Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia


  Light flooded the room, and I didn’t have time to hit him, because now I knew exactly where we were. Again.

  I was on the other side of the pantry door. Ten feet under my kitchen, in my own house.

  I grabbed the old lantern and took off down the crumbling tunnel, toward the door in the ceiling no one ever opened, to the place where the ancient doors would be waiting for me.

  “Wait up! You don’t know where this tunnel ends,” John called after me.

  “It’s all right,” I heard Liv say. “He knows where he’s going.”

  I heard their footsteps behind me, but I only ran faster.

  I started banging on the Temporis Porta as soon as I reached it. This time it didn’t open. Splinters dug into my skin, but I didn’t stop pounding on the thick wood.

  Nothing I did mattered.

  I rested my face against the wood. “Aunt Marian, I’m here! I’m coming.”

  Lena came up behind me.

  Ethan, she can’t hear you.

  I know.

  John shoved me aside and touched the surface of the doors with his hand. Then he yanked it away as if the wood burned. “That’s some serious mojo.”

  Liv grabbed his hand, but there wasn’t a mark on it. “I don’t think there’s anything we can do to open those doors, unless they want to be opened.” She was talking about the last time they opened—for me. But they weren’t opening this time.

  Liv examined the side of the doors, where the carvings were clearest.

  “There has to be a way.” I threw myself back against the thick, carved planks. Nothing. “We have to think of something. Who knows what they might do to Marian.”

  Liv looked away. “I can imagine. But we can’t help her if we can’t get inside. Give me a minute.” She pulled her red notebook out of her worn leather backpack. “I’ve been trying to figure out these symbols since the first time we saw them.”

  Lena shot me a look. “The first time?”

  Liv didn’t look up. “Didn’t Ethan tell you? He found these doors weeks ago. They let him pass, but they left me behind. And he wouldn’t tell me much about what he saw on the other side. But I’ve been studying the doors ever since.”

  “Weeks ago?”

  “I haven’t the exact date,” Liv answered.

  Ethan?

  I can explain. I was going to tell you the night at the Cineplex, but you were already mad because I had invited Liv to the party.

  Secret doors? With your secret friend? And something secret you found behind them? Why would that make me mad?

  I should’ve told you. It’s not like you’re worried about Liv.

  I wasn’t getting off that easy. I tried not to look at Lena, focusing on a page of sketches in Liv’s red notebook. “That’s it.” I recognized the symbols in her notebook.

  Liv held the paper up against the symbols carved into the doors, moving it from one wooden panel to the next, as she compared them. “See the recurring pattern in these three circles?”

  “The Wheel,” I said automatically. “You said they were the Wheel of Fate.”

  “Yes, but perhaps not only the Wheel of Fate. I think each circle might represent one of the Three Keepers. The Council of the Far Keep.”

  “The ones who showed up in the archive?” Lena asked.

  She nodded. “I’ve read everything I could find about them, which isn’t much. From what I can determine, the Three Keepers must have been the ones who visited us.”

  I thought about it. “It makes sense. The first time I went through those doors, I ended up at the Far Keep.”

  “So you think these signs stand for the three of them?” John looked over at me. “Those freaks that wanted to take Liv?”

  I nodded. “And Marian.” He seemed more concerned about Liv than Marian, which didn’t surprise me, but it still made me angry. Like just about everything that came out of his mouth.

  Liv ignored us both, pointing to the first circle, the one with the fewest spokes. “I think this one represents what’s happening now, the present. And this”—she pointed to the second circle, the one crossed with more spokes—“symbolizes what has been. The past.”

  “Then what’s that one?” John pointed to the last circle, the one with no spokes.

  “What will never be, or what will always be.” Liv traced the drawing with her finger. “In other words, the future.”

  “If each of these symbols represents one of the Keepers, then which is which?” I asked.

  Lena studied the circle with the most spokes. “I think that huge guy is the past. He was carrying that empty hourglass when we saw him in the archive.”

  Liv nodded. “I agree.”

  I reached out and touched the circles. They were hard and cool, different from the texture of the rest of the wooden door. I moved my hand to the empty circle, with no spokes. “The woman from the Council, the one who looked albino. She’s what hasn’t happened yet, right? The future? Because she’s nothing. I mean, she was practically invisible.”

  Liv reached up to the circle with the fewest spokes. “Which would make the tall one the present.”

  The light in the room flickered, and John looked frustrated. “This sounds like a whole lot of crap. What will be? What won’t be? What are you talking about?”

  “What will be and what will not be are equally possible and impossible,” Liv explained. “I guess you could say they are the absence of history, the place The Caster Chronicles cannot touch. You can’t tell a story or Keep a record of what hasn’t happened yet. That’s Keeper 101.” Liv sounded dreamy, and I wondered what she knew about The Caster Chronicles.

  “The Caster what?” John shifted the light from one hand to the other.

  “It’s a book,” Lena said, without taking her eyes off the doors. “The Keepers had it with them when they came to see Marian.”

  “Whatever.” John looked bored. “If you’re talking about the future, how about we call it that?”

  Liv nodded. “But you have to remember, we’re not just talking about the Mortal future. We’re talking about everything unknown, for Casters and Mortals. Including the unknown realm, the place where the Demon world touches our own.”

  “Demon world?” I felt the prickling of recognition. I had to tell Liv. “I know the place where the Demon world touches ours. I mean, I don’t know it, but I know her. The Lilum. The Demon Queen.”

  Liv went pale, but it was John who was the most freaked out. “What are you talking about?”

  “The Lilum thing—”

  “There’s no Lilum here.” Liv was shaking her head. “The very presence of the Lilum in our world would mean the total destruction of existence itself.”

  “What does that have to do with her?” I asked.

  “Her? Is that who you were talking about? The she who told you about the Eighteenth Moon was the Lilum? The Demon Queen?” Liv knew from the look on my face that she was right.

  “Great,” John muttered.

  Liv froze. “Where is the place, Ethan?” She closed her eyes, which made me think she knew what I was going to say.

  “I don’t know for sure. But I can find it. I’m the Wayward. The Lilum said it herself.” I touched the circles again with my hands, over and over, feeling the rough wood beneath my fingers.

  The past. The present. The future that will be, and the future that will not.

  The way.

  The wood began to hum beneath my hands. I touched the carved circles again.

  The color drained from Liv’s face. “The Lilum said that to you?”

  I opened my eyes, and everything was clear. “When you look at the door, you see a door, right?”

  Liv nodded.

  I looked at her. “I see a path.”

  It was true. Because the Temporis Porta was opening for me.

  The wood turned to mist, and I slid my hand right through. Beyond it, I could see a path leading into the distance. “Come on.”

  “Where are you going?” Liv grabbed
my arm.

  “To find Marian and Macon.” This time, I made sure to grab Liv and Lena before I stepped inside the door. Liv grabbed John’s hand.

  “Hold on.” I took a breath and ducked into the mist—

  12.13

  Perfidia

  We found ourselves nearly crushed in the center of a mob. I recognized the robes. Only I was tall enough to see over them, but it didn’t matter. I knew where we were.

  It seemed like the middle of a trial, or something like one. Liv’s pencil was moving inside the red notebook as quickly as it could, trying to keep up with the words that were flying all around us.

  “Perfidia. It’s Latin for ‘treason.’ They’re saying she’s going to be tried for treason.” Liv was pale, and I could barely hear her voice over the clamor of the crowd surrounding us.

  “I know this place.” I recognized the tall windows with the heavy gold drapes, and the wood benches. Everything was the same—the thick noise of the crowd, the stone walls, the beamed ceiling that was so high that it seemed to go on forever. I held on to Lena’s hand, pushing my way to the front of the hall, directly under the empty wooden balcony. Liv and John threaded their way through the robed crowd behind me.

  “Where’s Marian?” Lena was panicking. “And Uncle Macon? I can’t see anything over all these people.”

  “I don’t like this,” Liv said quietly. “Something doesn’t feel right.”

  I felt it, too.

  We were standing in the center of the same crowded hall where I stood the first time I crossed through the Temporis Porta. But last time, it seemed like I was somewhere in medieval Europe, in a place from an illustration in the World History textbook we never seemed to crack at Jackson. The room was so big I’d thought it might be a ship or a cathedral. A place that transported you somewhere, whether it was across the sea or to the paradise the Sisters were always talking about.

  Now it seemed different. I didn’t know where this place was, but even in their dark robes, the people—the Casters, Mortals, Keepers, or whatever they were—seemed like regular old people. The kind of people I knew something about. Because even though they were crowded on the glossy wooden bench that surrounded the perimeter of the room, they could’ve been sitting in the gym at Jackson, waiting for the Disciplinary Committee meeting to start. On the benches or the bleachers, these people were looking for the same thing. Drama.

  Even worse, they were looking for blood. Someone to blame, and to punish.

  It felt like the trial of the century, or a bunch of reporters waiting outside South Carolina’s Broad River Correctional Institution when someone from death row was about to get a lethal injection. The executions were covered by every TV station and newspaper. A few people showed up to protest, but they looked like they had been bused in for the day. Everyone else was hanging out, waiting to watch the spectacle. It wasn’t much different from the burning of the witches in The Crucible.

  The crowd rushed forward, murmuring, just as I knew they would, and I heard the banging of a gavel. “Silentium.”

  Something’s happening.

  Lena grabbed my arm.

  Liv pointed across the room. “I saw Macon. He’s over there.”

  John looked around. “I don’t see Marian.”

  Maybe she’s not here, Ethan.

  She’s here.

  She had to be, because I knew what was about to happen. I forced myself to look up to the balcony.

  Look—

  I pointed up at Marian, once again hooded and robed, once again tied at the wrists with a golden rope. She was standing on the balcony, high above the room, just as she had been the last time. The tall Keeper who had come to the archive was next to her.

  The people around us were still whispering. I looked at Liv, who interpreted. “He’s the Council Keeper. He’s going to—” Liv’s eyes welled up. “It’s not a trial, Ethan. It’s a sentencing.”

  I heard the Latin, but this time I didn’t try to understand. I knew what it meant before the Council Keeper repeated the words in English.

  Marian would be found guilty of treason.

  I listened without listening, my eyes locked on Marian’s face. “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.”

  I remembered the first time I heard those words.

  “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.”

  I might as well have been the one sentenced to death. Pain gutted my whole body. I watched as Marian’s hood was pulled from her shaved head. I stared into her eyes, surrounded by dark rings as if she had been hurt. I couldn’t tell if it was physical pain or mental or even Mortal. I imagined it was something worse.

  I was the only one prepared for it. Liv broke down sobbing. Lena stumbled against me, and I held her up by the arm. Only John stood there, unfazed, his hands jammed into his pockets.

  The Council Keeper’s voice echoed through the room again. “The Order is broken. Until the New Order comes forth, the Old Law must be upheld, and the Consequences paid.”

  “All this courtroom drama. If I didn’t know you better, Angelus, I would think you were vying for a spot on cable television.” Macon’s voice carried over the crowd, but I couldn’t see him.

  “Your Mortal levity defiles this sacred space, Macon Ravenwood.”

  “My Mortal levity, Angelus, is something you cannot understand. And I warned you, Angelus, that I would not stand for this.”

  The Council Keeper shouted over the crowd. “You have no power here.”

  “You have no business finding a Mortal guilty of treason against the Order.”

  “The Keeper is of both worlds. The Keeper knew the price. The Keeper chose to allow the destruction of the Order,” he answered.

  “The Keeper is a Mortal. Her name is Marian Ashcroft. She has already been sentenced to death, like every Mortal. In forty or fifty years, she will face that sentence. It is the Mortal way.”

  “This is not your matter to speak of.” The Council Keeper’s voice was rising, and the spectators were getting restless.

  “Angelus, she is weak. She has no powers, no way to protect herself. You cannot punish a wet child for the rain.”

  “I do not understand.”

  “ ‘The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.’ ” Macon was quoting Harper Lee. I never knew any of Marian’s quotes, but I remembered that one from reading To Kill a Mockingbird in English class last year. And from my mom.

  John’s head was bent toward Liv’s, and they were whispering about something. When he noticed me watching them, he stopped. “This is crap,” he said.

  For once I agreed with him. “But we can’t stop it.”

  “Why not?”

  There was no way he would understand. “I know how it ends. They’ve found her guilty of treason. She’s going to be sent back to the Dark Fire, or whatever happens after that. There’s nothing we can do,” I said miserably. “I was here before.”

  “Yeah? I wasn’t.” John stepped forward, clapping dramatically. The whole room went dead silent. He squeezed Lena’s shoulder as he passed. “Well, doesn’t this suck?” John shoved his way to the front of the hall, where Macon was standing. I could finally see him. John held up his hand, like he was waiting for Macon to give him a high-five. “Nice try, old man.”

  Macon was surprised but held up his hand. His cuff was pulled down a little too far, as though his shirt was too long.

  What’s going on, L?

  I have no idea.

  Lena’s hair started to curl. I smelled a faint trace of smoke in the air.

  L, what are you doing?

  I think you mean what is he doing?

  John wove slowly toward the Council Keeper, who was holding Marian on the balcony. “I’m starting to think you’re not r
eally listening to this fine former Incubus brother of mine.” He jumped up onto the pew, shoving a robed man out of his way.

  “You’re out of line, spawn of Abraham. And do not think The Caster Chronicles have been kind to you, Breedling.”

  “Oh, I don’t think they’ve been kind. Since when are people kind to me? I’m a jerk. On the other hand, you’re kind of a jerk, too.” John jumped up above the pew, barely catching the bottom of the wooden balcony. His black boots swung back and forth in the air.

  The massive gold drapes behind us exploded into flames.

  John kicked a bald, tattooed man in the head. I recognized the tattoo. It was the mark of a Dark Caster.

  Now John had climbed up onto the wooden balcony, above us all. He put one arm around Marian, the other around the Council Keeper. “Angelus, that’s your name, right? Man, who came up with that one? Here’s the thing. My friend Lena over there, she’s a Natural.” There was a murmuring around us, and I saw the crowd part around Lena as they backed a few feet away.

  “Why don’t you show them?” Lena smiled at him, and the drapes closest to the altar caught fire. The whole room was beginning to fill with smoke.

  “And Macon Ravenwood, he’s—messed up. Okay, I don’t really know what he is. It’s a long story. There’s this ball, and this fire, and some bad, bad Casters…. But you’ve probably read all about that, haven’t you?” John snapped. “In your little Caster spy book.”

  Between Marian and Angelus, I didn’t know who looked more surprised.

  “Anyway, back to Macon. Powerful guy. He likes to do this trick—come on, don’t be shy.” Macon closed his eyes, and a green glow flared above him. The crowd tried to rush back toward the walls, but there was too much smoke.

  “Which leaves me. I’m not a Natural.” John nodded in Macon’s direction. “I’m not whatever he is either.” John grinned. “But the thing about me is, I’ve touched both of them. So now I can do whatever they can do. It’s kinda my thing. Bet you don’t have a Caster like that in your little book, do you?” As the Keeper tried to pull away, John yanked him even closer. “So, Angelus. Let’s go for a spin and see what a strange guy like you can do.”

 
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