WARNING: One instance of bad language.
Lot tries to make progress and Freyja makes a surprise appearance.
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London – 1843
I picked a spot in the garden well away from the house, the trees, and anything else flammable. Except for me, the book, and the grass but those weren’t avoidable.
I lay the book on the frosty grass and peered at the yellowing pages. It didn’t help much beyond making me look like I had some idea what I was doing. The book said I needed to draw in energy, tap into primal forces, and some wishy-washy rubbish about nature and knowing thy self. I had no idea what the book was talking about and it was a book about witch magic, books on Fae were the one thing Bran didn’t have.
Staring at a book wouldn’t get anything done and I needed to learn to control my magic if we were going to find an energy stealing murderer. As long as I had no control I was a walking signpost and that was dangerous for Bran too.
I concentrated and threads of purple energy appeared running through everything, untangling and reforming, always in motion. I put my hands the grass, it was cold with the onset of winter and yet the ground buzzed with warmth. I pinched a thread but my fingers passed through. I lifted my hands, the threads followed, snapped and fell away. It reminded me of trying to touch anything after the children had been eating toffee. It was amazing how far it could spread.
I tried again. The threads stuck and snapped but I couldn’t grip them.
‘You’re thinking too hard,’ Freyja said. ‘You didn’t even notice me.’
I swung round. She was leaning against a tree and looking at her watch.
‘How did –‘
‘If it looks like a door I can step through it.’ She snapped her watch shut. ‘I’d hazard a guess at “why” next.’
Nothing looked like a door as far as I could see It was a silly though, the door would’ve been on the other side, not in the garden. I glanced towards the house.
‘That is a door I cannot cross,’ she said. ‘No Fae may enter a non-Fae home without permission.’ She clapped her hands together. ‘But that’s another lesson.’
‘Lesson?’ I said.
‘Aye, after our last meeting I decided I’d sorely regret if you burned up so I thought I’d help you out.’
‘Oh, you did.’ I supposed that answered the question of whether I was flammable or not. I doubted her motive was generosity, people didn’t live as long as Freyja by going out of their way for people. Still, I was interested to know what she was up to.
‘As you were,’ she said.
I got down on my knees, without turning my back on her.
‘Now,’ she said, coming closer. ‘Magic can be a logical thing but you’re not logical.’
I gave her a look and she gave me one right back.
She crouched down in front of me. ‘Power is what we are. We absorb it from the earth but it comes from the core of us.’ She smacked my chest. ‘And yours is rage. Use it. Don’t let it use you.’
‘You sound like, Josef,’ I muttered at the grass.
‘It’s quiet here, Little Red, I have no trouble hearing you.’ She chuckled. ‘I’m sure The Saracen would be furious.’
I sighed and rested my hands against the buzzing ground.
‘It’s a symbiotic relationship,’ she said. ‘You need the magic of the earth to power you but you need the magic within you to access it. Complete the circuit.’ She leaned towards my ear and whispered, ‘Use your rage.’
I closed my eyes and thought of the workhouse. Of how I ended up in London. Of Aubrey. Of Duncan. Of Richard hurting Bran.
My skin turned hot. The air cracked and crackled.
I opened my eyes.
Energy crackled between my fingers. Veins of light cut tracks across my skin. My hands turned hot. My nails blackened. The frost melted. The grass wilted. Something was burning.
I couldn’t stop.
‘Ah,’ Freyja said.
My hands were stuck to the ground. Wind whistled in my eyes.
I couldn’t stop.
I couldn’t stop.
‘Find a safe space in your memory,’ Freyja said.
I closed my eyes and opened them standing in the bedroom. I always kept this memory close. It was the first morning I woke up with Bran; the sun had already risen but we were still in bed, and I was dozing against his chest with his arms around me. I hadn’t recognised it at the time but standing in the memory there was a profound sense of safety. I had never known safety to recognise it.
I hadn’t known a lot back then.
Energy crackled through my burning hands. I could feel Bran’s warmth around me. Smell his whiskey book scent. Taste his kisses.
I tilted my head and I was laying in his arms. He was asleep and the peace of the moment had melted the years from his face. It would only last a moment. If I let the memory play on he woke and worried I’d want him to leave. I never wanted him to leave.
I closed my eyes and opened them in the garden. The energy fizzled. The light went out. My nails melted back to normal.
Freyja sat down cross-legged, outside the circle of charred grass. ‘Maybe a little less rage next time.’
‘You said I should use my rage.’
‘I was thinking of something more like when you and your boy angry fuck.’
I sighed and wondered if Bran realised how many of his memories she had the ability to pluck when we went to meet her.
She considered me. ‘I rather let my attempts to provoke you run away from me the last time we met.’ She sucked her onyx teeth then said, ‘I have limits.’
I nodded. I’d begun to suspect so when my logical brain pointed out she could’ve picked far worse things from Bran’s mind to humiliate him with. She’d still humiliated him, and I wasn’t going to shrug it off.
I could wait.
‘Bran’s secrets are safe with me,’ she said. ‘A telepath is bound by honour.’
I stared at her wondering if she expected me to say, ‘sure, I’ll trust you’.
She nodded. ‘You remind me of me when I was young. I know where I began and you can see where I am.’ She looked me in the eye. ‘I won’t make my enemies’ mistakes.’
‘Huh.’ I nodded slowly.
‘So now you know I’m not going to kill you shall we get down to business?’ she asked.
The bushes rustled and Mary popped out with a twig in her hair and no coat on. ‘Mummy, Miss Ronni was boring so I escaped.’
‘You’ll catch cold.’ I pulled off my jacket and wrestled to put it on her while she giggled and tried to play tug-Mummy’s-curls-and-make-them-bounce.
Once the jacket was on she waggled her arms to make the sleeves flap. ‘Mummy, why’s that lady look funny?’
‘Most people don’t laugh,’ Freyja said.
I picked Mary up and perched her on my hip.
‘I am very old and very magical,’ Freyja said, coming closer.
‘Uncle Sef magics things but he doesn’t look funny.’ She rubbed behind her ears looking for coins and sweets. ‘Never works.’
Freyja chuckled, flashing her black teeth.
‘You should brush your teeth more,’ Mary said. ‘I do and they’re sparkly, aren’t they, Mummy?’ She bared her teeth at me for inspection.
‘Very nice, sweetheart.’
‘Well, aren’t you the sweetest?’ Freyja said.
‘Yes,’ replied Mary.
I held her tighter to me and put myself between them keeping one eye on Freyja. Face tilted so Mary couldn’t see I bared my fangs at Freyja.
She stepped back.
‘My Mummy kills monsters,’ Mary said. ‘Are you a monster?’
‘Some would say so,’ Freyja replied, watching me.
‘That’s silly. You’re a monster or not a monster. Rules.’ Mary pulled her grown-ups-know-nothing-face. ‘Mummy says the worst monsters don’t look like monsters. That’s why you’ve got to be careful.’ She nodded.
‘Very wise,’ Freyja said.
‘Mummy is a clever mummy.’ Mary wrapped her arms around my neck and gave me a wet kiss on my cheek. ‘Mwah.’
I smiled at Mary. The air crackled.
Freyja was gone leaving only the cinnamon scent of her magic behind.
‘She’s a rude lady,’ Mary said. ‘Disappearing. Tut. Tut.’
‘Let’s get you inside before you catch cold.’ I scooped up the book I’d left on the grass.
‘Can I have some biscuits, please, Mummy?’
I eyed the spot Freyja had been standing in. ‘Only good girls get biscuits.’
‘But I’m the sweetest, the lady said so.’
I couldn’t really argue when she presented evidence. She’d been listening to her father. Very clever.
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