Magic Currents (Cursed Angel Collection), page 19
After about a minute, the light began to dim. Another few seconds, and I was able to look straight at it without pain. I could see into the orb, and there was only a shapeless, dark lump at the bottom of it.
Taking a deep breath, I reached for my magic, grasping it but not yet utilizing it, poised right on the edge of unleashing it.
The light of Lorenzo’s orb winked out.
“Now, Victoria!” His voice carried across the distance to me.
I gathered as much magic as I could hold, filling up every cell in my body, and sent it out as far as I could, right up against the barrier of the blood mist. And then I snapped it back toward me, pulling with every shred of strength I possessed.
For a second it seemed as if nothing was going to happen. And then I saw the swell against the very faint line of the horizon. After a moment, a low rumble like distant thunder announced the approach of the tidal wave I’d created. The water surged, gaining momentum and height as it approached The Colony. I added more magic, boosting the wave up taller. I wanted it to swallow the House of Light and the Watchtower, but I didn’t want to obliterate the entire Colony. I would have to pull back at just the right second.
I was aware of the sea serpent moving below, swimming swiftly away from the Harbor to seek safety.
Lorenzo flew up and back, disappearing from view.
It was all on me now. The sea swell lifted, and I stood facing it as the wall of water bore down on me. The tidal wave had enough energy and momentum of its own now. I released my magic, and then grasped it again and reversed the force so it wouldn’t carry too far inland.
It was utterly foolish to think I would live through what was about to happen, but my survival instinct kicked in anyway. I drew the deepest breath I could, held it, and with the wall of water racing toward me, I leapt from the Watchtower.
I DROPPED THROUGH the air. In that second or two that I was suspended, the world felt almost peaceful. But when I hit the water, I began to panic. Frantically grasping for my magic, now my focus turned to trying to save myself.
The force of turbulence in the water was the most overwhelming thing I’d ever experienced.
Swim! Air! My brain screamed the two words at me over and over.
I kicked and paddled, but my efforts were useless against the forces of the sea. My lungs were near bursting with pressure and desperate need for oxygen.
I tried to direct my magic into the water to push me to the surface, but I had no idea which way was up.
I was fading. I was going to die in the sea I loved. I stopped struggling and floated.
As soon as I relaxed, my orientation returned and I knew where the surface was. But my air was gone. I kicked anyway, gathering magic under me to form a current. Straining, I pushed against my limits, trying to force as much magic as I could reach.
Then without warning, my power surged. At first I thought it was my body’s last desperate attempt to escape death. But a split second later I realized I knew this sensation. The spell that hid and limited my power was gone. The full force of my magic rushed in.
Against impossible odds, my head breached the surface.
I took huge, ragged breaths, coughing and gagging. Black splotches dotted my vision as I fought to pull in enough air to replenish my oxygen. Blinking in wonder that I was still alive, I looked around me. I couldn’t see much in the night, but the dark spire no longer cut the horizon at the edge of The Colony. There was only a shapeless pile of rubble.
The Watchtower and the House of Light were destroyed.
I lay back, floating and still drinking in air. Stars shone above, distant and unaware of the torments and triumphs being waged below.
I was so focused on the miracle of still being alive, at first I didn’t notice the churning of the water. It was the sense of frantic movements of small sea creatures far below me that drew my attention. Wind was starting to pick up on the surface.
I shifted to treading upright and twisted around. What was happening?
The wind was strengthening rapidly, throwing larger and larger waves at me. And below, the water was moving in a new pattern. It took a moment to recognize it, but when I did, my heart plummeted.
A giant whirlpool was forming.
I aimed myself toward land and formed the strongest current I could manage, to assist my desperate swim. The closest land was the area where the Watchtower and the House of Light had been. The vortex of water had picked up so much speed and power within the few seconds I’d hesitated, the edge of it was already sweeping away some of the Watchtower rubble.
This had to be the last step of the end of the Watchtower. The sea was taking over, consuming all evidence of the place from where the Demon Lords had ruled. And if I didn’t make it out of the whirlpool, I would disappear with the ruins.
Adrenaline helped fuel my efforts, but the vortex was strengthening more quickly than I could fight. I was tiring, unaccustomed to using so much magic at once.
Despair began to replace my panic as I realized I wasn’t getting any closer to shore.
I squeezed my eyes closed, suddenly angry and grief-stricken at the cruel fate that was going to claim me. With the last shred of hope that I could muster, I sent out a plea.
“Help me,” I whispered, my words obliterated by the violence of the air and water.
A moment later, I sensed new movement coming from the estuary.
My eyelids popped open. I was much farther away from shore now, and I was being dragged around the rim of the whirlpool. A glance over my shoulder revealed the downward slope of the V opening up in the center of the vortex.
The circular current carried me around faster, and a glowing line streaked toward me. The sea serpent was coming to my aid. I stretched my awareness out to it, and caught the sense of its pain. It was scraped and bleeding from its attack on the Watchtower.
The whirlpool was pulling me around with sickening speed. My head dipped below the surface as the downward force dragged at me like invisible watery hands of death grasping my ankles. I struggled back up to air.
The serpent was gaining speed, coming right for me. But the vortex was so strong.
As I fought to keep my head above water, I caught glimpses of the great sea creature. It curled around, seeming to ride the rim of the vortex, spiraling closer and closer to me. Then it was under me. My heart froze. The serpent was getting sucked down.
Suddenly, something slammed into me from below with such force it knocked the wind from my lungs and sent me flying clear out of the water. I was tumbling like a leaf in a storm, hurling through the air. The creature had flipped its tail to fling me clear of the whirlpool.
I landed hard on the water, the surface of it slamming against the side of my face like a violent slap. But I didn’t lose consciousness. Re-orienting myself, I surfaced and spun around just in time to see the glowing streak of the sea serpent disappear from sight down into the vortex.
I gasped, sending my awareness out. Under the vortex, the sea floor had shifted and opened a giant crevice. The serpent slipped down into it, and then I lost our connection.
My chest clenched, but I couldn’t linger. I’d been tossed to the far side of the Harbor, out of immediate danger but not clear of the strong current formed by the vortex. I’d get sucked back in if I didn’t get out of the water. I formed my own current with magic, speeding toward shore.
When I reached land, I crawled with shaking limbs across the rocky sand as far as I could go before my muscles gave out. I collapsed and then rolled onto my side, curling into an exhausted, trembling ball.
I was alive.
I listened to the roar of the water and over it the giant sucking sound made by the whirlpool. There were cracking noises as boats moored in the Harbor were torn free of their anchors and eaten by the whirlpool.
By the time I had the strength to sit up, the sounds were fading and the weak light of the coming dawn was just starting to lighten the skyline. I pushed up to my f
I didn’t get far before I was met by harried fishermen, shouting, running toward the docks, which were still intact. I let them flow past me, too exhausted to try to speak to any of them. Some of their boats had been lost, but new ones could be built.
When I happened to glance up at the sky over the horizon again, my feet scuffed to a halt as I stared in wonder. I hadn’t fully noticed it before, but now it was all I could look at: the horizon was a sharp line in the distance, instead of the hazy impression of the area where sea and sky met that I was used to.
The blood mist, the wall that had bordered The Colony, was gone.
I turned a full circle, my mouth agape and my heart pounding at the unbelievable openness of it.
Tears welled in my eyes, spilling over and wetting my cheeks. I needed to share this moment with the people I loved.
Grasping my wet skirt in my hands and lifting it so my legs could move more freely, I hurried toward home.
I FEARED THAT the tidal wave I’d brought might have flooded The Colony, or God forbid even drowned some of the citizens. But although water was still draining down the streets closest to the sea, it appeared that by some miracle the momentum of the wave hadn’t carried very far after pulling down the Watchtower. Relief and gratitude flooded through me.
My heart was nearly bursting with the need to find Armand, my mother, Amy, and my girls. Not knowing for sure where I might find any of them, I headed home to the Royal first and scanned faces on the street as I hurried along.
Many people were outside, some wandering with stunned faces, others weeping with joy or raising praises to the sky, and a few of them rejoicing with shouts and laughter. It was a chaos of emotions that I numbly allowed to wash past me. I didn’t have the energy to react or join in.
At the Royal, the lobby was stuffed with people and loud with voices. I stood blinking inside the doorway, trying to regain my focus.
I looked to the side and saw Amy rushing toward me. We threw our arms around each other and could do nothing more than let tears flow for several seconds. When I could compose myself enough to speak, I pulled back.
“Did you get everyone out of the House of Light?” I asked, my voice trembling.
She nodded. “The Hunters are all free of the spell, too.”
I burst into fresh tears. Then I was attacked by several sets of arms as my girls threw themselves at me in a barrage of happy shrieks and relieved sobs. We stood there, all tangled up together, until I finally had to unwind myself so I could breathe again.
“Everyone’s okay?” I asked, looking at each of them in turn. Even Chelle was there, and although she was pale, she looked a little stronger.
They all confirmed they were fine. Then Nadia grasped my hand, her face growing somber.
“Your mother is in the flat,” she said. “She’s alive.”
I couldn’t react. I just stared at her dumbly. She tugged at me gently, pulling me toward the elevator with Amy and the other girls trailing after us. I stood in the elevator in a daze, the girls respectfully quiet. Nadia kept a hold of my hand.
The flat was dark inside. Armand met us at the door. I fell into his arms, my strength gone. He pressed his lips to mine in a quick kiss that still stole my breath, and held me tightly for a few seconds.
“She’s alive,” he said into my hair. “But she hasn’t woken up yet.”
With my eyes on the still figure of my mother, stretched out on the sofa and covered in blankets, I whispered to Armand, “Thank you for saving her.”
His arm was firm around my waist, supporting me as he walked me over to where my mother lay. There was someone sitting vigilantly on a chair drawn near my mother’s head.
“Eduardo,” I said, genuinely happy to see him.
But my eyes flicked back to the woman on the sofa.
“We’ve sent for a doctor,” Eduardo said. “But as you can imagine, it’s hard to get anyone to respond just now. She seems to be stable, though.”
I knelt next to the sofa, getting on my knees as if ready to pray. And I was praying with everything in me as I reached a shaking hand out to smooth my mother’s dark hair away from her forehead. I kept stroking her hair with one hand, speaking to her quietly, and wiping tears from my cheeks with the other hand.
Her breath was shallow, but she was here, breathing and alive, and that was what mattered. Only a few days ago, I never would have dared hope for this.
Hours later, the doctor came. After checking her vitals and doing some other tests, he and I went into the girls’ bedroom so we could speak privately.
“She’s in a coma, but her body seems to be functioning well,” he said. “We need to put her on fluids right away, and a feeding tube sooner rather than later. But she doesn’t need assistance breathing, and that’s good news.”
“Will she wake up?” I whispered, my throat dry.
“I’m hopeful she will,” he said.
I let out a long breath and pushed my hands into my hair, which was a salty, tangled disaster. “I don’t have any money to pay you.”
He held up a hand. “There’s no need. I know who you are, what you did. There’s nothing I could do for you that would ever approach what you’ve done for all of us.”
I just stared at him. It was my first indication that word was spreading about my role in breaking the curse.
Later that day the girls moved in with Amy so my mother could stay in my flat undisturbed. Medics arrived to set up a fluid IV. Eduardo left not long after. Armand and I were alone with my mother. He’d been sitting next to me, holding my hand as I kept my vigil.
We talked a little on and off. It seemed so surreal. There was a part of me that still didn’t quite believe he was there.
“You need to sleep,” he said quietly, as the daylight leaking through the curtains began to weaken.
I shook my head. “No, I don’t want to leave her,” I murmured.
“I’ll keep watch,” he said, gently pulling me to my feet.
I tried to argue, but he just spoke quiet words to me and kept guiding me to the bedroom. There, he tucked me into one of the girls’ beds. I think I was still in the middle of a weak protest when I dropped into sleep.
I slept so deeply, I was utterly disoriented when I woke up. Daylight streamed around the edges of the curtains that were pulled across the one window in the girls’ room. I pushed back the covers. My clothes were still stiff with seawater, and my hair was a snarl.
I went out to the living room, where Armand had kept his word. He sat in a chair next to my mother with one of the girls’ books in his hands. He closed the book when he saw me.
I gazed at him from the doorway, tempted to pinch myself. It still seemed like a dream to have him back. My eyes slipped over to my mother.
“Her breathing seems stronger,” he said.
I pulled in my lips, bit down, and nodded.
He came to me, his strong arms engulfing me for a long moment. Then he held my face and kissed me deeply. I probably smelled like week-old seaweed, but he didn’t seem to care. For a few seconds, I let myself sink into the heady sensation of his body heat warming me, and his lips moving against mine.
“I’m going to quickly bathe and change, and then you’re going to rest,” I said firmly.
We spent the next two days that way, watching over Mother, talking quietly, resting when we could, and stealing soft kisses. Though I was worried about my mother, in many ways it was some of the most peaceful times of my life.
On the third day, Nadia appeared at the door, breathless.
“Chelle’s magic is coming!” she said, her eyes bright.
“Go,” Armand said, waving me off.
Nadia and I pounded through the stairwells as we ran to Amy’s floor. By the time we burst into her flat, I could feel the strong swirl of new magic
Chelle stood in the middle of the living room, her fists clenched at her sides and beads of sweat dotting her forehead. Amy stood in front of her, talking to her in a low, soothing voice. The other girls were crowded at the opposite end of the room, looking on with wide eyes and expressions of wonder mixed with worry.
“She’ll be fine.” I smiled to the girls as I passed.
Chelle’s face relaxed slightly when she saw me. I touched Amy’s shoulder, and then took her place and grasped Chelle’s hands, forcing her fingers to uncurl.
For a split second, I nearly panicked with the thought that we didn’t have a warlock to hide her magic with a spell. Then I remembered: the time for hiding was over. Young witches would never again have to fear dying because of their magic.
I talked her through it, just as my mother had done for me, instructing Chelle on how to grasp the magic and let it stream through her. We stood their holding each other’s hands, both completely absorbed in the process. After her magic had come in fully and was flowing freely through her and around us, I told her how to release the power.
“It’s like putting down an instrument after you’ve finished playing a song,” I said, my voice gentle but sure.
She did as I instructed. We stood there in silence for a few seconds, her gaze unfocused and her breathing slowing. Then she looked up at me in awe.
“I did it, and it didn’t kill me,” she whispered.
Her face broke out into a triumphant grin, and my expression echoed hers, except for the welling of my eyes. I let go of her hands, quickly wiped away a couple of tears, and took a deep breath. I was not going to dissolve into a sobbing mess.
The rest of the girls crowded over, engulfing Chelle and all talking excitedly at once.
Chelle would need more training, but she was strong enough to handle the magic. And she was safe. All of the girls—the ones here in this room, every one out in The Colony, and those yet to be born—were safe.