Eighteen
Lesson Four

Melinda let Amber sleep. She knew her apprentice had been up until two working on those hexes and she deserved some rest. She would learn much faster if she wasn't utterly exhausted and she had a lot to learn. There was a whole new lesson, potions, the beginnings of curses, and even shooting. Melinda had to teach her to shoot from the bow and she wasn't sure how much time she had to do so. She knew something bad was going to happen and soon. What she didn't know was what or how soon. Amber needed to learn. She was trusting their entire future in the hands of a thirteen and a half year old human… It was a lot of responsibility and it took a lot of faith, but the witch didn't have a choice. Amber could do this, simply because she had to.

She sat in a chair out on her balcony, staring out into the trees. Jackson needed to go hunting, soon. He was full of pent up energy, like a shaken soda, ready to explode. At the very least, he needed to go for a run.

Cayden needed to get out, too. She had heard about his flight with Amber, but hadn't mentioned it. It had been stupid, risky, and so dangerous, but they had both needed the escape. She didn't blame either of them.

Mason wanted to wander as well; she could tell. Sleeping in the barn wouldn't satisfy him for very long. None of them were happy cooped up in the house all the time. She had to let them all meander and just hope that they would come back. It was the right thing to do, but it pained her.

The door to her balcony opened and someone knocked on the door frame. She didn't turn around, but she smiled as she said, "Come on in, Jackson."

He was the only person to ever come up here and knock, after invading her private bedroom in the first place. He sat down in the patio chair beside her. "Penny for your thoughts?"

Her smile stayed in place as she thought about how well he knew her. He always knew just the right question to ask.

"That is such an old phrase. From before The Massacre, actually. Interesting, the things that will survive over time, isn't it? Fascinating, in my own opinion."

"So it is. Now, what's on your mind?"

She didn't particularly feel like answering that, so she changed the subject. "What brings you up here?"

He frowned, clearly noticing her question dodging. "Cayden doesn't trust Mason, which you know. And I don't trust Amber, which you also know. But he felt like I needed to talk to you about it."

"I assume you mean Cayden wanted you to tell me and not Mason," she joked.

A small smile formed on his lips and she was glad she could cheer him up at least a small amount. "Yes. That's exactly what I meant."

"Amber is a good soul. The spell book chose to let me teach her. She is here for a reason, Jacky, and I wish you would simply trust my judgment."

"I have a hard time doing that when I know that you trusted me from the very beginning. I showed up at your front door, bleeding out because someone from my old pack had found me and had tried to do their duty. I was marked for death, but you took me in. You didn't ask questions. You just knew I needed help so you gave it to me. You care too much, Melinda, and it might be your downfall."

She smiled at him this time, recalling that day. She had been in the kitchen, cooking stew when she had seen him out the window above the sink. He had stumbled, horribly injured, to her door where she had met him. His left leg was nearly shredded. His stomach had clear and obvious bite marks in it. His clothes were blood soaked. He had been in worse condition than Mason. She had looked into those yellow eyes of his (instantly knowing he was a werewolf) and all she had seen was pain and fear. There was no malice in them. He was hurt and he was scared and that was really all that she needed to know. She had done her best to help him recover and now there they sat, nearly two hundred and twenty four years later. Obviously, it had been a good call.

"You know, part of that decision was made based on the fact that this house can only be found by someone who needs it or by someone who already knows where it is. You needed a sanctuary and you found one. I had no right to deny it to you. This house doesn't truly belong to me, I merely live here. Tori will never belong to anyone, really."

"But you brought the girl here. That takes away part of that reasoning," he countered. He would have made a good point, except that she already had an argument for that.

"In a way, yes. In another, no. She needed a sanctuary, too. If she would have had the opportunity, she would have found us. But she never would have gotten that chance. She would have died had I not done something. She needed my help so she received it. In return, she is basically going to have to become the next me."

"There is no such thing as a next 'you', Linda. You can't be replaced; the world just doesn't work like that."

"True. She will never be me, but she can learn what I know and do what I do and she can come as close as possible. She will always be herself, but she can carry on what I have worked for. Neutrality was important, but the purpose of it was the haven we have all found here. She needs to protect and keep 'taking in strays' as you once told me that I tend to do."

He snorted, an actual, totally unflattering snort, at her use of his phrase. "Well, it's true. You took in a werewolf, which are known for being violent and short tempered. You took in a fairy, which are known for being spacey and consequently harmful. Dragons are known for being dangerous and uncontrollable. Warlocks are known for becoming corrupt and for turning wicked. Humans are known for…well, nothing good, really. You choose to take in the people that no one else dare would, the strays of Pandora. It's probably not a good thing."

She shrugged. "It is what I was meant to do. You will have to just live with my decisions."

"Literally," he muttered. She chuckled.

"Indeed. Why don't you go for a run, my friend? I think you need one."

He raised an eyebrow at her. "You sure?"

She nodded. "As sure as I possibly can be. Cayden and Mason ought to go out to." Her eyes glanced at the sun's position in the sky. "And it's about time that I woke my apprentice and started teaching her the next lesson."

"Alright. I'll see you later, Lindy."

He vanished so quickly, he very well could have been a vampire. She woke Amber up and organized the messy potions lab as her apprentice ate 'breakfast'. Once Amber was done, she began lesson four, bringing the young human into the first floor potions lab for the first time.

Even after her organization attempt, it was still chaotic, nearly as bad as her bedroom. The walls contained nothing but floor to ceiling shelves, all filled to the brim. There was no system for locating things, but the bottles, buckets, and vials were all labeled, at least. The center of the room contained a very long island, like one found in a kitchen. The top was stainless steel and at the end furthest from the door, there was a sink. The top was mostly cleared off, a few tools and empty jars sat near the sink but that was it.

"Lesson four is short," she began. "Don't interfere with fate. It's that simple. If you know someone is meant to die, don't try to save them. If you know something is supposed to happen, don't try to change it. As a witch, you'll have some slight premonitions. As a general rule, it's best to ignore them. You usually can't do anything about them. It's unfortunate, but it's a fact of magic. You just have to learn to live with it."

Amber nodded and Melinda felt like this was one of the easiest lessons to learn and to follow. Her apprentice could manage this one. There shouldn't be any problems.

"Good. Now, how are those hexes working out for you?"

"Could probably be better, could definitely be worse," Amber answered honestly. That was something Melinda really like about the girl. She was quite honest. It was refreshing to see that in…well, anyone, not just a human.

"You probably are not ready, but I have to start you on level one curses. If I could wait, I would. It would be at least a year before you learned these under normal circumstances. I am sorry that things are not going ideally, but we shall have to make do." She did genuinely feel bad that she couldn't give Amber proper training. If she had the opportunity at a later time, she would do her best to make up for it. For now though, this would have to be good enough. "Curses are specifically meant to cause harm. There is nothing good, kind, or friendly about them. If you are casting a curse, you want to hurt someone and you want to hurt them as much as you possibly can. Curses tend to be deadly, but some are meant for torture. They are truly terrible things and I honestly wish that you did not need to learn them, but you must, especially now. They can be cast on objects or directly onto people. You could use one to set a trap, but the problem with that is that they do not last very long. You would have to recast the curse about every twenty four hours until someone set the trap off. Curses have endless possibilities, terrifying ones. They are limited only by your imagination. If you can think and you know how to ask for it, you can make it happen. It's that simple."

Melinda dug through the shelves, searching for something. She wished she would put a system in place in here, but she knew she never would. Even if she did, she wouldn't stick to it. Organization was not really her thing. She suddenly found what she was looking for. A jar of live crickets. She poured a couple out onto the table.

"Paralyze them. The same way you've done the level one spells and hexes."

She watched her apprentice stare at the insects. It was easy to tell when Amber was thinking. Melinda could practically see the gears turning in her head. She was a fast learner for all of this magic. Her spell casting wasn't bad either, she just needed to learn to do it even faster.

"Stay still, in place,
One single space.
Don't move, don't leave,
Just simply freeze.

Bound by ropes,
That are not there.
Stuck in place,
Stopped by thin air."

It was good, impressive even. She just needed to do that faster. It was definitely a good spell, the crickets had stopped in place. "Put it in your spell book. I suggest you hang onto that one."

Amber nodded obediently and scribbled it down.

"Good. Now, kill them. I don't care how you go about doing it, just so long as you use a curse."

Again, Melinda could practically see her thinking.

"I desire,
To set you afire.
An intense heat,
You shall meet.
A burning flame,
Will give you pain.
With the heat,
Death will greet.
You will die,
By this fire."

The last stanza was a slant rhyme, the witch caught that. It still did the trick. The crickets burned.

"Good. Study the ones from my book. Memorize a few." She sighed, suddenly really tired as she remembered she still needed to teach Amber potions. They ought to work on the next level of spells, too. Plus, there was the whole shooting thing that she still needed to teach. Today was going to be a very long day…


A/N: It feels like it has been forever since I updated this story but according to the site, it was just last Saturday! :0 Anyways, I hope you enjoyed the chapter and the Melinda/Jackson moment.