Chapter Five

A single bird flew across the sky as Natalie’s grandmother undid her necklace and fastened it around Natalie’s neck. Though unsure of the idea of powerful stones, Natalie imagined she could sense something emanating from the green, opaque rock.

“Our magic isn’t complicated,” said her grandmother. “There are no Latin words to be remembered, no long verses to call upon ancient powers. There are a few rituals, but mostly, our magic is simpler than that. For one, you either have it or you don’t. The most powerful stones in existence would still have no effect if the wearer wasn’t a Wielder.”

“And I’m a Wielder?” asked Natalie.

Her grandmother chuckled. “You have the makings of one, although you are not one yet, no. You come from a long line of Wielders and in the last nine centuries, there hasn’t been a female born in the family without the ability.”

“Oh,” said Natalie. “That’s quite a few Wielders, isn’t it?”

Her grandmother shrugged. “Not all are powerful and even fewer know that they have the ability.”

Natalie did not dare to ask if her grandmother thought Natalie would be powerful.

“The first level of Wielders are Novus Wielders,” said her grandmother. Her tone was that of a teacher holding a class for a student. “A Novus will perform accidental magic, such as protective magic, at times of great distress. A Novus will have little control over his or her powers, but can sometimes perform small spells on purpose.”

Natalie doubted she even qualified for that – she had never done magic at all. She had been in great distress the day before and nothing had happened.

“The second level of Wielders are regular Wielders,” her grandmother continued. “There are many levels within this stage, of course, running from just above Novus to the ones ready to take the Master tests, but we generally call them simply ‘Wielders’. As a Wielder, you control your own magic. The size of the magic performed depends on the individual Wielder’s power and as such, I can’t tell you how much a Wielder in general can do.”

Natalie tried her best to keep the information straight, rather convinced that her grandmother would not appreciate repeating it all once done.

“Finally, there are Master Wielders, a status only a select few will reach,” her grandmother said, obviously proud to be one of them. She glanced down at Natalie. “But there is no need to speak of that now. Instead, let’s see what you can do.”

Natalie hoped her fear did not show on her face. “Okay?”

“For a Wielder to use her powers, she needs only to think of what she wishes to have done,” continued her grandmother. “Imagination, the Wielder’s inherent power, and the powers of the stone are what set the limits. For example, only a handful stones in the world will allow you to fly – and then it will only be possible if the Wielder is strong enough and truly believes in it.”

She smiled at Natalie’s wide eyes. “Don’t worry, dear,” she said, “flying will not be the first thing we’re going to try.”

Natalie laughed nervously. Though she was not adverse to the idea of flying, she would rather have a pair of wings instead of a stone and her belief lifting her into the air.

“Now, let us start out gently. My power stone’s strength is water, because it is my element,” her grandmother said. “So try doing what I did – create a drop of water. Close your eyes if necessary; you will have to visualize hard in the beginning to make it work.”

Natalie glanced at the stone hanging around her neck and then back up at her grandmother.

She closed her eyes.

“Take a deep breath and try to concentrate on water,” her grandmother said. “The ocean, rain, a small lake – it doesn’t matter as long as it’s water.”

Natalie tried. She imagined a lake with the breeze creating ripples on the surface and small fish swimming below.

“When you have a clear picture in your head, place your hand on the stone and pull the magic out.”

Natalie did so. She thought she could feel something extraordinary, that she could truly pull magic out of the green stone, and that when she opened her eyes there would be a drop of water—

—but there was not.

Natalie sighed and her grandmother let out her breath.

“I’m sorry,” said Natalie.

“Don’t be,” her grandmother said, but Natalie could hear the note of disappointment in her voice. “Like I said, a Novus such as you can often not control their powers, especially not in the beginning. We’ll try again later. Perhaps it’s time for you to be getting home anyway.”

Natalie’s slumped her shoulders. She had let her grandmother down by not being able to do magic. Perhaps she was not a Wielder after all, despite her family. She, a magician? It sounded impossible.

A part of Natalie wished it was true. She would like to be special in some way.

They headed back to the house. In her room, Natalie changed into her old clothes. They had been cleaned and felt fresh but ordinary, unlike the dress she had been wearing. Just outside the main entrance, the butler Thomas awaited with the same carriage that had picked her up the day before outside of school. Natalie hesitated; that thing had taken her to Ramon and a knife to her throat.

“Don’t worry, this time Thomas is driving and no one else,” her grandmother said, placing a hand on Natalie’s shoulder. “I have double-checked.”

“Yes, right,” said Natalie, unable to shake the nervous feeling completely.

Her grandmother held out a small, square case to her. “Since your mother’s necklace is gone at the moment, I thought you should have something else.”

Natalie took the case and opened it. She gaped at the necklace she found; a red, completely round stone set against a golden backdrop. Natalie reached out and touched it – and this time, she did not just think she felt the power coming from the stone. The air around it seemed to vibrate.

“Thank you.”

She hung the necklace around her neck and held back a gasp at the energy it emitted. She hesitated at telling her grandmother about it – perhaps she would expect Natalie to be able to do magic with this. Natalie still doubted she could.

She hugged her grandmother briefly.

“You’re welcome.”

Her grandmother opened the door to the carriage and Natalie hauled herself inside.

“Will I see you again?”

Her grandmother smiled. “Yes. Say hi to Richard.”

Before Natalie had a chance to answer, her grandmother closed the door. As the carriage began moving, Natalie waved goodbye. Once she could no longer see her grandmother, Natalie sat down and made herself comfortable amongst the pillows. She looked around the carriage and discovered several small stones in different colors sitting on the walls. She supposed one of them was the ‘tracking stone’ her grandmother had spoken of, and looked curiously at the other ones, wondering what they did.

She pulled her new necklace out. The deep red almost seemed to glow and when Natalie touched it, she felt something.

Mere minutes later, Natalie fell into slumber. Perhaps one of the stones in the carriage made the passenger sleepy, because she had not been the least bit tired when she got into the carriage.


When Natalie entered the house, Richard sat waiting for her in the living room. She was a bit nervous, as the lie she had been preparing hung over her head. She usually never lied to anyone, least of all Richard. There had never been any need for it. As she hung up her coat, Richard came into the hallway. Relief and worry mixed on his face. He embraced her and Natalie sighed, glad to be home once more.

“I was so worried when you didn’t come home – I thought you’d only stay at mother’s for a couple of hours – and then there was a message from her saying you’d sleep there – sent at midnight of all times and I didn’t know what to think!”

Natalie pulled back. “I’m fine.”

She did not want him to know exactly what had happened – she feared he would not allow her to go see her grandmother again if she did – and so when she spoke, it was a lie:

“We just lost track of time talking and we decided it’d be better for me to sleep there.”

Richard looked a bit unconvinced and Natalie reminded herself that this was, after all, his mother they were talking about. When she lied, she had to do so with that in mind. Did Richard know what his mother dealt in? He’d never mentioned anything of the sort.

“Please – call me the next time. I worry about you.”

Natalie nodded briefly, though she wondered if her cell phone worked wherever her grandmother lived. “I will.”

She was half-way up the stairs when Richard said, “A girl called for you. Cecily Cordell. She wanted you to call her at this number when you got back.”

Surprised, Natalie took the note Richard was holding out. “Thanks.”

Cecily had called her? And earlier this week, Ava had called her. The thoughts made her smile; perhaps there could be a nice friendship between them. Natalie hoped so; she liked both Cecily and Ava. They were unlike her best friend in New York. Ava’s quick talking and fast temper complemented Cecily’s calm manner and easy smile. Natalie only wished she knew what was wrong with Cecily and even more, she wished she could do something about it.

She dialed the number and before two signals had gone by, a man picked up on the other end. Cecily’s father called for his daughter, who picked up the phone a moment later.


“Hi, it’s Natalie. You called?”

Cecily sounded as though she smiled. “I did. I was simply curious about how your visit to your grandmother’s had gone.”

“It was— eventful,” Natalie said. She hesitated and wondered if she should continue. Telling a new friend that she had been kidnapped on the way, how would that go over? She would likely think her to be lying. Still, Natalie had a feeling Cecily would believe her.

“How so?”

“I— well, it’s not really a phone kind of deal,” Natalie said.

Cecily giggled, sounding excited. “Well, my door is open if you’d like to come here. Unfortunately, I’ve come down with a fever, so dad won’t let me out of the house. But don’t worry, I’m not infectious.”

Worry stabbed at Natalie’s heart but she kept the tone light, as Cecily had. “I’ll come over. Just let me take a shower and change clothes. I got in the door a minute ago.”

“Of course. Come whenever you’re ready.”

They hung up and Natalie freshened up. She cleaned her room before leaving, knowing Emmanuella would breathe down her neck if she did not. At least the weekend meant no chores except vacuuming; that could be done later.

Cecily lived four blocks away from Natalie, in a little white two-story house next to a large garage. It looked quite like a doll-house. The front yard was well-kept and groups of colorful flowers grew in carefully planned patterns. The colors reminded Natalie of the wild flowers in her grandmother’s back yard.

Mr. Cordell opened the door when she rang the doorbell. He was perhaps in his early fifties, tall and very thin. His hair was steel grey and was beginning to thin out.

“Hi,” said Natalie. “I’m here to see Cecily?”

He smiled, and wordlessly led Natalie up a flight of stairs. The house reminded her of Richard and Emmanuella’s though it was smaller. Natalie wondered about Mrs. Cordell, but Cecily had not mentioned her and as such, the house was likely a perfect size.

Mr. Cordell knocked on a door straight ahead of the stairs before opening it.

“Cecily? You have company.”

Cecily smiled when she saw Natalie. “Thanks dad.”

Mr. Cordell left and Natalie gazed after him. What did it feel like, to have a father who adored you? Mr. Cordell obviously cared deeply for his daughter, and the dark circles beneath his eyes made it equally apparent how much he worried for her.

“Come in,” Cecily said. She was sitting in her bed, sheets pulled up to cover the lower half of her body. She was dressed in pink pajamas that made her look terribly cute.

“How are you feeling?”

“So-so,” Cecily shrugged. “I’m used to it. This isn’t a bad day, not by far.”

Natalie sat down gently on the bed. She had thought Cecily looked frail on the first day she met her, but she still managed to look worse now. The pajama revealed her collarbones, which were standing out from her thin frame.

“Natalie, I’m sick. There’s nothing you can do about it, so you can stop looking so horrified.”

Natalie half-smiled guiltily. “Sorry. I just— I don’t know. It hurts just to see you like this. I just want to make you better.”

“You and me both.” She sighed and abruptly changed the subject. She obviously did not want to talk about her illness and Natalie could not blame her. “That’s a beautiful necklace.”

Natalie smiled for real this time. “Thank you. My grandmother gave it to me.”

“What happened to the necklace your mother gave you?”

Natalie looked at her for a moment. The girl had an uncanny ability to get straight to the point, even though she was not supposed to know the point. Where Natalie had hesitated to tell Richard anything at all, however, Cecily seemed to invite it.

“This is going to sound insane,” Natalie said and studied her hands. “I was kidnapped.”

She glanced up to see Cecily’s eyebrows rise, although she could not tell if Cecily was about to start laughing at her, or if she believed her.


Natalie giggled nervously. It sounded strange even to her own ears. “I was picked up—” she decided to leave out the part about the seventeenth century carriage for now, “—and I fell asleep. When I woke up, this guy was holding a knife to my throat and threatened to kill me.”

Cecily sat up straighter, her face now completely serious. “But you got away, obviously.”

Natalie shook her head. “Not really. I was going to try – then all of a sudden, the doors to the place were thrown open and my grandmother of all people comes barging inside.”

“What happened to the guy?”

“I don’t know,” Natalie said. She stood up and began pacing. “I think I fainted because the next thing I knew, I was lying in a bed at my grandmother’s house and a maid came in with breakfast.”

Natalie could not read Cecily’s face; it was blank. Did she believe Natalie was lying to her? Natalie could not really blame her if she did.

“I know it sounds ridiculous and like something I made up, but I swear – it’s not,” Natalie said.

Cecily blinked and shook her head. “Oh, I’m sorry. I know, I believe you.”

“You— you do?”

Cecily nodded. “I—uh,” she began but stopped. She looked uncertain and nervous. “Would you close the door please?”

Natalie frowned but did as asked.

Cecily looked up at her. “Sit down, please,” she said and Natalie did. “I believed you when you told me about being kidnapped. Will you do me the same favor and keep an open mind about what I’m about to tell you?”

Natalie nodded slowly, wondering with a sudden inappropriate, internal giggle if Cecily was about to reveal that she was, in fact, Ramon, meaning that she was a cross-dressing would-be murderer. Perhaps they were all going crazy. It did not seem entirely impossible.

Cecily’s deeply serious eyes suggested otherwise. She nervously straightened the blanket that covered her legs, keeping her eyes firmly on her fingers as she spoke.

“I—I knew it was going to happen.”

Natalie frowned, thrown. It was not what she had been expecting. “What do you mean, you knew?”

Cecily wrung her hands. “I knew. I’d dreamed about it. I have—prophetic dreams. Well, only sometimes, but—”

Natalie stared at her. With her grandmother’s recent revelation about the existence of magic, Cecily’s ability really was not so strange, though it was still shocking. She had half a mind to doubt Cecily’s words but with the drop of water her grandmother had conjured fresh in her mind, as well as the horrifying image of the knife hanging still in the air, she knew better than to think it false.

Cecily spoke softly. “A week ago, I came down with a fever and I dreamed of you.”

“But a week ago— we’d never met.”

Cecily shook her head. “I know. But I knew we would. I don’t know how or why I have these dreams— I just do.” She sighed. “I dreamed that you’d get into a horse-drawn carriage and that you’d be taken to a tall building with a circular room. I dreamed that a man with long black hair holding a knife would take the necklace you were wearing, and would threaten to kill you at midnight.”

If Natalie had had any doubt, it had now vanished. No one but Natalie and her grandmother knew what Ramon had looked like and no one but Natalie knew when Ramon had been planning to kill her.

“I— how—” said Natalie, even though Cecily had told her she did not know how. She looked sharply at Cecily. “Why did you move to Lake Sunflower?”

“Because of that dream,” Cecily said, meeting her eyes squarely. “There was a flash of the sign in front of the school so I realized where you were when I focused on the dream. I just— I knew I had to meet you. Then it was just a matter of convincing my father.”

Natalie leaned back against the wall heavily.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t do anything about it,” Cecily said. “I didn’t know it was going to happen so soon and besides, what was I supposed to do – go up to you and say, ‘hi, I’m Cecily and I had a dream about you’?”

Natalie gave a weak chuckle. “I consider myself open-minded, but with an opening like that, I don’t think I’d have thought you sane before today.” She paused. “So there are no specialists here to see you?”

Cecily shook her head. “The best doctors in the country have already checked me out. There is no one left to try to diagnose me and I’m sick of the meds they give me. I’ll rather go with the fevers and the bad days now and have my good days, instead of all bad because of wrong medication.”

Natalie nodded. The news about Cecily saddened her, but the feeling that there was something very special at work, bringing Cecily to her, overrode any other feeling Natalie might have at the moment.

Magic, she thought and touched the necklace hanging around her neck. Her fingers touched it and she felt the power surrounding it.

An idea formed in her mind. She closed her eyes and visualized what she wanted, as hard and clearly as she had ever tried to picture anything. The world around her disappeared, quieting until it no longer existed. Then she pulled at the red stone and something sparkled at her fingertips. She opened her eyes to find a small ball of light floating above her open hand. Cecily stared at her. Still, there was no fear in her eyes, only wonder.

Natalie pushed the light towards Cecily.

For a second, the light hovered just outside Cecily’s body – then it disappeared into her. For the briefest of moments, Cecily seemed to shine herself. Her skin glowed with a warm, yellow tone and her hair floated behind her like a great, dark halo.

Then the light stopped and Cecily slumped against the pillow behind her back.

Frightened, Natalie scrambled back. What had she done? She had not been thinking – she had just wanted to help Cecily and now—

Cecily took a deep breath and looked up at Natalie. There seemed to be a shimmer around her, lighting her features. She looked beautiful – other-worldly.

“What did you do?” she asked incredulously.

“I— I don’t know. I didn’t—”

“I feel— better,” Cecily said. She cocked her head to the side. “The fever’s gone.”

“It is?” Natalie asked, her voice very small.

Cecily nodded. After a moment, she asked, “What did you imagine?”

“I just wanted you— I don’t know if I— I didn’t know—” Natalie stopped mid-sentence. “You know how magic stones work?”

Another nod. “The basics of it. But I am not a Wielder, I can’t make them do anything. So what did you imagine?”

Natalie forgot to ask how Cecily knew. “I imagined you healthy. I wanted you to be well.”

Cecily smiled. “That’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard.”

Natalie, still rather horrified by what she would managed to do, was not so certain of the sweetness of it. “It could have gone so wrong. I didn’t know what I was doing.”

“Yes, you did,” Cecily said. “You knew what you were doing. I saw it.”

“But I could have hurt you.”

Cecily shook her head. “Not unless you imagined me dead – and even then, I doubt you could have given me more than a cold. You’re not a powerful Wielder yet.”

Natalie registered Cecily’s use of ‘Wielder’ but stored it away to ask how she knew for later.

“So you’re not healthy for good?”

Cecily shrugged. “I don’t know. I doubt it, but I’m feeling much better at the moment. Let’s go outside – I want to enjoy the sun for a bit. Dad doesn’t want me outside when I’m sick.”

Natalie agreed to the idea. Cecily quickly got dressed and then the two headed outside. The Cordells’ back yard was small but lovely with a lot of flowers and a marble bird bath. Two fat birds fought about the water. Sitting in the hammock, Natalie and Cecily spent a lovely afternoon. In an unspoken agreement, the two did not talk more about magic, kidnappings or prophetic dreams. Only when Natalie was about to leave several hours later did Cecily say, “Natalie?”


Cecily looked momentarily uncertain before saying, “Do me a favor, will you? Keep that necklace on all the time. It would make me feel better.”

Natalie gazed at Cecily and nodded. She would probably feel silly at some point refusing to take it off, but she too could feel the power it held. “All right.”

Cecily smiled and Natalie said goodbye.

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Chapter specific art

[ Natalie healing Cecily ]

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