Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia

  She closed her eyes, and I closed mine, and even though we weren’t holding hands, it felt like we were.

  Because what we had, we knew.


  The Next Generation

  Back off, Boy Scout. I’ve told you everything I know. Why would I hide anything now?” John smiled and looked over at Liv. “I only wear the pants around here. She’s the one wearing the belt.”

  It was true. His scorpion belt was slung around Liv’s waist. Lena had given it to Liv, since she seemed to be John’s babysitter when Macon wasn’t with him. They never left him alone. At night, Macon even Bound the study with Concealment and Confinement Casts.

  But if John was telling the truth about his abilities, he would only have to touch Macon to gain some of his powers. The question was, why didn’t he? I was beginning to think he didn’t want to leave, but it made no sense.

  Lately, nothing did.

  Since my conversation with the Lilum—Wheel of Fate, Demon Queen, Mrs. English Who Was Not Mrs. English—I had more questions than answers. I had no idea how to find the One Who Is Two, and I didn’t know how much time we had left.

  I needed to figure when the Eighteenth Moon was coming. I couldn’t give up on the idea that it had something to do with John Breed, ever since the John in County Care scribbled that message.

  This John didn’t seem to care. He was lounging around on a cot against the wall, alternating between sleeping and pissing me off.

  Lena was frustrated. John’s charm didn’t get him anywhere with her. “Abraham must have said something to you about the Eighteenth Moon.”

  He shrugged, looking bored. “Your boyfriend’s the one who can’t shut up about it.”

  “Yeah? You want to get off your ass and shut me up?”

  Ethan, calm down. Don’t let him get to you.

  Liv stepped in. “Ethan, I think we can keep things a little more civil down here. For all we know, John is as much a victim of Abraham’s reign of terror as the rest of us.” She sounded sympathetic—too sympathetic.

  “Did he bite any of your best friends lately?” I snapped.

  Liv looked embarrassed.

  “Then I don’t want to hear about being civil.”

  John pushed himself up from the cot. “You don’t have to talk to her like that. You’re pissed at me. Don’t take it out on Olivia. She’s busting her ass to help you.”

  I looked at Liv. She was blushing as she checked the dials on her selenometer. I wondered if John’s Incubus magnetism was having an effect on her. “No offense, but shut the hell up.”

  “Ethan!” Lena gave me her version of the Look. Now I was getting it from all sides.

  John was amused. “You want me to talk, you want me to shut up. Let me know when you make up your mind.”

  I didn’t want to talk to him at all. I wanted him to disappear. “Liv, what’s the point of keeping him around? He hasn’t told us anything. I bet he used his Caster power-sucking abilities to send a message to Abraham and Sarafine, and they’re on their way here right now.”

  Liv crossed her arms, disapprovingly. “John hasn’t been sucking anyone’s powers. Most of the time, he’s alone with me. Or Macon and me.” She started to blush. “And yelling at him isn’t going to get you anywhere. John is basically a victim of torture. You can’t imagine the way Silas and Abraham treated him when he was growing up. Nothing you can say comes close to what he’s endured.”

  I turned to John. “So, this is what you’ve been doing down here? Telling Liv sob stories so she’ll feel sorry for you? Man, you really are a manipulative asshole.”

  John stood up and walked over to where I was standing. “Funny, I was thinking what a charming asshole you are.”

  “Really?” I made a fist.

  “No.” So did he.

  “That’s enough.” Lena stepped between us. “This isn’t helping.”

  “And it isn’t scientific, polite, or even remotely entertaining,” Liv added.

  John wandered back to his cot. “I don’t know why everyone is so convinced this has to do with me.”

  I wasn’t about to tell him about the messages from a kid who had suffered a head injury and didn’t speak. “This has something to do with the Eighteenth Moon. Lena’s isn’t until February, unless Sarafine and Abraham are pulling moons out of time again.” Lena crossed her arms, watching John.

  He shrugged, revealing the black tattoo on his arm. “So you have a few months. Better get cracking.”

  “I told you, she didn’t say it was Lena’s Eighteenth Moon. We may not have that much time.”

  Liv whipped around to look at me. “Who didn’t say that?”

  Crap. I didn’t want to tell her about the Lilum yet, especially not in front of John. Lena wasn’t the only girl I knew who was two things. Liv wasn’t a Keeper anymore, but she was still acting like one. “No one. It’s not important.”

  Liv was watching me carefully. “You said a guy named John at County Care knew about the Eighteenth Moon—the one in the creepy birthday room. I thought that was the reason you’re here hounding John.”

  “Hounding John? Is that what you think I’m doing?” I couldn’t believe how quickly he had gotten to her.

  “Actually, I’d call it harassing.” John looked smug.

  I ignored him. I was too busy trying to cover my tracks with Liv. “It was a guy named John, but he wasn’t in the Birthday—”

  I stopped.

  A guy named John.

  Lena looked back at me.

  The Birthday Room.

  We were thinking the same thing.

  What if we’ve been looking at this all wrong?

  “John, when’s your birthday?”

  He was stretched out, tossing a ball above the spot where his boots were propped against the wall. “Why, you gonna throw me a party, Mortal? I’m not big on cake.”

  “Just answer the question,” Lena said.

  The ball hit the wall again. “December 22nd. At least that’s what Abraham told me. But it’s probably some random day he picked. He found me, remember? It’s not like I had a note pinned to my shirt with my birthday written on it.”

  He couldn’t be that stupid. “Does Abraham seem like the kind of guy who would care if you had a birthday or not?”

  The ball stopped hitting the wall.

  Liv was flipping through an almanac. I heard her breath catch. “Oh my God.”

  John walked to the table and leaned over Liv’s shoulder. “What?”

  “December 22nd is the winter solstice, the longest night of the year.”

  John dropped into the chair next to her. He tried to look bored, his general expression, but I could tell he was curious. “So, it’s a long night. Who cares?”

  Liv closed the almanac. “Ancient Celts considered winter solstice the most sacred day of the year. They believed the Wheel of the Year stopped turning for a short time at the moment of the solstice. It was a time of cleansing and rebirth—”

  Liv was still talking, but I couldn’t hear anything but my own thoughts.

  The Wheel of the Year.

  The Wheel of Fate.

  Cleansing and rebirth.

  A sacrifice.

  It’s what the Lilum was trying to tell me at Mrs. English’s house. On the Eighteenth Moon, the night of the winter solstice, the sacrifice would have to be made to bring forth the New Order.

  “Ethan?” Lena was staring at me, concerned. “Are you okay?”

  “No. None of us are.” I looked at John. “If you’re telling the truth, and you aren’t waiting around for Abraham and Sarafine to come to the rescue, I need you to tell me everything you can about him.”

  John leaned across the table toward me. “If you think I can’t break out of a little study in the Tunnels, you’re a bigger idiot than I thought. You have no idea what I can do. I’m here because—” He glanced at Liv. “I have nowhere else to go.”

  I didn’t know if he was lying. But all the signs—the songs, the mes
sages, even Aunt Prue and the Lilum—pointed to him.

  John handed Liv a pencil. “Get out that red notebook, and I’ll tell you whatever you want to know.”

  After listening to John talk about his childhood with Silas Ravenwood—who sounded like a military drill sergeant who spent most of his time beating the crap out of John or forcing him to memorize Silas’ anti-Caster doctrine—even I was starting to feel a little sorry for him. Not that I would ever admit it.

  Liv was writing down every word. “So, basically, Silas hates Casters. Interesting, considering he married two of them.” She glanced at John. “And raised one.”

  John laughed, and there was no way to miss the bitterness in his voice. “I wouldn’t want to be around if he heard you call me that. Silas and Abraham never considered me a Caster. According to Abraham, I’m ‘the next generation’—stronger, faster, impervious to sunlight, and all that good stuff. Abraham is pretty apocalyptic for a Demon. He believes the end is coming, even if he has to bring it around himself, and the inferior race will finally be wiped out.”

  I rubbed my hands over my face. I wasn’t sure how much more of this I could take. “I guess that’s bad news for us Mortals.”

  John gave me a strange look. “Mortals aren’t the inferior race. You’re just the bottom of the food chain. He’s talking about Casters.”

  Liv tucked her pencil behind her ear. “I didn’t realize how much he hated Light Casters.”

  John shook his head. “You don’t get it. I’m not talking about Light Casters. Abraham wants to get rid of all the Casters.”

  Lena looked up, surprised.

  “But Sarafine—” Liv started to say.

  “He doesn’t care about her. He only tells her what she wants to hear.” John’s voice was serious. “Abraham Ravenwood doesn’t care about anyone.”

  There were a lot of nights when I couldn’t sleep, but tonight I didn’t want to. I wanted to forget about Abraham Ravenwood plotting to destroy the world, and the Lilum promising it would destroy itself. Unless, of course, someone wanted to sacrifice themselves. Someone I had to find.

  If I fell asleep, those thoughts would twist themselves into rivers of blood as real as the mud in my sheets when I first met Lena. I wanted to find a place to hide from all of it, where the nightmares and the rivers and reality couldn’t find me. For me, that place was always inside a book.

  And I knew just the one. It wasn’t under my bed; it was in one of the shoe boxes stacked against my walls. Those boxes held everything that was important to me, and I knew what was inside all of them.

  At least I thought I did.

  For a second, I couldn’t move. I scanned the brightly colored cardboard boxes, searching for the mental map that would lead me to the right one. But it wasn’t there. My hands started shaking. My right hand—the one I used to write with—and my left—the one I used now.

  I didn’t know where it was.

  Something was wrong with me, and it had nothing to do with Casters or Keepers or the Order of Things. I was changing, losing more and more of myself every day. And I had no idea why.

  Lucille jumped off my bed when I started tearing through the boxes, tossing the lids, dumping everything from bottle caps and basketball cards to faded pictures of my mom all over my bedroom floor. I didn’t stop until I found it in a black Adidas box. I flipped the lid and it was there—my copy of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.

  It wasn’t a happy story, the kind you’d expect a person to reach for when they were trying to chase away whatever was haunting them. But I chose it for a reason. It was about sacrifice; whether it was self-sacrifice or sacrificing someone else to save your own skin—that was a matter of debate.

  I figured I could decide tonight, as I turned the pages.

  It was too late when I realized someone else must have been searching for answers within the covers of a book.


  She was turning pages, too—

  When Sarafine turned nineteen, she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. The baby was a surprise, and although Sarafine spent hours staring at her daughter’s delicate face, the child was a mixed blessing. Sarafine had never wanted to have a baby. She didn’t want a child to live the life of uncertainty that came with being a Duchannes. She didn’t want her child to have to fight the Darkness that Sarafine knew was lurking inside her. Until the child would get her real name at sixteen, Sarafine called her daughter Lena, because it meant “the bright one,” in the futile hope of staving off the curse. John had laughed. It sounded like something Mortals would do, hanging their hopes on a name.

  Sarafine had to hang her hopes on something.

  Lena wasn’t the only unexpected person to show up in her life.

  Sarafine was walking alone when she saw Abraham Ravenwood standing on the same corner where she had first met him, almost a year before. He seemed to be waiting, as if he knew she was coming. As if he could somehow see the war being waged on the battlefield of her mind. A war she never knew if she was winning.

  He waved, as though they were old friends. “You look troubled, Miss Duchannes. Is something bothering you? Is there anything I can do to help?”

  With his white beard and cane, Abraham reminded Sarafine of her grandfather. She missed her family, even though they refused to see her. “I don’t think so.”

  “Still fighting your nature? Have the voices grown stronger?”

  They had, but how could he know? Incubuses didn’t go Dark. They were born into the Darkness.

  He tried again. “Have you been starting fires by accident? It’s called the Wake of Fire.”

  Sarafine froze. She had inadvertently started several fires. When her emotions intensified, it was as if they actually manifested into flames. Only two thoughts consumed her now: fire and Lena.

  “I didn’t know it had a name,” she whispered.

  “There are a number of things you don’t know. I would like to invite you to study with me. I can teach you everything you need to know.”

  Sarafine looked away. He was Dark, a Demon. His black eyes told her everything she needed to know. She couldn’t trust Abraham Ravenwood.

  “You have a child now, don’t you?” It wasn’t really a question. “Do you want her to walk the world beholden to a curse that dates back to before you were born? Or do you want her to be able to Claim herself?”

  Sarafine didn’t tell John she was meeting Abraham Ravenwood in the Tunnels. He wouldn’t understand. For John, the world was black or white, Light or Dark. He didn’t know they could exist together, within the same person, as they did in her. She hated lying, but she was doing it for Lena.

  Abraham showed her something no one in her family had ever spoken of—a prophecy related to the curse. A prophecy that would save Lena.

  “I’m sure the Casters in your family never told you about this. He held the faded paper in his hand as he read the words that promised to change everything: “ ‘The First will be Black / But the Second may choose to turn back.’ ”

  Sarafine felt her breath catch.

  “Do you understand what it means?” Abraham knew the words meant everything to her, and she clung to his as if they were part of the prophecy. “The first Natural born into the Duchannes family would be Dark, a Cataclyst.” He was talking about her. “But the second will have a choice. She can Claim herself.”

  Sarafine found the courage to ask the question eating away at her. “Why are you helping me?”

  Abraham smiled. “I have a boy of my own, not much older than Lena. Your father is raising him. His parents abandoned him because he has some very unusual powers. And he has a destiny as well.”

  “But I don’t want my daughter to go Dark.”

  “I don’t think you truly understand Darkness. Your mind has been poisoned by Light Casters. Light and Dark are two sides of the same coin.”

  Part of Sarafine wondered if he was right. She prayed he was.

  Abraham was also teaching her how to control the urges an
d the voices. There was only one way to exorcise them. Sarafine set fires, burned down huge cornfields and stretches of forests. It was a relief to allow her powers free reign. And no one got hurt.

  But the voices still came for her, whispering the same word again and again.


  When the voices weren’t haunting her, she could hear Abraham in her head, bits and pieces of their conversations looping over and over again: “Light Casters are worse than Mortals. Filled with jealousy because their powers are inferior, they want to dilute our bloodlines with Mortal blood. But the Order of Things will not allow it.” Late at night, some of the words made sense. “Light Casters reject the Dark Fire, from which all power comes.” Some she tried to force deep into the shadows of her mind. “If they were strong enough, they would kill us all.”

  I was lying on the floor of my trashed bedroom, staring at my sky blue ceiling. Lucille was sitting on my chest, licking her paws.

  Lena’s voice found its way into my mind so quietly I almost didn’t hear it.

  She was doing it for me. She loved me.

  I didn’t know what to say. It was true, but it wasn’t that simple. Sarafine was sinking deeper and deeper into darkness in every vision.

  I know she loved you, L. I just don’t think she could fight what was happening to her. I couldn’t believe I was defending the woman who had killed my mom. But Izabel wasn’t Sarafine, at least not right away. Sarafine killed Izabel, just like she killed my mother.

  Abraham was what happened to her.

  Lena was looking for someone to blame. We all were.

  I heard pages turning.

  Lena, don’t touch it!

  Don’t worry. It doesn’t trigger the visions every time.

  I thought about the Arclight, the way it pulled me out of this world and into another randomly. What I didn’t want to think about was the last thing Lena said—every time. How many times had she opened Sarafine’s book? Lena was Kelting again before I could decide whether or not to ask.

  This one’s my favorite. She wrote it over and over inside the covers. “Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be.”

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