he finally spoke. “I have been, erm, informed, that you have made your declaration.” He still didn’t look at me, and his nervous twitching began to irritate me.

I stared. So it hadn’t been a dream after all. But who had told him about last night? “Yes,” I began slowly, “I have decided to follow—”

He made a jerky motion and the words died on my lips. He sealed his silence spell, and I closed my lips, annoyed.

“I am aware. You will complete your training elsewhere. Starting now. Trinity no longer has the resources that you will need. There are … certain individuals who have expressed interest in you.” His eyes flickered to the door, and I turned my head to see what he was looking at. A black plaque hung there above the doorway, showing a goddess with three heads. I shuddered, recognizing Hecate’s face on each of the heads.

Snout nodded at me once, and I realized that Hecate must have told him everything. Why in the world was she taking an interest in me? I tried to speak, but I was still bound by his spell.

“Your records will not indicate expulsion, but you will not be admitted onto these premises again. Not now, and especially not after your training is done. You will receive your diploma in the mail. Is that quite clear?”

His voice shook as he spoke, but I was too angry to feel sorry for him. My eyes burned, but I nodded. He sank back in relief and waved his hand, freeing my jaw. Still, I couldn’t speak.

“Darlena, if I may offer you a word of advice: don’t overreach yourself. You have chosen your fate, heaven help you, but don’t try to become the best. To be the best on your path is to be the next to fall. Remember that.”

“So it really exists.”

He stared at me like I was an idiot. “What did you think, that you’d declared to follow an imaginary path?”

I shrugged, feeling foolish. I hadn’t really thought at all. When Hecate appeared, I had been too confused to think. I had said the first thing that popped into my mind, but evidently, there really was a Red path. “What kind of magic is it?”

He mopped his forehead with a handkerchief. “A very dangerous kind. You will leave the school grounds immediately, and not return.”

With a wave, he dismissed me, and I thought I saw regret in his eyes as I turned and stomped out of his office.

A dark shape came slipping out from behind one of the columns in the entry hall, and Rochelle fell into step beside me.

“What happened?”

I shook my head, not trusting my voice just yet.

She glanced over her shoulder at the principal’s door. “Well, whatever it is, coffee can’t hurt.” Rochelle grabbed my arm and steered me off campus in the direction of our favorite spot.

 

***

 

“So then what did you say?” Rochelle’s heavily lined eyes were wide and the coffee in front of her sat untouched.

“I told her I wanted to be a Red Witch.”

Rochelle crinkled up her nose. “But what does that even mean?”

I shrugged, my heart sinking. Rochelle was the first person I had told, and some desperate hope had made me think that she might know more about Red magic than I did. She was always studying strange things that none of our classes covered. “I don’t know, but I guess I better find out fast.” I took a swallow of my latte, and Rochelle sipped her black coffee thoughtfully.

“I wish Hecate would show up in my living room.” Her voice was wistful, and I shuddered at the memory of the goddess’s claw-like hand gripping my chin.

“Trust me, Rochelle, it wasn’t fun. And what would your parents say? They’d freak out!” Rochelle’s parents thought Trinity was the expensive prep school that it looked like; they had no idea that their daughter was training as a Witch. How she kept it a secret, I didn’t know, but Rochelle managed somehow.

We’d been best friends almost since the minute she enrolled. I met her in the janitor’s closet. I used to sneak in there during Algebra to practice spells that our teachers thought were too dark or advanced for freshmen to learn, and Rochelle had had the same idea. I walked in on her binding a hex, but I never told on her. I was too fascinated by the powerful magic Rochelle had taught herself before enrolling. In exchange for silence, I begged her to teach me, and by the end of the week we were inseparable. Hexes aren’t exactly part of the standard curriculum at Trinity, since they flagrantly violate the Rede. Rochelle wasn’t intimidated by breaking the rules, and I loved her for her bravery.

I took another sip of my latte, relishing the flavor, and looked at my best friend. Her hair was cropped short, and this week she had died the tips teal. Everything else about her, though, from her eyeliner to her shoes, was black. My parents didn’t like Rochelle; they had a real prejudice toward Black Witches, although I didn’t see what the problem was. Black was just another path, and clearly it wasn’t as dangerous as whatever I’d pledged myself to. Rochelle hadn’t been expelled; I had.

Rochelle chugged the rest of her still-steaming coffee. “Well, when you see Hecate again, be sure you tell her ‘Hi’ for me.”

I laughed nervously. “I doubt I’ll be seeing her again. I mean, how often does she ever show up? Her visit was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and I’m glad. She won’t have any reason to check up on me.” I hoped.

My best friend shot me a look that I couldn’t read. “Don’t count on it, Darlena.”

 

***

 

Rochelle cut classes for the rest of the day, insisting that I shouldn’t be left alone in my current mood. We took her sporty little Honda and headed to downtown Raleigh. I felt a little foolish, but I convinced her to spend the day wandering in and out of the free museums near the State Capitol building. It was the only thing I could think of that would make the day feel normal.

My parents used to drive into Raleigh every month, taking me to one museum after another. While a lot of people who live in this area tend to stick to their city, my parents were never shy about exploring Raleigh and Chapel Hill. Rochelle didn’t object when I asked to go to the State History Museum, but she sighed loudly and rolled her eyes the entire time we were there. I ignored her, lost in the past. Indulging in childhood memories seemed a lot safer just now than dealing with my new reality.

We spent the entire day in Raleigh, but eventually Rochelle said she should get home for dinner. I felt a guilty tug in my gut; I had barely thought of my parents the whole day. What would they think when I told them what had happened? Rochelle dropped me at the end of the street and I walked home, stewing. I’d wanted to believe Hecate’s visit was just another dream, but now I knew better. Snout had made it clear that Red magic was real, and what’s worse, it seemed to scare him. What had I gotten myself into?

By the time I reached my house, both my parents were there waiting to pounce on me. When I saw their cars, I almost turned and walked back down the driveway, but I squared my shoulders and decided to face the music sooner rather than later. I wasn’t sure how I’d tell them about Hecate, but I thought that maybe, since Snout had known already, I wouldn’t have to say anything. I wasn’t sure if that would be better or worse than telling them myself.

Mom was sitting on the tattered floral sofa, something she had dragged around since her college days. Her face was blotchy and puffy, and I realized with a shock that my stoic mother had been crying. I froze on the threshold, digesting the unsettling sight. Dad was leaning against the wall, his back to the door, but he and Mom both looked up at my entrance. Dad stiffened and looked away, but the tears that welled up in my mother’s eyes as she gazed long and hard at me hurt more than his snub.

Still unsure, I crossed the room and took a seat beside Mom. The smells of coffee and cigarettes wafted up to greet me; that couch had had quite a life before I was born, and the lingering scents of its past were often present. The old smells should have been comforting, but I was too confused to really notice.

BOOK: Daughter of Chaos
5.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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