Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia


  The Keeper was furious and backed away, holding up his hand, fingers pointed at John. John imitated him, exactly.

  There was a flash of light, like lightning—

  We were all standing back on the other side of the Temporis Porta.

  Even Marian.

  12.13

  The Day After Forever

  Was that real?” Lena whispered. I pointed to the doors, where smoke was snaking out from under the bottom of the wood.

  I grabbed Marian and hugged her, at the same time Liv did. I backed away, awkwardly, and Lena took my place.

  “Thank you,” Marian whispered.

  Macon clapped his hand on John’s arm. “I can’t decide if that was a brilliant act of pure selflessness back there, or if it was simply an attempt to collect all our powers for yourself.”

  John shrugged. “I noticed you didn’t give me any skin.” I remembered the cuff of Macon’s shirt pulled down over his hand.

  “You aren’t quite ready to share my power. Either way, I owe you greatly. You showed real courage back there. I won’t soon forget it.”

  “Oh, come on. Those guys were jerks. It was nothing.” He walked away from Macon, but I could see the pride on his face. I could see it on Liv’s face even more clearly.

  Marian took Macon’s arm, and he started helping her back through the tunnel. At the rate they were going, even the short span of the dirt tunnel was going to be a long hike.

  “This is ridiculous,” said John, and in a rip we were all gone.

  In seconds, we were in Macon’s study.

  “What are Angelus’ powers, exactly?” I was still trying to figure out what we had witnessed.

  “I don’t know, but he certainly didn’t seem to want us to find out.” Macon was deep in thought.

  “Yeah. He got us out of there pretty fast. I didn’t get to touch him,” John said.

  “I feel horrible. Do you think I torched that beautiful old room?” Lena was lost in a different thought entirely.

  John laughed. “No, I did.”

  “It’s an evil room,” Macon said. “We can only hope you did.”

  “Why would that guy Angelus involve himself so closely with this case? What could this be, like one page in The Caster Chronicles?” John asked.

  Macon helped Marian into a chair. “He loathes Mortals.”

  She was still shaking. Macon pulled a blanket from the foot of his bed and wrapped it around her. I remembered Marian doing the same for the Sisters the night of the Vex attack. The worlds—they weren’t two separate universes anymore, Caster and Mortal. It was all crashing together now.

  Things couldn’t stay like this, not for long.

  Liv pulled her chair next to Marian’s and put her arms around her. Lena twitched a finger in the direction of Macon’s fireplace grating. Flames lurched up from the logs, shooting ten feet up to the ceiling. At least it wasn’t rain.

  “Maybe it’s not just him. Maybe it’s Abraham.” John sighed. “He doesn’t give up easily.”

  Macon’s brow furrowed. “That’s interesting. Angelus and Abraham. A common goal, perhaps?”

  Liv spoke up. “Are you suggesting that the Keepers are in collusion with Abraham? Because that is so wrong, on so many levels. It can’t possibly be true.”

  John warmed his hands in front of the fire. “Did anyone notice how many Dark Casters were in that room?”

  “I noticed the one you kicked in the head.” I smiled.

  “That was an accident.” John shrugged.

  Macon shook his head. “Either way, the sentencing occurred. We have a week to figure something out before…” We all looked at Marian. She was in shock, it was pretty clear. Her eyes were closed, and she pulled the blanket closer around her shoulders, rocking herself. I think she was reliving the whole night.

  Macon shook his head. “Hypocrites.”

  “Why?” I asked.

  “I have my own suspicions about what the Far Keep is up to, and I can’t say it has anything to do with keeping the peace. Power changes people. I’m afraid they are no longer the principled leaders they once were.” Macon had trouble hiding the disappointment in his face.

  And the exhaustion. He was making a good show of it, but he looked like he hadn’t slept in days. And now that he did sleep, I was always surprised to find he needed it as much as the rest of us. “But Marian is back home with us, safe and sound.” He placed a hand on her shoulder. She didn’t look up.

  “For now.” I wanted to go back, bash down the Temporis Porta, and beat the crap out of everyone in that room. I couldn’t stand to see Marian like this.

  Macon sank into the chair next to her. “For now. Which is all I can say for any of us, these days. We have a week until the sentence—since she was found guilty of treason. It should take that long for a Perfidia Proclamation to take effect. I won’t let anything else happen to her, Ethan. That is more than a promise.”

  Liv slumped at the study table, an inconsolable mess. “If someone is going to make sure nothing else happens to Marian, it’s me. If I hadn’t gone with you—if I had stayed in the library, like I was supposed to…”

  “Now who’s the emo Caster girl?” Lena poked Liv in the arm. “That’s my thing. You’re supposed to be the chipper blond brainiac, remember?”

  “How rude of me. I do apologize.” Liv smiled and Lena smiled back, drawing her arm around Liv, as if they were friends. I guess, in a way, they were. These days, we were bound by the common threat of our fate. Because the Eighteenth Moon was almost here, and none of us had any answers.

  John sat down next to Liv, protectively. “It’s not your fault.” He shot me a dirty look. “It’s his.” So much for friendship.

  I stood up. “We’ve got to get Aunt Marian home.”

  For the first time, she looked up at me. “I… can’t.”

  I understood. She wouldn’t be sleeping alone, not anytime soon. That was the first night Liv and Marian were under one roof again, only this time it was in Liv’s room, and their roof was the ceiling of the Tunnels. I wondered if Concealment Casts worked against Keepers, too. Mostly, I just hoped they worked.

  There was one place we could go, no matter how badly our worlds were spiraling out of control. The place where it had all started for Lena and me. The place that was ours.

  The morning after Marian’s trial, we went to find it again.

  The crumbling garden at Greenbrier was still black and charred, but you could see where the grass had started to grow. The tiny stems weren’t green, though. They were brown, like everything else in Gatlin County. The invisible walls that protected Ravenwood from being ravaged didn’t extend here.

  Still, it was our place. I led Lena through the garden to the hearthstone where we first discovered Genevieve’s locket. It seemed like it had all happened years ago, instead of the year before.

  Lena sat on the stone, pulling me down after her. “Do you remember how beautiful it was here?”

  I looked at her, the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. “It still is.”

  “Do you think about what it would be like if this was all gone? If we can’t fix this, and there’s no New Order?”

  I barely thought about anything else, beyond heat and bugs and dried-up lakes. What would be next? A flood? “I don’t know if it would matter. Maybe we’d be gone, too, and we wouldn’t even know the difference.”

  “I think we’ve both seen enough of the Otherworld to know that’s not true.” She knew I was trying to make her feel better. “How many times have you seen your mom? She knows what’s happening, maybe better than anyone.”

  There was nothing I could say. Lena was right, but I couldn’t let her shoulder the burden of all this alone. “You didn’t do this intentionally, L.”

  “I don’t know if that makes me feel any better about destroying the world.”

  I pulled her against my chest, feeling the gentle rhythm of her heartbeat. “The world isn’t destroyed. Not yet.”

  She picked at
the dry grass. “But someone’s life will be. The One Who Is Two has to be sacrificed to create the New Order.” Neither one of us could forget it, though we hadn’t gotten any closer to figuring it out.

  And if the Eighteenth Moon really was on John’s birthday, then we had only five days left to find the One. Marian’s life—all our lives—hung in the balance.

  Him.

  Her.

  It could be anyone.

  Whoever it was, I wondered what they were doing now—if they had any idea. Maybe they weren’t worried at all. Maybe they would never even see it coming.

  “Don’t worry. John bought us some time. We’ll think of something.” She smiled. “It was cool to see him doing something for us, instead of against us.”

  “Yeah. If he was.” I don’t know why, but I still couldn’t give that guy a break. Even if Lena was willing to give Liv a chance.

  “What’s that supposed to mean?” Lena sounded annoyed.

  “You heard Macon. What if he was using the opportunity to siphon off all of your powers?”

  “I don’t know. Maybe we have to take it on faith.”

  I didn’t want to do that. “Why should we?”

  “Because people change. Things change. Everything and everyone we know has changed.”

  “What if I don’t want to?” I didn’t.

  “It doesn’t matter. We change whether we want to or not.”

  “Some things don’t,” I said. “We don’t get to decide how the world works. Rain falls down, not up. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. That’s the way it is. Why is that concept so hard for you Casters to understand?”

  “I guess we’re sort of control freaks.”

  “You think?”

  Lena’s hair curled. “It’s hard not to do things when you can do them. And in my family, there’s not much we can’t do.”

  “Really?” I kissed her.

  She smiled underneath my lips. “Shut up.”

  “Is it hard not to do this?” I kissed her neck. Her ear. Her lips.

  “How about this?” She opened her mouth to complain, but no words came out.

  We kissed until my heart was faltering. Even then, I’m not sure we would have stopped, but we did.

  Because I heard a rip.

  Time and space opened up. I saw the tip of his cane as Abraham Ravenwood slipped through a hole in the sky, the air slamming shut behind him.

  He was wearing a dark suit and his stovepipe hat, which made him look like Abraham Lincoln’s father. “Did I hear something about the New Order?” He took off his hat and tapped the brim, shaking off nonexistent dust. “Turns out, broken suits me just fine. And I’m sure my boy John will feel the same way, once he’s back where he belongs.”

  Before I had a chance to respond, I heard the sound of footsteps in the dirt. A second later, I saw her black motorcycle boots.

  “I would have to agree.” Sarafine was standing outside the stone arch, her black hair as curly and wild as Lena’s. Even though it was a hundred degrees, she was wearing a long black dress with strips of fabric crisscrossing her body. It reminded me of a straitjacket.

  Lena—

  She didn’t answer, but I could sense her heart pounding.

  Sarafine’s gold eyes fixed on me. “The Mortal world is in a state of beautiful chaos and destruction, which will ultimately lead to an exquisite end. We couldn’t have planned this better ourselves.” That was easy for her to say, since their original plan failed.

  There was something chilling about seeing Sarafine here, after watching her set Lena’s childhood home on fire with Lena and her father still inside. But it was also impossible to shake the images of the girl, not much older than Lena, battling the Darkness within her—and losing.

  I pulled Lena to her feet, her hand burning mine the moment our skin touched.

  Lena. I’m right here with you.

  I know.

  Her voice sounded empty.

  Sarafine smiled at Lena. “My damaged, half-shadowed daughter. I would love to say how nice it is to see you again, but that would be a lie. And I am nothing if not honest.”

  The color had drained from Lena’s face, and she was standing so still I almost wasn’t sure she was breathing. “Then I guess you’re nothing, Mother. Because we both know you’re a liar.”

  Sarafine flexed her fingers. “You know what they say about glass houses and stones. I wouldn’t throw any if I were you, darling. You are looking at me through one gold eye.”

  Lena flinched, and the wind started to blow.

  “It’s not the same.” I said. “Lena has Light and Dark in her.”

  Sarafine waved her hand as if I was an annoying insect, a lubber trying to crawl my way out of the sunshine. “There is Light and Darkness within us all, Ethan. Haven’t you learned that by now?”

  A chill crawled up my spine.

  Abraham leaned forward on his cane. “Speak for yourself, my dear. The heart of this old Incubus is as black as the tar in hell.”

  Lena wasn’t interested in Abraham’s heart, or Sarafine’s lack of one. “I don’t know what you want, and I don’t care. You should leave before Uncle Macon senses you’re here.”

  “I’m afraid we can’t do that.” Abraham’s empty black eyes were fixed on Lena. “We have business to attend to.”

  Every time I heard his voice, the rage welled up inside me. I hated him for what he’d done to Aunt Prue. “What kind of business? Destroying the whole town?”

  “Don’t worry, I’ll get to that.” Abraham pulled a polished gold pocket watch from his jacket and checked it. “But first, we have to kill the One Who Is Two.”

  How does he know who it is, L?

  Don’t Kelt. She can hear you.

  I held Lena’s hand tighter, feeling my skin blister beneath hers. “We don’t know what you’re talking about.”

  “Don’t lie to me, boy!” He lifted his cane in one hand, pointing it at me. “Did you think we wouldn’t figure it out?”

  Sarafine was staring at Lena’s eyes. She hadn’t seen them the night she called the Seventeenth Moon. She had been locked in some kind of Dark Caster dream state. “We do have The Book of Moons, after all.”

  Thunder rumbled through the air, but even as angry as she was, Lena couldn’t bring the rain. “You can have the Book. We don’t need it to forge the New Order.”

  Abraham didn’t appreciate being challenged, especially not by a Caster who was half Light. “No. You’re right, little girl. You need the One Who Is Two. But we aren’t going to let you sacrifice yourself. We’re going to kill you first.”

  I forced my thoughts into the part of my mind I could lock away from Lena, because if she knew what I was thinking, Sarafine would, too. Even in that private part of my mind, the same thought kept fighting its way out.

  They thought the One Who Is Two was Lena.

  And they were going to kill her.

  I tried to push Lena behind me. But the second I moved, Abraham extended his hand and lifted it into the air. My feet rose off the ground, and I was thrown back, an iron grip locked around my throat. Abraham began to close his hand, and I could feel an invisible glove closing around my neck. “You have caused me enough trouble for two lifetimes. That ends here.”

  “Ethan!” Lena screamed. “Leave him alone!”

  But the hand only tightened. I could feel it beginning to crush my windpipe. My body was jerking and shaking, and I remembered John when he was in the Tunnels with Lena. The weird jerking and twitching he seemed unable to control.

  Was this what it felt like to be in the grip of Abraham Ravenwood?

  Lena started to run toward me, but Sarafine flicked out her fingers, and a perfect circle of fire flew up around Lena. It reminded me of Lena’s father, standing in the midst of the flames as Sarafine watched him burn to death.

  Lena threw her own palm forward, and Sarafine flew back. She hit the ground hard, skidding across the dirt faster than was humanly possible.

 
She stood up, brushing off her dirty dress with her bloody hands. “Someone’s been practicing.” Sarafine smiled. “Me, too.”

  She turned her hand in a circle in front of her, and a second ring of fire surrounded the first.

  Lena! Get out of there!

  I couldn’t choke out the words. I didn’t have enough air.

  Sarafine advanced. “There will be no New Order. The universe has already brought Darkness upon the Mortal world. But things will get worse.” Lightning sliced across the Carolina blue sky, touching down on the old stone arch, reducing it to rubble.

  Sarafine’s golden yellow eyes were glowing, and Lena’s gold and green ones started to glow, too. The flames of the outer circle around Lena were spreading, touching the perimeter of the inner one.

  “Sarafine!” Abraham shouted. “Enough of these games. Kill her, or I will.”

  Sarafine stalked toward Lena, her dress blowing around her ankles. The Four Horsemen had nothing on her. She was rage and vengeance, wrath and malice, in beautifully twisted human form. “You have shamed me for the last time.”

  The sky began to darken above us, forming a dense black cloud.

  I tried to pull away from the supernatural grip, but every time I moved, Abraham closed his hand more and the vise around my neck tightened. It was hard to force my eyes to stay open. I kept blinking, trying not to pass out.

  Lena thrust her open hands into the fire, and the circle pushed away from her. The flames didn’t die down, but they were expanded outward at Lena’s command.

  The black cloud followed Sarafine, swirling above her. I blinked harder, trying to concentrate. I realized it wasn’t a storm cloud trailing Sarafine.

  It was a swarm of Vexes.

  Sarafine called out above the hissing fire. “On the first day, there was Dark Matter. On the second, an Abyss from which, on the third day, the Dark Fire rose. On the fourth day, from the smoke and flame, all Power was born.” She stopped just outside the blazing circle. “On the fifth, the Lilum, the Demon Queen, was spun from the ash. And on the sixth came the Order, to balance an energy that knew no bounds.”

 
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