Click HERE for part One, and HERE for part Two.
A knock came from my door, pulling me from the conversation. I had few, if any, friends in this town. Who would be on the other side of that door?
“Just answer it, Margaret,” Grandmother said, the roll of her eyes obvious in her voice.
I stuck my tongue out at the phone before hanging up. Setting my half eaten takeout container on the nightstand, I scooted myself off of the daybed. My mind was still trying to figure out who could be on the other side. After the lying mystery student from this morning, I really wasn’t in the mood for visitors.
Dabbing my finger in the bowl of black chalk that sat on the TV stand, I drew a simple sigil on the door and whispered the spell into it. A one way portal opened up, just a hazy porthole really. I didn’t expect to find who was really standing on the other side.
He sighed and shifted feet before pounding on the door again. I jumped. I couldn’t help it. Finally, I yanked the door open. Adam shoved past me into my apartment. It seemed that his friendly demeanor hadn’t changed at all. That was indeed sarcasm.
“Can I help you?” I asked, crossing my arms.
“You very well better,” He growled. My arms fell away. Adam was only ever mad about one thing. One of his creatures was in trouble.
“Alright, sit down and I’ll make a cup of coffee. Obviously you have time if you travelled all the way here instead of calling me. You do know that’s what they make phones for, right? They even make portable ones now called cell phones. No magic required.”
He rubbed his hand over the stubble that had grown across his chin. His eyes looked out the window, not distant. I paused a moment. No, his eyes were searching. They jumped from tree to tree outside while his shoulders fell further and further.
“What is it?” I asked, truly concerned this time.
“Ember is missing,” the words seemed to fall from his mouth and hit the floor heavily, despite their whispered tone.
Everything in me froze. The only dragon to have ever been born in this century was missing. My mind went back to the road trip we had endured, chasing Ember’s mother across the country. We had no idea why the older dragon had left the reserve back then. We didn’t know that she was nesting.
“Ember is barely eight,” Adam said as if reading my mind. “She’s nothing more than a wyrmling at this point. There’s no way she’d be laying an egg.”
“Why did you come to me?”
“The last time her tracker was live was near here. Ember was in your town at one point and I was just hoping beyond all hope that she decided to visit you. Everyone knows how strong willed dragons can be, especially us.”
Blackcraft? Stolen grimoires? Missing dragons? This was not adding up to anything good at all. I prayed that Ember’s disappearance had nothing to do with the events at school today, but the chances of that weren’t looking great.
I shuffled into the small kitchen, my hands working from muscle memory as I made a pot of coffee. This was a life that I had worked hard to put together, one where no one knew who I really was. My grandmother had carefully laid the groundwork and I’d walked fine lines all the way through that. I thought that I’d taken every step so carefully, so quietly. Why was it falling apart now?
What had I done wrong?
You were born, Maggie. Plain and simple.
I brought two mugs back to the living room, handing a cauldron shaped one to Adam. He raised an eyebrow, but accepted it nonetheless. To be fair, it was one that I’d pilfered from the Academy. Leaning against the wall, I sipped my creamy coffee and studied the man that sat on the edge of my day bed. He wasn’t really sitting on it, actually. It was more like leaning. I could see that he knew it was the only piece of furniture in the studio, the place where I slept.
He was uncomfortable sitting where I slept. It kind of made me smile, seeing him off guard like that. The man always wore anger and contempt wrapped around him like bubble wrap against the world. When I first met him he’d barked orders at me, menial tasks at best because he was convinced that he was the only one that could handle the dragons.
I didn’t even want to be there, either, so my own anger rose at him in defense. I’d thought I’d be studying unicorns or willow-wisps, not flame throwing monsters. All of that anger had burned hot during the course of our trip, so hot that a few things happened that neither of us planned.
Of course, he immediately regretted it. Which made me regret it as well. I turned my head away, not ready to relive those moments. When I yanked myself from those thoughts I heard a sharp sound at my window.
Tink. Tink. Tink.
“The hell?” I set my coffee mug aside and moved to the window. Of course, there was nothing on the other side, but the sound persisted.
Tink. Tink. Tink.
Adam rushed over and threw open the window, not once thinking of the consequences. I rushed forward, shoving him aside. He crashed into my nightstand just as I felt the magic surround me. Air was forced from my lungs as the pressure gripped me. I fell to all fours on the floor, struggling to breath.
“Maggie!” Adam shouted. He moved to help me, but I raised a hand for him to stop.
The blackcraft magic was still swirling around me, angry that it couldn’t finish it’s job. While I sucked in shallow breaths the force began to lose power. It pushed and pushed until there was nothing left to do the pushing.
I pushed myself back, finally sucking in large breaths. That had been a strong spell. I glanced over at my friend. He could be dead right now. Had I been anyone else, I would have died. His eyes met mine and he seemed to understand the gravity of the situation. But, more than that, I saw the questions begin to arise.
Slowly, I pushed myself up. Poking my head outside, I looked for the source of the blackcraft spell. There on the window sill was a collection of tiny pebbles and beside it was a small, burlap satchel.
I snatched it up, angry now that the thief/murderer would come to my own home. I yanked the tie from the satchel and dumped its contents onto my night table. Crushed herbs and a variety of bones came tumbling out. The bones looked so thin and fragile that I assumed they were bird bones. Raven bones, more likely. No. Vulture bones. Something that eats the flesh of the dead and carries an even nastier omen in its flesh.
“Son of a Cerberus!” I resisted the urge to kick my nightstand. I didn’t need all of these bones running around my apartment.
“What just happened?”
My gaze snapped over to Adam. He still sat on the floor beside me, his wide eyes moving from the pile on my nightstand to me. There was fear in them. I felt guilt like a blow to the stomach.
It isn’t your fault. No one died.
But he could have. This had just become very personal. I extended a hand down to Adam. He paused, a long and pregnant pause. Fear faded from his eyes and gears began turning.
“What. Was. That?”
“The best way to end the shittiest day I’ve ever had,” I said, sarcasm sharpened to a point. “It was a blackcraft spell meant to kill me. It’s not the first blackcraft spell I’ve come across today, either.”
“But, you’re alive.”
I nodded as I swept the bones and herbs into a small, decorative trashcan.
“Welcome to my life.”
“And to think I ever wanted to be a part of that,” Adam said as he pulled himself up.
I froze. What had he just said? What was I supposed to say to that? For a moment, I just stood there, bird bones half swept off my nightstand as I looked at Adam. I did what I knew best. I ignored it.
“Why didn’t that kill you?” He asked suddenly.
“I don’t want to talk about it. How about we just go out and try to find your missing wyrmling? Can we do that?”
“No! I almost died opening your window. I think I deserve some answers.”
I pulled my coat from the rack near the door. Adam would run if he knew the truth. He wouldn’t look back and he certainly wouldn’t want to be a part of my life ever again. So, I told him some of the truth. I told him about what had happened at the school today, ignoring how I tripped another blackcraft spell today and still wasn’t dead.
He watched me through narrowed eyes.