Chapter Sixteen


The scream echoed through her mind. Natalie could not be sure to whom the voice belonged – Cecily or someone else. She existed in a void, floating between Cecily’s dream and reality, both worlds blurred white.

When she came to, she found herself kneeling before Cecily, her fingers tightly wrapped around Cecily’s. The world slowly returned to her and the images of people rushing past in the corridor outside and the sounds of cars driving on the street below began to penetrate her senses once more.


This time Natalie could tell who had said her name. She stood and looked to the other side of the room where Ava lay in a heap on the floor. Various medical equipment lay spread around her.

“What are you doing on the floor?” asked Natalie, still feeling out of sorts.

Ava stared at her. “You don’t remember?”

“Remember what?”

“You reached for Cecily – and then there was a—well, explosion, really,” Ava said. “You both glowed. There was a light and—I got thrown back into the wall by the sheer force of it.”

“Are you okay?”

Ava nodded and stood, albeit a bit shakily. “It just knocked the wind out of me.”

Natalie glanced at Cecily. The dream replayed in her mind, though it felt nothing like a dream to her. “How long was I out?”

Ava sent her a confused look. “What do you mean ‘out’? You just reached for her and then there was the light.”

Natalie frowned at Ava. She did not see any reason for Ava to lie and it could be true – dreams did not operate under the timeline the real world did. A dream could be a second long, or much more.

“What happened?” asked Ava, glancing curiously at Natalie.

“I think I was in her dream.”

Ava gaped at her but before she had time to reply, nurses rushed into the room. Only then did Natalie realize that the machine that had been beeping out Cecily’s pulse had gone silent. The monitor was black.

Her heart stopped – had she just killed Cecily?

“Insanity,” muttered one of the nurses. “Every electronic device in the hospital malfunctions at the same moment – and the electrician says there’s no problem.”

“There was a light,” said another nurse to the first one. “I wasn’t the only one who saw it.”

“A light!” sneered the first nurse. “I have never heard anything so silly.”

Ava and Natalie stood back, allowing them to work. Natalie’s eyes were wide as saucers – had the white light taken Cecily’s life, was that why she had been expelled from her dream?

She wanted to cry out in relief when the nurse turned the pulse machine on again and the beeping sound filled the room. She did not – just a moment later, Mr. Cordell came rushing back in. He looked even older now than when he left.

“Is she—” he asked.

“She’s doing just fine, sir,” said the first nurse. “Just some problems with the machines.”

The two nurses left, obviously having other patients to tend to. If it was as they said, that every piece of electrical equipment had stopped working, they probably had their work cut out for them. Natalie felt a rush of color to her cheeks – what had she done?

Mr. Cordell’s eyes rested upon Natalie. “What happened?”

Unlike with Ava, Natalie did not know what to tell Cecily’s father. She had no idea how much he knew, although she suspected that he knew quite a bit. Still, Natalie did not know what to say.

“I’m sorry, sir,” she said finally. She did not know what she apologized for – that she had hurt Cecily with her words? Was it that she could probably have killed Cecily with whatever the white light had done? Was it that she could not help Cecily?

All of the above, Natalie decided. She felt sorry for everything. She wished she could help Cecily but her silly healing magic, which had made Cecily well for an afternoon, would hardly wake her from a coma. She wished it would but she knew otherwise.

Mr. Cordell gazed at her softly. “I know.”

Why could magic not heal Cecily? Natalie wanted to scream. Then suddenly, she thought – why not? She had to try. She just needed—

Natalie ran. Out of the room, out of the hospital, as quickly as her legs could carry her. It was a different thing, running in the real world than in the black nothingness of a friend’s dream. Her pulse raced and pounded in her ears, her legs became heavy and down her cheeks streamed tears. She did not stop. She forced herself to continue on – she did not deserve to feel good when her friend was dying.

When she finally did stop, she stood in the middle of a green field. Lake Sunflower High’s football field. When the tears began to wane and her sight became less blurred, she saw the goal posts and bleachers around. How did she get there?

She needed to help Cecily. She had told her in her dream that she would not let Cecily die – and she would not. Not without a fight – she had not fought yet. There had to be something she could do, some way to save her. What good was magic if it could not save what mattered the most?

She needed something more – something bigger than what she could do by herself.

She thought of Ramon. He wanted to raise Chaos, wake her from a long sleep. A blood ritual where he needed Natalie’s blood – and if it could wake Chaos, why should it not be able to wake Cecily with the same? Perhaps even heal her?

Ramon, Natalie thought. Ramon knew.

She needed to find him.

She allowed the power that had already started to flow in her veins to prosper and grow. It fed on her feelings – her worry for Cecily, her fear for Cecily’s life, but also on her love for both Ava and Cecily. The good and the bad fused with the wish to find Ramon. Fresh tears ran down her cheeks.

The skies drew together, dark clouds drawing in to cover the blue skies.


Ava stood at the end of the football field, her curly red hair wild in the sudden wind.

“Go back!” yelled Natalie. “This is not your battle!”

Ava began to run towards her, not listening.

A lightning bolt cracked the sky, deafening thunder following.

“Natalie, don’t do it!” Ava said. “You’re upset and you can’t possibly fight him that way! Please, Natalie!”

“What other way is there?” asked Natalie. She felt strangely calm – a part of her knew this was what was meant to happen. In a moment, she would be on her way towards Ramon, wherever he awaited her. This time, he would not be stronger than her. This time they were enemies on the same level. She had learned, she had power now.

“Natalie, no!” yelled Ava.

“Go back to Cecily,” Natalie said.

The power closed around and inside of her. The wind picked up even more, making it hard for Ava to reach Natalie.

Natalie reached her hand to the skies, her mind screaming for the magic to find Ramon and bring her to him and then, as another lightning bolt split the sky, the air swept her off her feet and she disappeared from the football field in a rush of colors and shapes.

Natalie landed a moment later, impossibly far from the football field. She looked around, recognizing Ramon’s Mithridates. It did not surprise her – where else would he be? She doubted Ramon to be the type to own a bachelor pad and go shopping at the local mall.

Only then did Natalie realize that she had a passenger with her.

A white-faced Ava held onto Natalie’s leg tightly enough to cut of blood circulation to Natalie’s foot.

“Well, well, well,” said a voice just behind them. “What have we here – has the little kitten thrown herself into the lion’s den once more?”
Natalie rose to her feet. Ava let go, still in shock it seemed. Though Natalie felt bad that she had come along, she could not let her thoughts linger on her friend – all of her energy must be focused on Ramon. A single second could mean victory for him – and certain death for both Natalie and Ava.

“You are going to help me,” Natalie said, her voice dark.

Ramon smirked at her and took a step closer. He looked pleased, in a twisted way, as though he finally thought her worthy. “My, have we gone and bought ourselves a bit of attitude?”

Natalie’s eyes narrowed at him.

“Natalie,” said Ava uncertainly. She stood, hiding behind Natalie.

“Not now,” Natalie snapped at her.

Ramon snickered and took another step, “Trouble in paradise?”

“This isn’t paradise,” Natalie said. “This is hell.”

Ramon’s smirk deepened. “Finally, something we agree upon.”

He thrust his arm out and a burst of magic hit Natalie square in the chest. It sent her flying across the room, crashing into the wall. She felt something crack inside; she had likely broken a rib. Pain spread like wildfire through her body but she knew she could not let that stop her. Hazily, she looked up at Ramon, all the while calling upon magic to heal herself.

Ramon used magic to lift Ava off the ground, choking her. Ava struggled against the strong, invisible hands that squeezed around her neck but in the end, she lost consciousness and Ramon tossed her aside like a broken toy. Natalie hoped that she was only unconscious. She had come to save a friend, not to kill another.

The magic surged inside of her, diminishing the pain and allowing Natalie to stand.

Ramon moved towards her. He seemed to flow across the floor, his robes floating around him. It was the only thing about him that made him seem gentle.

His hand went out once more and the same invisible hands that had strangled Ava lifted Natalie into the air.

“Silly girl,” hissed Ramon. “Did you really think you could beat me, a Master Wielder – and in my Mithridates nonetheless? You don’t even know the basics – and now you never will.”

He flicked his fingers and an old book became visible, hanging freely in the air. Natalie had never seen Cecily’s Script Magia, but considering Ramon’s cruel smile, she could only assume that it was this book. Pages hung out of it – Ramon had not been gentle with it.

His hand became a fist and Natalie noted the jewelry he wore on his hand. It looked like a glove of sorts, though it did not cover his fingers. A stone on it glowed bright red as Ramon began pulling magic from it. A ball of fire appeared.

“No!” cried Natalie, realizing what Ramon meant to do.

“Yes,” hissed Ramon.

He held the ball of fire just below the book and it did not take long until the fire licked the paper and caught hold. Within moments, the pages turned black and soon only ashes remained of the Script Cecily had cherished. Natalie wanted to scream at Ramon, to rant and call him names. She did not – it would not help.

Instead, she struggled angrily against the strong hold of his magic for a several seconds. Black dots began to dance before her eyes – she would never be able to fight her way out of this. Magic was best fought with magic, not muscle strength. She needed to use both her head and her heart. She did not need much, just enough to break Ramon’s hold.

The living magic around her shuddered as she drew upon it. For a moment, Natalie thought it would not work – then the hands suddenly released their hold on her neck and she fell to the ground, coughing and gulping in air into her burning lungs.

Ramon stared at her. He seemed shocked, but nowhere near at a loss for action. “You shouldn’t have done that. You will not leave this place alive. This Stone of Sitis and this Mithridates is mine.”

“I have done it once,” Natalie said, glaring hatefully at him, as she stood up, “and I’ll do it again.”

“You were lucky that time. Doing it again? Impossible,” Ramon growled and this time his necklace glowed. The cold blue stone sparkled like an ice-shard.

“Not impossible,” Natalie said, her voice low. “Improbable.”

She focused all her senses on the want to bind Ramon to be able to question him. He in turn gathered his own magic – and he did it quicker. Realizing that she would not have time to gather the necessary magic to hold Ramon for any length of time, Natalie caught sight of the Stone of Sitis.

The Stone of Sitis, the great stone in the center of the Mithridates, was magic in itself – it had bound Natalie to it. She had no idea if it could work the same way on Ramon but she knew it was her best – and only – shot.

Directing the magic she had gathered towards Ramon, it shot from her as a white ball of light. It hit Ramon in the chest, not unlike his magic had done to Natalie just before. As it was not nearly as strong, it did not send him across the room – but it made him stumble backwards and he tripped to touch the Stone of Sitis.

Ramon grinned manically at Natalie. “Good idea,” he said, “but it won’t work. It isn’t set on holding me. You don’t know how to do that.”

Natalie swore under her breath.

Then, out of nowhere, a red whirlwind came rushing and hit Ramon from the side. He stumbled and fell and Ava landed on top of Ramon. Immediately, she twisted his arms up on his back in a position that looked anything but comfortable.

“Stun him, or something,” yelled Ava to Natalie, who stood staring dumbly at the two. “Natalie, come on, now might be a good time to use that magic of yours!”

Shaken into action, Natalie threw what magic she could gather onto Ramon. Ava stayed sitting on his back, locking his arms. Natalie hurried to them and bent down. She enjoyed the sight of Ramon’s face squashed against the ground.

“Now you’re going to talk,” Natalie said. “Tell me about the ritual.”

“No,” spat Ramon.

He made an attempt to struggle out of the magic binds and more so, out of Ava’s grip. Natalie added new magic to the binding that held Ramon, hoping nervously that it would keep him. She still had no idea how magic casting truly worked, although she did her best to keep that fact from Ramon.

“Could it wake a regular person? Could it heal someone?” asked Natalie, urgency making its way into her voice.

Ramon let out a sudden, rough laugh. “Heal someone? No, you silly girl, the ritual could never heal anyone. It is a ritual to raise Chaos, not to rid the world of anguish.”

His dark laughter echoed in the Mithridates. Ramon obviously found great joy in other’s suffering.

Natalie’s world came tumbling down once more. The ritual could not do it; it could not help Cecily. Despair and darkness filled her mind and as it mingled with the magic that flowed in the room around her, Natalie once more could feel what Ramon wanted to raise – Chaos. It swirled around her, all powerful and as dark as the outer ends of the universe. It was everything and nothing at the same time and Natalie could so easily loose herself in it. Hatred grew there, together with anger and terror.

“No! You’re lying!” yelled Natalie and lashed out.

The magic she had drawn, so heavy and dark, hurled through the room like a knife and cut Ramon’s cheek deeply. Dark red blood started seeping from the wound – at least he was human, Natalie thought briefly before the disarray of dark thoughts once more took over her mind.
“You could always try,” Ramon chuckled darkly. The trail of blood that trickled down his cheek made him look insane. “But I wouldn’t recommend it.”

Dark clouds filled the skies above – Natalie could see them through the hole in the roof. Even inside the Mithridates, stormy clouds began to build, surrounding them in a storm.

Natalie swore at Ramon and another burst of magic left her, cutting Ramon once more. He smiled widely.

His chuckle echoed darkly through the Mithridates.

“Perhaps I won’t have to raise Chaos,” he said. “Perhaps she is already here.”

It was – Natalie could feel it. She held Chaos within, weakly restrained with thin lines of happiness and love that Natalie could only barely remember feeling. Her mind felt as black as the darkest night, without a single star in the sky.

She lashed out – so simple, with this magic. A deep cut appeared on Ramon’s cheek, starting to bleed at once, and he growled with pain. Natalie flicked her wrist again – he deserved pain. He had done nothing but bad – he’d tried to kill her.

Hatred thrived within her, darkening her mind. Another cut – on his arm this time, and she could see the blood seeping out, dripping onto the floor—

“Damn it! Natalie – stop!”

Ava’s strong, very nearly annoyed voice broke through Natalie’s dark thoughts. The accompanying slap, slightly weaker than it could have been because Ava still held Ramon down with her other hand, woke her completely. Shocked, Natalie stared down at what she had done – blood colored Ramon’s cheeks and arm. She had hurt him.

She was not Chaos – she would not let it consume her. She would not give Ramon that pleasure. It would bring no good and it would definitely not save Cecily, of that she felt certain.

At that moment, the magic that held Natalie weakened. In an instant, Ramon felt it and broke loose. The magic he had built up while confined exploded from him and it threw Ava across the room into the wall, head first.

A sickening crack echoed through the room.

Then all was silent.

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