I thought I would want to see Grandmother again. I thought a reunion would be a joyous occasion. I was wrong. Right now, all I want to do is send her back to the Fairy realm and keep her there. Possibly under lock and key. That is preferable to what she is asking Xandra to do at the moment.
“Even if the details in my visions change, the basics remain the same. Xandra will travel to the Fae realm and she will make her stand against the rebellion.” Grandmother is currently arguing with Xandra’s parents and grandmother about whether or not her vision should be believed and acted upon. The vision that has Xandra standing up to an army of Pooka warriors virtually by herself. I cannot believe that in the short time I have been gone, Grandmother has gone insane.
Personally, I do not give a damn about her vision. I care about Xandra’s safety. “Grandmother, her magic is still wild and unpredictable. Her control is precarious at best and her focus is easily swayed by her emotions.” That earns me a dirty look from Xandra but it had to be said.
Grandmother turns to me, impatience snapping like turtles in her eyes. “Be that as it may, she is still the only one who can wield the kind of magic needed to stop the uprising.”
“You really think that I can take on a whole squadron, or whatever, of Fairies? I think you’re overestimating my powers,” Xandra says.
Great, now I have implied that I do not have faith in her magical ability. I turn to Xandra and stress my words. “You have the necessary strength. That is not what I am concerned about.” Turning back to Grandmother, I say, “If her magic gets out of her control, she causes imbalances. She literally set the air on fire, Grandmother. She needs time to learn to harness her magic before she can push it to the limits you are suggesting.”
Grandmother smiles and pats my hand as she did when I was a child and she was trying to explain a concept I was having difficulty grasping. “This is what must be done to save the realms. If the rebellion is successful they will tear Dadga to shreds, and with Xenia’s help,” I cringe when I hear her speak that name, “they will be able to jump realms. With the sole purpose being to destroy Cowans and Witches alike.”
Before I can respond, Xandra’s mother jumps into the conversation. “So, you want Xandra to defend the man who tricked me and then tried to kill her? How dare you come into my house and propose that? If anyone deserves to die, he does. If the Fairies jump realms, we can deal with them then.”
I want to growl in frustration. The Witches here are so pathetically ignorant regarding Fairy magic. She honestly believes it would be that easy.
Xandra’s face is scrunched into a frown. “I don’t understand. Why does he need protection? He wants to come back here. It seems like he’d be jumping for joy that the other Fairies are behind him on this.”
She must have missed Grandmother saying they would ‘tear him apart.’ She was not being figurative. I sit back and cross my arms over my chest as the magnitude of the situation hits me. “Because they do not want him to lead them, do they? Xenia is looking to take the crown and lead the Pooka into war with all other magical beings. Dagda will wind up dead as they tear him to shreds to get what they need.” Grandmother nods her head slightly in acknowledgment that I have jumped to the correct conclusions. I would say it serves him right but there is still a part of me that believes that the uncle I knew and loved growing up is still there, hidden under all that pride.
“I still don’t get why I should help the guy who sent mercenaries to find me so he could kill me. If he’s such a powerful Fairy, why can’t he defend himself? And who’s Xenia?” Xandra asks narrowing her eyes in my direction. I shoot a look to Grandmother that she had better hold her tongue on that subject.
Ignoring Xandra’s justified hatred of the man she is being asked to protect, Grandmother says, “If you do not do this, the Pooka Fairies will wreak havoc on your realm. Millions may die.”
“But why can’t I do what Mom suggested and deal with them when they come through?” I appreciate that she is trying to come up with alternatives, but this statement proves that she has no idea what she is up against.
Grandmother barely holds onto her temper as she says, “You do not have the ability to be everywhere at once. Do you understand that Fairies do not all cross realms at the same point?” Xandra has gone from looking confused to looking like she is going to use her magic on Grandmother. I must admit, I am curious who would win that showdown. My money is on Xandra.
“Isla, what you are asking Xandra to do is too much for a girl her age that has just recently come into her magic. You are powerful enough to hold them off for a little while longer; at least until she and her magic get better acquainted,” Lailah says. At least the Angel is on my side.
“I have held them off these last eighteen Cowan years as Dagda made his yearly attempts to find his daughter. His followers put their faith in him, and now that he didn’t accomplish the task as promised, they are angry and more determined than ever. I am just one Fairy and there is no more holding them back. Now that they know Dagda is no match for Xandra, he has lost respect amongst the Pooka. They are pulling their magic together, believing they can do what he did not.” Grandmother’s attempt to convince us that she is humble and weak falls on deaf ears.
Perhaps Lailah is not on my side. “Can’t you take Kallen back with you? The two of you are immensely powerful beings. Surely, together you could hold them off for quite some time.” She is the first Angel I have met. I am finding it difficult to think positively of Angels now.
“I don’t like that idea,” Xandra says before I can tell Lailah what she can do with her idea.
“There has to be another way,” Xandra’s father says. I feel sorry for the spirit. I know that he would like to protect his daughter. Being both non-magical and a spirit, there is nothing he can do.
The room is quiet for a moment as we all retreat to our neutral corners. I can tell that ideas are churning through Xandra’s head. I just hope that none of them are crazy, or incredibly dangerous. I believe I am being too optimistic. She seems to have a knack for finding the most difficult way to do accomplish things. That is a thought I would not dare to speak aloud, though.
Out of the blue, Xandra says, “When did you want to leave?” So much for none of her ideas being crazy or dangerous. I want to shake her and make her understand how stupid she is being.
“You are not going,” her parents say in unison.
“You are not ready to take on this fight,” I grind out. It is taking everything I have to keep from following through on my desire to shake her.
Unphased, Xandra simply shrugs. “I haven’t been ready to take on any of these fights, but I did.” A quick look at Grandmother and her triumphant expression makes my blood boil even more.
“Xandra, I forbid you to go,” her mother says. I groan. Forbidding Xandra to do anything is not a good idea. I love her and everything about her, but I know that when she hears that her stubbornness almost always kicks in and she does just the opposite.
Here it comes. I can see the words jumping out of her mouth in a reflexive response. “I’m going.”
“Xandra Illuminata Smith, you are not going anywhere!” Oh, this just keeps getting worse. Does the woman not know her daughter at all?
Xandra cuts her mother off. “You knew when you were pregnant with me that my life was going to be hard. Now I’m stuck with this destiny and there are things I have to do that we won’t like. This is one of them. Of course I don’t want to be in yet another life threatening situation. I’m starting to feel like a yo-yo – first the Fairies, then the Witches, and now the Fairies again. I’m more than ready for it to stop. But I can’t bury my head and pretend I’m just some normal girl. Someone who can go on with her life and not worry about who’s going to die because I didn’t try to help sooner. And it’s all your fault, you know. If you hadn’t raised me to have a conscience, I’d say forget it, I’m going to college next year and I can’t be bothered with all this magical stuff. It’s not my problem. But I can’t.”
“Yes, I did raise you to have a conscience. I also thought I raised you to have common sense.” Wow. I am glad those words did not come out of my mouth. I believe Xandra would have hit me for that. I believe she may be contemplating hitting her mother at the moment. Or at the very least, magically taking her voice away.
The one person I was sure agreed with me one hundred percent almost makes me fall off from my chair. “Julienne, I think she’s right.” Huh? Her father said that? “We didn’t know exactly what would happen when she grew up, but she’s right. We knew she’d be special. And if she can save innocent lives by being proactive instead of reactive, then I think she should go.”
Without magic the man has effectively stolen the voices of everyone in the room. Finally, his wife says, “Jim, you don’t know what you’re saying. You have no idea of the danger she’ll be in!”
He sighs heavily. “I think I do. But I’ve also seen our daughter in action, and I think she has more control over her magic than she believes she does. And Kallen will have her back; he’ll help keep her safe.” Yes, I would but that is not the point.
“Jim, this is not a debate. She is not going.”
I am tired of this. I am tired of the bickering and back and forth. The person who needs to make this decision is Xandra and I am going to do everything I can to talk her out of it. In private. Pulling magic, I give us the privacy we need.
Xandra is confused for a moment. She does not seem to realize what has happened. If the situation was different, I would be amused at her attempts to clear her ears. “We are in a circle.”
She shakes her head. “That’s not going to win you any points with my parents, you know.”
I sit forward and place my elbows on the table so I can massage my aching temples. Looking up at Xandra, I say, “Right at this moment, I do not care what your parents think. I am more concerned about you. You are not ready for this. The Fairies you went up against before were Cowan Fairies, not full blooded Fairies.”
“Well, you’re a full-blooded Fairy and I’m stronger than you.”
I sigh and continue to rub my temples. I believe I may be having an aneurysm. “Yes, you are stronger than I am. But going up against an army of full-blooded Pooka warriors is nearly impossible.” I sit up and lean back against the chair. “Mostly because they fight dirty.”
“Dirtier than the Witches?”
Finally, she seems to be listening to me. “Yes, dirtier than the Witches.”
“Do I even want to know how much dirtier?”
I try to smile but I know I do not even come close. “No, you do not.”
“What do you suggest I do, then? I’m guessing your grandmother isn’t going to take no for an answer.”
No, she usually does not. I look over at her. She knows that we are in a circle and she is waiting patiently for us to come back. That is surprising. Patience is no more a virtue of hers than it is Xandra. “No, I suspect she will not.”
“Okay, so what do you suggest?” Frustration is leaking out of her mouth in gobs.
I have never gone against Grandmother’s wishes before. Sure, I misbehaved during the course of my youth, but when it really mattered, I have always agreed with her. But my love for Xandra trumps my loyalty to my Grandmother. I thought I would have at least a slight twinge of guilt admitting that. I do not.
Turning back to Xandra, I say, “I will not let her push you into a fight before you are ready.”
Xandra sits back wearily against her chair. “And how are you going to tell if I’m ready or not?”
I am getting to her. That makes a real smile form on my face. “When you have gone at least a day without causing a natural disaster on a grand scale.”
She gives me a dirty look. “Not funny.”
I cannot help but laugh. “I disagree.”
“Will you please be serious?”
A thought strikes me. Perhaps what Grandmother needs is physical proof that this is not a good idea. Leaning forward, I lace my fingers with Xandra’s. “Alright, I think you should demonstrate how wild your magic is. Grandmother and I can reverse whatever damage you cause.”
She pulls her hands back and narrows her eyes. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Seriously? She cannot possible take my comment personally. My eyes roll at the thought. “Xandra, I am not insulting you. I am simply asking you to demonstrate to my grandmother how much work you have ahead of you before you have mastered control over your magic.”
Her reply is dripping with irritation. “Really? You’re not insulting me? Because it certainly sounds insulting to me.”
I cannot believe this. Has she not noticed how awry her magic goes most of the time? “Speaking the truth and being insulting are two different things.”
“Maybe I should demonstrate to you how much control over my magic I do have.” Sure, that is going to work out for her. She will eat those words. Standing up, she says over her shoulder, “Are you coming or not?” And then she walks out of my circle.
Nobody can walk out of someone else’s circle. How the hell did she just do that? Even more unbelievable? She did it without breaking my circle. This is nothing short of amazing. And ill timed. Such an impressive show of magic only proves her point about how powerful she is. Great. It may end up being me who eats my words.
Because I am still in my circle, no one else can see me. Which is good because I need a moment to collect myself. Especially when she responds to her father’s question. “Where is Kallen?”
“Um, right there,” Xandra says, pointing to me. Through my circle. The one that she should not be able to see into because it sits between realms.
“You are the only one who can see him, dear,” Grandmother says. From the triumphant gleam in her eyes, I know that she is going to use this against my argument that Xandra’s magic is not powerful enough.
Xandra still has not figured out what she did. “What do you mean? He’s right there, sitting next to you.”
“He is still in the circle he threw up so he could speak to you privately. I am assuming he is stunned into inaction by the fact that you simply walked out of it. Generally, the person who made the circle is the only one who can breach its walls.” Grandmother is gloating. That is not an attractive emotion on her.
After a little more back and forth with the others, a frustrated Xandra waves her hand through the magic of my circle. “Oh, good lord, just come out of there already,” she says and the magic dissolves with her touch. I shake my head and sigh. She certainly does not do good things for my ego.
“I believe you were saying something about Xandra’s inability to control her magic?” Grandmother is gloating more. I did not think that was possible. Her head must be getting close to exploding from the pressure of built up triumph.
I give her a hard look. “Does it really count when she does not even know what she is doing?”
Undaunted, Grandmother says, “When the outcome is consistently the desired one, does it truly matter if it was done with or without the knowledge of the mechanics behind it? I do not know the mechanics of that toaster over there, but I trust that it would brown my bread if I desired it to do that.”
Xandra does not seem to like the toaster comparison considering she has drawn a god awful amount of magic into her in response. Pointing at Xandra I say to Grandmother, “Do you feel that? That is how much magic she pulls when she is only a little upset. When she is truly angry, she pulls too much to control or contain.”
Eyes flashing with anger, Xandra is the one to respond. “What would you like me to do to show you how much control I have right this minute? How about this?”
“Damn it.” I push back my chair and stand up in an effort to avoid the hot tea that Xandra has thrown at me from burning me in uncomfortable places. Which everyone in the room seems to find funny. Well then, they are going to love this. Her hot chocolate should be lukewarm by now which means being doused with it will not hurt her. Though, her hair dripping with the brown fluid is not the best look for her. I feel a hundred percent better now as I grin at her. Still, I am not stupid. I prepare myself for whatever is coming next from her.
“That’s wicked. Xandra, you have to show me how to do that!” her brother Zac says, running into the room. I believe he may have just saved me from whatever atrocious thing Xandra was thinking about doing.
Xandra, who seems to be in better humor now, turns to him. “Sorry, buddy, you have to wait until you’re seventeen to have your magic unbound. Then you can have as many food fights as you want.” I can’t help but shake my head at the archaic Witch custom. Children should be taught to control their magic as it grows, not have it shoved upon them when they reach a certain age.
“That sucks,” the boy pouts. Turning towards his mother, he says, “Can I come out of my room now? There’s nothing to do in there.”
Xandra interrupts her mother’s answer. “Actually, we were just going to go outside and see whose magic is better, mine or Kallen’s. Why don’t you get your coat and boots on and you can join us.” To me, she says, “Are you ready?”
I laugh. “You seriously want to do this? I am not going to go easy on you. I will show you how a Pooka warrior will fight.”
I see doubt pass through her eyes but she nods. “I seriously do.” I certainly love her courage.
I incline my head and wave my arm towards the door. This should be fun. “Alright, after you.” As I speak, I dry the uncomfortable wet spots on my clothes and attire myself in winter wear. That is one aspect of Grandmother’s plan that I do not find objectionable. A change in climate would be nice.