by: April Kay


I'd almost expected Lysandra to be disappointed after hearing about my dream — and how totally pointless it seemed — but instead, she adopted both Quinlan and Bedelia's concern. That wasn't a very good sign.

"And you say your ears were ringing?" she asked. I nodded. I still hadn't mentioned the screaming. "How did you feel when you awoke? Were you nauseous or feeling faint?"

I tried to remember. I'd definitely been embarrassed at getting caught sleeping in class, and my face had been burning in humiliation. In fact, my whole body had burned in humiliation — my arms, my hands, my fingers. Even my toes had felt warm, now that I was thinking about it. And that wasn't normal, right? I'd blushed in embarrassment before — it'd never felt like that.

"I felt hot. I don't know if it was, like, because I saw the fire or not, but I felt hot and tingly," I told her.

She didn't say anything for a long moment, and when she did, she spoke slowly, as if choosing her words carefully. "I don't think you're in any immediate danger. But I do think that this is something we need to keep an eye on."

I released the breath that I hadn't realized I'd been holding. I'd been a lot more worried than I'd thought. I just didn't want to think about something happening, not after I was finally starting to get into the habit of balancing my life out. It'd only been a few weeks — couldn't I get a little longer to relax?

I knew that my life would never return to normal, but couldn't I pretend?

"Do you think it means anything?" I asked.

"To be quite honest, I'm not sure. But I definitely think we should be prepared just in case it's more than it what it seems. I'm not saying it is, but I worry that it could be something that Darrow is doing."

My stomach clenched.

"How so?" Bedelia asked.

"We all thought that the bond between he and Shyla was severed on the night that he disappeared, right?" Lysandra said. "But maybe that isn't the case. Maybe the link just got tenuous — something he just didn't have the fortitude and energy to maintain any longer."

I got a silly mental image of a generator that couldn't start, which in turn would cause the lights connected to it not to be able to turn on. In this case, Darrow was the generator, and the lights were the telepathic link between us.

"And maybe now that he's beginning to recover his strength, he wishes to reestablish that link," Lysandra finished.

The lights were starting to flicker as the generator tried to start back up.

I sighed. "Well, that's a little disconcerting."

I almost jumped when one of Quinlan's large hands settled against the small of my back. His touch was a strong, welcome pressure. It grounded me and made me feel just a little bit safer. I leaned into him, grateful for his presence.

"I may have a solution," Lysandra said.

"Thank Cairn," Bedelia murmured under her breath.

"Like I said, I may," Lysandra said. Looking back at me, she said, "I would like to teach you how to put up walls in your mind. Train you to block others out — so that if Darrow is trying to get back into your head, this should keep him out. Maybe not for good, but it's a start."

"Do you really think I'm capable of something like that?" I asked. Quinlan seemed to press harder against my back, as though to assure me that he certainly thought I was capable. Despite my earlier annoyance with him, I did appreciate the sentiment.

"I think people, even innocents, are capable of anything that they put their minds to," Lysandra said.

I raised my eyebrows skeptically. "I mean… that's a nice ideal and all, but just because some random human puts their mind to magic doesn't mean they can actually do magic, right? I could do all I wanted to act like a gargoyle, but it won't suddenly turn me into one. No matter how much I put my mind to it."

"Well of course there are limitations," she said patiently. "But what I'd like to train you in doesn't inherently involve magic, see? It's more about your mental strength and will. Of course, it would help if you had magic, but for this, at least, magic isn't entirely necessary."

"And you think this has a chance of working?"

"I really do. It won't be easy at first, but it shouldn't take too long for you to master it. Can we schedule a time to do it?"

"Why not now?"

"I can show you a few tricks today, but I'm pressed for time. I meant for your future lessons."

"Lessons? How long will this take?" I asked.

"Maybe a week. Don't you think it will be worth it?"

And well, she had me there, didn't she? Of course it would be worth it. I nodded.

"Around what time do you usually arrive at the cathedral?" she asked next.

I almost answered right away to say that I was there as soon as school let out, but then I remembered that with Natalie being back in town, I needed to make time for her too. I shrugged. "I don't know, I'm usually here around four in the evening, give or take."

"Then starting tomorrow around four, I'll either come myself, or I'll send Tandy, and by next Friday, you'll know everything you need to know," Lysandra said. "It should only take about twenty minutes each night, but if you need to reschedule on any day, don't be afraid to let me know."

I nodded again. Truthfully, it excited me a little to hear that I might get a chance to see Tandy for this. Her demeanor was a lot more chill and much gentler than Lysandra's — if anyone was to be teaching me anything, she definitely seemed like the best person for the job. And I just liked her.

"Does that sound like a plan?" Lysandra asked, her eyebrows raised slightly in question. She looked at both Bedelia and Quinlan as well, as though seeking confirmation.

I nodded. Behind me, I sensed Quinlan doing the same. The air that radiated off of him was relieved and contented — this was probably exactly what he'd wanted. And really, who could blame him? He was eighteen; someone older and more experienced taking over was the best possible outcome, wasn't it?

"It does. It sounds like a good plan, at that," Bedelia said. "You know you have free reign of this cathedral, regent. Whatever I can do to help you and Tandy with these lessons, I'm at your command."

Lysandra smiled, bowing her head at the queen in gratitude.

I couldn't deny, things had become a lot less strained here, at least. Maybe Faye and I still had a long way to go, but at least Lysandra had relaxed. And I found myself actually enjoying getting to see her. Was it going to snow soon? I never could have imagined such a thought crossing my mind.