The Indigo Spell Chapter Ten

The Indigo Spell Chapter Ten

THE NEXT MORNING, I sought out Ms. Terwilliger before class to give her a recap of yesterday’s adventures. She leaned against her desk, sipping a cappuccino as I spoke. Her expression grew darker as the story progressed, and she sighed when I finished.

“Well, that’s unfortunate,” she said. “I’m glad you were able to find the Stone girl, but that kills our lead on Veronica until the next full moon. It could be too late by then.”

“You’re sure there’s no other scrying spell?” I asked.

She shook her head. “Most that I could attempt would alert her that I was looking for her. There is one that might mask me while I’m using it . . . but it also might not be able to penetrate any shielding she’s using to hide herself.”

“It’s still worth a try, isn’t it?” I asked. The warning bell rang, and students began trickling into the classroom. She shot me a smile as she straightened up.

“Why, Miss Melbourne, I never thought I’d hear you suggesting such things. But you’re right. We’ll talk about it this afternoon. It’s something I’d like you to see.”

That anti-magic gut instinct started to rear its ugly head . . . and then stopped. Somewhere, against my wishes, I’d gotten caught up in all of this. I was too concerned now about Veronica’s other victims to pay attention to my usual worries. In Alchemist eyes, using magic was bad. In my eyes, leaving innocents in danger was worse.

With no other critical situations to contend with, I found that the day flew by. When I rejoined Ms. Terwilliger for our independent study, I found her packed up and waiting for me to arrive. “Field trip,” she told me. “We need to work on this at my place.” A wistful look crossed her features. “Too bad we can’t stop at Spencer’s.”

Caffeine and magic didn’t mix, which was another good reason for staying away from the arcane. I started to point out that since I wasn’t working any magic, I didn’t have the same restrictions. A moment later, I decided that would be mean. Ms. Terwilliger had enough going on with a bloodthirsty sister on the loose. She didn’t need to be taunted too.

The cats were waiting at the door when we arrived at her house, which was slightly terrifying. I’d never seen all of them at once and counted thirteen. I had to assume that number was by design.

“I have to feed them first,” she told me as they swarmed at her feet. “Then we’ll get to work.”

I nodded wordlessly, thinking her plan was a good one. If those cats weren’t fed soon, it seemed likely they would turn on us. I didn’t like our odds.

Once they had food to distract them, Ms. Terwilliger and I went to her workshop. There was little I could do except observe. Magic often required that the person doing the spell be the one to put in all the labor. I assisted with a little measuring, but that was about it. I’d seen her do a couple of quick, flashy spells in the past but never anything of this magnitude. It was clear to me that this was a very, very powerful feat. She had nothing to link her to Veronica, no hair or picture. The spell required the caster to use the image in her mind of the person being sought. Other components, herbs and oils, helped enhance the magic, but for the most part, the work was all on Ms. Terwilliger. Watching her prepare triggered a mix of emotions in me. Anxiety was one, of course, but it was paired with a secret fascination at seeing someone with her strength cast a spell.

When everything was in place, she spoke the incantation, and I nearly gasped as I felt power surge up in the room. I’d never sensed it from another person before, and the intensity nearly knocked me over. Ms. Terwilliger was staring at a spot a few feet in front of her. After several long moments, a glowing dot appeared in the air. It grew bigger and bigger, turning into a flat, shimmering disc, which hung there like a mirror. I stepped backward, half-afraid the disc would keep expanding and consume the room. Eventually, it stabilized. Tense silence surrounded us as she stared at that glowing surface. A minute passed, and then the oval began to shrink and shrink until it was gone. Ms. Terwilliger sank with exhaustion and caught the side of her table for support. She was sweating heavily, and I handed her some orange juice we’d had ready.

“Did you see anything?” I asked. There’d been nothing visible to me, but maybe only the caster could see what the spell revealed.

She shook her head. “No. The spell was unable to touch her mind. Her shielding must be too strong.”

“Then we can’t do anything until next month.” I felt my stomach drop. I hadn’t realized until that moment how much I’d been hoping this spell would work. So much of my life involved problem solving, and I felt lost when I ran out of options.

“You and Adrian can keep warning the other girls,” said Ms. Terwilliger. Color was starting to return to her face. “At the very least, it might slow Veronica down.”

I looked at the time on my cell phone. This spell had taken longer than I thought. “I don’t think we can do a round trip to Los Angeles today. I’ll get him tomorrow, and we’ll see if we can finish off the list.”

Once I was convinced she wouldn’t pass out from magical exertion, I made motions to leave. She stopped me as I was about to walk out the door.

“Sydney?”

I glanced back, suddenly uneasy. The problem with having so many people call me by nicknames was that when someone called me by my actual name, it usually meant something serious was happening.

“Yes?”

“We keep talking about warning others, but don’t forget to look after yourself as well. Keep studying the book. Learn to protect yourself. And keep the charm on.”

I touched the garnet, hidden under my shirt. “Yes, ma’am. I will.”

Marcus’s promised text came as I was driving back to school, telling me to meet him at a nearby arcade. I knew the place and had actually been to its adjacent mini-golf course once before, so I had no difficulty heading over there. Marcus was waiting for me just inside the door, and thankfully, Sabrina wasn’t around wielding a gun.

I hadn’t spent a lot of time in arcades and didn’t really understand them. They hardly meshed with my father’s style of education. For me, it was a mass of sensory overload that I wasn’t quite ready for. The smell of slightly burnt pizza filled the air. Excited children and teenagers darted back and forth between games. And everywhere, everything seemed to be flashing and beeping. I winced, thinking maybe my dad had been on to something in avoiding these places.

“This is where we’re going to discuss covert activities?” I asked in disbelief.

He gave me one of his movie star smiles. “It’s not an easy place for people to spy on you. Besides, I haven’t played Skee-Ball in years. That game is awesome.”

“I wouldn’t know.”

“What?” It was kind of nice to catch him by surprise again, even if it was for something so trivial. “You’ve been missing out. Spot me some money for tokens, and I’ll show you.” Apparently, being an on-the-run renegade leader didn’t pay well.

He found the Skee-Ball machines instantly. I bought him a cupful of tokens and handed them over. “Have at it.”

He promptly put a token in and threw his first ball. It landed completely outside of the rings, making him scowl. “You don’t waste any time,” I remarked.

His eyes were on the game as he made his second throw, which again missed. “It’s a survival tactic. When you spend enough time on the run . . . hiding out all the time . . . well, you take advantage of these moments of freedom. And when pretty girls spirit you away.”

“How do you know we’re free? How can you be so sure the Alchemists haven’t been watching me?” I asked. I was pretty sure I wasn’t being watched and mostly wanted to test him.

“Because they would’ve showed up on that first day.”

He had a point. I put my hands on my hips and tried to be patient. “How long are you going to play? When can we talk?”

“We can talk now.” His next ball hit the ten-point ring, and he whooped with joy. “I can talk and throw. Ask away. I’ll give you as many shocking secrets as I can.”

“I’m not easily shocked.” But I wasn’t going to waste this opportunity. I glanced around, but he was right. No one was going to eavesdrop in this noisy place. We could barely hear each other as it was. “What’d you do to get kicked out of the Alchemists?”

“I didn’t get kicked out. I left.” This round ended, and he put in his next token. “Because of a Moroi girl.”

I froze, unable to believe what I’d heard. Marcus Finch had started his great rebellion . . . because he’d been involved with a Moroi? It rang too close to my own situation. When I didn’t say anything, he glanced over and took in my expression.

“Oh. Oh. No, nothing like that,” he said, realizing my thoughts. “That’s not a line even I would cross.”

“Of course not,” I said, hoping I was doing a good job at hiding my nervousness. “Who would?”

He returned to the game. “We were friends. I was assigned to Athens, and she lived there with her sister.”

That derailed me. “Athens . . . you were in Athens? That was one of the places I wanted to be assigned. I went to St. Petersburg instead, but I always kept hoping that, maybe, maybe, I’d get reassigned to Greece. Or even Italy.” I was nearly babbling, but he didn’t seem to notice.

“What’s wrong with St. Petersburg? Aside from the high Strigoi count.”

“What’s wrong is that it wasn’t Athens or Rome. My dad specifically requested that I not be assigned to either place. He thought it’d be too distracting.”

Marcus paused again to give me a long, level look. There was sympathy in his expression, as though my entire history and family drama were playing before his eyes. I didn’t want him to feel sorry for me and wished I hadn’t said anything. I cleared my throat.

“So tell me about this girl in Athens.”

He took the hint. “Like I said, she was a friend. So funny. Oh, man. She cracked me up. We used to hang out all the time – but you know how that’s kind of frowned upon.”

I almost laughed at his subtle joke. Kind of? That was an understatement. Field Alchemists weren’t supposed to interact with Moroi unless it was absolutely necessary for some business matter or related to stopping and covering up Strigoi. My situation was a little unique, since my mission actually required me to talk to her on a daily basis.

“Anyway,” he continued. “Someone noticed, and I got a lot of unwelcome attention for it. Around the same time, I started hearing all these rumors . . . like about Alchemists holding Moroi against their will. And even some Alchemists interacting with the Warriors.”

“What? That’s impossible. We would never work with those freaks.” The idea of Moroi prisoners was outlandish, but it was that second part that truly stumped me. I couldn’t even process it. He might as well have said the Alchemists were working with aliens.

“That’s what I thought.” He threw another ball, looking supremely pleased when it scored thirty points. “But I kept hearing whispers, so I started asking questions. A lot of questions. And, well, that’s when things really went bad. Questions don’t always go over so well – especially if you’re a nuisance about them.”

I thought about my own experience. “That’s certainly true.”

“So that’s when I walked. Or, well, ran. I could see the signs. I’d crossed a line and knew it was only a matter of time before I had a one-way ticket to re-education.” Another new round started, and he gestured me forward. “Want to give it a try?”

I was still stunned enough by his earlier words that I stepped forward and took a ball. The Alchemists were logical, organized, and reasonable. I knew there were Alchemists who wished we could do more to fight the Strigoi, but there was no way our group would work with trigger-happy zealots. “Stanton told me we only tolerate the Warriors. That we’re just keeping an eye on them.”

“That’s what I was told too.” He watched me line up a shot. “There’s kind of a learning curve to this, by the way. It may take you a few – “

I threw and hit the fifty-point ring. Marcus could only stare for a few seconds, his earlier smirk vanishing.

“You said you’d never played!” he exclaimed.

“I haven’t.” I threw another fifty pointer.

“Then how are you doing that?”

“I don’t know.” Fifty points again. “You just base your force on the ball’s weight and distance to the ring. It’s not that hard. This is kind of a boring game, really.”

Marcus was still dumbstruck. “Are you some kind of super-athlete?”

I nearly scoffed. “You don’t need to be an athlete to play this.”

“But . . . no . . .” He looked at the rings, then at me, and then back to the rings. “That’s impossible. I’ve been playing this since I was a kid! My dad and I used to go to our town’s carnival over and over in the summer, and I’d spend at least an hour playing this each time.”

“Maybe you should have made it two hours.” I tossed another ball. “Now tell me more about the Warriors and the Alchemists. Did you ever get any proof?”

It took him several moments to tune back into the conversation. “No. I tried. I even got cozy with the Warriors for a while – that’s how I met Clarence. My group has found a few dark secrets about the Alchemists and saved other Moroi from the Warriors, but we were never able to make a connection between the two groups.” He paused dramatically. “Until now.”

I picked up the next ball. This mundane activity was helping me analyze his startling words. “What happened?”

“It was a fluke, really. We’ve got a guy working with us now who just left the Alchemists and broke his tattoo,” he explained. He said it like it was no big deal, but I still couldn’t shake how uneasy “breaking the tattoo” made me feel. “He’d overheard something that matched up to something Sabrina uncovered. Now we’ve just got to get the evidence linking it all.”

“How are you going to pull that off?”

“Actually, you’re going to pull it off.”

He spoke just as I was releasing another ball. My shot went wide, missed the rings and even the machine entirely. The ball bounced off the wall and landed at the feet of some startled girls. Marcus retrieved the ball and gave them an apologetic smile, which made them gush about how it was no problem at all. As soon as they were gone, I leaned toward Marcus.

“What did you say?”

“You heard me. You want to join our group? You want to break your tattoo?” He looked annoyingly smug. “Then this is all part of the process.”

“I never said I wanted to do any of those things!” I hissed. “I just wanted to find out more about them.”

“And I bet you’d really love to know if there are factions in the Alchemists working with the Warriors.”

He was right. I did want to know that.

He caught hold of my hand. “Sydney, I know this is a lot to take in. I don’t blame you for doubting, and that’s exactly why we need you. You’re smart. You’re observant. You question. And just like me, those questions are going to get you in trouble – if they haven’t already. Get out now while you can – on your own terms.”

“I just met you! I’m not breaking away from the group that raised me.” I pulled my hand back. “I was willing to hear you guys out, but now you’ve gone too far.”

I turned and headed toward the door, unwilling to listen anymore. Yet as I walked away, his words crawled over me. Even though I’d been forgiven for my involvement with Rose, my record still probably had a black mark. And even though I hadn’t pushed hard about Marcus Finch, had even bringing him up raised Stanton’s suspicions? How long until little things added up?

I pushed open the doors and stepped out into bright sunlight. It chased away the darkness of what I’d just heard. Marcus was right behind me and touched my shoulder.

“Sydney I’m sorry. I’m not trying to scare you.” That cocky attitude was gone. He was deadly earnest. “I just sense something about you . . . something that resonates with me. I think we’re on the same side, that we want the same things. We’ve both gotten close to the Moroi. We want to help them – without being lied to or used.”

I eyed him warily. “Go on.”

“Please, hear us out.”

“I thought I just did.”

“You heard me out,” he corrected. “I want you to meet the others and hear their stories. They’ll tell you more about what they went through. They’ll tell you about this.” He tapped his tattoo. “And when you hear more about that task . . . well, I think you’ll want to do it.”

“Right. The big, mind-blowing thing that’s going to unveil an Alchemist-Warrior conspiracy.” He remained serious, which bothered me more than if he’d suddenly revealed this to be one big joke. “So, what? You’re going to get the others, and we’ll all have an arcade day?”

He shook his head. “Too dangerous. I’ll gather them in some other place and then tell you where to meet us, but it’s got to be last minute again. Can’t risk detection.”

“I can’t go on some epic road trip,” I warned. “No one cares much about LA trips, but traipsing all over the state is going to get that unwanted attention you were talking about.”

“I know, I know. It’ll be close. I just have to make sure it’s secure.” He was back to his excited, cheery self. “Will you do it? Come join us?”

In spite of myself, I was curious. Even though I refused to believe in any connection between the Warriors and the Alchemists, I wanted to find out what leads this group thought they had. I also just wanted to see this mysterious group of his, period. What had Adrian called them? Marcus’s Merry Men? And, of course, there was the tattoo. Marcus kept alluding to its secrets but still hadn’t given me the details.

“I’ll do it,” I said at last. “On one condition.”

“Name it.”

“I want to bring someone with me,” I said. “You can trust him, I swear. But after Sabrina pulled a gun on me, you have to understand why I’d be a little nervous about walking into your clique.”

Marcus looked like he might almost consider it but then suddenly recoiled. “Not Adrian?”

“No, no. This guy’s a dhampir. No one who’d be interested in turning you over to the Alchemists, especially if you really are working to protect Moroi. You say you’ve got a good feeling about me? Then trust me that you have nothing to worry about with him. He’d just be there to make me feel a little safer.”

“You have nothing to worry about with us,” Marcus said. “We won’t hurt you.”

“I want to believe you. But I don’t quite have that same good feeling you have yet.”

He didn’t say anything right away and then burst into laughter. “Fair enough. Bring your friend.” He shook my hand, as though we were sealing some great bargain. “I’ll be in touch later with the details. You won’t regret it, Sydney. I swear it.”