The Secret Circle: The Hunt Chapter 28
Scarlett sat at Cassie’s desk, poring over Black John’s Book of Shadows while Cassie and Adam worked on their laptops – but Cassie was really keeping an eye on Scarlett. She watched Scarlett’s eyes scan the book’s text line by line, occasionally jotting down notes on her memo pad. Some of the time Scarlett just paged through the book, fully absorbed and too excited by what she was reading to slow down enough to copy it down. She was supposed to be looking specifically for the witch-hunter curse, but Cassie could see she kept getting sidetracked.
“Knock knock,” Diana said, as she stepped inside. “How’s the research coming?”
“Slowly.” Adam shut his laptop.
“Well, I have some news that might cheer you up.” Diana sat down on Cassie’s bed. “I just talked to Max. He told me the witch hunters have their headquarters set up in the caves on the beach.”
But Diana’s news was overshadowed by Scarlett’s shout of excitement.
“I found it!” Scarlett said. She stood up so fast her chair fell backward onto the floor. “This is it. The spell Black John used against the hunters.”
Cassie, Adam, and Diana all rushed to the book to see it for themselves, forgetting everything that came before.
The page Scarlett held open looked much like the rest of the book. It was composed of a few short lines – inky black squiggles and glyphs.
“Are you sure this is the one?” Cassie asked.
“I’m positive.” Scarlett ran her fingers over the page, scanning its contents again. “And it’s not even that complicated. It’ll be easy for the Circle to memorize.”
“Are you sure? Any small mistake, and who knows what we could do to them, or even to ourselves,” Diana said.
“You’ll see,” Scarlett said to Diana in a patronizing tone. “It’ll be as simple as singing a song in a language you don’t understand. All you have to do is hit the tones right. The deeper meaning is beside the point.”
“How does the curse work?” Diana asked, staring down at the book’s illegible text. “What will it do to the hunters?”
Scarlett grinned. “Don’t worry. It’ll happen so fast they’ll hardly feel a thing.”
“But what exactly will it do to them?” Diana persisted.
“It’ll take away the power from their stone relics,” Scarlett said. “And break the bond between the hunters and their marks.”
“So we’ll all be unmarked.” Cassie looked the spell over with Adam. Based on her instincts and their limited research, everything Scarlett said seemed right.
“And anyway, Diana,” Scarlett added, “Max is being spared. As long as he’s nowhere near his relic when we cast this, he’ll be fine. So what are you so nervous about?”
Cassie let the comment pass. “All right then,” she said. “We’re just about ready to do this.”
Adam turned to Diana. “Those caves where the hunters have their headquarters are down by the rockier shores. We’ll need rowboats to get to them.”
Diana pulled out her phone. “Max can help with that. If it’s all right with you, Cassie, I think he should be included in this discussion.”
Cassie hesitated, but Adam didn’t. “Are you planning to invite him over? Here?”
Diana squared herself to Adam. “Max is turning his back on hundreds of years of his own ancestry and is probably going to be disowned by his father for helping us. So yes, I’m planning to invite him over so he’s clear on how all this will go down.”
Adam took a breath that sounded like assent and Cassie told Diana to go ahead. Within the hour Max was standing in her bedroom with his muscular arms crossed over his chest, hovering over her father’s book.
Scarlett showed him the spell and he squinted at it. He scratched the stubble on the side of his face and looked at Diana. “Can you ensure their safety?”
“The spell will deactivate the relics,” Scarlett said. “That’s what it’s designed to do. Beyond that, none of us are in a position to ensure anything. This is a battle we’re going into, after all. War doesn’t come with guarantees for either side.”
Max chewed on his thick lower lip, mulling things over in his mind. “Well, I want to be there to make sure both sides play fair.” He rested his sharp eyes on Scarlett, understanding somehow that it was her spearheading this crusade. “Consider me the referee.”
Scarlett grinned. “Then I guess the only question left is, how soon can we leave?”
They all looked to Max for the answer.
“Tonight,” he said confidently, reaching for Diana’s hand. “We’ll go tonight. The sooner we get this over with, the better.”
They had an hour till dusk, just the right amount of time to arrive at the caves in sunlight, and to depart shrouded beneath the cover of night. It took three boats to get them all there. Cassie, Adam, Diana, and Scarlett were at the front, under Max’s guidance. As he rowed them closer and closer to the caves, Cassie’s nerves started to get the best of her, and she suddenly wished they’d composed a backup plan. She hadn’t wanted to appear doubtful at the time, but now that they were sitting out in the water with only Max’s word to go on, Cassie wished the Circle had at least considered an escape strategy. What if Max was simply delivering them to the hunters’ lair like cargo?
Cassie looked to Faye in the boat behind theirs. They locked eyes and Cassie immediately understood that Faye was ready for anything. She was perched on the edge of her boat’s bow, watching and calculating. Cassie gave her a nod. For once, Faye’s suspicious, cunning nature served as the most necessary comfort, and Cassie was thankful for it. If this turned out to be a trap, Faye was fully prepared to take Max out to save the Circle – and Cassie would join her.
As their boats neared the caves, the hulking fissures grew larger but no less threatening. By the time they had drifted within walking distance of the main cave’s entrance, Cassie got the sense that she was about to step into the mouth of a stone dragon.
“We’re here,” Max said somberly. “Get up slowly unless you feel like going for a swim.”
He smiled then and Cassie recognized the warmth in his face for the first time. She returned his expression as affectionately as she could. In a way, Max’s predicament wasn’t so different from her own. Like Cassie, he was caught between two opposing sides, between dark and light, his father’s nature and his own free will. It couldn’t have been a simple decision for him to assist them.
“Thank you,” Cassie said to him, hoping to relay some sentiment of camaraderie.
Max nodded, and Cassie said a silent prayer that they were right to rely on him. For his sake and hers.
Cassie climbed out of her rowboat carefully and reached for Adam to steady her on solid ground. She squeezed his hand tightly, needing him close to her now more than ever. It occurred to Cassie that if this attack went poorly, if they failed, it could mean their deaths. These moments could very well be their last. Then a far scarier thought crossed Cassie’s mind. What if she survived but Adam didn’t? The idea of going on without him was unfathomable to her.
Cassie tried to absorb every detail of Adam as he was now. His electric-blue eyes and wild hair, and the strength that shone in his features even at the worst of times – perhaps especially at the worst of times.
“I don’t want to let go of your hand,” Cassie said.
“That’s good, because I won’t let you.” Adam brought her fingers to his lips. “Ever.”
The whole Circle joined hands then, to link their power. They walked toward the caves in a long line, ready to recite the dark chant they’d memorized.
Cassie’s stomach twisted with fear and she struggled with the urge to return to the boats and row home. She glanced back to watch Max heading toward the caves behind them. He would be watching the confrontation from a safe distance. The look on his face was one of love and honor and he was focused solely on Diana. Any residual anxiety Cassie had that Max was leading them into a trap fell away. The cord that connected Max to Diana connected him to the entire Circle – and he was as devoted to this mission as the rest of them.
Candlelight was the first thing Cassie noticed upon entering the cave. It flickered in orange and yellow flashes against the wall, illuminating their way deeper into the bowels of the dark cavern.
Cassie could hear the hunters’ soft mumbling before she could see them. There they were: Mr. Boylan, Jedediah Felton, and Louvera Felton, along with two others Cassie hadn’t seen before. They were gathered just where Max said they’d be and they were kneeling in a meditative state, performing some kind of ritual. They all had their eyes closed and their heads bowed toward an intricately composed altar. Their ancient relics lay on the ground beside them.
Adam gripped Cassie’s hand tighter, and with her other hand Cassie squeezed Diana’s fingers in her own. She was suddenly acutely aware of her own breath and the slight sound her own footsteps made upon the gravelly cave floor. She got the distinct feeling that the spell they were about to perform filled her heart and lungs. It rushed through her veins.
This is it, she thought, and she could hardly contain her urgent desire to begin spewing forth the words. They contained her every wish, hope, fear, and need.
The hunters remained motionless, clueless to their impending invasion. It was perfect timing. The words, or sounds really, that Cassie had memorized formed on her lips almost of their own accord. They had fully taken her over. The same must have been true for all the Circle members. Each of them appeared entranced, melded to the spell just as Cassie was.
The twelve of them continued forward, all-powerful and bathed in darkness. They cast the curse, chanting in unison, before the hunters had any idea they’d even arrived.