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The Witch With No Name

By

Kim Harrison

 

Chapter two

 

     The thumps of my feet on the pavement jarred up my spine. Dodging people turning to look, I followed Jenks’s fading dust. My heart seemed to stop when I turned the corner and saw Ivy crumpled in the street. Marsha and Luke were standing looking down at her, dazed. A car stopped even as I watched, and a man got out, white faced, his phone in hand.
      “Call 911!” I shouted as I slid to the pavement beside Ivy. Shit. Ivy. She had to be alive. I shouldn’t have left you.
      Jenks was a frantic, darting shape as he dusted the blood from a scalp wound. She’d hit her head. Her chest moved shallowly, and her legs were twisted. I was afraid to touch her, and my hands hovered over her, reminding me of Marsha standing over Luke.
      Pain charm! I thought frantically as I searched my bag. Fingers fumbling, I dropped the charm over her head. I was putting a Band-Aid on a concussion, but she took a clean breath. “Did you call 911?” I exclaimed as a pair of Meris dress shoes scuffed before us.
      “No hospital.”
      Her voice was soft, almost not there, and both Jenks and I looked at Ivy. She was pale, and pain pinched her still-closed eyes. That was good, right? She wasn’t unconscious, even if her eyes were closed. Damn it, I should have learned how to make a healing curse! But Al was gone and it was too late.
      “Ivy.” I brushed her hair back, my fingers trembling. They came away warm and red, and my fear redoubled. She’d hit her head badly enough that Jenks’s dust wasn’t stopping it. “Ivy!” I called when her eyes didn’t open. More people were ringing us. “Look at me, damn it! Look at me! Can you move your fingers and toes?”
      “I think so.”
      Her eyes opened as I took her cold hand. The pupils were fully dilated, scaring me. I wasn’t sure if it was from head trauma or my fear. The circle of people around us whispered, and when a smile of satisfaction edged over her pain, panic took me. “Ivy?”
      Her hand squeezed mine, and she moved her legs, wincing as she straightened them. She could move, and I remembered how to breathe.
      “Marsha and Luke are gone,” Jenks whispered as he hovered by my ear. Like I freaking cared?
     She was trying to sit up, and I gingerly helped her as the heat from the stopped car bathed us. “Little fish,” Ivy said, hair coming out of the bun as she held her middle. “They weren’t after them. Oh God, I think I cracked a rib.”
      “Don’t move,” I said, stiffening as a siren lifted into the air. “The ambulance is coming.”
      “No hospital.” Her black eyes fixed on mine, and she went whiter still as she tried to take a deep breath. “No safe house. I’ve been marked.”
      Marked? Her gaze went to the pain charm around her neck, and she gripped it tight, shocking me. She never used my magic. Avoided it. “You need a hospital,” I said, and she hissed in pain as she tried to turn her head.
      “No.”
      “Ivy, you were hit by a car!” Jenks had dusted her cuts until they were only a slow seep, but her eyes were dilated and she hadn’t taken her other hand off her middle.
      “Cormel,” she said softly, hatred temporarily overriding her pain. “I told you Marsha and Luke weren’t worth all of this. I wasn’t supposed to walk out of that apartment alive. That charm was aimed at me, too. He wants me dead . . . so you . . . will figure out how to save the souls of the undead. The car was a last effort to salvage their plan before going back with failure.”
      My heart seemed to catch, then it raced as I looked at the surrounding faces for anyone watching too closely—their eyes holding fear. Ivy moaned as she breathed in my alarm, but I couldn’t let go of it. I couldn’t distance myself. The lethal charm had been aimed at all three of them. If I hadn’t been there to break it, Ivy would be dead and I’d be getting a call from the second-rising morgue.
      “I don’t want to become a dead thing,” she whispered, then clenched in pain. “Rachel?”
      I closed my eyes. Ivy groaned, her pain doubling as my panic pulsed through her, bringing her alive even as she struggled to stave off death. I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t be her scion. But I knew I would if it came to that. Cormel had grown tired of waiting for his soul. If Ivy was dead, me finding out how to return the undead their souls would move way up on my to-do list.
      We had to get out of here. Even the safe houses held death, and the hospitals would only make her passing smell of antiseptic. Why had I worked so hard to save their miserable existences? I wondered as I found my bag and looped it over my head. But it hadn’t been just the undead in the balance when I’d freed the mystics last July, it had been the entire source of magic.
      Jenks dropped down as I gathered my resolve. “They’re everywhere, Rache,” he whispered, his fear easy to read on his narrow, pinched features, and Ivy nodded. Surrounded by onlookers, we had a small space to breathe, but we couldn’t stay here.
      Slowly I began to think. Trent. He had a surgery suite, one that wasn’t staffed by people who could be bought. I wasn’t sure where he was, but I could text him. Ivy was sitting. Maybe she could move. “Ivy,” I said, blanching at the blackness in her eyes when she looked at me from around a stray strand of hair. “Can you move?”
      Her boots scraped as she shifted them under her. “If I can’t, I’m dead.”
      A few in the crowd protested, but they backed up when Jenks rose, his fast, darting shape and the sharp sword in his grip making him a threat.
      My stomach turned when every hold I tried to help Ivy with only brought more pain. Teeth clenched, I tucked my shoulder under her arm and rose, staggering until we found our balance. Ivy’s eyes closed. we hung for a moment, waiting to see if she was going to pass out. In the nearby distance, a siren rose—but it brought death, not life.
      “Okay, nice and easy,” I said, and Jenks kept everyone back as we started for the curb. Ivy’s head was down, and she moved in sudden, painful limps. Step, pause. Step, pause. Her weight on me was solid, and her scent was tinged with sour acid. Tears threatened, and I ignored them. I couldn’t live with Ivy if she was dead. I couldn’t be her scion, but I knew I’d do it, even as it would destroy me. I’d try to keep Ivy sane, knowing it was a bitter fallacy. I couldn’t kill her a second time as she would want me to. I was a bad friend.
      “I’m sorry,” Ivy said as we reached the curb and she took her hand from her middle long enough to use the lamppost to help her step up.
      “This isn’t your fault,” I barked so I wouldn’t cry. “We’ll get you to Trent’s, and you’ll be fine.” His compound was almost deserted since the serious inquiries into his illegal bio labs had begun, but he probably had a surgeon on call.
      Seeing her standing to catch her breath, I dug in my bag for my phone. “Can you hold this?” I said, giving her my splat gun, and she held it loosely. My fingers shook as I scrolled for Trent. He was the last person I’d called, and knowing he might not take a call but would always check a text, I wrote 911 and Eden Park and hit send. My stomach was twisting as I tucked my phone in my back pocket. It was all I could do. But we couldn’t stay here. Each moment seemed to weigh more heavily on Ivy. She was slipping, and her living vampire endurance would mean nothing if she gave up.
      “You can’t go to the car, Rache.” Jenks hovered before us, watching us and our backs both. “They’ll run you down.”
      Shit. He was right. Tears of frustration pricked, and Ivy leaned against the lamppost. Behind her, people were turning away, leaving us to die.
      “Where else can I go, Jenks!” I shouted, frustrated. “Nowhere on earth is safe from them!”
      He shrugged, even as his dust grew dismal, but behind him was Eden Park, and a flash of hope lit through me. Ivy sensed it, and her eyes opened, glazed with pain.
      “The park.” I wiggled under her again, and we staggered into motion. “Ivy, hold on.”
      “The park!” Jenks echoed in disbelief, and then he nodded, rising up to fly five feet over us where he could keep watch.
      The park. There was a ley line in it, thin and broken, but it was there. I couldn’t jump the lines without Bis. He wouldn’t be awake until the sun went down, but I could shift realities if I was standing in a line. The ever-after was a poor choice, but no one could follow us there, and maybe we could walk to the church’s ley line and pop back into reality.
      Ivy stumbled as we found the grass, and we almost went down. Her moan sounded almost like pleasure. Old toxins were being pulled from her tissues to cope with the pain as her body struggled to stay alive. But this time it wasn’t a master satisfying his blood urge that was killing her, and her breath quickened as she took in my fear and kindled her own long- suppressed desires.
      “Almost there,” I panted, struggling under her weight as I scanned the open grass between us and the footbridge. It was exposed, but they probably wouldn’t shoot her and risk hitting me by accident. Cormel needed me alive and Ivy dead. They only had to wait.
      This was partly my fault, and I felt the helpless tears trying to start as I took more of Ivy’s weight. There was no way to bind a vampire’s soul to their body once they died, and as we slowly limped across the green space to Twin Lakes Bridge and the broken ley line, a warm tear ran a trail down my cheek.
      “Don’t cry,” Ivy slurred. “It’s going to be okay.”
      I wiped my eyes between our lurching steps, my stomach roiling. “Almost there.”
      Jenks dropped down, worry pinching his features. “Her aura isn’t looking good, Rache.”
      “I know!” I shouted. “I know,” I said again, softer.
      “It hurts,” Ivy said as I took even more of her weight. “It’s not supposed to hurt, is it?”
      Oh God. I knew the pain amulet was outclassed, but that the damage was too much for even the vampire toxins to mutate was scary. “Almost there. Hold on,” I whispered, eyes fixed on the statue of Romulus and Remus. “You can rest when we get to the line.”
      But I didn’t think we were going to make it, especially when Jenks’s dust went an angry red. “There’re two blood bags on the footbridge,” he snarled, his blade catching the light. “Keep going. Don’t stop no matter what you hear. I’ll take care of them.”
      “Jenks!” I cried out as he darted away. Beside me, Ivy wheezed. Her fingers rose to touch her mouth, coming away red with blood. Immediately she curled her fingers up in a ball to hide it, but a flash of fear lit through me. Internal bleeding. My gun, too, was gone, left behind somewhere on the summer-burnt grass.
      “Almost there,” I said again as we moved another few feet, but inside, I was despairing. There were no hospitals in the ever-after, only demons who didn’t care. I didn’t think we’d make it all the way to the church. If Trent didn’t show, I might have just killed Ivy by trying to save her.
      Ivy’s breath became labored, and the sudden shouting at the bridge yanked my attention up. With a quick flurry of motion, a woman swung wildly at Jenks, falling down the embankment and into the water, harried down the entire way by the pixy. Suddenly she was screaming as Sharps, the resident bridge troll, rose up, swamping her.
      Without a second look, the other vampire continued toward us, leaving her to sort herself out. He was vampire-child beautiful, graceful and sure of himself—and when he looked at me, I shuddered.
      Jenks darted in and away, distracting him.
      “Move faster, Ivy,” I begged, knowing Jenks couldn’t hold off a determined vampire. Eyeing the statue of Romulus and Remus, I brought up my second sight. A faint haze, ill looking and sporadic, hung at chest height. It was Al’s line, half dead because of the shallow pond someone had dug out under it, but unable to die because the other half of it lay in the dry, desolate ever-after. It reminded me of the demon himself, having given up on life but clinging so tightly to the memory of a love he had once had that now he couldn’t live or die.
      He would never help me. Not now. And an old guilt pulled my brow even tighter.
      From the water came a gurgling scream as the woman fought to be free of Sharps. Ivy moaned and I dropped my second sight. My eyes jerked to the controlled anger and grace striding toward us despite Jenks’s darting flight and bloodied blade. The vampire knew the line was there and was trying to cut us off.
      Crap on toast. I wasn’t going to make it. I’d have to beat him off.
      Ivy hung on my shoulder as I came to a heart-pounding halt, her head down and her breathing frighteningly raspy. A lousy twenty feet was between me and the line, and the suave man smiled when he rocked to a silent stand before us. He was the expected eight feet back, his hair moving in the light breeze as he assessed my determination, feeding off my fear even as I found a firmer stance. Eight feet. He’d fought magic users before. It was just far enough that he could dodge anything I might throw at him.
      Fine. He was between me and the line, but I could still pull on it, and I allowed the line’s energy to funnel down to my hand and gathered it in a tight ball of frustration. He was stunning in his black suit, but it was more than his sculpted, carefully bred-for beauty. It was his attitude of a complete and utter lack of fear. He was wearing sunglasses, and an old scar on his neck said he was someone’s favorite. Behind him, the woman screamed at both Jenks and Sharps as she tried to get out of the water.
      “Morgan,” the living vampire said, his voice holding layers of emotion, and Ivy stirred, drawn awake by either the screams at the lake or the pull in his voice.
      “Go to hell!” Ivy managed, and Jenks joined me. Together we faced him, my knees shaking and Jenks’s wings clattering in threat.
      The man’s eyes flicked to Ivy, then back to me. “Give it up.”
      Not happening, and I found a better grip on Ivy, my bellyful of ever-after waiting for direction. “Come and get me,” I mocked, trying to lure him a foot closer.
      “You’re not who I’m interested in. She’s almost dead. All I have to do is wait.”
      Son of a bastard . . . This wasn’t the original team sent to kill Ivy. It was probably the one sent to collect her body, and they’d be eager for the extra kudos killing her would bring them. Behind me, a car door slammed. I didn’t dare look, but from the edge of my sight, three more men in suits started across the grass. Damn it, I couldn’t fight off four of them and protect Ivy, too, even with Jenks.
      The living vampire’s beautiful brown eyes went black as he breathed in my fear. “Let us finish the job, or we beat you up and we finish the job anyway. She’s dying her first death before the sun goes down.”
      “Over my dead body.” The sun was nearing the horizon, but there were hours left in its path.
      “And my broken wings,” Jenks added, dusting Ivy’s scalp again as blood began to mat her hair.
      They were almost to us. I had to do something, his being out of range or not. I thought of Trent. Had he gotten my text? Was he on his way?
      “Dead?” the vampire said, recapturing my attention. “No, he wants you alive. For now.”
      My frustration rose. The hazy read smear of the ley line was just behind him. Twenty lousy feet. “It can’t be done!” I shouted, Jenks’s dust tingling against my skin. “Tell Cormel it can’t be done!”
      “Then you owe him for the year he’s kept you both safe,” the man said. “Watching you suffer Ivy’s second life will do.”
      “I already saved him once! I’m not paying the same debt twice.”
      The man chuckled, motioning for the arriving thugs to circle us. I could smell them, the rising scent of vampire incense bringing Ivy’s eyes open and a new tension to her face. “You prolonged his misery is all.”
      He gestured, and I moved, throwing a single burst of energy at the beautiful man before turning my attention inward. “Rhombus!” I shouted, relief a slap when Jenks, contrary to his instinct, dropped down, safe inside my circle.
      The rushing vampires skidded to a halt, stymied. Before me, my black-and-gold fist-size unfocused magic slammed into the head vampire, throwing him back four feet to hit the ground hard.
      Nothing could get through my barrier unless it held my aura: not bullet, not vampire, not demon—unless he was very determined and I’d left an opening. But we were trapped in it, trapped twenty feet from safety. Damn it! This was so not fair. Every other demon could shift their aura to slip into a line, but I couldn’t jump on my own, couldn’t jump a lousy twenty feet. The line was so close I could almost feel it humming.
      Dazed, the vampire found his feet, his beauty ruined by his snarl. “She’s going to die in there!” he shouted, stalking forward to halt so close the barrier hummed a warning and I could see the first wrinkles about his eyes. “She’s going to die, and then she will fall on you!”
      Ivy stared up at me, clearly in pain, clearly feeling the pinch of instincts and desires she had lied to herself were under control. Tears filled her black eyes, and she reached out, her hand shaking as it found mine. “I’m sorry,” she said, and anger filled me that they had brought her to this. “Please don’t let me wake as the undead. I won’t remember why I love you. Promise me. Promise me you won’t let me wake as an undead.”
      My throat closed, and as Jenks’s dust sifted red between us, I dropped down, my arms going around her. She wanted me to kill her if she should die. I couldn’t do it. “I promise.”
      “Liar.” She smiled at me, hand shaking as she touched my cheek.
      Panic renewed, and I felt unreal, dizzy as I looked at the vampires ringing us in the late afternoon. There was no one to help me. I had to find a way.
      “She won’t last an hour,” the beautiful man said, anticipation making his eyes black. “She will wake undead. You will fix her soul to her, or die at her own hands.”
      Ivy shook, and I let her go, resolve filling me as I stood until the shimmer of my circle hummed just over my head. “Jenks, I need you to do something,” I said, and his face went white.
      “I’m not leaving you, Rache.”
      I eyed the twenty feet and four vampires that separated us from the line. “I’m going to kick some vampire ass and get to that line. Ivy and I can wait in the ever-after.”
      “With the surface demons?” Jenks barked, his wings clattering harshly.
      I had no choice. “Go try to wake Bis up. He can jump us to Trent’s.” I looked at the pixy, seeing his fear in his tight, angular face. He didn’t want to leave us, was terrified we would die without him. He was probably right.
      “No!” His wings clattered as he understood what I was saying. “It’s hours until sunset. Don’t ask me to leave you!”
      I dropped down to grab Ivy’s elbow to help her stand up. “I’m sorry, Ivy. You have to help me get you to the line.”
      “But she can hardly walk!”
      “Which means she still can!” I shouted, and Ivy clutched at me, halfway to a stand and heavy in my grip. “Jenks, please,” I said softly, and he hovered, helpless and angry, before us. “I can’t jump on my own and Bis can’t find me. You have to tell him where we are.”
      Slowly his expression shifted from anger to a frustrated understanding. “Keep her alive,” he said, and I nodded, again making promises I couldn’t keep.
      Scared, I turned to the vampires watching suspiciously. Behind them, Cincinnati drowsed in the late afternoon sun. Al could have jumped us right to Trent’s, or the hospital, or the church. But I wasn’t one of them any longer. The break with the demons had been clean—even if the jagged edges of it still dug into my soul in the quiet parts of the night.
      Breath held against the pain, Ivy got her weight over her feet and wavered to a rise. I felt her clench in agony as she fought to keep from coughing, her grip on me hurting. She took one breath, then another. Head up, she stared at the men ringing us. At the bridge, the woman finally got out of the water, dripping and bleeding from scratches and with a malevolent gleam in her eye. Five now.
      I sucked in the line energy, feeling it hiccup and stutter. Does Al know I’m using his line? I wondered, feeling Al’s utter abandonment of me again—jealousy, heartache, and hatred too much for him to forgive.
      “Let me go, Ivy. I have to fight,” I whispered, and after the briefest of hesitations, she did, her eyes closing as she uncrimped her fingers from around my arm. I could tell it had taken all her resolve, and she swallowed her saliva back, refusing to give in to her instincts—but instincts die last and hard.
      “I like it when you say my name,” she said as her eyes opened. “It doesn’t hurt anymore.”
      Shit. This wasn’t good. not good at all. “I’m glad,” I whispered, wishing my knees weren’t shaking. “I’m going to have to kick some ass. Can you get to the statue on your own? Maybe critique me when it’s over?”
      “Over a beer,” she said. Her hand wasn’t so tight against her middle. I didn’t know a charm for this. I had nothing.
      Ivy slowly lost her balance and leaned into me again, unable to stand on her own. She wasn’t going to make it, no matter what happened, and I shoved my panic down deep. “Thank you, Jenks,” I whispered.
      His wings clattered, and he wouldn’t look at me, that same black dust sifting from him to make my skin tingle. I held Ivy close, the chill of her pressing into me as her head hung down and her breathing grew shallow. She was almost passing out. Slowly I lifted my chin and found the eyes of the waiting vampire.
      “You first,” I said, yanking a wad of ever-after into me. My breath came in with a sharp sound. Ivy stiffened in my grip, and I wondered if she felt it as I pulled everything I could handle into me. “Jenks, grab something!” I shouted as the building energy crested, lapped the top of my abilities, and with a spasm that seemed to shake me to my core, edged into pain as I took even more. I had to take it all. All.
      “Rache!” Jenks shrilled, tugging on my hair as he wound himself up in it. “What are you doing!”
      I had one shot, and I wasn’t going to waste it, even if it burned my synapses to a twisted mass. “Corrumpto!” I shouted, letting the energy explode from me.
      My knees buckled. I felt airy, light and unreal. The line hummed through me, smelling of ozone and stardust. A soundless wave sped out, flattening the grass and bowling the vampires head over heels, making them look like crows. Ivy shuddered, her eyes opening black and deep. Together we straightened as a distant bell rang, and then another. Across the river, the basilica’s bells tolled, and tears threatened when I recognized my own church bells ringing an echo to the force of my blast.
      My skin was tingling, and I almost went down as Ivy’s weight suddenly became my responsibility. “Ivy!” I called, bringing up my second sight and looking for the ley line. The vampires were down. We had to move. “Come on! Just a few steps!”
      But then panic took me, not that the head vampire was getting up off the pavement, but that the ley line was gone! It wasn’t running where it should, through the man-made ponds and beside the statue the vampire was leaning heavily against.
      “Where is it!” I shouted, and Ivy sagged in my grip. Bewildered, and head humming as if it held a hive of bees, I strengthened my second sight until reality wavered under a broken landscape of dust, cracked rock, and bloated sun hazing an empty landscape and dry riverbed. The desolation of the ever-after was complete, and the gritty wind lifted through my hair even though I still stood in reality. But there was no line. What have I done?
      Jenks hovered before me, blinking in shock. “You’re in it,” he said, a weird greenish dust sifting from him. “How did you move it, Rache?”
      My mouth dropped open, and I spun, shocked. I moved the line? How? “Get her!” the vampire screamed, and the present rushed back.
      “Rhombus!” I shouted, staggering under Ivy’s weight as my circle sprang up heady and thick since I was standing right in the middle of the line. I’d moved it? How? I had only tapped it. But Jenks was right. I was standing in Al’s flimsy line, and it was growing stronger, no longer dampened and drained by the ponds. I’d shifted it. I had moved it to me.
      The vampires slid to a halt, one of them screaming as he touched the circle and a snap of energy struck him like lightning. We were in the line. Ivy was with me. I looked past the angry vampires, knowing the line had been behind them, knowing it couldn’t be moved. But it had.
      And somehow, I didn’t care that I’d done the impossible.
      “Sorry about the beating,” I said as I melded my aura around Ivy’s to shift her with me to the ever-after.
      “Beating?” The vampire leaned closer, not knowing what had happened. “That wasn’t a beating.”
      I tightened my hold on the line, feeling it start to take us. “No, the one your master is going to give you.” Thank you, Jenks. I will keep her alive.
      The man’s eyes became round, fear shimmering his motion for the first time, making him somehow more captivating with the contrasting shadows of fear and power. We’d bested him, and he was going to be punished.
      “No!” he shouted as I shifted my aura and the world moved around us. The red of sunset became the harsh red of the ever-after sun. His howling cry of denial evolved, peaked, and became the scream of the gritty wind. The image of his crooked fingers reaching for us dissolved, and I saw it mirrored in the broken rock surrounding us. The sound of Jenks’s wings was gone. We were alone and the world was broken—just like me.
      My heart thumped and I shifted Ivy’s weight until she hissed in pain. I squinted at the distant, red-smeared horizon, then brought my eyes closer, sending it over the remains of the Hollows, already in shadow. The spires of the basilica rose over it all, the bastion carefully preserved where most everything was left to crumble. The space where my church would have been was nothing but rock and grass. My idea to walk to it crumbled. Ivy was done.
      “You can rest now,” I whispered. “It’s going to be okay.” Heart aching, I eased her down against a boulder, and she gripped my arm, refusing to let go. My eyes shot to hers, and the utter blackness in them stitched all my fears into one smothering black piece. I couldn’t kill her to prevent her undead existence. If Bis didn’t find us in time . . . I . . . I didn’t know.
      My throat was tight as I sat beside her and pulled her head to rest against me. She could move no farther, and this was as good a place as any, better than some. Whatever happened, we would face it together, away from the filth she’d struggled her entire life to escape.

 

 

Chapter three is available at the Harper website,here

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Revised: 07/04/2014     Copyright © 2014 by Kim Harrison. All rights reserved.