25 June 2007
We had informed John that we didn’t see any way forward in our search for Rick. He’d asked a few questions, if Jackie had checked with Hecate, if we were certain we’d tried everything, if Jackie’s vision of the future could have been wrong, that kind of thing. By the time we finished our dinner, he had to concede that he knew of nothing more we could try, either, beyond just wandering the metaphysical realm indefinitely. This was, Jackie explained, beyond our capacity. Even if we could survive there long term, time got weird in the Deeper Realms, and the Realms were unfathomably large, and spending too much time there risked the chance of changing whoever went into something that could never really return. “It’s a romantic thought,” Jackie had said, “risking my soul and humanity for the slim chance that I could maybe find him, and have him be something recognizable when I did, but it just isn’t realistic without at least some idea on where to start.”
That hit me in a way I’m still trying to process. I’ve been turning it over in my mind, on and off, ever since, and I just can’t shake something about it. Maybe it is a romantic thought, I’m not sure if I’m convinced of that; but it certainly isn’t something I would want someone to do for me. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’d rather be found than lost forever, but I can’t reasonably ask anyone to go that far. It’s too much. But that made me wonder what I did expect. What was my baseline? What were my reasonable expectations in a world where things like this can happen? I realized that this was what I’d been trying to sort out ever since Rick threw himself into that portal. John had warned me about the dangers of the things he dealt with, and Roderick had affirmed those concerns, but when I had the danger right there in front of me, I balked. And I had to decide if that was the best reaction. John had been honest with me all along, and even when he tried to apologize for not telling me about his first encounter with Jeremiah, I had to admit that he really hadn’t had time to tell me before he did. Was I holding him accountable for what happened to Rick? He’d tried to keep Rick and me safe, and in the end, it was Rick’s choice to do what he did. What was I holding against John in this?
When I was able to let go of holding John accountable for something he hadn’t even done, something I’d known he hadn’t done all along, I was able to really, honestly, examine my feelings for him. And the fact is, I love him. I want to be with him. I want to face the life he lives, together. So I went to his house today, and I told him everything. I confessed what I’d been holding against him, I told him about my fears, I told him about the warnings I’d received from Roderick. I asked him if he could forgive me for being unreasonably angry at him for something that wasn’t his fault. If he thought there was still a future for us. And he did! He had been waiting, hoping that I’d come back, and he immediately told me he wasn’t going anywhere. We sorted some things out, we made love, and now he’s making dinner for us and Jackie and I’m thinking about what comes next. And, for the first time in nearly two months, I’m not afraid of whatever that may be.
Mandy and I had been with Jackie most of the day, and decided it would be best to get out of the room for a while. We hadn’t really spent much time together that wasn’t completely wrapped up in being at the hospital, and her condition wasn’t changing, so we slipped out when a small crowd was there after lunch. We had a nice day out, walking around New Castle while the day was warm and sunny, slipping into a couple shops here and there. We decided to check in with John after he got out of work and ask if he’d found anything yet, then maybe do dinner with him on our way back to the hospital.
What we actually found when I opened the door was John and another man actively fighting. The living room was completely torn apart, the recliner was knocked over, the television was broken, the couch cushions and almost every decoration in the room was knocked down or strewn about the place. I could only just barely see that the dining room hadn’t fared much better, but my sight in that direction was caught up with seeing the man get a hold of John by the neck and slam him against the wall. I called out, instinctively, and that drew the man’s attention. He threw John aside and came at Mandy and me, and I barely had time to process what was happening before he was just gone. I didn’t see what happened to him, he was there one moment, and then not there the next. John came limping toward us as a book appeared on the floor in front of me, and John insisted we needed to go immediately and asked me to bring the book.
“Is someone going to tell me what’s going on!?” Mandy demanded as she started the car to head back to the hospital.
“Jackie’s under a spell,” John said, trying to catch his breath. “It was put on her by Jeremiah to get my attention.”
“You said this was your grandpa? What the fuck is going on with your family?”
“That would take longer to answer than we have right now.”
“His grandfather Jeremiah is the son of a river god, he turned evil over some daddy issues, John’s dad couldn’t stop him, so he raised John as a weapon to use against Jeremiah, and apparently Jeremiah has now come for him,” I said.
“Uh…yeah, that’s the gist of it.”
“Okay so what are we doing at the hospital?” Mandy asked.
“Not we,” John answered, “Alice.”
“What can I do?” I turned to John and held up the book. “You know I can’t cast any of these!”
“You don’t need to cast anything. You just need to manipulate a spell that’s already there.”
“And how do I do that?”
“Does the book explain? Check the section it was open to?”
“Where’d the book come from!?” Mandy yelled as I started reading the pages.
“My library. There’s a Brownie at the house now doing research—”
“You have a Girl Scout at your house?!?”
“No, the spirit. A Brownie is a house spirit from Scotland. I don’t know why he’s here and right now I don’t care. He apparently found what we need to deal with the spell on Jackie.”
“Why don’t you just, you know,” Mandy asked, waving her hand in a circle, “just unmagic it away?”
“It’ll kill her.”
“The spell is a combination of different spells that are all connected and set up with a trap. The trap is that the whole thing will collapse and kill her if you don’t unravel the spell the right way.”
“No pressure or anything,” I muttered.
John placed his hand on my chin and turned my face to look into his eyes. “You can do this, Alice,” he said, softly. “I believe in you, and Jackie trusts you.”
“I don’t know how.”
“You just need some guidance. Read the book, think about what it’s telling you to do, and we can walk through it together when we get there. Okay?”
I nodded, slowly. He smiled, and I returned to the book.
“So we’re rushing to the hospital to fix this?” Mandy asked.
“To fix it before Jeremiah gets there,” John answered. “I threw him deep into the Deeper Realms, it’ll take him a while to make his way back and be a threat to her, but I don’t know how long.”
“I am literally incapable of navigating the Deeper Realms. It takes magic to go there.”
“Or whatever it is you do.”
“Or whatever it is I do to spirits, yeah. But the point is, it may take him twenty minutes or twenty years to make his way back, I really have no way of knowing. So we can’t take any chances.” He sat back in his seat and rubbed his side and Mandy turned her focus to the road. I thought about all the effort Jackie had put in trying to teach me magic, and threw everything I had at understanding what I was reading.
18 June 2007
I found John this morning passed out in his library among a pile of opened books and scattered notes. He’d definitely been drinking, there were a couple plates and cups and some empty snack packaging, and on the pile of snuffed Newport butts was the remains of a cigarette that had burned down to ash, which I recognized as signs he’d been up studying until he passed out, likely around dawn. I left him to sleep while I cleaned up the mess and started a pot of coffee, which I enjoyed in quiet while I walked around the house to take it all in. It occurred to me that I’d never really taken the time to just walk around, look at how John and Jackie kept their home, what it said about both of them. I’d usually been busy while here, or focused entirely on one person or another, and never just considering where I was.
There was a lot of evidence of John’s drinking and smoking, and a few signs there’d been weed smoked recently. Admittedly, he likely engaged in all of them more than usual while he was laying around recovering, but still. It was a concerning amount, and if we were ever getting back together—and I wasn’t yet sure if I was ready to entertain the idea—I would need some kind of assurance that he would cut back on all the substances.
I sat on the edge of his bed and looked around, picking out the things of Henry’s he still hadn’t touched since moving into the master bedroom. I looked through pictures of us that were still out on the dresser and nightstand, and picked up a scarf still hanging on one of the hooks outside the closet, buried under hats but still visible. He’d told me about it, once, when we were laying in the bed and I asked after noticing it. He’d confessed it belonged to Lori, she’d left it here the last time she’d been by before Alethea made herself known. He’d told me she’d left it hanging there by accident, and he meant to return it after everything happened, but she came when he wasn’t around and then vanished. I was pretty sure he’d hung it up himself after he couldn’t return it, or wouldn’t return it, or whatever happened. He was sentimental, in his way. Little pieces of everything left laying around, keeping trinkets as a quiet backdrop to whatever life he was living. There was a toy from a childhood friend, a little bauble his grandmother had carried when she was alive, the necklace of sand he never took off except to shower. I found it tolerable when it came to Lori, if only just, and it was cute otherwise. But it was a quiet backdrop; he didn’t talk about any of these people, not really, unless he was pressed. I felt a pang in my heart when I considered the possibility of being just another trinket, another set of stories, another name that would live on in his mind but rarely grace his lips.
I poured myself a second cup of coffee, prepared a tea for him, and went down to the basement to wake him. We each drank our mugs in silence while he picked up the books and papers, and when he finally sat down we discussed how today was going to go. I expected we were going to the hospital and doing what we could for Jackie, but he’d identified the spot she would have been when she was found. It turns out she’d been trying to reach through the Hedge to find Rick, and John was convinced something magical had happened to her there that caused her current condition. He was hoping to visit Jackie for a bit in the morning, and then go investigating the site to see if there was any sign of what happened to her. God, I almost forgot how much I loved watching him work through something like this, explaining and jumping from one piece of evidence to another, with no care for how crazy it all must sound to someone who didn’t know the spiritual reality like he did. He invited me to come along, if I wanted. I declined, told him to take me with him to the hospital and I would just stay there with her until he was done and came back. Thankfully, Mandy was there by the time he left, so I had her to talk to while we stood vigil over Jackie.
“So, how do you like being back in the states?” she asked, after we’d sat in silence for a while.
“It’s alright. It was a good idea to come back, thanks.”
“Of course. Have you figured anything out yet?”
I sighed. “No, not really.”
“Listen, I know some of her friends from work and the theater are coming by later, so I better ask this now before they get here.” She turned and took my hands in hers and looked me in the eye. “Is this thing happening to her magical? Is that why Matteson rushed out of here?”
“He…” I looked around, then leaned in and whispered, “he thinks so, yeah.”
“Then why didn’t he just break it?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t even think to ask!”
“Why does he think it’s magic?”
“She was looking for Rick.”
She squeezed my hands briefly and took a deep breath. “I see.” She let go and turned back in her chair to face Jackie. “I take it she didn’t find anything.”
“I don’t think we’ll know until she’s awake,” I answered, turning to face the bed as well. “But if there’s anything still at the site, I bet John will find it.”
Hey everyone, today is my anniversary! My wife has been my best friend and biggest supporter for the last 11 years, and not only would this story not exist without her encouragement, but I would be a far worse person without her than I am today. If you enjoy my work, whether it's this story or my twitch channel or really any of my projects, please take this opportunity to show her some love for the incredible impact she's had on making all of this happen. She's in the Discord server if you use that.
Carol, my love, my partner, my inspiration, and one of the most clever people I know, I just want to say thank you; I'm so excited to see where the road takes us in this second decade of our marriage.
17 June 2007
On the flight to Pittsburgh, Mandy asked what was going on between John and me. She said she’d been by to see him a couple times, and he didn’t seem willing to talk about it. So I told her the truth, which is simply that I don’t know. And now that I’m back home, I’ve had to seriously confront that question. People here make a point to ask about him, after they’ve asked me about my trip and how I’m holding up, and I can only dodge that question for so long. I just haven’t been sure what I want the answer to be.
Don’t get me wrong. I love him, and I want us to work this out. On the one hand, though, the life he leads is dangerous, and I don’t know how much more I’m really willing to risk…or lose. I fear that one of these days the real weight of that danger is going to catch up to him, or me, and I’m not sure I can ever be comfortable with that thought. But it isn’t his fault, not really. He didn’t choose to be an Anchor, and he’s trying to forge a new path instead of just being the weapon his dad tried to make him, and he did warn me. Right from the beginning, he told me the risks, and so did Roderick. Can I really hold it against him that things are exactly how he said they may be?
I need to figure this out. I need to know if I can look at him and not just see what happened to Rick, if I can be by his side without wondering when it will happen to me. I’m going over there today. We’re just going to talk, nothing more, but. I need to see how I handle it, and make a decision about whether or not we have a future.
2 May 2007
Jackie was going to research the library in their basement for ways to get Rick back, and I had arranged to fly to England so Michael and I could do the same in his library, and we each agreed to call the other if we found anything. I timed the plane’s arrival with Michael to give me time to check on Matteson, who was home from the hospital. He needed to rest, still, and Jackie had said she would keep an eye on him since she was going to be there anyway. She’d found the ring in Rick’s stuff and broke down while on the phone with her job, so they just told her to take whatever time she needed and quickly ended the call.
Matteson was laying on the couch with no shirt when I arrived, his left shoulder and right side heavily bandaged. He was happy to see me, but clearly still upset in general. We talked for a little bit, dancing around the subject that neither of us knew how to raise. Finally, I told him that I would be leaving for England soon to do some study at the Hudson estate, and he turned my face to look into my eyes.
“Will you be coming back?” he asked.
“I don’t mean coming back to the States.”
I hesitated. “John, I…I don’t know.”
“I saw the way you looked at me after things finally started to calm down. When I said there wasn’t any way I could help him. I’ve seen that look before.”
“And what did it mean when you saw it before?”
“That she’d seen too much and needed a way out.”
I got up and paced around the room in a circle. I ended up at his recliner, and sat back down to think for a moment. “It’s a lot, you know.”
“I need some space.”
“I’m not breaking up with you,” I said, wiping a tear from my cheek. “I just…I need some time. To process everything, to think about all of this, to…I dunno.”
“You need to decide if we are worth this,” he said. I nodded. “That’s better than I was expecting, anyway. Take what time you need.”
“Thank you.” I stood, wiped my face, and took a deep breath to center myself. “Could you do me a favor?”
“Don’t call while I’m in England?”
“Okay.” He gave me a weak smile, and I returned it, then left for the airport.
When I felt Jackie’s hand leave me, I glanced up. There, in front of the altar, was Rick, being held hostage by some guy. He looked important, his robes were different and his face was visible, but I had very little to go on beyond that. I stood and took a couple steps forward, but didn’t leave the forest like Jackie did. My attention kept bouncing between her, and Rick, and John. Why was no one doing anything? Why wasn’t any magic stopping this? Jackie fell to her knees and I knew something was wrong, but if it was affecting an experienced witch like her so bad, what was I going to do about it? I took another step forward and watched, waiting for something to happen.
Then something did happen. Rick threw himself and the other guy into the portal. I screamed. I didn’t know what else to do. I screamed and I felt tears on my cheeks and I saw Jackie reach out and John started to run forward to catch Rick, and suddenly I remembered that John breaks magic, and that portal is magic.
“No!” I yelled. I ran out of the woods toward John. “No, wait!” But it was too late. I don’t know if John heard me or not. I don’t know if he realized I was even talking to him. But he ran forward, and he reached out, and as soon as he got within a few yards of the altar the portal just exploded in a flash of light and collapsed in on itself. The flash was nearly blinding, and it took me a few moments of blinking and rubbing my eyes before I could see John, standing on the altar, holding his hand up as if feeling for the portal that was suddenly gone. I collapsed and everything just came out. All the fear, all the discomfort with the secrets I knew about magic, all the guilt of what I’d done or caused to happen today, and now Rick was gone into some other plane of existence with monsters and who knows what else, and as far as I knew, John’s attempt to catch him had severed any chance we had of helping. I just laid there, pulled my knees up to my chest, and wept.
I felt the magic stir in me. It was an awfully strange feeling, like I was suddenly aware of myself in a way I had never been before, and somehow that self included these roots that were dragging people below the surface of the earth. I knew it was me that did that, somehow, but I didn’t want it to be. I didn’t want to be responsible for that. I felt like I was going to throw up, and it was only Jackie calling me that broke my train of thought long enough to stop me from doing exactly that.
I asked Jackie if she was the one who cast that spell, because I had to hope that it was, but she was well aware it was me. I followed her as we found a safer place to watch, and leaned against a log there trying to still my gut. I killed people. There’s no way they weren’t dead. I couldn’t even imagine the weight of that before this moment, and now that I knew it, I didn’t think I could bear it. And I had watched John almost certainly kill someone! Trying to save me! I wanted to cry, but I just felt cold. Like something broke deep inside me and I couldn’t grasp quite what it was. I tried to tell Jackie about my concern, but before we could get very far into it she pointed me to the clearing and we both realized that the spell was being powered by all the blood being spilled. Whatever they were trying to do, they would accomplish, simply by letting us kill them in service to the ritual.
That’s when I couldn’t handle it any more and threw up over the other side of the log.
Everything felt dirty. What I had learned of magic so far was so broken, so twisted, so wrong. My cousin has a spirit sex slave to give him power. My boyfriend’s body is infused with enough spiritual energy to kill someone with a punch. There was someone on fire out there, and I had personally put two bodies into the ground. And who could I talk to about any of this? They all seemed so numb to it, and I didn’t think anyone else would really even believe me. I remembered what John has told me, after that Christmas party, about how he couldn’t exactly go to a therapist with this stuff. I offered to be the person who listened then. But what if no one I knew understood my position well enough for me to talk to them? What was I supposed to do then? I moaned as I lay across the log and felt more bile rising. Jackie pulled my hair away from my face and tried to offer some soothing words, I could tell from the tone, but I couldn’t focus enough to hear them.
I was starting to think I didn’t really want to be involved in this magic thing anymore.
I came back to my senses in the woods. I have no memory of what happened between the cabin and there, but I was already walking, with my hands tied behind my back and another rope tight around my waist that varied in tension as I moved. I glanced over and saw Rick, his eyes glazed over, stumbling along beside me. Behind him, and I assumed behind me as well, was a robed figure wearing a red mask. I could hear them, at least three voices, chanting from behind us, and I found that I couldn’t stop myself from continuing to walk forward. They didn’t seem bothered by my awareness and looking around, so I kept trying to take everything in. The rope at my waist was connected to the one on Rick’s, and his hands were clearly bound. I had to imagine that the knot on mine was the same as his, which didn’t look like one I’d find easy to work my way free from. I tried to say something, but my mouth wouldn’t open. I didn’t have anything physically blocking it, but trying to open it felt like I was pushing against something solid and unyielding. Unable to control my walk or my mouth, and sensing a lot of energy up ahead, I turned my attention to where we were going.
After passing a few more trees, I was able to see the clearing. We were coming from a different angle than we had when we’d discovered it, but it was unmistakable. And now there were probably a dozen people standing around the stone altar, swaying and chanting. On the stone altar itself, with just enough room in front of it for a person to pay across, was something that must have been a portal. My eyes were fixed on the portal. Beyond it was swirling dark energy, with occasional flashes like a dark sort of lightning. There were forms moving around and past the portal, dark blotches with no discernible shape or means of movement. I felt like I was staring at a reality that undergirded everything we knew but shared none of this world’s traits, as if this was the primordial chaos that the order of creation rode upon but never allowed to be released. There were shapes that looked almost like eyes, staring straight back at me and making my very soul feel cold and dry, and then gone again in the passing of a second.
I looked back to Rick and saw his eyes fluttering. I continued to watch as the cloudiness passed from his eyes and they suddenly grew wide and darted around. He was trying to talk, to stop himself from moving, just as I had. Finally, on apparently realizing the futility, he looked into my eyes. I could see the fear there, and was sure he could see mine just as clearly. Whatever was about to happen, we both knew we were powerless against it.
Then there was a rustling in the woods on the other side of the clearing. We both looked, and saw a shadow move in the darkness. The others didn’t seem to notice over the sound of their own voices continuing to chant. I mentally begged for that to be John and Jackie, and soon, I was affirmed by the form of John bursting out of the trees and throwing a punch to the first robed figure in his path. I could hear the crunch from the hit from where I was, and watched as the figure crumpled to the ground and blood started to spread on the grass.
“Oh God,” I thought, remembering the work I’d been doing trying to assess his strength. “I didn’t account for what adrenaline would do!”
The chanting continued as the figures turned to John, and I realized one of the ones who’d led us here was now pointing a gun at John. It looked like Rick’s gun. I realized it probably was Rick’s gun. I closed my eyes before I heard the first shot.
“Oh HELL no,” Jackie exclaimed, stepping back away from the stone. I stared at the marking. Not here. Not this close to our cabin.
“The paint’s still tacky,” John said, poking the spiral. “This was just made. They’re active here now.” Shit.
“Maybe we should go,” I said. Everyone turned to me. “Look, it’s just, these folks are dangerous, and we’re trying to have a nice relaxing weekend, and I’m sorry if we can’t do that at the cabin but we could find some other place?”
“This cult, they kill people, Alice.”
“Yes! Yes, so we should call the police—”
“And they use magic and they bind elder gods to power their magic and they won’t stop, not until they’ve stripped the world of its magic.”
“Or someone stops them,” Rick said.
“Oh God, you want to stay, too?” I asked.
“I can’t just walk away this time.”
“You can and you should,” Jackie said, pointing at him. “You’re not equipped to deal with them and almost got yourself killed last time you came barging in!”
“And what, huh? Leave the rest of you here to deal with this!?”
“We have Alpha. If you and Alice go back to town—”
“I’m not doing that, Jackie! I’m not running away and leaving you to face these bastards without backup!”
“Not here,” John said. Everyone stopped. “We can talk about this somewhere else. We don’t know who or what is listening here.” We all begrudgingly agreed and headed back to the cabin. No one talked on the way back, I assume they were as lost in their thoughts as I was. The Brood was here. Now. I couldn’t wrap my head around what to do with this situation. On the flight to England, I’d heard so much about them, how John broke his leg fighting one of their bound gods, how they’d enslaved the minds of an entire town, how they’d been hunting people as far away as Pakistan. And now here they were, a brisk walk away from my family’s cabin, where we were expected to sleep at night, and the rest of them are just…trying to fight them. I didn’t want to be here, but at the same time, I didn’t want to leave everyone else behind.
Back at the cabin, we gathered in the living room and sat uneasily for a few minutes. John finally broke the silence.
“What do we know so far?”
“You said they just made that spiral,” Rick said. “So they must have made it recently.”
“Because they intend to use it soon,” I said.
“Beltaine,” Jackie said. “They’re waiting for Beltaine.”
“And what’s that?” Rick asked.
“It’s May 1. The Celtic traditions believe it’s one of the four main liminal days of the year, when the veil between worlds is thin and magic is easier.”
“You haven’t mentioned Beltaine as important before.”
“I don’t practice the Celtic traditions. My holidays are different. But the fact remains that the veil only exists because people believe it exists. So if a large number of people believe the veil is thin on May 1, and they do—that calendar has been co-opted by a lot of European pagans whether they have ties to the Celts or not—then the veil is thin on May 1.”
“Happy birthday to me,” John muttered. I patted his knee.
“Do we know how to stop them?” I asked.
“It depends on what they’re doing. But I know a fair bit about countermagic and Matteson is what he is,” Jackie answered.
“And I have a gun,” Rick added. Jackie glared at him. “So overall we’re pretty much ready for whatever they have going on.”
“I thought you weren’t carrying that around anymore.”
“It isn’t that gun. I, uh…bought my own.” Rick scratched the back of his neck as Jackie threw her hands up and leaned back into her chair.
“I can’t believe you!”
“We run into dangerous shit, Jackie! And no one’s jumping to give me any other way to deal with it!”
“And I don’t know how to control my magic, but I have it on good authority that it’ll be available if I really need it,” I said.
“No, Alice,” John said, “you, at least, should go back. I don’t want you in any danger.”
“Oh it’s too late for that! You think I can be safe here, ever, if we let them take this place? This is practically my second home, I’m not just leaving it, I’m not.”
“You didn’t sound so certain in the clearing,” Rick said.
“I had some time to think about it.” There was another long pause.
“Okay. If we’re all in,” John said, “we need to sort out a plan.”
When I returned to the living room, John was still sitting there. He looked like he’d cried while I was gone, and he was smoking another cigarette. I hoped he hadn’t been chainsmoking the whole time I was gone. I brought a book with me, and dropped it on his lap when I got back. He stared at it for a moment before picking it up and turning it over a few times.
“You know what that is?” I asked, standing in front of him.
“Uh, yeah. I do.”
“You know, I had to plug the title into translation software to find out what it was. But you, you can read that language, right?” He nodded. “And you’ve probably read it. And know full well that it’s a detailed study of various supernatural threats, right?”
“Yeah. I have. It’s less comprehensive than it thinks it is.”
“See, see? That? I don’t think you understand my position here, John!” I knelt down and took his hands in mine, pushing the book back down onto his lap. He looked into my eyes, finally. “I am diving into a complex and dangerous world, and so much, so much, of what I know and what I do and what I believe hinges on trusting you. You’re the expert, you’re my guide in this. You know enough about it to have informed opinions on the quality of expert texts. And I want to explore it with you! I want to explore everything with you! But it’s not just that I trust you, it’s that I have to trust you. I need to rely on you in this. And when you withhold information, when you don’t tell me the truth about the dangers we’re facing together, it makes it real hard to do that.”
“Alice, I…I’m sorry.”
“I need to know that you’re not holding anything back here, okay? I want to be able to trust you.”
“Okay,” he said. I gave him a weak smile, squeezed his hands briefly, then walked over to the couch to sit down. “Alice?”
“You know, the Hudsons are in this book.” He turned it back over, and flipped through the pages until he apparently found what he was looking for. “It was written shortly before Cromwell’s government came into power. Describes them as bloodthirsty dogs of the crown, committed to taking any steps necessary to protect England’s interests. Talks about them enslaving spirits from around the world and using them to boost the estate’s power.”
“Oh. I did meet some spirits who were…employed by the Hudsons.”
“Don’t call it employment.”
“What did they do to you while we were there?”
“Where are you going with this, John?”
“I’m not trying to accuse anyone of anything. I’m just saying, in order to be there for you, I need to know what your connection to it all actually is. And the night before we left England, something changed in you. There was magic in you that wasn’t there before, and a whole bag of magic items among your luggage.”
“You knew about that?”
“One thing I learned from my father was to always know more than I let on. I’m sorry I lied to you about that.”
“It’s okay. Um…okay. Well. My grandfather was supposed to be the Lord Hudson of his generation. But he, um, he disagreed with some aspects of the job. So he left the task to his brother, Michael’s grandfather. But when he left, he bound the family to a magical oath. The magic in our branch was locked away, and the English branch was forbidden to reveal it to us. But I found out on my own, and the spirits weren’t bound to that same oath, so they gave me a way to access the magic in an emergency. And Melinda gave me some items to use if I need them. Just in case.”
“Do you know how to use any of it?”
“No. Not yet. Jackie is going to help me.”
“You told Jackie?”
“I…yeah. I was going to tell you, I just hadn’t yet, I guess.”
“Okay,” he said. We both sat for a while before he stood and set the book down. “I’m not used to talking about some of this stuff. I’ll try to do better about that, okay?”
“Do you trust me?”
“Are you hungry?” he asked. I laughed.
“Then let’s go,” he said, reaching his hand out to me. “We can do more of this later.”
Biology major on the edges of the 'burgh.