Rituals

Lot and Bran put a theory to the test.

This is the second part of today’s double bill. Read the first part here.


Rituals

London – 1844

Bran was lucky I was an indulgent wife or I wouldn’t have been standing in cold, not that the cold was much of a bother when you were dead. He was meticulously deciding on the placement of a small table on the other side of the hideaway where I practiced my magic. The bushes and trees never hid me from the children, but it made the scorch marks on the grass less conspicuous from the house.

‘I had an idea,’ Bran said. ‘I think Freyja’s wrong about rage being the key to you magic. You’re a…’ He glanced at me, blushed and murmured, ‘Practical woman.’

‘Can’t argue with that,’ I replied and tucked my chilled fingers into my coat pockets.

Bran relaxed and placed one of my wooden practice knives on the table. ‘I thought, perhaps, if we tried to apply it practically then we might have more success.’

‘Perhaps.’ I shrugged. ‘And what brought this on?’

He adjusted the placement of the knife. ‘Well… I wasn’t much help with the Coven Master. I…’ He cleared his throat, head bowed. ‘I sat there like a lemon.’

‘A delicious lemon.’

‘It’s not funny.’ His blush deepened. ‘I’m –‘

‘If you say sorry, I‘ll bloody well come over there and spank you.’ I grinned and raised my eyebrows.

‘I am trying.’

‘You don’t have to with me.’

He smiled at the table then crossed to stand behind me. ‘I think…’

I turned my head slightly. ‘Tell me what you think.’

‘I think, maybe, it’s not your rage it’s the urge to protect yourself and others that comes with it.’

That didn’t explain why my magic hadn’t switched on when I fought Isabel but I nodded.

‘I think you could summon a weapon, if you needed to.’

‘An application beyond “pretty sparkles”.’ As the children called my magic. ‘The only problem with your theory is that there’s no practical reason for me to summon a practice knife.’

‘I… I think you could summon up a memory of one.’ He hesitated then settled his hands on my hips. ‘And I’ll be right here with you.’

I glanced at a charred patch a foot away from us. ‘And you reckon you’re not a brave man.’

‘I trust you,’ he whispered.

I extended my hands. Freyja had talked about feelings over logic but I didn’t know how I could feel moving a knife. My magic seeped out of its box; it tingled down my arms and warmed my hands turning my nails black.

Bran’s power was hot against my back in the cold winter morning. My brain thought it was better to remember the time I sucked too much energy out of Josef, or when I lost control. I closed my eyes so I couldn’t see the scorched grass and rummaged for a moment where I might need my knife which wouldn’t lead to Bran’s painful death. My brain kept reminding me of the singed grass.

I sighed and lowered my hands.

Bran shifted against my back.

‘I’m not giving up,’ I said.

‘I didn’t say anything,’ he murmured.

‘Something to distract me from energy draining or people incinerating would be helpful.’

He massaged my hips. ‘I was reading about maker bonds and…’ His grip tightened. ‘If you hijacked Richard’s bond to me, like Josef thinks, then you might be able to break it.’

‘Break it?’ I turned to face him.

‘There’s a ritual makers use to release their progeny.’ He avoided my gaze. ‘Richard never used it and I’ve never turned anyone. You might want to ask Josef about it.’

‘Do you want me to release you?’

He focused on a patch of grass a few feet away. ‘It would be safer. As long as you’re connected to me there’s a back door into your mind.’

‘You said you liked feeling connected to me.’ I looped my arms around his waist.

‘That was before I considered the implications. As far as we know your mind is invulnerable to psychic magic and mine isn’t and –‘

‘You’re getting the breathless I’m-having-an-attack-of-anxiety.’ I caressed his back, his magic throbbed against my palms like a second heartbeat.

He frowned at the gathering clouds. ‘Sorry.’

‘You don’t have to apologise, Bran,’ I said, still caressing his back. ‘If I hijacked your bond to Richard there are circumstances where I’m not immune to psychic magic. Those exact circumstances are impossible to recreate but that doesn’t mean they’re the only circumstances.’

He touched his face. ‘No-one needs special circumstances to get into my mind. Freyja –‘

‘Freyja still couldn’t get into my mind.’

‘We don’t –‘

‘Trust me when I say I would know.’ I rose up on my toes, he didn’t bend to meet my kiss.

‘You shouldn’t have to be connected to me,’ he said without meeting my gaze. ‘It’s not fair on you.’

I clasped his chin and turned his face towards me. ‘Answer me, honestly. If I was your maker would you want me to release you now?’

He stooped a little as he considered. ‘No.’

‘I can’t complain about a built in detector for when you’re in trouble while there’s someone going around stealing magic.’ I gave him a quick kiss.

‘It might not work if they’re stealing magic.’

I shrugged. ‘There’s a lot of ifs in this conversation.’ I turned back to the table and took up my stance. ‘I have no issue with it, it’s up to you.’ I closed my eyes. ‘But I wouldn’t let just anyone watch me stand here waving my hands.’

There was a crash in the house.

‘Muuuummmmy!’ Mary wailed.

Thud.

I opened my eyes. Bran was holding the table by the leg level with my head. I ducked his arm and ran across the garden to the house.

Mary sitting on the pantry floor crying, surrounded by broken bits of pottery. There was no blood in the air so she wasn’t cut.

‘Mummy,’ she cried and stuck her arms out to me.

I scooped her up. ‘We keep telling you not to climb the shelves.’ The spot where the biscuit jar should’ve been was empty, and there was the gap on a shelf further up where the pots had fallen from.

‘Didn’t mean to break things. It was a naccident.’ She sobbed and cough.

‘It doesn’t matter as long as you’re alright,’ I murmured, rocking her. ‘They’re only pots.’

Bran came in and put his arms around us. ‘You gave us a scare, Tiny Terror.’

‘The floor hurt me,’ she whined. ‘My arm.’ She stuck it out and I gave it a kiss. ‘And… and my head.’ She poked a spot on her head and I kissed that too. ‘And my back.’

I rubbed her back. ‘Better?’

She nodded and Bran wiped her nose with a handkerchief before she wiped it on me.

‘Where’s biscuits?’ She asked.

We found the biscuits under Bran’s desk, being eaten by a crumb-coated Edward.

He stopped with a macaroon in his hand. ‘Uh-oh.’

‘Babby ate my biscuits,’ Mary said. ‘Bad babby!’

He took one out and offered it to her. ‘Saved gingers for you.’

She crawled under the desk, sat down beside him and took the biscuit. ‘Good babby.’

Bran and I looked at each other. We should’ve taken the biscuits off them before they made themselves sick but they looked so sweet sharing we let them keep the jar.

We were naught but a couple of bubbles.


Read more episodes of Nine Shillings, or read Lot’s first adventure, Victorian Mistress, here.

Nine Shillings and Victorian Mistress are also available on Wattpad.

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Published by Jesse

I'm a writer and academic specialising in fantasy fiction and creative writing theory. I'm allergic to pretentiously talking about fiction and aim to be unashamedly ‘commercial’. Surely all fiction is commercial anyway, or what’s the point in publishing it?

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