Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia

  “What’s happening to them?” I don’t know if I was expecting an answer, but it was John who had one.

  “They’re losing their power. Their Darkness.” I could tell from the panicked look on John’s face that he’d never seen this firsthand. “That’s what happens to Incubuses when they’re exposed to daylight.” I looked at John. It wasn’t affecting him.

  “He’s really creating light,” Liv whispered.

  John said something else, but I wasn’t listening anymore. I was staring at the other two Incubuses, who were translucent now. The Darkness had seeped out of them much faster. I watched as their bodies stiffened, like statues, their eyes fixed and lifeless. But that wasn’t the most disturbing part.

  The black mist—the Dark power that had drained out of their bodies—was seeping into the ground.

  “Where is it going?” Lena asked.

  “The Underground.” John took a step back, as if he didn’t want to get too close to what he could’ve been. “Energy can’t be destroyed. It just changes form.”

  I froze. The words replayed themselves in my mind.

  It just changes form.

  I thought about Twyla and the Greats and Aunt Prue. My mom and Macon.

  I remembered the green glow of the Arclight.

  The same light that was washing over us now. Had something happened to Macon within its walls? Had my mother changed him somehow? Remade the man she had loved and lost?

  “What will it become?” Liv sounded frightened. John was actually telling her something she didn’t know.

  The color had drained from Hunting’s body, all the way down to his hands. Macon hadn’t moved, his eyes squeezed tightly shut, like he was in the middle of a terrible nightmare.

  John didn’t answer for a second. When finally he did, I wished he hadn’t. “Vexes.”

  “Macon would never want to do that.” Liv was as shocked as I was.

  John took her hand. “I know. But he doesn’t get to decide the way the universe operates, Liv. None of us do.”

  “Oh my God.” Lena was pointing at the two Incubuses, now completely void of color. The air around them seemed to shift, but then I realized what was really happening. They were disintegrating. But they didn’t turn to ash, the way zombies and vampires in the movies do. The tiny pieces of them vanished, as if they had never been at all.

  I heard Macon inhale sharply. This was draining him, too. I watched him fight to hold on long enough to finish off Hunting, but the light began to dim, until the black night swallowed up the parking lot again.

  Hunting’s body dropped to the ground. He was moaning, dragging himself across the asphalt. His face and torso were still rigid and completely translucent.

  Macon dropped to his knees, and Lena knelt down next to him. “How did you do that?”

  Macon didn’t reply right away. When his breath sounded regular again, he answered. “I’m not entirely sure myself. But it seems I can channel my Light energy. Create light, for lack of a better explanation.”

  John wandered over, shaking his head. “And I thought I was different. You give new meaning to Light Caster, Mr. Ravenwood.”

  Macon looked at John, the hybrid who could stand in the sunlight. “In Light there is Darkness, and in Darkness there is Light.”

  I heard the rip as Hunting disappeared, his body marked by the Light.


  Tears and Rain

  After what happened in the parking lot, Macon and Liv took John back down into the Tunnels, where he would be safe under the veil of Concealment Casts and Bindings. We hoped. There was no doubt Hunting would tell Abraham everything, but Liv wasn’t sure if he was strong enough. I didn’t ask if she meant strong enough to make it back to Abraham, or to survive at all.

  Later that night, Lena and I sat together on the steps of her uneven porch, my body pressed into hers. I tried to memorize the way it fit perfectly with mine. I buried my face in her hair. It still smelled like lemons and rosemary. One thing hadn’t changed.

  I tilted her chin up and pressed my mouth against hers. I wasn’t kissing her as much as I was feeling her lips against mine. I could have lost her tonight.

  She leaned her head against my chest.

  But you didn’t.

  I know.

  I let my mind drift, but all I could think about was what it had felt like without her last summer, when I thought I’d lost her. The dull ache that never went away. The emptiness. It was the same way Link must have felt when Ridley walked away. I’d never forget the look on his face. He was so broken. And Ridley, with those haunting yellow eyes.

  I felt Lena’s mind churning even harder than mine.

  Stop it, L.

  Stop what.

  Thinking about Ridley.

  I can’t. She reminds me of Sara—of my mom. And look how she turned out.

  Ridley’s not Sarafine.

  Not yet.

  I slid the corsage off her thin wrist. There it was. Her mother’s bracelet. My hand brushed against the metal, and the second it did, I knew everything that belonged to Sarafine was tainted. The porch started to spin—

  It was getting harder and harder to keep track of the days. Sarafine felt as though she was in a constant fog, confused and detached from her everyday life. Emotions seemed beyond her grasp, floating on the periphery of her mind as if they belonged to someone else. The only place she felt grounded was in the Tunnels. There was a connection to the Caster world and the elements that had created the power running through her veins. It gave her comfort, allowed her to breathe.

  Sometimes she spent hours down there, sitting in the small study Abraham had created for her. It was usually peaceful, until Hunting arrived. Her half brother believed Abraham was wasting his time with her, and he didn’t attempt to hide it.

  “Here again?” Sarafine could hear the contempt in Hunting’s voice.

  “I’m just reading.” She tried to avoid confrontations with Hunting. He was vicious and cruel, yet there was always a thread of truth in his words. Truth she tried desperately to ignore.

  Hunting leaned against the door, a cigarette hanging between his lips. “I’ll never understand why Grand-father Abraham wastes his time with you. Do you have any idea how many Casters would kill to have him as a teacher?” Hunting shook his head.

  She was tired of being bullied. “Why am I a waste?”

  “You’re a Dark Caster pretending to be Light. A Cataclyst. If that isn’t a waste, I don’t know what is.”

  The words stung, but Sarafine tried to hide it. “I’m not pretending.”

  Hunting laughed, baring his canines. “Really? Have you told your Light Caster husband about your secret meetings down here? I wonder how long it would take him to turn on you.”

  “That’s none of your business.”

  Hunting dropped his cigarette into an empty soda can on the desk. “I’ll take that as a no.”

  Sarafine felt her chest tighten, and for a second everything went black.

  The desk caught fire just as Hunting pulled his hand away.

  There was no warning. One minute she was angry at Hunting; the next, the desk was going up in smoke.

  Hunting coughed. “Now, that’s more like it.”

  Sarafine scrambled to put out the fire with an old blanket. Predictably, Hunting didn’t help. He disappeared into Abraham’s private study down the hall. Sarafine stared at her hands, covered in black ash. Her face was probably filthy, too. She couldn’t go home to John like this.

  She wandered down the hall toward the small bathroom. But as soon as she came within a few feet of Abraham’s door, she heard voices.

  “I don’t know why you’re so obsessed with that kid.” Hunting’s voice was bitter. “Who cares if he can go out in the daylight? He’s barely old enough to walk, and Silas will probably kill him before he can be useful.” He was talking about the boy Abraham told her about when they first met. The one who was a little older than Lena.

  “Silas will control his
temper and do what I tell him,” Abraham snapped. “Have some vision, boy. That child will be the next generation. An Incubus with all of our strengths and none of our weaknesses.”

  “How can you be sure?”

  “You think I picked his parents by accident?” Abraham didn’t like being questioned. “I knew exactly what I was doing.”

  For a moment there was silence. Then Abraham spoke again. “It won’t be long before the Casters are out of the way. I’ll see it in my lifetime. I promise you that.”

  Sarafine shivered. A part of her wanted to run for the door and never look back. But she couldn’t. She had to stay for Lena.

  She had to stop the voices.

  When Sarafine got home, John was in the living room.

  “Shh. The baby’s asleep.” He kissed her on the cheek as she sat down next to him on the couch. “Where have you been?”

  For a second she considered lying, telling him she was at the library or walking in the park. But Hunting’s words mocked her. “I wonder how long it would take him to turn on you.” He was wrong about John.

  “I was in the Tunnels.”

  “What?” John sounded as if he thought he had misunderstood her.

  “I met one of my relatives, and he told me things about the curse. Things I didn’t know. The second Natural born into the Duchannes family can Claim herself. Lena can choose.” It all came tumbling out, so many things she had longed to share with him.

  John was shaking his head. “Wait a minute. What relative?”

  There was no stopping now. “Abraham Ravenwood.”

  John stood up, towering above her. “Abraham Ravenwood, the Blood Incubus? He’s dead.”

  Sarafine jumped up. “No. He’s alive, and he can help us save Lena.”

  John was studying her face as if he didn’t recognize it. “Help us? Have you lost your mind? He’s a blood-drinking Demon! How do you even know if anything he told you is true?”

  “Why would he lie? He has nothing to gain from telling me that Lena has a choice.”

  John grabbed her by the shoulders. “Why would he lie? How about because he’s a Blood Incubus? He’s worse than a Dark Caster.” Sarafine cringed beneath his fingers. It didn’t matter if John called her Izabel; her eyes were still golden yellow, and her skin ice-cold. She was one of them.

  “He can help Lena.” He’s helping me, too. That’s what she wished she could tell him.

  John was so angry he didn’t notice how her face had crumbled. “You don’t know that. He could be lying. We don’t even know if Lena’s a Natural.”

  Sarafine felt something rising inside her, like the crest of a wave. She didn’t recognize it for what it was. Rage. But the voices did. He doesn’t trust you. He thinks you’re one of them.

  She tried to push the thoughts away and focus on John. “When she cries, it rains. That isn’t proof enough for you?”

  John let go of her shoulders and ran his hands through his hair. “Izabel, this guy is a monster. I don’t know what he wants with you, but he’s playing on your fears. You can’t speak to him again.”

  Panic welled up inside her. She knew Abraham was telling the truth about Lena. John hadn’t seen the prophecy. But there was something else. If she couldn’t see Abraham, she couldn’t control the voices.

  John was staring at her. “Izabel! Promise me.”

  She had to make him understand. “But, John—”

  He cut her off. “I don’t know if you are losing your judgment or losing control, but if you go anywhere near Abraham Ravenwood, I’ll leave. And I’ll take Lena with me.”

  “What did you say?” He couldn’t mean it.

  “If what he says is true, and Lena has a choice, she will choose Light. I will never allow any Darkness into her life. I know you’ve been struggling. You disappear all day, and when you’re here, you look distracted and confused.”

  Was it true? Could he see it on her face?

  John was still talking. “But it’s my job to protect Lena. Even if it’s from you.”

  He loved Lena more than he loved her.

  He was ready to walk away and take her daughter.

  And one day, Lena would Claim herself. John would be sure she turned her back on Sarafine.

  Something clicked within her, two chambers locking into place. The rage wasn’t cresting anymore. It was crashing down on her, drowning her beneath it. And she could hear the voice.


  The drapes ignited, sending fire racing up the walls behind John. Smoke started to fill the room, black and dark, a living, breathing shadow. The sound was so loud as the flames ate away at the wall and spread to the floor. The fire created a perfect circle around John, following an invisible path only she could see.

  “Izabel! Stop!” John screamed, his voice twisted by the roaring of the fire.

  What had she done?

  “How could you do this to me? I stood by you, even after you Turned!”

  After you Turned.

  He believed she was Dark.

  He always had.

  She looked at him through the cloud of smoke quickly filling the room. Sarafine watched the flames with remove. She wasn’t standing in her house, about to watch her husband burn to death. He didn’t look like the man she loved. Or even a man she could love.

  He’s a traitor. The voice was perfectly clear now, and there was only one. Sarafine recognized it right away.

  Because it was her own.

  Before she walked away from the house and the smoke, her life and memories that were already fading, she remembered something John used to say to her. She looked into his green eyes with her gold ones.

  “I’ll love you until the day after forever.”

  Lena fell to her knees on the step beneath me, sobbing.

  I wrapped my arms around her, but I didn’t say a word. She had just watched her mother kill her father and leave her for dead.

  There was nothing left to say.


  The Verdict

  A few hours later, Lena was shaking me.

  Wake up. You have to wake up, Ethan—

  I sat up with a start. “I’m awake!” Only I looked around, confused, because it wasn’t Lena shaking me, it was Liv. Even though I could still hear the echo of Lena’s voice lingering in my head.

  “Ethan. It’s me. Please—you’ve got to wake up.”

  I looked at her through half-open eyes. “Am I dreaming?”

  Liv frowned. “I’m afraid not. This is real.”

  I rubbed my hand through my hair, confused. It was still pitch-dark outside, and I couldn’t even remember dreaming. I only remembered Lena’s voice and the urgent feeling something was wrong. “What’s going on?”

  “It’s Marian. She’s gone. Come on.”

  Things were starting to fall into place. I was in my room. Liv was in my room. I wasn’t dreaming. Which meant—

  “Wait. How did you get in here?”

  Liv looked embarrassed. “I hitched a ride.” She pointed to the scorpion belt around her waist and glanced behind her.

  An Incubus was sitting in the corner of my bedroom.


  John picked up my jeans from the floor and tossed them at me. “Hurry up, Boy Scout.” For a guy who didn’t have to sleep, he was as grouchy in the middle of the night as I was.

  Liv blushed, turning around, and a few seconds later I heard the familiar ripping sound. Only for the first time, it was for me.

  “Where are we?”

  Nobody answered. Then I heard John’s voice in the darkness. “No clue.”

  “Don’t you have to know where you’re going to rip? Isn’t that the way it works?” I asked.

  “Is that some kind of Mortal word for Traveling? Real clever.” He sounded annoyed, which I was used to by now. “Sort of. Usually.”

  The shadows were shifting, and I rubbed my eyes, trying to see in the dark. I stretched out my hands, but I couldn’t feel anything.


  “I was following the signal.”

  “What signal?”

  My eyes adjusted from the darkness of Traveling to the darkness of wherever we had Traveled to. As the blurry shadows lightened from black to gray, I realized we were crammed into a tiny space.

  Liv looked at John. “An Ad Auxilium Concitatio. It’s an ancient Homing Cast, like a Caster SOS. But only a Cypher can detect one.”

  John shrugged. “I hung out with one at Exile with Rid and—” He didn’t finish, but we all knew who he was talking about. “I picked up some Cypher skills.”

  I shook my head. Cyphers? There was so much about Lena’s world I would never understand, no matter how hard I tried.

  “You’re a handy guy,” I said, annoyed.

  “Who sent it?” Liv asked.

  “I did.” Lena was standing behind us in the darkness. I could barely see her face, but her green and gold eyes were shining. She looked over at John. “I was hoping you would pick it up.”

  “Glad I’m good for something.”

  “The Far Keep is trying Marian for treason. It’s going on right now.” Lena sounded grim. “Uncle Macon went after Marian, but he wouldn’t let me come. He said it was too dangerous.”

  Marian was on trial. It was really happening, the way I was afraid it would, ever since the day Liv and I found the Temporis Porta.

  Everything I’d been feeling—the doubt, the panic, the wrongness—caught up with me in a crashing wave that nearly knocked my feet out from under me. Like I was drowning. Or falling.

  “Don’t worry.” Liv tried to sound reassuring. “I’m sure she’s fine. This whole thing is my fault, not hers. The Council will have to admit that, sooner or later.”

  John held up his hand. “Ignis.” A warm yellow flame flickered from the center of his palm.

  “New party trick?” I asked.

  He shrugged. “Fire was never really my thing. Guess I picked it up from hanging out with Lena.” Normally I would have punched him. At least, I would have wanted to.

  Lena grabbed my hand. “These days I can’t even light a candle without torching the place.”

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