Deep Red, Chapter Thirty-One

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The Kiss

November 30, 1978: I have met my true destiny. Two, in fact. Derek’s wife, Cynthia, brought me into a new world. The world Derek has been preparing me for. I wonder if he knew what would happen. I’ve been at Haven six months now. Victoria thinks I’m in love with Kenneth, and that it keeps me here. What nonsense. That she would believe it is even more amazing, but I look back at the Cayce past, and–indeed–Dorothy was the last independent Cayce woman. I also look at the world and see what women are leaning toward. Feminism is damned. The American war overseas has abated, the only women benefitting from the illusion of female power are white, middle-class women, yet those same women are forming families. They fall in love with one person and they live out their lives in the same way my mother and grandmother did. It’s pathetic. Yet I will let Victoria and Kenneth both believe I’m their milksop. Cynthia is from a long-established family, but she is the child of die-hard Beth’s Kids. Their line has been hiding in the Counsel ranks for years. I was amazed when I found out my ancestor is still alive and that she is the beating heart of a continuing rebellion against The Counsel and Victoria. Beth’s Kids, as Cynthia explained, are everywhere and they are invisible. The Counsel is able to watch most of the Otherworlders now, either through kindred magic or blood magic. The only way I discovered the secret was by giving Cynthia my blood, which allowed  her to enter my mind. She also gave me a letter from Beth. From its contents, I know Beth wished Dorothy could have read it or Maggie, but I am the first. Derek says I’m ready. He doesn’t seem to mind that Cynthia and I have begun a sexual relationship, and he’s sending us to Montana–together–next month. When I return, I will marry Kenneth and pretend to follow the old ways. First, Derek says, I must be prepared for battle. Montana is the only place safe from the Counsel. There is a magical dampener at the main camp there, one planted by Derek’s blood magic. It won’t take me off the Counsel’s radar, but it will make my intentions and vital functions read as innocuous while we’re gone. Derek warned me not to see this as a romantic getaway. When Cynthia and I return, she and I must both be wives and Counsel loyalists. We are also to become mothers….

excerpt from The Diary of Bobbi Cayce, 1978. Untranslated.

 

Floating box

Chapter Thirty-One

Improving Nature

The full moon came and went without much fanfare, most likely because Marlo was unconscious for three full days. She felt the pain of the initial change and the exhaustion of the return, so she knew something happened between the first and last day, but no one said a word. Jack entered and exited the cabin room with her, all limbs and mind in tact, and as soon as Marlo went back into the main house, she was instructed to resume her training. Instead, she headed toward the temple, with Drew in tow.

Drew stayed outside, as had been his custom since her first visit. This time, however, she did not enter the temple with reverence or with any idea of being remotely quiet.

“What the fuck?” she yelled at Q the second the temple door closed behind her.

Q sat at the front in his usual position and he looked up after what seemed like a count-to-ten-breath.

“How can I help you?” he asked.

“Evidently, I’ve lost visitation rights to my inner child, as well as custody.”

“I don’t follow,” Q said.

“That is one thing I am completely unlikely to believe,” Marlo said.

“Fine. What would you like for me to do about any of this?”

“You said you would help.”

“But then the governance of your…inner child…went to others.”

“Then give me something else,” she said.

“Like what?”

Marlo could only think of one thing she wanted, and Rayne did say she needed to be on par with the primordials when it came time to fight. “Teach me elementals,” she said.

“And what purpose would that serve?”

“It would allow me at least four more powers in a fight,” she said.

“Most of which you already have, through your spirit.”

“Most,” she said. “Not all. And, given what’s has been taken away from me…” Marlo sucked her breath in through her teeth. “I deserve recompense.”

“Glad that paralegal training paid off for Garrett,” Q said. “However, you deserve nothing. I give you what I am told I can give you.”

“Make her stronger is a pretty fuzzy order. Do you really think it wasn’t coming to this?” After all, They had manipulated every aspect of the situation. The wall wasn’t a negative, punishable move. It was precisely the move they thought she would take, and they used it to their advantage. What’s more, they made Katrina’s involvement a tool to show Maro precisely how little power she had, and how they could get to anyone close to her. Both genius and sick. Very Victoria.

“I know it was.”

“Then why are you fighting me?” she asked.

“You need to be sure. Elementals are dangerous, and we do not teach them to kindred.”

“Lucky for you, I’m not kindred.”

“There’se more,” he said. “You need to be aware of what you will have to give up.”

“Sacrifice to gain,” she said.

“And something you ought to consider. If I teach you this, it will help you, but you will have to learn to live beyond immediate perception, beyond dimensional perception. Spherical focus disallows singular focus after a while.”

“How long is a while?” she asked.

“Hard to tell. Likely, once you’ve learned the last element, fire, your mind will be full of chatter, which can also make it difficult for you to call on the necessary spirits to help you, including your own.”

“How can I stop that from happening?” Marlo asked. “How did you?”

“I practice singular focus. I had to reteach myself. It can take hundreds of years, and some never recover. Many primordials have lost their lives because they cannot control their minds.”

Marlo looked down. She might lose her art, is what he was saying. Her sanctuary and tether. Nothing mattered as much to her as her hours spent sketching, painting, focusing. Forgetting. She would never lose her spirit, and it was so good at communing with human souls. It would have no trouble brokering deals with the spirits of nature. And yet.

“I’ll do what it takes to retain my passions,” she said. “I want this.”

“As you wish.” Q said. We can begin right now, if you like.”

“The sooner the better,” Marlo said.” Marlo bit her lip to keep in her angry tears. “If I can’t control the wolf or, jeezus, what they might do with something that powerful, I need allies they can’t control.”

“What about breaking down the wall?” he asked.

“You think I haven’t tried? Every time I move to get at the other side, to talk to the little me, the wall gets stronger. I’m afraid if I push much more, I may never be able to get her back.”

“Well, they gave up a useful tool. I warned them against keeping your spirits separate. This might work against their plans. And I have something I’ve been saving for you.” Q went to the seemingly empty corner of the room and pulled out a hypodermic needle. It was filled with what looked like the same substance she had injected every morning for twelve years.

“It’s something similar,” Q said.

“What is it?” she asked.

“I can’t tell you. You’ll have to trust me.”

Strangely, Marlo did trust him. He wasn’t one of Them; he was one of her, and possibly the only friend she might be permitted for the foreseeable future. The sanctuary was not warded, but Q’s world had little oversight. Marlo pulled back her sleeve and held out her arm. Q smiled and pushed the needle into her largest vein.

“This one shot should last you two years, at least. When we get beyond that time, we can talk.”

Marlo pulled down her sleeve and nodded absently. Years, again. What could they do with her wolf in years? What could they make her do? She didn’t want to think about that.

“Where do we start?” she asked.

“With the safest element. Earth.”

“What will earth do?” she asked.

“You have the power of telekinesis?” he asked. “Materialization, transmutation, levitation?” Marlo nodded to all. “Those powers rely on your spirit for success.” Marlo nodded again. “In your case, your spirit will be employed elsewhere while you engage in those skills–and others. There is also the chance your spirit might be encumbered at some point. But, first, you must make amends with the spirits of Earth. You must learn to call on them without provoking or invoking the negative spirits.” Marlo nodded again. “You must call on them,” Q said. “Your spirit cannot be responsible for your connections to Nature.”

Marlo frowned. “How will I talk to them?” she asked.

“I’ll show you,” Q said. “All you must do first is promise to do no harm.”

“I promise that I will only harm in self-defense,” she said. “It’s the best I can do.”

“You trust me,” Q said. “I trust you. Let’s begin.”

After three weeks of practicing the use of earth powers, among her many other training exercises, Marlo wondered how any of the elements could be more difficult to master. The spirits of Nature were stubborn and unreliable, and without her spirit to talk to them, her invocation of the Earth spirits took a greater part of that three weeks. Alexis’s defeat of Marlo before the full moon seemed to have acted as a demonstration of how she would have to sacrifice her false pride for a more substantial earning.

“Again.” was the relentless call of all her trainers, and Marlo could not wait until she returned to her room for more of the uncut versions of Otherworld and Otherworlder history. For instance, what Victoria had made seem like an extreme sacrifice on her part–all those stories she told about brokering the tenuous peace so long ago–turned out to be a lie. Victoria had allowed her daughter be taken and burned as some sort of tactic.

The story brought up new questions, however. How many people had burned? There were not mentions in the histories of any other sacrifices. Yet, in that unguarded moment weeks ago, Jack had mentioned a loss. He talked about the smell of flesh burning. Was it possible that Dorothy was Jack’s daughter? What did that mean about Garrett?

She promised herself to pay more attention to Jack in the future.

Chapter Thirty-Two→