Right before midnight there was a hell of a storm here in The Burg, and one bit of lightning went off that must have been right above the apartment, because the flash and bang were almost simultaneous. Great way to see the first half of the summer out, right? Doesn’t make for good time trying to get to sleep, however.
So the last two days I’ve skirted with the thousand word limit. The day before last I had nine hundred ninety-eight; last night it was nine hundred eighteen. Close, but not quiet there. However, those thousands add up after a while, and with three more scenes left in Chapter Nine, I have a good shot of ending Act One right at eighty thousand words, especially since I crossed seventy-five thousand, four hundred words last night.
This also means that, sticking with my two weeks per ten thousand schedule, I’ll finish Act One in the upcoming week–right before I have to leave The Burg and head back to Indiana for some personal business. I could even start Act Two while on the road.
But what about the end of Act One? Where is Kerry?
Ginger Hair Boy got snapped at by Chestnut Girl, and neither are pleased that it happened. But that’s the breaks when you’re training hard, and all the training, and learning, are in your hands. Best then to take a time out . . .
(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)
“Yeah, you did.” Kerry chuckled. “Because it’s true.” He reached across his body to pat her hand. “Can we take a break?”
She tugged on his arm. “Let’s go sit in the viewing gallery.”
There were a dozen chairs in the viewing gallery, each big enough for a single person. Kerry chose one against the wall opposite the entrance. He held tight to Annie’s hand. “Sit with me.”
She eyed Kerry, then the chair. “There isn’t enough room for us both.”
“Sure there is—” He sat and patted his thighs. “Join me.”
Annie held her hands tight against her belly. “You want me to sit on your lap?”
“Sure.” He glanced up through the top of his glasses. “It’s not like you weigh a lot.”
She slid into his lap, chuckling as she wrapped an arm around his neck. “This all right?”
“As long as you’re comfortable, my love.” Annie rested against his shoulder. “What’s bothering you?”
“I don’t know.” He slowly slipped his arm around Annie and held her close. “I just don’t get why it’s so hard—I know I’m seeing it correctly in my head.” He sighed. “How did you figure out the right visualization for blood coming out of the body?”
“Well . . .” She leaned in close and whispered. “I have some experience with blood coming out of the body.” She kissed the side of his head. “Like now.”
Kerry’s eyes rolled up for a second before turning just enough to see Annie’s face. “Oh, yeah: I forgot.” He snuggled his head against hers. “I did check this morning, Sweetie—”
“I know you did; you always do.” A soft sigh slipped out from between pressed lips. “You always make me feel good.”
“Except I got you upset.” Kerry began to smile as he felt his frustration slowly drain away. “I didn’t want to do that; I don’t like doing that.”
Once upon a time Kerry mentioned to Nurse Coraline during “The Talk” that he was aware of Annie’s cycle–and isn’t it a good thing he didn’t mention that to his mother? I’d also mentioned that, knowing Kerry, he probably went and set it up on a calendar somewhere, so he’d know when Annie Dim Red Tides were upon high. But noticed: he didn’t blame her snapping at him on that; he says he knows he made her upset, and he’s chilling on anything else.
But there’s something else afoot here . . .
Annie shifted her body so she didn’t cause Kerry too much discomfort. “You didn’t, love: not really. I was—” She set back several centimeter so she could better see his face. “It was as if I could feel your frustration. And as you grew more frustrated—”
“—It affected you.” He chuckled. “I could feel it coming off you.”
Annie didn’t want to discuss what she felt from Kerry, or what he felt from her: she wanted to discuss the reason why they were here, and what she thought might be the source of Kerry’s frustration. “May I make an observation?”
He chuckled. “You can make as many as you like.”
She sat up, no longer leaning against her soul mate. “Whenever you’ve had this—problem—in the past, it’s not because you don’t know how to craft the spell: it’s because you’re over-thinking the spell.”
Kerry pushed himself back deeper into the chair, his expression changing as he eyed Annie. “Like the first time you spoke with me in Spell Class a year ago.”
“Yes—” She nodded slowly. “Just like that time.”
“Yes.” He leaned back and stared at the ceiling for several seconds as he remembered the time a couple of weeks after the start of Beginning Spells, when Annie took him aside and explained the difference between being a technical and a natural witch. How being a natural witch meant not seeing magic as a series of steps one needed to craft in order to perform a spell, but more of a feeling that magic should just happen a certain way . . .
Kerry slowly pressed the palm of his right hand into his forever. “Ohhhh . . .” He closed his eyes and exhaled. “I’ve been so stupid.”
You are stupid, Kerry–stuuuupiiiidddd! Yep, with a little help he thinks he’s got it. And what is “it”? Pretty much what you think it is–
She slipped off his lap and stood. “Let us go then—” She helped Kerry to his feet. “My love.”
They reentered the test area and Kerry proceeded directly towards the table with the practice torsos. He examined the torso on the right as if he were looking for flaws and imperfections. “I think I got this.”
“Do you?” Annie stood slightly behind him and to his left. “Do you really believe you know this?”
He glanced over his shoulder. “Yes—” He turned and stared at the torso for about fifteen seconds before slowly drawing back his left arm, keeping his hand close to his side. He held it there for a few seconds, then pushed it forward, twisting his hand around palm-upward once his arm was fully extended.
The moment Kerry’s arm became fully extended, blood began running from the torso’s nose, then started to pour from its ears and eyes as the chest and arms turned red with blood oozing from the pores. The pulsing heart began slowing as the light grew lighter. Ten seconds after the Exsanguination spell hit the torso, the light faded away as the heart ceased beating.
He turned to Annie, a huge smile stretched from cheek-to-cheek. “I do.”
She returned his smile as she began bouncing on the balls of her feet. “What changed?”
“Over-thinking.” He turned back towards the torso. “Way too much.”
Annie stepped next to him and took his hand. “How so?”
“By doing what I did back at the start of spells class, Sweetie. Here I’ve been thinking about Exsanguination the same way oxygen moves from the cells through the walls and into the tissue . . . I was trying to work the spell the scientific way, and it was all wrong.” He gave her hand a squeeze before throwing his arm around Annie’s shoulders. “This time I just thought about blood pushing through everything and pouring out into and through the body—” He shot an excited glance Annie’s way. “You put enough blood into the body, and even if it doesn’t ooze out of every pore, it’s gonna come out somewhere eventually. Right?”
One might say there’s no science in magic, and for the most part they’re right. And even as good as Kerry can be at times, he still slips back into old habits–which is what happened here. He’s trying to come up with some strange ideas of how the blood permeates the arterial membranes, when what he needed to see is blood being drawn out of someone’s body. He figured it out, and he wants to move on–
“Yes, it will.” Annie turned and gave him a hug. “I knew there was something like that holding you back.” She leaned back, her face beaming. “It’ll take about ten minutes for the torso to soak up the blood, so you can use the other one—”
He shook his head. “No.” He looked over Annie’s shouldn’t. “I want to try the homunculus.”
Annie backed away slowly, her eyes fixed on Kerry while she teased him with her words. “You do the spell right one time—”
“And I know I can do it again.”
She straightened her back and shot a stern look his way. “Farm Boy, I had better see his homunculus dead.”
He did a quick half-bow. “As you wish.”
Sure thing, Princess Buttercup: you get that blue cabinet open . . .
Annie skipped over and planted a quick kiss on his cheek before turning towards the cabinets. “Let me unlock the door—”
“Not the blue.” His eyes shifted to his right. “The red.”
A moment of uncertainty passed over Annie’s face. “You really want a Tracker?”
“Why not? It’ll give me an incentive to get the spell right.” He rolled his shoulders, getting loose. “I mean, the worse that can happen is it’ll touch me and the enchantment will knock me out, right?”
“Right as rain.” She unlocked two of the red cabinet doors and began walking back towards Kerry. “I’ll get hidden so it doesn’t track me, then open the door.” Annie glanced to her right and examined Kerry’s mood. He’s not the least bit nervous—just like when we were in Kansas City. “Are you ready?”
He sighed out his eagerness. “Yes.”
Annie vanished from sight; five seconds later one of the unlocked doors opened and the homunculus stepped out.
Kerry was well aware of how these things worked. An enchantment keep the homunculus from noticing anything until they were about two meters from their cabinet, at which point they locked onto anything breathing. They’d continue following people around until they were either put down, or they came into contact with a person—at which point an enchantment carried by the homunculus rendered them unconscious, often with a variety of special effects.
As had happened many times during A Level Self Defense class, the homunculus detected Kerry after taking a few stepped away from the cabinet. The teenage-sized humanoid, attired in a light-blue paper coverall, headed towards him in a slow walk. He wasn’t fooled by their slow, steady movement: thought he was only four meters away, if he didn’t move the homunculus would be upon him in about ten seconds.
Having a Tracker coming his way put him under pressure to act—and to make everything work right.
He took a single step backwards as he visualized the effect the spell would have. He drew on the dark energy needed to power the spell. His crafting nearly complete, all that remained was to exert his will upon his crafting, and . . .
Kerry kept his hand close to his side this time, pressing his palm in the direction of the homunculus. Blood began flowing from the ears and nose, but it didn’t gush as it had with the practice torso. Now three meters away, the homunculus staggered slightly, but the lose of blood was only enough to slow the creature in its forward advance.
He took another step backwards and quickly re-crafted. He wasn’t rattled: his mind was clear and worked through his VEW steps rapidly. He drew in a breath, held it as he prepared himself, and pointed at the homunculus as if he were ordering it to sit.
Blood squirted from the nose, ears, and eyes. Red spots began appearing across the coverall as blood flowed from the pores, and small streams of blood flowed down the legs and dripped over the ankles. The homunculus took three staggering steps and slipped to the right, crashing to the floor. It twitched twice then lay still, leaving Kerry to stand over the homunculus and stare down at it in much in the same way he’d once done to a student during A Level Sorcery class.
Standing over a student in Sorcery Class? Maybe one who is writhing in pain on the floor? Yeah, that’s the Dark Kerry we’ve seen before, and he’s finally back. He’s not only got this, but he knows something else:
Annie appeared at his left, having dropped her light bending spell. She hooked her right arm around his left. “I would say that was a successful use of Exsanguination.”
Kerry humphed. “It wasn’t perfect.”
“No, it wasn’t. Took you about twenty, twenty-five seconds to drop the target.”
“Yeah.” As much as he wanted to celebrate his accomplishment, he knew what was necessary. “I want to do it again.”
“I thought you might.” She turned him until he was facing her, then kissed him on the lips. “You’re becoming like me.”
“I’ll never be as good as you.” He kissed her back. “But I do want to get it right; I don’t want a repeat of the Link Bridge.”
Annie nodded. “Neither do I.” She pulled him closer. “Like it or not you are like me.”
“And I know what you would do—”
“Do you?” She nodded and released his arm, then hung both arms around his shoulders. Where the other kisses were quick and playful, this time she kissed him slowly and with enormous passion. My dark witch has learned his lesson—
She broke the kiss but kept her eyes close as she breathed in his exhilaration. “Were you thinking of something like that?”
Kerry kissed her on the nose before glancing towards the red cabinet. “That was great, but . . . you need to set up another Tracker for me.”
Annie lightly pushed away from Kerry and performed her own little bow. “As you wish.”
Nothing like using a metaphor for “I love you” while learning spells designed to kill people, right? One could say they are entirely too happy about this success, and a few people would be right: they are happy. There could be a myriad of reasons why, but sealing off the Firing Line for these two to wreck havoc was probably done not so much to keep them from being distracted, but to keep other students from seeing that they might just be having a little too much fun. There’s also the kissing parts, too–at least this time they’re not covered in blood. (I would still love for someone to draw that picture of them embracing after the zombie fight.)
So here we are:
Closer to the end, for sure.
And I’m really shooting for finishing this act up next week.
But first: minion duty. Maybe.