by C.N. Greer
A mythical world. An ancient prophecy. And an evil that never sleeps. What's a girl to do?
Sawyer slammed the book shut with a thud. She’d been searching for over an hour and still found nothing. Jake’s text telling her he’d be late had only darkened her mood. She’d looked through the book they’d gotten the ritual from at least half a dozen times, but it said nothing about what to do if it had actually worked. Quinn hadn’t found anything online, which was disheartening in and of itself. Quinn was the Queen of Research. If she couldn’t find anything, they really were screwed.
Sawyer laid her head down on the desk, her fingers playing with her father’s pendant. Something about the stone kept her power at bay. Maybe it was the familiarity. Whatever it was, she was simply grateful for a reprieve. Sawyer turned her head and let her eyes roam through the stacks. The Brighton Oaks Community Library wasn’t much to speak of in the grand scheme of things, and certainly didn’t attract more then the regular crowd—herself and Quinn included—but it was significantly better than the school’s library and save Sawyer a place to study without distraction.
Whispers caught her ear in the usually quiet quarter of the building. Whispers that sounded more like a hissing reprimand. Curious—and grateful for the distraction—Sawyer rose and quietly made her way down a row through the middle of the stacks. With every step, the voices got louder.
“…don’t know who you answer to or what you’re up to, but I don’t trust you,” a voice was saying. Even at its low volume, the tenor was deep and rich, but unfamiliar. Sawyer took a few furtive steps forward, praying her midnight escapades would give her enough practice at staying quiet.
“You don’t have to trust me,” the other voice responded. “I don’t answer to you.” His cadence was forceful, but it shook at the end, betraying his fear. Sawyer froze. She knew that voice. She’d know that voice anywhere. Forcing her feet to move, she inched closer, peeking through the gaps in the books to get a better look.
Aaron Gallagher stood on the other side, his fist gripped in Spencer’s shirt. “Listen here, you little worm,” he hissed, right up in Spencer’s face. “I don’t like you—I’ve never liked you—but until now, I’ve never had reason to move against you. But let me be clear, if you hurt her, if you hurt either of them, I will make you wish you were never born.”
Sawyer couldn’t see Spencer’s face, but from the way his voice was cracking, she could tell he was scared. “I would never hurt them,” he exclaimed. “Honest. Sawyer is one of my best friends. I would never betray her.”
Sawyer clasped a hand over her mouth to stifle a gasp. They were talking about her? But why?
Disgusted, Aaron let him go. “Foolish pooka. You already have.”
Sawyer wanted to hear more, but she didn’t want Spencer to see her and she could tell by his stammered protests and scrambling movements that he was trying to find a way to leave. As quietly as she could, Sawyer raced down the aisle and back to her table, placing herself behind a pile of books and out of sight. She waited a few minutes until Spencer passed and she heard the heavy door slam at the front of the building before she got back up and went back to Aaron.
“Who are you?” she demanded, slamming her hands down on the table. Aaron looked up from where he was now sitting, completely serene. Slowly—painfully slow—he set the book down and leveled her with a stare. Sawyer tried not to be distracted by the way his golden eyes reflected the low light or the way his sharp cheek bones or clean jawline would look as a pencil sketch. “Who are you,” she asked again. “Why were you harassing my friend? And why the hell would you think he’d hurt me?”
“Sit down, Sawyer.”
She blinked. “What?” He gestured to the chair in front of her. With a huff, she yanked it out and plopped herself down. The way his lips twitched up at the corners was infuriating. Sawyer crossed her arms over her chest. “Well?”
“Where would you like me to start?”
Sawyer frowned. She had asked a lot of questions, but his calm demeanor was throwing her off. “Who are you?” she finally asked. “Why have you been following me? And don’t say you haven’t,” she ordered, pointing a finger in his direction when he tried to protest. “I know you have. Just today I spotted Grayson Stark watching me at school. Twice.” While he lifted a brow in surprise, Aaron still didn’t answer. Instead, he just sat there, smirking at her. Sawyer’s fingers sparked.
Aaron watched her with growing apprehension. “So it is true. You’ve ignited it.”
Reaching out, he took her hand and immediately, the fire died. “Look, Sawyer, you need to be careful. I want to help you, but there’s only so much I can do.”
Confused, Sawyer took her hand back. “Help me with what?”
“I’m not the only one who knows who you are, and it won’t be long until more of them start to figure it out. If you’ve ignited the flame, there’s no telling how long before he finds you, and trust me, you do not want him to find you.”
“What are you talking about?”
“How long has that been going on?” he asked. When she frowned, he stared pointedly at her fingers.
Sawyer instinctively curled her hand into a fist. “Since yesterday,” she answered after a moment. “We, uh, we did the ritual to awaken the caomhnoir at midnight last night.”
“Damn. What happened when you did the ritual? You can trust me, Sawyer.”
For some reason she couldn’t fathom, Sawyer believed him. But she wasn’t sure she was ready to trust him. “A lot of wind and blue light. And then we were thrown backwards. I, um, I think I blacked out.”
Aaron sighed deeply. “What did you see?”
Sawyer’s eyes narrowed. “Who are you?” she asked again, but like before, he didn’t answer. “So much for trust,” she grumbled.
Aaron opened his mouth, but before he could answer, his phone beeped. He cursed under his breath. “I have to go.”
“What, now?” she exclaimed. “Are you serious?” She watched in complete disbelief as he stood and gathered his things. She couldn’t just let him leave. Reaching out, she grabbed his arm, stopping him as he tried to pass. “Aaron, please. I don’t understand any of this. Last night, we did this ritual to see if we were the Guardians of some Ultimate Power, but I never dreamed it would work. Now I have all this power inside me, not to mention some ridiculous destiny, and now you’re telling me someone’s coming after me. What am I supposed to do with all of this?”
Aaron stood there, watching her for a moment. She could read the indecision all over his face. Finally, he unzipped his bag and pulled out an old, leather-bound, green book. “Here. It isn’t much, and I know it won’t answer your questions, but it’s all I can do for now. I have to go.”
Sawyer took it, running her fingers over the soft leather. It felt like butter. “How do I find you?” she asked, but he was so far away, she wasn’t sure he heard.
“I’ll find you,” he called. Then he was gone.
Sawyer shook her head. “Of course you will,” she muttered. The whole day had just been too much. Uncontrollable powers, malicious redheads, secret conversation about possible betrayal, confusing explanations by handsome strangers, and now a book of what? Ancient lore? She’d had enough. Whatever it was Quinn had gotten them into, she wanted no part of it. She just wanted to go back to her normal life. But she’d never really been normal, had she? Was this really what her life was going to become?
Not for the first time that day, she wished Quinn were there. She always knew what to do. Apprehensive, she stared at the book. What would she find if she opened it? Her curiosity getting the best of her, Sawyer ran her fingers along the closed pages until she found a book mark. It was a simple gold ribbon, but there wasn’t a doubt in her mind Aaron had put it there for her. Opening the tomb, she began to read.
In the beginning, there was only darkness; a deep ebony void, but for one solitary light. From that light the Goddess, Danu, sprang into being. She had skin as pale as moon beams and hair as black as night.
Filled with radiant joy, she began to dance. As she moved, the darkness cloaked her and her dress gleamed and sparkled as she created the stars. Her arms swirled through the air and the planets were created from her fingertips. Beneath her feet, the Earth formed. Her footsteps created valleys and on either side the mountains rose. Her blissful tears filled the land with rain and in this way the oceans, rivers, lakes, and streams came to be.
She instilled the Earth with her spirit and it became majestic, filled with a treacherous wonder, making it extraordinarily beautiful and equally dangerous. Yet, when she finished her dance, the Goddess was lonely.
It was then that she created the Great God as her companion, her Consort. He was a being primal in nature, both man and beast. His hair was a golden blaze and his skin kissed by the sun. Together, they created the creatures of Earth—plant, animal, and man—giving every living thing its own piece of her spirit. Man they created in their own image, gifting them with their divine magic and free will.
For a time, man and beast coexisted in peace, honoring the Goddess and God with their way of life. But eventually, man forgot the Old Ways and their role as protectors of the Earth’s creatures. Greed, envy, and murder clouded their minds. They forgot their duality as man and woman, putting women in the background, subservient to men. In do so, they strayed from the Great Mother, forsaking her teachings and creating their own laws. They denounced the Goddess and declared the God their one true savior.
Angered by mankind’s blatant disrespect for his Queen, the Great God plunged the world into darkness, abandoning man to their own destruction and wrongdoing.
How nice, Sawyer thought sourly, though she had to admit, she could see his point. She’d be pretty upset if they treated her wife that way as well. That is, if she had a wife. Or she was a god.
Not all mankind deviated from the Goddess’s path, however, the passage continued. Seeing this, the Goddess persuaded her lover to try again. They took their first tribe, the Tuathe de Dannan, and created a new world, charging them with protecting the Old Ways. They called this new world Illyria, the Isle of Shadows; a haven to all magical beings.
Sighing quietly, Sawyer turned the page and the blast of cold air struck her instantly. Her head swam as her stomach curdled and her vision blurred. Then all she could see were flames in the dark, dancing in the wind. As she stared, the flames began to take the shape until they formed the body of a woman. Yet it was the feeling she got from the woman, the urgency and the danger, that had Sawyer’s breath hitching. Before she could stop it, the flames spread to a raging inferno, engulfing her entire body in flame.
And then there he was. He came out of the dark, strolling out of the inky green mist. He was dressed all in black, his hair and eyes as dark as his soul. He was watching her with a cruel smile curving his lips, and he didn’t stop staring until he reached her. Placing his hand against her cheek, he leaned forward and whispered in her ear. “Found you.”
Sawyer screamed, the sound reverberating against the high stone walls of the library. Even when she realized where she was, she screamed again. And when strong arms came her, pulling her close, she thrashed and kicked against the body that tried to contain her.
“Ouch. Sawyer, damn it, wake up, it’s me. It’s Jake.”
Sawyer’s eyes opened slowly and she squinted against the glare, even in the low lighting. Jake was looming above her, his arms cradling her head. Gingerly, she reached up and touched her temple. “Ow.”
A low chuckle escaped his throat. “You hit your head pretty hard with that one,” he told her. “Hit me pretty hard, too.” Smirking, he rubbed his jaw. Sawyer offered him a sheepish smile and muttered her apologies. “Can you move?”
“I think so.” Groaning, she let him help her first into a sitting position and then up on her feet. Somehow, the vision had knocked her out of her chair and left her sprawled on the ground. Jake held her arm as she lowered herself into the chair. “Ugh. They’ve been bad before, but never this bad.”
“Quinn said the same thing.”
Worried, she willed him to understand. “Jake, I think something’s wrong. My visions, they’re not normal. And I keep seeing this man. He’s always shrouded in this creepy green mist, and his laugh…” She shuddered. “He scares me.”
“Come on,” Jake said, a frown furrowing his brow. He began piling up her books and things, loading them into her backpack. He hoisted it up on his shoulder. “Let’s get you home.”
When they got to Sawyer’s house, the windows were dark and she felt a lonely plummet in her stomach. She’d gotten used to her mother being gone for work a lot, but this time, she needed to talk to her. If her mother knew anything at all about this prophecy or the Tuathe de Dannan, Sawyer needed to know. She had a right to know. But she was never home to ask.
The gentle thrum of an engine made them both turn. Morgan’s car pulled into the cul-de-sac, coming to a stop in the driveway three houses down. The car turned off, throwing the night into silence, and Morgan stepped out, slamming the door shut behind her. She glared at Sawyer, cupping her bandaged against her chest. Even in the fading light, Sawyer could feel her anger like a promise in the wind.
“She hates me,” Sawyer said, watching her former best friend disappear inside her house.
Jake raised a brow. “You boiled her hand.”
A laugh escaped her tightened throat. Jake always had a way of putting her at ease. “Well, there is that.”
“Think I could come in for a bit?” Jake asked. The way he was looking at her made it clear he didn’t want to leave her alone. Grateful, Sawyer nodded.
Her house wasn’t a large one, but her mother had done what she could to make it a home. The outside was painted a cheerful yellow with white trim, and hanging baskets full of flowers decorated the quaint covered porch. Since it was fall, potted mums in yellows, oranges, and reds lined either side of the steps. Inside, the hardwood floors were covered with plush dark rugs in deep blues and greens, pulling in hues from the warm gray that graced the walls. Everywhere there was artwork and color. Paintings from her mother’s past lined the walls, interspersed with photographs from Sawyer’s childhood. And there, on the heavy wooden mantle, sat the only picture of Rowan Aspen in the entire house. Sawyer ran her fingers over her father’s picture as she passed.
“Are you hungry?” she asked, leading the way into the kitchen. “There’s leftover pasta from last night.” In the kitchen, she turned on the light and automatically reached for the note resting on the counter. Late again. Figured.
“Sure. So, what happened back there?” Jake wanted to know.
Opening the refrigerator door, Sawyer told him everything—from the issue with her power to the altercation with Morgan, the visions in the library, and finally the conversation she overheard between Spencer and Aaron Gallagher.
“How do you think they know each other?”
“I wish I knew.” Jake pushed the pasta around on his plate. “He’s never mentioned the guy before, but from what you’re telling me, they’ve known each other a while. ‘I’ve never liked you?’ That speaks of history. What’s not to like about Spence?”
Sawyer laughed softly. “He didn’t really seem like himself, actually. I mean, usually he’s funny and witty and full of confidence. But this Spencer just seemed…scared. And slimy.”
“I don’t know, like he was hiding something? For the first time in my entire life, I didn’t trust him. Spencer has been one of my best friends since I was a kid, and I’m not sure I really know who he is. And what the heck is a pooka?”
“Let’s find out, shall we?” Jake pulled out his phone. “According to the internet,” he said after a moment, “a Pooka is a type of faerie in Celtic mythology known for causing mischief among humans.”
“Again with the Celts.” Sawyer let out an exasperated sigh. “They do know we’re in Oregon right? In the States? On the other side of the world? When did Celtic mythology become so relevant?”
“We could ask him.”
“He isn’t answering his phone.”
Jake shrugged at her bland look. “So, we stake him out here. He does live next door. Well? He’s got to come home sometime, doesn’t he?”
Sawyer narrowed her eyes. “You’re just full of surprises, aren’t you?” For a handful of seconds, they both sat and stared out the window. Finally, Sawyer clapped her hands together. “So, you want to watch a movie or something?”
A mischievous grin spread across Jake’s face and for a moment, she was reminded he’d grown up with Quinn. Even if he was her step-brother and not related by blood, the two of them were a lot alike. “Come with me,” he said, taking her hand. “I have a better idea.”
They sat cross-legged on the dark green carpet in Sawyer’s room, the lamp light creating an unearthly glow. The few candles she’d lit to help her concentrate flickered across her face. She brushed her hair out of the way with the back of her hand.
“Okay, now take a deep breath,” he told her, watching her breathe in and out, face tense and eyes closed. “Concentrate.”
Sawyer opened her eyes to tiny slits. “Okay, Buddha. What is it I’m concentrating on again?”
Jake sighed. “Haven’t you ever wondered where your power comes from?”
“A botched ritual.”
“It wasn’t botched. It worked exactly like it was supposed to.”
Frowning, Sawyer cocked her head to the side. “How do you know?”
He shrugged. “I don’t. But what I do know is that ritual unloaded a heaping mess of supernatural power. In the last few days, not one but two strangers have told you to look into the Celts and warned you about your future. One of them even told you others could find you. Your skin keeps catching on fire, you burned the crap out of Morgan’s hand, and you keep seeing some dark-haired dude that scares you to death in your visions. So, concentrate.”
Sawyer huffed out a breath. “Fine. What do I do, Buddha?”
Laughing, Jake swiped a hand over her face. “Close your eyes. And focus. Find that energy building inside you, that manifestation of something deeper.”
“You’re saying I can do more than get visions with whatever it is that gives me that ability?”
“Exactly. Dip into that well. Can you feel it?” Eyes closed, she nodded. “Good. Now control it.”
Sawyer pictured a soft blue light in her mind’s eye. Pictured her hands changing its shape into a sphere. Yet, no matter what she tried, she couldn’t get it to be more than just light.
“I am focusing, Jake,” she shot back through gritted teeth. “All I see it light. How am I supposed to shape it?”
His face brightened with excitement. “Paint it. Why not? Just picture yourself with a brush in hand. Paint the light.”
Taking a deep breath, Sawyer let him walk her through it. She tried over and over to create the illusive sphere on command, but it was no use. She was just about to give up when she felt it. A flicker. And with it, the steady hum of electricity along her skin. Opening her eyes, she found Jake grinning at her. “Did you see it?” she asked him. “Did I do it?”
“Almost? All day today I’ve been setting things on fire, and now when I want to become a human torch I can’t? What gives?”
Chuckling, Jake brushed a hand over her face, closing her eyes. “Try again.”
Taking a deep breath, she did as she was told, and this time, it took form.
“Whoah!” Jake scrambled back, then caught himself and leaned forward, studying the sphere she held in her hands. He passed a hand through the blue ball. “That is so cool.”
It really was. The energy she held between her palms looked like a light blue ball of flame. It radiated no heat but sent a slight tickling sensation up her arms. “Does it burn?” she asked him. She didn’t feel much outside the tickle, so she was curious to see what it could do.
“No.” Jake let his fingers run through the light, his skin unscathed. “It’s not even warm. I wonder what it is?”
“Raw power?” she asked dryly, but in truth, she was as fascinated as he was.
“Try doing something with it.”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. Play with it.”
Play. She could do that. Picturing what she wanted in her mind, she amazed them both when the sphere split into little pieces and danced around their heads.
Jake watched her in awe. “You are seriously incredible.”
Grinning, Sawyer laid back on the ground, tugging him with her. When they were settled, she brought the pieces back together and tossed the ball into the air like a tennis ball. Each time she caught it, the light got stronger.
“You’re really getting the hang of that, aren’t you?”
She laughed. “Yeah, as long as I don’t throw it at anyone. What?” she asked when he frowned.
“Actually, you might need to do just that. Could be a good weapon.”
The sphere froze in midair. Sure he was joking, she searched his face. What she saw made her heart sink. “You’re serious, aren’t you? Do you really think it will come to that?”
Shaking his head, Jake propped himself up on his elbows and gazed down at her. “I don’t know. But can you honestly tell me you’re not worried about it? Your visions, Gallagher’s warning. I’d rather you were prepared than caught off guard. The quicker you can master your new abilities, the better. Do you think you can throw it?”
Sawyer shrugged. “Let’s see.” Cupping the ball in her hand, she gripped it and heaved it into the air, sending it flying straight at the far wall. Both she and Jake immediately flattened themselves against the carpet as it bounced off the wall, zinged around the room, and collided with her bedside lamp, sending it crashing to the floor.
Jumping to her feet, Sawyer crouched down as her like a war ball ricocheted off the wall again and bounced in her direction. She pounced, landing squarely on her quarry and locking it tight between her hands. Closing her eyes, she focused on the power pulsing between her palms and used everything she and Jake had learned over the last little while to absorb it back into herself. For a moment, the light glowed a brilliant white. The it exploded over her skin, covering her like a warm blanket of static electricity. “I guess so,” she said with a nervous giggle. Stunned, she gaped at the disastrous outcome she’d created.
“Awesome,” Jake breathed from where he still lay on the carpet. Climbing to his feet, he came over and helped her up. “That was wicked cool.” Glancing around the room at the destruction from her power, he shrugged one shoulder. “You room took a bit of a hit, but hey, look on the bright side. You can control it now. No more blue flames on your fingertips or boiling demonic juniors.”
Sawyer laughed. There was some truth to his words, she had to admit. Though she was going to have a hard time explaining this one to her mother. Glancing around the room, she made a mental list of the collateral damage. Her lamp would need to be replaced. Good thing it was a thrift store find. She’d need to replace the curtains for sure, and at the very least, vacuum the colored shawl covering her dresser. The bed was fine, but that pillow was toast and there were feathers everywhere, including all over her shirt. Absently, she began brushing the dust from her clothes.
“How do you feel?” Jake asked. He plucked a feather from her hair and tucked the stray lock behind her ear.
Sawyer’s stomach jumped like a rollercoaster. The power must have affected her more than she realized. “Okay, I guess,” she replied, surprised to find it was the truth. “Better. But look at this mess!”
Laughing, the two of them set to work cleaning up the debris. If she was lucky, her mom wouldn’t notice until she’d had a chance to replace what she’d lost. They’d been at it nearly half an hour when Sawyer decided she needed answers more than a lack of mess. “Let’s break into my mom’s office.”
Jake froze. “You want to do what now?”
Excitement made her bold. “I want to break into her office. Look, you said it yourself. There’s no way it’s a coincidence Quinn and I happen to live in the same sleepy town and both be part of an ancient prophecy from across the world. You know our moms have to know something. You guys have already searched your own house. Did you turn up anything?”
“Nothing but a box of old journals. Quinn’s reading through them, but so far nothing.”
“Exactly. Nothing.” Sawyer began to pace. Jake watched her uneasily. “So, now we search my house. My mother guards her secrets like the Goblins who guard Gringotts. There’s no way she’ll tell me anything if I ask her straight out, but she would also never dream I’d be brave enough to look through her things while she isn’t home.” Sighing, Sawyer dropped her hands in defeat. “I’m not sure I believe any of this, Jake, and I definitely don’t want to believe my mom has been lying to me my whole life. I don’t want to be part of another realm, chosen by the gods or not, and I damn sure don’t want any part in saving it—it’s not my fight.
“But. If, on the off chance all of this is real, that ritual did work the way it was supposed to and Quinn and I are prophesied to help save both worlds, and my own mother didn’t tell me, I want to know about it. And I’ll do it with or without you.” Crossing her arms, she watched him, waiting. “What’s it going to be?”
Brow furrowed, Jake stared at her, indecision clouding his deep blue eyes. “I’m probably going to regret this,” he told her, shaking his head, “but I’m in. Let’s go break into Gringotts.”
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