Chapter Twelve

Ramon never had time to react.

In one huge blow, the magic Natalie had collected inside herself blew up in a white explosion. It vibrated through the air, spreading around Natalie and shaking the very foundations of the Mithridates. Natalie imagined it in her mind, as it continued outside of the Mithridates, like the ripples moving in every direction created when one drops a stone into water.

She stood free.

The magic that had been holding her just a second ago now worked with her, for her. She had never felt this way – powerful, completely in control. She liked it.

Ramon stood temporarily stunned. He squinted at her, because she the white light of magic still surrounded her. His black robes looked almost white in the light she emanated.

Behind him, Ava stared wide-eyed and fearful at Natalie. She trembled badly.

It took only a second for Natalie to get her limbs to start working again. When they did, she ran towards Ava. Ramon stood in her way but he did not move. He obviously had not expected her to be able to do anything, least of all this. Things seemed to move in slow-motion.

Natalie grabbed Ava. Her rough treatment could not be helped – they needed to get out of there while Ramon had other things to think about. She had not figured this part out yet – Ava’s legs were bound so she could not run and Natalie herself already started to get tired from the excessive use of magic. She knew she would have to find a solution, quickly.

Something fell to the ground as Natalie yanked Ava to her feet. The small tracking stone – the thing Ava had held in her hand since Natalie had arrived on the scene. The stone bounced once on the ground and Natalie picked it as it flew into the air once more.

Ramon started moving towards them, his eyes returning to normal and shaking his head to clear it. His eyes were lit with black hatred as he turned around, searching for Natalie.

Natalie’s hand closed around the tracking stone and she placed it to her necklace.

“Think about Lake Sunflower High!” Natalie yelled to Ava.

Ava looked at Natalie, still terrified.

Natalie concentrated as hard as she could. Her heart pounded so hard it nearly hurt and her legs had started to feel like they were made of lead – but it seemed luck was with her. White light shone from the tracking stone once more and just as Ramon made a grab for the two, Natalie and Ava disappeared. Natalie’s held Ava’s arm tightly enough to leave bruises, but neither cared.

Ava screamed in terror as the ground started moving at horribly quick speed below them. Natalie struggled to stay in control. This burst of magic did not come anywhere nowhere near the strength of the first burst – and it left her even quicker. Natalie’s eyelids began to feel heavy. The sound of blood pounding in her ears replaced the whooshing sound of air around her.

The magic slipped from her, suddenly just out of reach.

They started falling and then the world stopped moving around them. The two hit the ground hard.

Natalie lost consciousness.

Ava woke her by shaking her. Slowly, Natalie’s world came into focus, though at first she thought Ava had two heads.

Her body felt like it was made of stone – she did not have the power to move so much as a finger. Her head hurt with the worst headache she had ever experienced and Ava’s worried questions about how many fingers she was holding up only made it worse.

Ava helped her sit up. Her eyes were filled with concern, which Natalie’s pain addled brain thought was a rather nice change from the disgusted looks Ava had been sending her and Cecily lately.

“Are you okay?”

“Peachy,” Natalie replied, her voice pathetically weak.

Ava watched her with worried eyes. After a few moments of silence, she said quietly, “I believe in magic now.”

Natalie glanced at her. Had her head not hurt so badly, she would have rolled her eyes. As it was, she thought it likely she would lose consciousness again if she did – and Ava would not appreciate that.

“So that was all I had to do to convince you,” she whispered.

Ava smiled slightly, her cheeks reddening with embarrassment. “Sorry about that.”

“That’s okay.”

With that, it was in fact okay. Natalie understood the source of Ava’s anger – Ava had likely been made a fool of several times, probably by Chase Eadan and his group. Now she felt thankful that Ava’s anger had abated, that she had understood that she and Cecily were actually telling the truth about the existence of magic. Perhaps their friendship would come out stronger for it.

As they sat in silence, Natalie had a chance to look around. They were definitely not at Lake Sunflower High. Rather, it seemed they sat, stuck, in the middle of the desert. They sat in the shade of a tree and a few bushes. Natalie did not know if they had landed there or if Ava had dragged them there while Natalie had been unconscious. Either was possible. Still, Natalie noted that Ava’s feet and hands had yet to be untied, so if she had in fact pulled them to the shade of the tree, they had not landed far off from there.

“Here,” Natalie said, motioning for Ava to hold her hands out.

She untied the ropes around Ava’s wrist rather easily now. The magic Ramon had placed upon Ava had obviously stopped working. Why, Natalie did not know – perhaps it depended on the distance, or perhaps it was the magic Natalie had performed that had broken his hold?

Ava rubbed her sore wrists before untying her feet. Then looked around uncertainly.

“Do you have any idea where we are?”

“No,” Natalie said. She fought the urge to shake her head. It would do absolutely nothing for her headache.

“We have to find something to give us a clue where we are,” Ava said. “Can you walk?”

Walking felt like the last thing Natalie ever wanted to do again. Mostly, she wanted to lie down in a bed and sleep for hours. Of course, she would not get to do that unless she got up and found some sort of landmark so that they could find their way back to civilization. She pulled herself together and tried her best to stand.

Her legs would not hold her up. Ava grabbed her at the last second and lowered her to the ground, as Natalie’s legs gave out beneath her.

“Obviously not,” Ava said. “I’ll go then. You’ve done enough.”

“You’ll find me again, won’t you?” asked Natalie, unable to stop herself. She did not like the idea of being left alone in the desert.

Ava smiled slightly and kissed Natalie’s forehead. “No, I’ll leave you here and then they’ll find you in a few years, just a skeleton left. You’ll be one of those mysteries they run on TV.”

“Oh good,” Natalie said.

Ava shrugged her bag off her back. She had been wearing it since the start of this ‘adventure’. Natalie on the other hand, had not had the time to grab her bag before flying off to Ramon’s Mithridates. Ava fished out a cell phone from her bag.

“I hope this thing still works,” she mumbled and flicked it on.

The screen acted oddly and the battery blinked ‘low’, but the phone worked.

“Good,” Ava said, satisfied. “I’ll call someone as soon as I know where we are.”

“Call Cecily. Her dad can pick us up.”

“Cecily? Why?”

Natalie made a face at her from her place on the ground. “Say, what are you going to tell your mom, or anyone else you’re thinking about calling, when they ask us what we’re doing in the middle of the desert?”

Ava chuckled. “Right. But Cecily’s dad won’t ask?”

Natalie shook her head. “I don’t think so. I think he knows about magic – he and Cecily are too close for him not to know.”

“Cecily,” Ava said thoughtfully. “She’s different than us, isn’t she?”

Natalie did not know what to answer. Ava was right, of course – Natalie had sensed something different about Cecily the moment the two met. Besides, not just anyone had prophetic dreams. Yet Natalie did not know what made Cecily different – she was not a Wielder like Natalie.

“Yes,” said Natalie eventually, “she is.”

Ava paused for a moment, then asked, “And you?”

“Me?” asked Natalie.

“Yes,” Ava said, “What are you? I’m pretty sure that not just anyone can do what you did back there, when you went all glowy. Though I don’t really know what it was you did.”

Natalie smiled slightly. She did not know either. Just as the times before when she had performed magic, she had simply gone with her intuition. She had done what felt right and she had drawn upon magic she felt around her. Obviously, she did not always realize she was doing it until she was well on her way, like in the case of healing Cecily.

“I’m a Wielder,” Natalie said. “I do magic.”

It felt strange to say the words. She had not called herself a Wielder before because she had not felt like one. After today however – Natalie could hardly call herself anything but. Perhaps still a Novus – Natalie did not know where the lines were drawn between one and the other – but she had most definitely become a Wielder. She had done magic. It had not just been any kind of magic either – it had been strong enough to stun Ramon, though Natalie suspected that had to do with the fact that the man had not expected her to do anything.

“I thought you were kidding about magic,” Ava said. She added with a sigh and a roll of her eyes, “Like Santa. Dad or one of my uncles always used to dress up like Santa and when I finally found out that Santa was not real, I was devastated.”

Natalie smiled slightly. “I promise magic is real – as real as reality gets.”

Ava snorted. “Yeah, I gathered as much. When that man grabbed me – we flew, just like I did with you. It couldn’t really be anything but magic.”

“Sorry about the violent introduction,” Natalie said sheepishly. “Mine was better.”

Ava shrugged and shook her head. “If I hadn’t gotten angry and stormed out on you guys, I’m sure I would have gotten a better intro.”

Natalie nodded.

Ava pulled out the opaque tracking stone from her pocket and asked curiously, “What’s this? Some form of magic?”

Natalie gave another short nod, but stopped when her headache started banging harder inside her scull once more. “It’s a tracking stone. It allowed me to find you.”

Ava did not look as though she understood and Natalie did not blame her. She still did not understand how the tracking stone worked and how she had managed to get to Ramon’s Mithridates the way she had. She also did not understand how they had been able to escape, or why they had ended up in the desert in the end. It would have made more sense if the tracking stone had returned them to the school from where Natalie had disappeared – but then again, Natalie had lost consciousness so perhaps that had something to do with it.

She did not voice her uncertainties. Ava would not be able to help her anyway and perhaps it would only scare her to find out how little of this Natalie actually knew.

Ava pulled her backpack back on. “I’ll go find some landmark or whatnot, but you need to stay awake –you might have a concussion and I don’t want to come back to find you dead.”

“But I—” Natalie said weakly.

“No buts.”

Ava left, and Natalie glared after her. Her body relaxed as she moved into a comfortable position beneath the tree. A slight wind sent some sand flying, and Natalie shut her eyes. The darkness was welcome in her fight against the pounding headache as well. Ava’s words about staying awake echoed through her head – but sleep sounded so very lovely. She tried to fight it off, yet drifted in and out of sleep.

She had no idea how much time had passed since Ava had left, when someone shook her lightly once more.

“I told you to stay awake,” Ava scolded her quietly.

Cecily and Mr. Cordell stood behind Ava, looking rather concerned. Natalie blinked several times and sat up. Her body felt like it had truly been through the ringer and her head felt only slightly than it had before she had fallen asleep.

“Hello sleepyhead,” said Cecily.

“Hi,” Natalie said softly. “What time is it?”

“Almost six. It took us a while to get out here and then we had to find Ava as well,” Cecily said. “The car is just five minutes away, so it’d be good if you could walk.”

Natalie nodded and with some help, she managed to stand. She ached in muscles she did not know she had.

“Do you need to go to the hospital?” asked Mr. Cordell.

Natalie felt through her body. Though in pain, nothing seemed to be broken.

“I don’t think so.”

The walk to the car took a bit over five minutes because Natalie could not keep up otherwise. Most of all, she felt like lying down and just continue sleep for a few days but she knew she could not so she trudged on. Ava looked worn as well. The sand dirtied her clothes and face, and Natalie suspected that she had been out walking for quite a while before finding civilization. She felt bad for making Ava find help on her own.

They reached the car. Mr. Cordell handed Natalie a bottle of water and a chocolate bar. Natalie emptied the bottle and ate the chocolate so quickly she hardly tasted it. She could not recall ever being so hungry.

They rode back home in quiet. Natalie rested her head on Ava’s lap, a large blanket covering them both. Natalie smiled at how Cecily seemed to enjoy mothering the two of them. Ava petted Natalie’s hair slowly, sleepily, appearing just as tired as Natalie. Then Natalie started drifting in and out of sleep once more, as they headed back towards Lake Sunflower.


“Where have you been? The school called and said they couldn’t find you!”

Natalie winced at the loud question. Richard stood before her, his hands up in the air and he looked angry. Of course, Natalie had never skipped class and been gone the rest of the afternoon before.

She had no idea how to answer his question. The truth? Richard would think that she was making fun of him. He would not believe her and why should he?

“Cecily got sick again,” Natalie answered. She kept her eyes on the floor, hoping that Richard would not notice how pale and dirty she looked, or see the lie in her eyes.

She could feel his gaze upon her. Then his posture relaxed a bit and his voice sounded a bit softer when he spoke again.

“Why didn’t you tell the school if she had to go to the hospital again?”

Natalie gave a very small shrug and lied. “She fainted. I asked if I could come with the ambulance when it came to get her. I didn’t really have the time to tell anyone.”

She still could not meet his eye for more than a second at the time, fearing he would detect her lie if he did.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” he said. His tone told her he did not quite believe her but was willing to let it go. “Just—call me the next time. I gave you the cell phone for a reason. I just want to know where you are and that you’re safe. You had me worried.”

Natalie smiled slightly and looked up, daring to meet his eyes for a moment. “Sorry.”

Richard surprised Natalie by pulling her into a brief hug. “Don’t worry me, okay?”

Natalie nodded. “Okay.”

Then she excused herself and sped up the stairs as quickly as she could make herself. Richard retreated to the living room, where Emmanuella waited.

Natalie closed the door behind her as she entered her room. The last three steps across the room felt awfully long but finally Natalie could sink down on her own bed. Without bothering to undress, she pulled the covers over herself. She took several long, deep breaths just taking in the fact that she had made it home. The questions and thoughts on the day could wait for tomorrow – then she and Cecily and Ava could try to figure out who Ramon, Chaos and who the ghost writer all were, and what connections they had to one another.

For now, however, Natalie felt perfectly content with simply sleeping, even though the clock downstairs only chimed seven.


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