Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia

  At the bottom of the stairs was a doorway framed in two-by-fours. No door, just a string hanging on the other side of the doorframe. I yanked the string as I had a thousand times before, and there was Amma’s prized collection. Every house around here had a pantry, and this was one of the finest pantries in three counties. Amma’s mason jars held everything from pickled watermelon rinds and the skinniest green beans to the roundest onions and the most perfectly green tomatoes. Not to mention the pie fillings and preserves—peach, plum, rhubarb, apple, cherry. The rows stretched back so far your teeth started to ache just from looking at them.

  I ran my hand along the top shelf, where Amma kept all her prizewinners, the secret recipes and jars she saved for company. Everything in here was rationed, as if we were in the army and these jars were filled with penicillin or ammunition—or maybe land mines, because that’s how carefully you had to hold them.

  “It’s quite a sight.” Liv was standing in the doorway behind me.

  “I’m surprised Amma let you down here. This is her secret stash.”

  She picked up a jar, holding it in front of her. “It’s so shiny.”

  “You want your jelly to sparkle and your fruit not to float. You want your pickles cut to the same size, your carrots nice and round, your pack even.”

  “My what?”

  “How it goes in the jar, see?”

  “Of course.” Liv smiled. “How would Amma feel if she knew you were sharing the secrets of her kitchen?”

  If anyone knew them, it was me. I’d been by Amma’s side in the kitchen longer than I could remember, burning my hands on everything I wasn’t supposed to touch, sneaking rocks and twigs and all kinds of things into unsuspecting pans of preserves. “You want the liquid to cover the top of whatever’s inside.”

  “Are bubbles good or bad?”

  I laughed. “You’ll never see a bubble in one of Amma’s jars.”

  She pointed to the bottom shelf. There was a jar so full of bubbles you’d think the bubbles themselves were what Amma was trying to bottle, instead of the cherries. I knelt down in front of the shelf and pulled it out. It was an old mason jar covered in cobwebs. I had never noticed it before.

  “That can’t be Amma’s.” I rotated the jar in my hand. FROM THE KITCHEN OF PRUDENCE STATHAM. I shook my head. “It’s my Aunt Prue’s. She must have been crazier than I thought.” Nobody ever gave Amma anything that came out of another kitchen. Not if they knew what was good for them.

  As I slid the jar back in place, I noticed a dirty loop of rope hanging back in the shadow of the bottom shelf.

  “Hold on. What’s that?” I pulled on the rope, and the shelves made a groaning sound, like they were about to fall over. I felt around with my hand until I found the place where the rope met the wall. I pulled again, and the wood began to give way. “There’s something back here.”

  “Ethan, be careful.”

  The shelves swung forward slowly, revealing a second space. Behind the pantry was a secret room, with crude brick walls and a dirt floor. The room stretched back into a dark tunnel. I stepped inside.

  “Is that one of the Tunnels?” Liv looked into the darkness behind me.

  “I think this is a Mortal tunnel.” I glanced at Liv from the shadows of the tunnel. She looked safe and small inside the pantry, surrounded by Amma’s old rainbows caught in a jar.

  I realized where I was standing. “I’ve seen pictures of hidden rooms and tunnels like these. Runaway slaves used them to leave houses at night without being seen.”

  “Are you saying—?”

  I nodded. “Ethan Carter Wate, or someone in his family, was part of the Underground Railroad.”


  Temporis Porta

  Who is Ethan Carter Wate again, exactly?” Liv asked.

  “My great-great-great-great-uncle. He fought in the Civil War, then deserted because he didn’t believe it was right.”

  “I remember now. Dr. Ashcroft told me the story of Ethan and Genevieve and the locket.”

  For a moment, I felt guilty that Liv was here instead of Lena. Ethan and Genevieve were more than a story to me and Lena. She would’ve felt the weight of this moment.

  Liv ran her hand along the wall. “And you think this could be part of the Underground Railroad?”

  “You’d be surprised how many old houses in the South have a room like this.”

  “If that’s true, then where does this tunnel go?” Now she was right next to me. I took an old lantern down from a nail that had been hammered between the crumbling bricks of the wall. I turned the key, and the lantern filled with light.

  “How can there still be oil in there? This thing has to be a hundred and fifty years old.”

  A rickety wooden bench lined one of the walls. The remains of what looked like an army-issue canteen, some kind of canvas sack, and a wool blanket were stacked neatly beneath it. They were all coated with a thick layer of dust.

  “Come on. Let’s see where it leads.” I held the lantern out in front of me. All I could see was the twisting tunnel and an occasional patch of brick built into the dirt.

  “Waywards. You think you can go wherever you want.” She reached up with one hand and touched the ceiling over our heads. Brown dirt rained down, and she ducked, coughing.

  “Are you scared?” I nudged her with my shoulder.

  Liv leaned back and yanked on the twisted loop of rope. The false door behind us closed with a sharp bang, and it was dark. “Are you?”

  The tunnel dead-ended. I wouldn’t have seen the trapdoor over our heads if Liv hadn’t noticed a slice of light above us. The door hadn’t been opened in a long time, because when we pushed our way up, whole shovelfuls of dirt caved into the tunnel—and all over us.

  “Where are we? Can you see?” Liv called up from below. I couldn’t get a solid foothold in the side of the dirt wall, but I managed to haul myself aboveground.

  “We’re in a field on the other side of Route 9. I can see my house from here. I think this used to be my family’s field before they built the road.”

  “So Wate’s Landing must have been a safe house. It would have been easy enough to sneak food into that tunnel right from the pantry.” Liv was looking at me, but I could tell she was a thousand miles away.

  “Then at night, when it was safe, you ended up out here.” I let myself fall back down to the ground, pulling the trapdoor back into place. “I wonder if Ethan Carter Wate knew. If he was part of it.” After seeing him in the visions, it felt like something he would do.

  “I wonder if Genevieve knew,” Liv said.

  “How much do you know about Genevieve?”

  “I read the files.” Of course she did.

  “Maybe they did it together.”

  “Maybe it had something to do with that.” Liv was looking past me.


  She pointed behind me. There were planks hammered into an awkward X. But the boards were rotting, and you could see a doorway behind them.

  “Ethan. Am I imagining—”

  I shook my head. “No. I see it, too.”

  It wasn’t a Mortal doorway. I recognized the symbols carved into the old wood, even if I couldn’t read them. Across from the trapdoor that led into the Mortal world was a second doorway, which led into the Caster one.

  “We’d better go,” Liv said.

  “You mean go in there.” I set the lantern down on the ground.

  Liv already had her red notebook out and was sketching, but she still sounded worried. “I mean go back to your house.” She sounded annoyed, but I could tell she was as interested in what lay beyond the doorway as I was.

  “You know you want to go in there.” Some things never changed.

  The first board splintered, coming off in my hands as soon as I pulled it loose.

  “What I want is for you to stay out of the Tunnels, before this somehow manages to get us both into trouble.”

  The last of the boards fell away. In front of me was a carv
ed wooden doorway that framed massive double doors. The bottom seemed to disappear into the dirt floor. I bent down to take a closer look. There were actual roots connecting the doors to the earth. I ran my hands along the length of them. They were rough and solid, but I didn’t recognize the wood.

  “It’s ash. And rowan, I think,” Liv said. I could hear her scribbling in her notebook. “There isn’t a single ash or rowan tree within miles of Gatlin. They’re supernatural trees. They protect creatures of Light.”

  “Which means?”

  “Which means these doors are probably from somewhere far away. And they could lead to somewhere equally far away.”

  I nodded. “Where?”

  She pressed her hand into a design along the carved lintel. “I haven’t a clue. Madrid. Prague. London. We have rowan trees in the U.K.” She started copying the symbols from the doors onto a page.

  I pulled on the handle with both hands. The iron latch groaned, but the doors didn’t open. “That’s not the question.”

  “Oh, really?”

  “The question is, what are we doing here? What are we supposed to see?” I pulled on the handle again. “And how do we get on the other side?”

  “That’s three questions.” Liv studied the doors. “I think it’s like the lintel at Ravenwood. The carvings are a kind of access code to get inside.”

  “Figure it out. We have to find a way in.”

  “I’m afraid it may not be that easy. Wait. Is that a word up there?” She brushed the dust off the doorway. Some kind of inscription was carved into the frame.

  “If it’s a Caster doorway, I wouldn’t be surprised.” I rubbed the wood with my hand, and it splintered beneath my fingers. Whatever it was, it was ancient.

  “ ‘Temporis Porta.’ Time Door? What does that mean?” Liv asked.

  “It means we don’t have time for this.” I leaned my forehead against the doors. I could feel a surge of heat and energy where the ancient wood touched my face. It was vibrating.



  Come on. Open. I know there’s something I’m supposed to see.

  I focused my mind on the doors in front of me, the way I had on the Arclight the last time we were trying to find our way through the Tunnels.

  I’m the Wayward. I know I am. Show me the way.

  I heard the distinct sound of wood beginning to crack and splinter.

  The wood shook as if the doors were going to collapse.

  Come on. Show me.

  I stood back as they swung open, split by light. Dust fell from their seal as if this entrance hadn’t been opened in a thousand years.

  “How did you do that?” Liv was staring at me.

  “I don’t know, but it’s open. Let’s go.”

  We stepped inside, and the dust and the light dissolved around us. Liv reached out her hand, and before I could take it, I disappeared—

  I was standing alone in the center of a huge hall. It looked the way I imagined Europe, maybe England or France or Spain—somewhere old and timeless. But I couldn’t be sure. The farthest the Tunnels had ever taken me was the Great Barrier. The room was as big as the inside of a ship, tall and rectangular, made entirely of stone. I don’t think it was a church, but something like a church or a monastery—vast and holy and full of mystery.

  Massive beams crossed the ceiling, surrounded by smaller wood squares. Inside each square was a gold rose, a circle with petals.

  Caster circles?

  That didn’t seem right.

  Nothing about this place was familiar. Even the power in the air—buzzing, like a downed electrical wire—felt different.

  There was an alcove across the room, with a small balcony. Five windows ran the length of the wall, stretching higher than the tallest houses in Gatlin, framing the room with soft light that crept through the billows of sheer fabric hanging over them. Thick golden drapes hung at their sides, and I couldn’t tell if the breeze blowing through the windows was a Caster or a Mortal one.

  The walls were paneled and curved into low benches near the floor. I had seen pictures like these in my mom’s books. Monks and acolytes sat on benches like this to pray.

  Why was I here?

  When I looked up again, the room was suddenly full of people. They were wedged onto the entire length of the bench, filling the space in front of me, crowding and pushing from all sides. I couldn’t see their faces; half of them were cloaked. But all of them were buzzing with anticipation.

  “What’s going on? What are we waiting for?”

  No one answered. It was as if they couldn’t see me, which didn’t make sense. This wasn’t a dream. I was in a real place.

  The crowd moved forward, murmuring, and I heard the banging of a gavel. “Silentium.”

  Then I saw familiar faces, and I realized where I was. Where I had to be.

  The Far Keep.

  At the end of the hall, Marian was hooded and robed, her hands tied with a golden rope. She stood in the balcony above the room, next to the tall man who showed up in the library archive. The Council Keeper, I heard people around me whisper. The albino Keeper was standing behind him.

  He spoke in Latin, and I couldn’t understand him. But the people around me did, and they were going crazy. “Ulterioris Arcis Concilium, quod nulli rei—sive homini, sive animali, sive Numini Atro, sive Numini Albo—nisi Rationi Rerum paret, Marianam ex Arce Occidentali Perfidiae condemnat.”

  The Council Keeper repeated the words in English, and I understood why the people around me were reacting this way. “The Council of the Far Keep, which answers only to the Order of Things, to no man, creature, or power, Dark or Light, finds Marian of the Western Keep guilty of Treason.”

  There was a piercing pain in my stomach, as if my whole body had been sliced with a giant blade.

  “These are the Consequences of her inaction. The Consequences shall be paid. The Keeper, though Mortal, will return to the Dark Fire from which all power comes.”

  The Council Keeper removed Marian’s hood, and I could see her eyes, ringed with darkness. Her head was shaved, and she looked like a prisoner of war. “The Order is broken. Until the New Order comes forth, the Old Law must be upheld, and the Consequences paid.”

  “Marian! You can’t let them—” I tried to push through the crowd, but the more I tried, the faster people surged forward, and the farther away she seemed.

  Until I hit something, someone unmoving and unmovable. I looked up into the glassy stare of Lilian English.

  Mrs. English? What is she doing here?


  “Mrs. English. You have to help me. They have Marian Ashcroft. They’re going to hurt her, and it’s not her fault. She didn’t do anything!”

  “What do you think of the judge now?”

  “What?” She wasn’t making any sense.

  “Your paper. It’s due on my desk tomorrow.”

  “I know that. I’m not talking about my paper.” Didn’t she understand what was happening?

  “I think you are.” Her voiced sounded different, unfamiliar.

  “The judge is wrong. They’re all wrong.”

  “Someone must be at fault. The Order is broken. If not Marian Ashcroft, then who is to blame?”

  I didn’t have the answer. “I don’t know. My mom said—”

  “Mothers lie,” Mrs. English said, her voice void of emotion. “To allow their children to live the great lie that is Mortal existence.”

  I could feel my anger building. “Don’t talk about my mom. You don’t know her.”

  “The Wheel of Fate. Your mother knows about that. The future is not predetermined. Only you can stop the Wheel from crushing Marian Ashcroft. From crushing them all.”

  Mrs. English disappeared, and the room was empty. There was a smooth rowan doorway in front of me, recessed into the wall as if it had always been there. The Temporis Porta.

  I reached for the handle. The second I touched it, I was on the other side again, stand
ing in the Mortal tunnel, staring at Liv.

  “Ethan! What happened?” She hugged me, and I felt a flicker of the connection that would always be between us.

  “I’m fine, don’t worry.” I pulled back. Her smile faded, her cheeks turning bright pink as she realized what she had done. She swung her arms behind her back, clutching them awkwardly, like she wished she could make them disappear.

  “What did you see? Where did you go?”

  “I’m not exactly sure, but I know it was the Far Keep. I recognized two of the Keepers who came to the library. But I think it was the future.”

  “The future? How do you know?” The wheels were already spinning in Liv’s mind.

  “It was Marian’s trial, which hasn’t happened yet.”

  Liv was twisting the pencil tucked behind her ear. “Temporis Porta means ‘Time Door.’ It could be possible.”

  “Are you sure?” After what I’d seen, I hoped it was more of a warning—some sort of possible future that wasn’t set in stone.

  “There’s no way to know, but if the Temporis Porta is some kind of portal, which seems likely, then you could have been seeing something that hasn’t happened yet. The actual future.” Liv started scribbling in her red notebook. I knew she wanted to remember every detail of this conversation.

  “After what I saw, I hope you’re wrong.”

  She stopped writing. “I suppose it wasn’t good, then?”

  “No.” I stopped. “If that really was the future, we can’t let Marian go to that trial. Promise me. If they come again, you’ll help me keep her away from the Council. I don’t think she knows—”

  “I promise.” Her face was dark and her voice cracked, and I knew that she was trying not to cry.

  “Let’s hope there’s some other explanation.” But even as I said it, I knew there wasn’t. And so did Liv.

  We retraced our steps, through the dirt, the heat, and the darkness, until I couldn’t feel anything except the weight of my world collapsing.

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