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Authors: Jen McConnel

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

Daughter of Chaos (8 page)

BOOK: Daughter of Chaos
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“Darlena, if she’s mad, that means that something about you isn’t what she thought. That might be a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s definitely dangerous for you to make the Queen of Witches angry. We have to try to figure out what upset her. Why did she come here today?” Mom looked at me, searchingly, and I drew a shuddering breath. So she hadn’t heard about the car accident. I wished I could pretend it had never happened, but I realized that I was in way over my head. Maybe confiding in Mom would make things easier.

Quickly, I told her about the morning. She stared at me intently, and raised an eyebrow when I repeated what Hecate had said about me altering the fate of the man in the car. When I finished, she was still. What if she ordered me out of her sight? I don’t know why I thought that—confrontation isn’t Mom’s style—but telling her about the horrors of the morning had been hard. Hearing the words coming out of my mouth made me feel even more like a monster, and I wouldn’t have been able to stand it if Mom had thought the same about me.

Mom tapped the side of her mug rhythmically and looked up at me. She didn’t look angry, just thoughtful, and I exhaled in relief. “Darlena, I think I understand a little bit of this. Red magic has something to do with death and disaster, right?” I nodded, thinking of the stack of newspapers under my bed and the visit from Pele. Mom kept talking, not noticing how pale I suddenly was. “And the car accident today was supposed to happen. Two people were supposed to die, but the accident would have also served as a catalyst to more deaths down the road, right?” I nodded again. Mom drew a deep breath before continuing. “So. So you are a Red Witch, and you changed death today.” I started to interrupt, but Mom plowed over me. “Two people still died today, but the man who would have killed others later on was one of the two. You balanced chaos.”

I stared at her, not sure I understood. Mom reached across the table and took my hands in hers.

“Darlena, this is a good thing. You saved lives today!” Her voice rang with pride.

I pulled my hands away. “But two people are still dead because of me! Nothing can change that.”

Mom looked at me sternly. “Hecate said even more were meant to die. You changed that, Darlena. It’s a tragedy, don’t get me wrong. But you made the tragedy smaller.”

We stared at each other for a minute, letting it sink in. I tried to wrap my mind around the idea that I’d done something good through doing harm, but it went against everything I’d ever been taught. Good was good, bad was bad, and harm was always bad, right?

An idea occurred to me. “Do you think that’s what a Red Witch does? Controls chaos?”

Mom nodded thoughtfully. “But clearly Hecate doesn’t want you to limit chaos. When you flew off the handle at her, she said that she wasn’t worried anymore, right?”

I nodded, ashamed that I had let my temper get the better of me. “So I have to control my temper, because somehow Red magic is affected by my moods. Great. I’m sixteen, and the fate of the world rests on me keeping a cool head.” I sat back in the chair, sulking. Mom squeezed my hand.

“Not the whole world. There must be other Reds.”

 

I stayed in the kitchen with Mom that afternoon. She was preparing some food to take to a potluck that night, and she said she needed my magical touch. I knew that was a lie; I’m not much of a Kitchen Witch, and Mom has certainly had years of experience making amazing food, but I let her lie to me. I wanted to be close to her, too, after the shock of the morning.

Mom had the kitchen window flung open and the crisp air was wafting over us. I laughed when she said she wanted to make apple pie.

“How TV family is that?”

She chuckled. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting things to be perfect for an afternoon, is there?”

I took down the flour tin and tossed some on the counter. “I guess not,” I said, patting the flour down and tracing shapes in it, like I did when I was little. Mom came up beside me and laughed when she saw what I was doing.

“I think you learned your first spell in this kitchen with me, playing with flour. Do you remember?”

Instead of answering, I smoothed the flour and began deliberately drawing symbols. Mom squeezed my shoulder.

“That’s the one. The spell to make sure the food you cook won’t burn. You did that so naturally the first time, I only had to show you once! And you were such a little thing. I was sure—”

She broke off as a shadow crossed her face.

“What?” I asked, even though her expression begged me to stay quiet. She turned to the sink and began washing the apples.

“Oh, it’s nothing.” She wouldn’t look at me.

Now I really wanted to know. “Mom. Please tell me what you thought when I did that spell.”

Her shoulders slumped, and she kept her back to me when she whispered, “I was sure that you were going to be a Green Witch like me.”

Silence filled the kitchen, and I stared at her back for a moment. Dad had always talked about how great it would be if the whole family was Green, but Mom had never pushed. I should have realized that she’d want me to follow in her footsteps, but it had never occurred to me. And the fact that I’d declared to a weird and dangerous form of magic that was about as far away from Green as I could get probably wasn’t helping the situation. I struggled for a minute, trying to think of something I could say, but I gave up and turned my attention back to the dough. We continued our work in tense silence.

She was peeling apples over the sink while I rolled out the piecrust when I heard her gasp.

“Oh, sugar and salt!” Her tone was sharp, despite her quaint words, and I turned around quickly, hiding a smile.

“Can’t you just say
shit
, Mom? What’s wrong?”

The blood on her hand answered my question.

“It’s just a little nick. I was clumsy, that’s all.” She wrapped her finger in a paper towel and sat down at the table. I couldn’t look away from her blood, and instead of feeling unsettled, I realized I was—hungry. I felt my head begin to spin, and even though she kept talking, her words sounded as if she were underwater.

“Darlena! What is it, sweetie?” Mom leaped up in concern, her own injury forgotten at the sight of my pale, confused expression.

“I don’t know. The blood—”

Mom glanced down at the crimson-stained paper towel and shrugged. “But it’s not a deep cut, sweetie. Don’t worry about me; I’ll be okay.” She put her uninjured hand against my forehead. “You’re cold as ice! Go lie down in the living room. I’ll finish up in here.”

I wanted to stay in the kitchen with her. The blood wasn’t making me woozy; it was making me excited. With a shudder of disgust, I wrenched my eyes away and headed into the living room, trying to ignore the strange thoughts that were flitting through my mind. Xerxes curled up immediately on my stomach, and his rhythmic purr eased my nerves. Gradually, the scent of blood faded from my nostrils, and I stroked the cat. What in the world was wrong with me? Blood shouldn’t excite me; that was a freakish reaction. It was becoming impossible to deny that Red magic had changed me in ways I wasn’t prepared to deal with.

 

***

 

When I felt well enough to climb the stairs, I retreated to my room. I began restlessly scanning my bookshelves for something that would distract me. I paused, and stared intently at my shelf. I’m a little OCD, and I keep my books in alphabetical order, filed under the author’s last name, just like in a library. Rochelle teases me about it, but I like to be able to grab any book I want without having to waste time looking for it. I wouldn’t have noticed the error if it weren’t such a gigantic book, but my
Complete Works of Shakespeare
wasn’t where it belonged. I skimmed the shelf again: it wasn’t there.

I started rooting around my room, wondering where it could have gotten to. I didn’t particularly feel the need to read any of the plays right now, but I was curious. I dug through the stack of boxes under my bed without success. My hand brushed the pile of newspapers and I felt a chill down my spine. Would I be the cause of a headline tomorrow?

I kept looking for that book. I even went so far as to poke my nose into my closet, even though there was no way the book could have wandered in there on its own, and I’m the only one who can enter the closet. When I was young, I used one of the first powerful spells I ever mastered to ward my closet. No one could enter without my consent, including Mom. The closet had been the messiest part of my room for years because Mom got zapped the first time she tried to clean it after my spell. She’d avoided it ever since, and I liked the mess: it made a good place to hide things. The clothes didn’t look like they’d been disturbed, but something thumped behind me and I spun around.

The huge book was sitting on top of the log cabin quilt my grandmother had made for me when I was born. It hadn’t been there a second ago; I was sure of that. I would never have missed such an obvious, visible location.

I picked it up, ready to return the text to its place on the shelf above my desk, but something about the book seemed odd. It felt lighter than a two-thousand-page book should, and I cracked the cover open, wondering what was different about it.

There was strange, spidery handwriting all over the page.

At first, I was pissed. I know it sounds dorky, but I love Shakespeare. It helps knowing he was the greatest Green Witch in recent history, but the man had a serious way with words. I love reading
Lear
if I want to get depressed or
Midsummer
if I want to laugh my ass off. And someone had messed with my book. I don’t even dog-ear the pages of my books, let alone scribble notes in the margins, and I had no idea who would sneak into my room to deface one of my treasures. My blood started to boil at the thought, but then I looked at the page more closely.

The handwriting was spidery and golden, and the letters seemed almost fluid, like the ink wasn’t dry yet. The words didn’t stay on the page, but the text scrolled like a teleprompter. I flipped to another page: same situation. Glancing around my bedroom, I checked to make sure I was alone. As far as I could tell, I was, but given the past few days, I didn’t trust my appraisal of the situation. I considered for a moment and grabbed the flashlight off my dresser. Taking the book, I crept into my closet and shut the door.

I sat on a pair of crumpled shorts, the smell of sand and surf filling the small space. I flicked the flashlight on and opened the book. Right away the golden words began scrolling again, but this time I concentrated on the text and I was able to read the loopy writing.

“Darlena,” it began, “pay attention. Everything you read will be erased as soon as you read it.”

I paused and looked back up the page. The words were gone. I’d seen weird magical objects before, but this book took the cake. Who would use magic to write in one of my books? Mom and Dad wouldn’t bother; they’d just tell me whatever they wanted to say. Clearly, somebody didn’t want to say something out loud, and I was intrigued. I closed my eyes for a minute and willed my short-term memory to kick in.

I opened my eyes and looked at the book. The gold script appeared and started moving again, but more slowly than before. It was almost as if it knew I needed to take my time with this information. I leaned forward eagerly, trying to decipher the next line.

“I am not supposed to tell you any of this. Make sure you do not tell the Queen, or else things will be much worse than you can imagine.”

The ominous words vanished, and despite the threat, I relaxed. Whoever had written in my book wasn’t Hecate, which made me inclined to trust them. Right now, I’d even take Pele over Hecate. I continued reading, ignoring the tingling sensation in my arms.

“There is so much you need to know. I try not to get involved with the Reds anymore. But Helen was dedicated to me, and her failure haunts me. I’ll try to remedy that now.”

I looked up into the darkness of my clothes overhead. Helen? Who was that? And why should she matter to me? But whoever she was, she had something to do with Red magic. I gripped the book tightly; this might be my only chance to figure out how to control chaos.

I kept reading. My eyes grew wider and wider in the dim light of the flashlight, and my pulse started to race. I didn’t notice when the golden words started to blur: I had to keep reading. I had to know what I had become when I pledged to follow the Red path. And the mysterious author certainly seemed to know about that.

Two hours later, I crawled out of the closet carrying the book. There was no writing anywhere inside it. I returned the book to my shelf, glancing around to see if I was being observed. The skin on the back of my neck prickled, but I didn’t see anybody. If anyone like Hecate was watching, maybe she’d think I’d spent the afternoon doing homework. Trying to move calmly, I picked up my purse and shuffled through it. When I found my cell phone, I sent a quick text. I grabbed a pair of sunglasses to hide my haunted eyes and sauntered for the door, working hard to look casual. The book had taught me that I could never be too careful now that I was a Red.

BOOK: Daughter of Chaos
3.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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