The hallways are quiet, unpleasantly so. I stick tightly to the rim of the wall which bends around a sharp corner. Joey leads the way, and I’m not sure how that happened considering I saved him. While straddled behind him, I get a better view of his appearance. He isn’t as tall as I thought, maybe the lighting made him seem taller, but he stands almost at my exact height, just shy of five foot seven possibly. The back of his head is dusty and his long, overgrown hair is thin and knotted. It’s hard to see his face clearly underneath the beard, but his eyes are a lime green, and they remind me of fields.
“You smell like a sewer,” I whisper, my nose crinkling as he leans backwards into me.
He looks around the corner and then waves me onwards. “I’ll be sure to note down your complaints.”
As we turn again, his hand suddenly slaps against my chest, pushing me backwards, and he locks me between himself and the wall. Around the wall, footsteps march down the hallway, many footsteps. Joey squeezes his body solidly against mine, his hand almost pressing over my lips as if I didn’t know already how close the guards are.
When we’re in the clear he removes his hand and I resist the urge to kick his legs from underneath him.
“What?” he says.
“Touch me like that again and I’ll break your nose,” I say, turning the corner.
“Like what?” he demands.
I take the lead this time, walking freely down the hallway with no dawdling. Joey mutters something at my back about it, but we’re never going to get out of here if we spend hours creeping around walls.
Amara’s mansion is enormous, and still I get the clear sense that she isn’t here. It seems too calm, too free. I’d imagine if she was lurking around there’d be orders of some sort screamed every minute. I reach a balcony railing that overlooks the ground floor which is crowded with wiccans entering and leaving the main door carrying boxes and crates. The crates are marked with a red ‘X’ and the boxes seem heavy, as though they’re filled with valuables.
Joey stands beside me, making my nostrils flare in momentary disgust.
“Well that was easy,” Joey says uneasily.
“Too easy,” I say. “She has triple this amount of guards.” My eyes scan around the empty hallways. “She’s not here,” I whisper.
“How do you know for sure?”
“I just know. She’d be able to sense me, and wherever she is, the others are.” There’s suddenly a time slot in between wiccans entering and leaving, clearing the entire downstairs. “Go, now, while you can.”
“You’re staying,” he says. “Why?”
“Unfinished business,” I say.
“Then I’m staying too.”
I shake my head. “No. It’s too dangerous. Go.”
“Theresa, you’re one of the last Harmons alive. It’s my duty to protect you, to protect that legacy.” His voice drops to barely a whisper. “You need my help.”
“You’re going to make a powerful warlock someday, Joey,” I say. “But it’s not today.”
His eyes flash with defiance as he readies another speech to try and stay. I chant under my breath and I hold my hand out. The spell is a temporary speedup of the body’s particles, it allows us to move at the speed of light for merely a few seconds. Just long enough to get out of a doorway and through an open gate, and land somewhere dizzily at the end of it. Like most spells, my mother taught it to me. It isn’t well known and Harmons have used it to their advantage for decades.
“I hope we meet again,” I say quietly.
I regain myself and I turn back to the hallways, I choose a door and I walk through the red-carpeted rooms that I assume are her spell book libraries. Locating public spell books is easy, but locating Amara’s personal grimoire will be near to impossible. The most likely possibility is that she has it on her, and so I will have to face her blind.
If Amara isn’t here, then there’s only one place she can be; preparing. Getting into the Summit unnoticed will be hard, I can’t just walk through the front door anymore. Fortunately, I’m standing in the most dangerous library in the world with the books that can do it.
I walk around the isles, gazing up at the letters. I stop at isle C, squinting at a huge, dusty book in front of me. It’s then that I notice the spell book is written by Amanda Cook. The Cooks were a coven that operated over a century ago, before becoming extinct presumably to the Slayers. Most of the C section are also written by coven members ending in C. She has labelled them by the grimoires she and her ancestors have collected.
Now hopeful, I frantically rush across the isles, keeping my eyes open for the letter that will help me now more than ever before. When I find it, I just stop and stare it.
H. It is magnificent. So many shelves, stacked from the bottom to the ceiling in rows and rows that almost cover the entire passageway. Until my coven died, these books belonged with them, passed down from generation to generation, now they are all here. I begin my search, my fingers grazing along the side of each book as I walk. I suddenly stop.
“Magic is strong, but it cannot beat the connection between a mother and her daughter,” my mother once said. “Nothing is stronger.”
I close my eyes, trusting that connection. I put my hand out, focusing on her face, her voice, the way she touched my hair to sooth me when I became restless. My magic calls out to her as though I am stood saying her name. I hear something creep out of a gap in the shelves and it lands right in my palm. I open my eyes, turning the small, black book over in my hand.
“Thanks, mum,” I whisper.
I take the book over to one of the windows, using the light to read the spells clearly. The spells are among the most powerful ones ever written, or practised, and it makes me wonder if I’m good enough to even hold it.
I flick through pages and pages of her handwriting, until I reach a passage named ‘The Summit.’ The spell isn’t just to get there, but more to break in. Again, it’s as if she knew. I memorize it over and over in my mind before closing the book, dropping it into the pocket of my cardigan and I look out at the sandy desert in the distance. I attempt to ready myself.
“Whatever spell you’re going to pull off, you can’t do it alone.”
I flinch for a moment as Joey’s voice catches me off guard. I bite on my lip in frustration. “I thought I got rid of you.”
“There isn’t triple the amount of guards,” he says. “I gathered that whatever you were willing to risk your freedom for would be important so I’m here to assist with it.”
“You can’t help me,” I say. “What I’m about to do has never been done before, and it might kill me, so I’d rather walk that path alone.”
“That’s my choice.”
I turn around angrily. Joey stands a few feet back with his arms crossed, posing a gentle and kind approach. “What about your Slayers? Don’t you want to go get your revenge?”
“They can wait. This is a little more important, and exciting.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m just taking back my mother’s grimoire.”
“Theresa,” he says, carefully walking forwards. I back up slowly. “This isn’t just about Harmons. This is about all of us. I know you’re going after Amara and I know that you’re scared to admit it, but you can trust me. Amara has controlled my coven for years; she’s made us look weak and powerless but we’re not. Just like you, I want to save my family. I want to put the world back to how it was.”
“What about her vendetta against the Slayers? You are in favour of that,” I say. “Why would you want to stop her from doing the one thing you want to do yourself?”
“Because she’s going to use you to do it,” he whispers. “Sure, I’d love nothing more than to see the demon spawns extinct, but not at that cost.”
I glance to the ground.
“You know two wiccans are stronger than one, no matter who you are,” he continues.
“It’s not a spell,” I mutter. “The spell is just to get into the Summit. I have a different plan, a dangerous plan, if you get caught in the crossfire then-”
“Then I die.” He shrugs. “But I’m dead now anyway.”
I consider it for a few moments and sigh. “I suppose pulling our magic together can’t hurt. But when it all goes down with her, I want you out of the way, is that clear?”
“Crystal,” he says, charging over to my side. He puts his hand out with a huge grin and I take it, rolling my eyes. “What do we do?”
“Just close your eyes,” I say. “I’ll draw power from you through your hand.”
I take a deep breath as I close my eyes also. I envision my mother again as I chant the spell, I envision her wisdom and her courage and I hope it can be enough. It has to be enough.