“You want me to do what? I don’t think so. That would be suicide.”
“I second that,” Dad says from where his ghostly frame is floating behind me. He’s always supportive of me not putting myself in life threatening situations.
Isla’s lips curve up into a dazzling, confidant smile as she looks at us all in turn before locking her eyes on me. I can see where Kallen gets his charm. That is, when he wants to be charming. “I understand that you find this objectionable…”
“Objectionable? Try rash and dangerous,” Grandma says fiercely. I like Grandma a lot better now that I know she’s a fallen Angel. Not fallen like the Devil, she just wanted to be human for a while.
“Lailah, you know that I speak the truth. This was foretold eons ago.”
“Only Urim, the Angel of Fates, knows the details of the prophecy. You are simply interpreting your vision of the future which changes as free will works its effects.”
Dazzling smile still in place, Isla replies in a saccharine sweet voice, “Even if the details in my visions change, the basics remain the same. Xandra will travel to the Fae realm and she will make her stand against the rebellion.”
“Grandmother, her magic is still wild and unpredictable. Her control is precarious at best and her focus is easily swayed by her emotions.” Okay, I think I liked Kallen better when he was sitting at the table in shock that his grandmother had crossed over from the Fae realm and showed up at our door.
Isla inclines her head towards him. “Be that as it may, she is still the only one who can wield the kind of magic needed to stop the uprising.”
I look at her doubtfully. “You really think that I can take on a whole squadron, or whatever, of Fairies? I think you’re overestimating my powers.”
Kallen turns to me and worry lines have taken root on his brow. “You have the necessary strength. That is not what I am concerned about.” Turning back to Isla, he says, “If her magic gets out of her control, she causes imbalances. She literally set the air on fire, Grandmother. She needs time to learn to harness her magic before she can push it to the limits you are suggesting.”
Isla smiles again and pats his hand but I can see the steel in her eyes. “This is what must be done to save the realms. If the rebellion is successful, they will tear Dadga to shreds, and with Xeniaa’s help,” here she looks pointedly at Kallen, “will be able to jump realms. With the sole purpose being to destroy Cowans and Witches alike.” Cowans are humans. I’m not sure I mind the tearing Dagda to shreds part, but yeah, the rest would be bad. And why did she look at Kallen so weird when she said that Fairy’s name?
“So, you want Xandra to defend the man who tricked me and then tried to kill her?” Mom has been quiet until now. I’m pretty sure she’s been too angry to speak. At least, that’s what the growl in her voice and the contempt on her face suggests. “How dare you come into my house and propose that? If anyone deserves to die, he does. If the Fairies jump realms, we can deal with them then.”
In order for Fairies to enter this realm with the passageways closed, they have to have a lot of magical ability and have a personal effect of the King of the Fairies, Dagda, who also happens to be my father. My biological father. My real dad is the ghost who is glaring at Kallen’s grandmother while she pretends to ignore him. He raised me, took care of me, and loved me. And not once did he try to kill me. I can’t say the same for my biological father. He wanted my dying blood to open the passage way between realms and he sent some mercenaries to drag me back to the Fae realm for that purpose.
“I don’t understand,” I say, trying to seem calm and reasonable even though my thoughts are churning all over the place inside of my brain. “Why does he need protection, he wants to come back here. It seems like he’d be jumping for joy that the other Fairies are behind him on this.”
Kallen sits back in his chair and crosses his arms over his muscular chest as if he just now figured out what his grandmother is saying. I can’t help noticing how he fills out the dark green t-shirt he’s wearing, but that’s a thought for another time. “Because they don’t want him to lead them, do they? Xeniaa is looking to take the crown and lead the Pooka into war with all other magical beings; Dagda will wind up dead as they tear him to shreds to get what they need.” He raises his eyebrows in question towards Isla and she nods slightly.
Again, not sure that’s such a bad thing about my biological father. The man, Fairy, whatever, is pretty horrible. The Fae realm would probably be better off without him – unless this Xeniaa person is truly worse than him. “I still don’t get why I should help the guy who sent mercenaries to find me so he could kill me. If he’s such a powerful Fairy, why can’t he defend himself? And who’s Xeniaa?” A look passes between Kallen and Isla and Kallen shakes his head ever so slightly. Secrets, secrets, secrets. I’m so tired of secrets. There’s a sea of them that have been surrounding me lately. But I need to focus on this conversation for now. I’ll come back to that later.
Isla’s smile is rapidly fading and I think she’s getting frustrated with all of us. What, she thought I was going to jump at the chance to go to the Fae realm where everyone knows that my dying blood will open the passageways between realms? Yeah, I love being a walking target.
“If you do not do this, the Pooka Fairies will wreak havoc on your realm. Millions may die.” There are two types of Fairies. The Sheehogue, who are peaceful, and the Pooka, who, like my father, hate humans and Witches and are not shy about showing it.
“But why can’t I do what Mom suggested and deal with them when they come through?”
Yup, she’s getting frustrated. Isla’s lips are just barely curled up on the ends now. No more dazzling smiles for us. “You do not have the ability to be everywhere at once. Do you understand that Fairies do not all cross realms at the same point?” No, I guess I didn’t know that. But now I know where Kallen got his condescending attitude from.
“Isla, what you are asking Xandra to do is too much for a girl her age who has just recently come into her magic. You are powerful enough to hold them off for a little while longer; at least until she and her magic get better acquainted.” It’s true, I’ve only known about my magical power for a couple of weeks now. A very, very long couple of weeks. But, I’m pretty sure that Grandma just called me immature. She’s starting to drop a notch or two on the grandma rating scale.
“I have held them off these last eighteen Cowan years as Dagda made his yearly attempts to find his daughter. His followers put their faith in him, and now that he didn’t accomplish the task as promised, they are angry and more determined than ever.” To kill me. She doesn’t say it, but I know it’s implied. “I am just one Fairy and there is no more holding them back. Now that they know Dagda is no match for Xandra, he has lost respect amongst the Pooka. They are pulling their magic together, believing they can do what he did not.”
Grandma speaks up again. She’s not done coming up with ideas to get me out of this and I appreciate that. That moves her a couple of points back up the scale. “Can’t you take Kallen back with you? The two of you are immensely powerful beings. Surely, together you could hold them off for quite some time.” Hey, she’s trying to get rid of my boyfriend! Apparently, I spoke too soon. Maybe Grandma should stop coming up with ideas.
“I don’t like that idea,” I say with a pointed look at her. A tiny bit of pink spreads over her cheeks and she doesn’t make eye contact with me. She doesn’t like me dating a Fairy. Who knew Angels could be so prejudiced?
“There has to be another way,” Dad says. Being the only non-magical being in the room, he’s probably the most scared for me. The idea of fighting with magic is still foreign to him and everyone may tell him I’m powerful, but what does he have to compare my power to?
This conversation is giving me a throbbing headache. Before, I thought I wanted to meet Kallen’s grandmother after all the great things he told me about her. I’ve changed my mind now that I have. With a sigh, I look around the room at the faces of the people who care about me. Grandma and Mom look angry, Dad looks overwhelmed and angry, and Kallen looks like he wishes his grandmother had stayed in her own realm. He also looks like he’s torn between giving her the respect he always has, or telling her to go back home and not come back.
Well, we can all throw ideas out forever, but I really don’t see any way of getting out of this. The Angels have already told me that I have to convince the Fairies and Witches to stop hating each other and get along. They assured me that it’s not an impossible task even though it feels like one. I was hoping I’d have more time to prepare, but between their prophecy and Isla’s visions, it seems like I don’t have a choice but to go now.
“When did you want to leave?” Suddenly, eight eyes flashing and sparking with anger are all looking at me. Six blue and two green. The other pair of eyes in the room look smug. I’m definitely more worried about the angry ones.
“You are not going,” Mom and Dad say in unison. It would have been funny if they weren’t so mad. I’m sure laughing right at this minute would be a big mistake.
“You are not ready to take on this fight,” Kallen says between gritted teeth. His arms are clenched so tightly now, his fisted hands are turning white.
I give him a small shrug. It’s not like I don’t believe him, scary as that may be, but I need to fulfill my destiny. Cliché but it seems to be true. “I haven’t been ready to take on any of these fights, but I did.” It’s been rough since my seventeenth birthday - first the mercenary Fairies show up, and then Grandpa and seven other powerful Witches come after me. After that, what’s a few more Fairies, right? At least Isla gives me a proud smile. Great, now if I can only convince the other four people in the room.
“Xandra, I forbid you to go.” Mom has her hands on her hips and is tapping her ghostly toe like she used to when she was alive. She’s tapping so hard, her foot keeps going through the floor. She’s usually careful to avoid things like that, so that tells me how upset she is.
Okay, I am only seventeen; so technically, I’m supposed to do what my parents tell me to do. On the other hand, I’m this powerful magical being whose responsibility it is to unite the Witches and the Fairies and prevent the destruction of both realms. Which takes precedence? Well, doing what my parents want me to do probably won’t get me killed in the near future. Doing what the Angels and Isla want me to do might. So, that’s a point for Mom and Dad. On the other hand, if the Fairies do manage to get through to this realm, a lot of humans and Witches will probably die unnecessarily because I stayed here. I definitely don’t want to be responsible for that. The scales just tipped in Isla’s favor.
It takes all my courage to say, “I’m going.”
“Xandra Illuminata Smith, you are not going anywhere!” Mom is making that face that tells me she’s about to go ballistic.
I hold up my hand to stop her which shocks her into silence for a moment. Just long enough for me to start talking. “You knew when you were pregnant with me that my life was going to be hard. Now, I’m stuck with this destiny and there are things I have to do that we won’t like. This is one of them. Of course I don’t want to be in yet another life threatening situation. I’m starting to feel like a yo-yo – first the Fairies, then the Witches, and now the Fairies again. I’m more than ready for it to stop. But, I can’t bury my head and pretend I’m just some normal girl. Someone who can go on with her life and not worry about who’s going to die because I didn’t try to help sooner. And it’s all your fault, you know. If you hadn’t raised me to have a conscience, I’d say forget it, I’m going to college next year and I can’t be bothered with all this magical stuff. It’s not my problem. But I can’t.” I was hoping to get at least a little chuckle out of that last part but it’s not happening. I still have six glowering blue eyes and two glowering green ones pointed in my direction.
“Yes, I did raise you to have a conscience. I also thought I raised you to have common sense.” Ouch, that hurt.
After several long moments of complete and utter silence, Dad finally says, “Julienne, I think she’s right.” Huh?
Mom’s anger has found a new target as she swings her head in his direction. Dad’s face is grim but resigned. “We didn’t know exactly what would happen when she grew up, but she’s right, we knew she’d be special. And if she can save innocent lives by being proactive instead of reactive, then I think she should go.”
It takes Mom a minute to get her mouth to start working again. “Jim, you don’t know what you’re saying. You have no idea of the danger she’ll be in!”
Dad sighs heavily. “I think I do. But I’ve also seen our daughter in action, and I think she has more control over her magic than she believes she does. And Kallen will have her back; he’ll help keep her safe.” I notice he didn’t include Isla. I’m guessing he’s still on the fence about trusting her at this point.
“Jim, this is not a debate. She is not going.” Mom and Dad have had more arguments in the last couple of weeks than they’ve had in all the years I can remember. Like I’ve said before, I’m really glad that ghost parents can’t get divorced. Especially since all of their arguments are focused around me. I can’t even imagine the guilt I’d feel if they separated.
Whatever Dad says in response, I can’t hear him. I can see his lips moving, but no sound is coming out. I put my fingers in my ears to try to pop them, thinking that’s the problem with them until Kallen says, “We are in a circle.”
Ah, that’s why the other four people in the room are looking around trying to figure out what happened to us. “That’s not going to win you any points with my parents, you know.”
Kallen sits forward, and with his elbows on the table, he massages his temples as if he has a major headache. After a moment, he looks up at me and says, “Right at this moment, I do not care what your parents think. I am more concerned about you. You are not ready for this. The Fairies you went up against before were Cowan Fairies, not full blooded Fairies.”
“Well, you’re a full-blooded Fairy and I’m stronger than you.”
He sighs and goes back to rubbing his temples. “Yes, you are stronger than I am. But going up against an army of full-blooded Pooka warriors,” he raises his eyes to make sure I’m paying attention, “is nearly impossible.” He sits up and leans back against his chair again. “Mostly because they fight dirty.”
“Dirtier than the Witches?”
He nods wearily. The last couple of weeks have taken their toll on Kallen as well as me. He looks older than when he first came. I bet I do, too. “Yes, dirtier than the Witches.”
“Do I even want to know how much dirtier?”
A small smile tries to touch his lips. “No, you do not.” And I didn’t think the prospect of going to the Fae realm could get any scarier. I have to stop thinking those things because something always happens to prove me wrong.
“What do you suggest I do, then? I’m guessing your grandmother isn’t going to take no for an answer.”
Kallen’s eyes shift to where his grandmother is sitting on the outside of his circle. She’s staring at us even though I’m pretty sure she can’t actually see us. Circles exist between realms and can’t be seen by either. “No, I suspect she will not.”
That’s helpful. “Okay, so what do you suggest?”
Emotions are fighting for space on his face as he continues to look at his grandmother. I know that going against his grandmother’s wishes is hard for him. She raised him after his parents were killed by humans and he has the utmost respect for her. But, he obviously thinks she’s dead wrong on this. I can’t help wondering where his loyalty will lie – with me or her. Oh, man, did I seriously just think that? Maybe Grandma was right, maybe I am too immature to make this decision.
Swinging his head back towards me as if he had heard my thoughts, he says, “I will not let her push you into a fight before you are ready.”
I sit back in my chair and sigh. “And how are you going to tell if I’m ready or not?”
A real smile curls around his lips now. “When you have gone at least a day without causing a natural disaster on a grand scale.”
I give him a sour look. “Not funny.”
He chuckles. “I disagree.”
“Will you please be serious?”
He leans forward and takes my hand in his, lacing our fingers together. “Alright, I think you should demonstrate how wild your magic is. Grandmother and I can reverse whatever damage you cause.”
I frown and pull my hand back. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Did he seriously just roll his eyes at me? “Xandra, I am not insulting you. I am simply asking you to demonstrate to my grandmother how much work you have ahead of you before you have mastered control over your magic.”
“Really? You’re not insulting me? Because it certainly sounds insulting to me.”
“Speaking the truth and being insulting are two different things.” Now he looks almost as irritated as I feel.
“Maybe I should demonstrate to you how much control over my magic I do have.” My brain is trying hard to protest because my mouth is being outrageously unrealistic, but I choose to ignore it. I stand up and over my shoulder, I say, “Are you coming or not?”
Something about the dumbfounded look on his face makes me stop. And that’s when my brain kicks in again. The kitchen is quiet, but not because of the protection circle, anymore. Finally, Dad asks, “Where is Kallen?”
“Um, right there,” I say pointing to where he’s clearly sitting at the table. Why are they all looking at me so strangely?
“You are the only one who can see him, dear,” Isla says and there’s a triumphant gleam in her eyes.
“What do you mean? He’s right there, sitting next to you.”
“He is still in the circle he threw up so he could speak to you privately. I am assuming he is stunned into inaction by the fact that you simply walked out of it. Generally, the person who made the circle is the only one who can breach its walls.”
Mom’s left hand is covering her mouth and her eyebrows are practically at her hairline. “Are you truly able to see him?”
Okay, they’re starting to freak me out. “Yeah, he’s sitting right next to Isla and he’s looking at me as funny as you are.” Looking closely at Kallen again, I realize he’s not really staring at me. He’s staring at the spot where I walked out of his circle. He can’t see me just like no one else can see him. I guess this pretty much confirms my freak of nature status. But who cares? These abilities are pretty cool. Though, I am getting annoyed by how everyone’s eyes except Isla’s are moving back and forth between me and where Kallen should be, like they’re in a trance or something. It can’t be that big of a deal.
“Oh, good lord, just come out of there already,” I say as I move my hand through the faintly shimmering air that outlines Kallen’s circle.
With the most self-satisfied look I have ever seen on another person, Isla turns to the even more stunned Kallen. “I believe you were saying something about Xandra’s inability to control her magic?”
Kallen narrows his eyes at me for a moment before he answers his grandmother. “Does it really count when she does not even know what she is doing?”
If I was closer to him, I’d kick him. I really would. But, -Isla just seems amused. “When the outcome is consistently the desired one, does it truly matter if it was done with or without the knowledge of the mechanics behind it? I do not know the mechanics of that toaster over there, but I trust that it would brown my bread if I desired it to do that.”
First, I didn’t think she even knew what a toaster was since they don’t have them in the Fae realm. And second, did she just seriously compare me to a toaster? Right at this moment, I’d be okay with them both going back to the Fae realm and staying there.
Kallen turns to his grandmother and points an accusing finger towards me. “Do you feel that? That is how much magic she pulls when she is only a little upset. When she is truly angry, she pulls too much to control or contain.”
Okay, it’s true, I didn’t even realize that I was pulling magic until he mentioned it; but, he’s wrong about one thing. I’m not just a little upset. I’m truly angry. “What would you like me to do to show you how much control I have right this minute? How about this?” I imagine the lukewarm cup of coffee in front of him pouring in his lap and some of my magic rushes out of me to make sure it happens. Muttering a strong oath, he pushes back from the table and stands up. The bottom of his t-shirt and the lap of his jeans are soaked like he wet his pants.
Dad laughs but tries to cover it up with a cough even though ghosts don’t cough. Grandma’s biting her lip to keep from laughing and Mom lets out a little giggle before she manages to get control. Kallen has a completely outraged expression on his face when he looks back at me. Which turns into a satisfied grin when my hot chocolate escapes the table and ends up in my hair. I’m about to retaliate when a young voice says behind me, “That’s wicked. Xandra, you have to show me how to do that!”
I twirl around and my little brother has a grin a mile wide on his face. I can’t help laughing, even if my hair is dripping hot chocolate on the floor. “Sorry, buddy, you have to wait until you’re seventeen to have your magic unbound. Then you can have as many food fights as you want.” It’s customary for Witches to bind the powers of children until they reach the age of seventeen. They believe that magic in the hands of children is too dangerous.
“That sucks,” he pouts. Turning towards Mom, he says, “Can I come out of my room now? There’s nothing to do in there.” Mom had sent him to his room when Isla arrived. Even though he has been touched by some of what has happened recently, we’re trying to keep the really dangerous stuff from him. Grandpa had been here, too, but Grandma sent him back to his hotel so he didn’t hear any of this conversation. He can’t be trusted.
“Zac…,” Mom begins.
“Actually, we were just going to go outside and see whose magic is better, mine or Kallen’s. Why don’t you get your coat and boots on and you can join us.” Mom crosses her arms over her chest and gives me the evil eye, but she doesn’t say anything. Zac runs off with a grin to find his coat and boots.
Turning towards Kallen again, I say, “Are you ready?”
He chuckles. His anger from a minute ago has dissolved into a combination of disbelief and amusement. “You seriously want to do this? I am not going to go easy on you. I will show you how a Pooka warrior will fight.”
Like that scares me. Okay, maybe it does a little. Or a lot. Regardless, I nod. “I seriously do.”
He inclines his head towards me and sweeps his hand towards the kitchen door. “Alright, after you.” As he’s speaking, the wet spots on his t-shirt and jeans magically disappear and a black winter coat covers his now dry t-shirt.