Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia

  Sarafine’s hair began to singe from the heat. “On the seventh, there was a book.”

  The Book of Moons appeared on the ground in front of her, the pages flipping themselves. They stopped abruptly, and the Book lay open at Sarafine’s feet, impervious to the flames.

  Sarafine began to recite from memory.






  The moment she spoke the last word, the fire parted, creating a path through the center of the blaze.

  I saw Sarafine raise her hands in front of her and close her eyes. She flicked her fingers open on both hands, and fire sparked on the tips. But her face twisted in confusion. Something wasn’t right.

  Her powers weren’t working.

  The flames never left her fingers, and the sparks rained down, igniting her dress.

  I struggled with the last bit of strength I had left in me. I was going to lose consciousness. I heard a voice in a remote corner of my mind. It wasn’t Lena or the Lilum, or even Sarafine. It was whispering something over and over, so softly I couldn’t hear it.

  The death grip around my neck loosened, but when I glanced at Abraham, the position of his hand hadn’t changed. I gasped, inhaling so fast the air choked me. The words in my head were getting louder.

  Two words.


  I saw his face—my face—for a split second. It was my other half, my Fractured Soul. He was trying to help me.

  The invisible hand was ripped from my neck, and air tore through my lungs. Abraham’s expression was a mixture of shock, confusion, and fury.

  I stumbled as I ran toward Lena, still trying to catch my breath. By the time I reached the edge of the burning circle, Sarafine was trapped inside another, clutching the bottom of her burnt dress.

  I stopped a few feet away. The heat was so intense I couldn’t get any closer. Lena was standing in front of Sarafine, on the other side of the blazing ring. Her hair was singed from the heat, her face black from the smoke.

  The cloud of Vexes was moving away from her and toward Abraham. He was watching, but he wasn’t helping Sarafine.

  “Lena! Help me!” Sarafine called, dropping to her knees. She looked so much like Izabel the night she was Claimed, lying at her mother’s feet. “I never wanted to hurt you. I never wanted any of this.”

  Lena’s blackened face was filled with rage. “No. You wanted me dead.”

  Sarafine’s eyes were watering from the smoke, which almost made it look like she was crying. “My life has never been about what I wanted. My choices were made for me. I tried so hard to fight the Darkness, but I wasn’t strong enough.” She coughed, trying to rub the smoke away. With her face streaked and her eyes swollen and red, the gold in them was hard to see. “You have always been the strong one, even as a baby. That’s how you survived.”

  I recognized the confusion in Lena’s eyes. Sarafine was a victim of the curse Lena had feared her whole life—the curse that had spared Lena. Was this who her mother could have been? “What do you mean, how I survived?”

  Sarafine coughed, black smoke swirling around her. “There was a terrible storm, and the rain put out the fire. You saved yourself.” She sounded relieved, as if she hadn’t left Lena for dead.

  Lena stared at her mother. “And today you were going to finish what you started.”

  An ember fell onto Sarafine’s dress, and it caught fire again. She slapped at the charred fabric with her bare hand until it went out. She lifted her eyes to meet Lena’s. “Please.” Her voice was so hoarse, it was hard to hear. She reached out her hand toward Lena. “I wasn’t going to hurt you. I just had to make him believe I was.”

  She was talking about Abraham, the one who had lured Lena’s mother into the Dark, the one who was standing there watching her burn.

  Lena was shaking her head, tears streaming down her face. “How can I trust you?” But even as she said it, the flames began to die down in the space between them.

  Lena started to reach out her hand.

  Their fingertips were inches apart.

  I could see the burns on Sarafine’s arm as she reached for Lena. “I’ve always loved you, Lena. You’re my little girl.”

  Lena closed her eyes. It was hard to look at Sarafine, with her hair singed and her skin blistering. It had to be even harder if she was your mother. “I wish I could believe you….”

  “Lena, look at me.” Sarafine seemed to be breaking. “I’ll love you until the day after forever.”

  I remembered the words from the vision. The last thing Sarafine said to Lena’s father before she left him to die. “I’ll love you until the day after forever.”

  Lena remembered, too.

  I saw her face twist in agony as she yanked her hand back. “You don’t love me. You aren’t capable of love.”

  The fire surged up where it had died down only a minute before, trapping Sarafine. She was being consumed by the flames she once controlled, her powers as unpredictable as any Caster’s.

  “No!” Sarafine screamed.

  “I’m sorry, Izabel,” Lena whispered.

  Sarafine lunged forward, catching the sleeve of her dress on fire. “You little bitch! I wish you had burned to death like your miserable father! I will find you in the next life—”

  But screams reached a crescendo as the flames swept over Sarafine’s body in seconds. It was worse than the bloodcurdling shrieking of the Vexes. It was the sound of pain and death and misery.

  Her body fell, and the flames moved over it like a swarm of locusts, leaving nothing but the raging fire. At the same moment, Lena dropped to her knees, staring at the place where her mother’s hand had hung in the air a minute before.


  I closed the distance between us, dragging her away from the fire. She was coughing, trying to catch her breath.

  Abraham came closer, the black cloud of demonic spirits above him. I pulled Lena to me as we watched Greenbrier burn for the second time.

  He was standing over us, the tip of his cane practically touching the melted toe of my sneaker. “Well, you know what they say. If you want something done right, do it yourself.”

  “You didn’t help her.” I don’t know why I said it. I didn’t care that Sarafine was dead. But why hadn’t he?

  Abraham laughed. “Saved me the trouble of killing her myself. She wasn’t worth her weight in salt anymore.”

  I wondered if Sarafine had realized how expendable she was. How worthless she was in the eyes of the master she served? “But she was one of you.”

  “Dark Casters are nothing like me and my kind, boy. They’re like rats. Plenty more where Sarafine came from.” He looked at Lena, his face darkening to match his empty eyes. “Once your little girlfriend’s dead, getting rid of them will be my next order of business.”

  Don’t listen to him, L.

  But she wasn’t listening to Abraham. She wasn’t listening to anyone. I knew, because I could hear her stumbling over the same words in her mind, again and again.

  I let my mother die.

  I let my mother die.

  I let my mother die.

  I pushed Lena behind me, even though she had a better chance of fighting Abraham than I did. “My aunt was right. You are the Devil.”

  “She’s too kind. But I wish I was.” He pulled out his gold pocket watch, checking the time. “But I do know a few Demons. And they’ve been waiting a long time to pay this world a visit.” Abraham slid the watch back into his jacket. “Looks like you kids are out of time.”


  Demon Door

  Abraham lifted The Book of Moons, and the pages began to turn again, flipping so fast I was sure they would tear. When they stopped, he ran his fingers over the pages reverently. This was his bible. Framed by
the black smoke behind him, Abraham began to read.









  I didn’t want to hang around to see the legion of Demons that Abraham was calling to finish us off. The Vexes were enough for me. I grabbed Lena’s hand and pulled her up, running from the fire and Lena’s dead mother, from Abraham and The Book of Moons and whatever evil he was summoning.

  “Ethan! We’re going the wrong way.”

  Lena was right. We should have been running toward Ravenwood, instead of through the tangled cotton fields that used to be part of Blackwell, the plantation that once stood on the other side of Greenbrier. But there was nowhere else to go. Abraham was standing between Ravenwood and us, his sadistic smile revealing the truth. This was a game, and he was enjoying it.

  “We don’t have a choice. We have to—”

  Lena cut me off before I could finish. “Something’s wrong. I can feel it.”

  The sky darkened above us, and I heard a low rumbling sound. But it wasn’t thunder or the unmistakable screams of Vexes.

  “What is that?” I was dragging Lena up the hill that used to lead from the road to Blackwell Plantation.

  Before she could answer, the ground started moving beneath us. It felt like it was rolling under my feet, and I struggled to keep my balance. The rumbling sound was getting louder, and there were other noises—trees splitting and falling, the strangled symphony of thousands of lubbers, and a faint cracking coming from behind us.

  Or below us.

  Lena saw it first. “Oh my God!”

  The earth was cracking down the middle of the dirt road, the split heading right for us. As the crack spread, the ground opened up, and dirt poured into the fissure like quicksand being sucked into a hole.

  It was an earthquake.

  It seemed impossible because quakes didn’t happen in the South. They happened in places out west, like California. But I’d seen enough movies to recognize one.

  The sound was as terrifying as the sight of the ground consuming itself. The black streak of Vexes above us reared back, heading straight for us.

  The ground behind us was splitting faster, tearing like a seam.

  “We can’t outrun it! Or them!” Lena’s voice was ragged. “We’re trapped!”

  “Maybe not.” I looked over the side of the hill and saw the Beater skidding across the road below us. Link was driving like his mom had just caught him drinking in church. There was something in front of the Beater, moving even faster than the car.

  It was Boo. Not the lazy black dog that slept at the foot of Lena’s bed. This was a Caster dog that looked like a wolf, and ran faster than one.

  Lena looked back. “We’ll never make it!”

  Abraham was still standing in the distance, untouched by the winds swirling around him. He turned to look over the side of the hill, where the Beater was racing along the road below.

  I looked down, too. Link was hanging out the window shouting at me. I couldn’t hear him, but whatever he was urging us to do—jump, run, I didn’t even know—there was no time.

  I shook my head silently, glancing back at Abraham one last time. Link’s eyes followed mine.

  Then he was gone.

  The Beater was still moving, but the driver’s seat was empty. Boo jumped out of the way as the car sped past him, ignoring the curve in the road. The Beater flipped, crashing down onto the road over and over.

  I saw the roof cave in at the same time I heard the rip—

  A hand fumbled for my arm. I was pitched into the black void that transported Incubuses from one place to another, but I didn’t need to see to know it was Link’s hand digging into my skin.

  I was still spiraling through the void when I felt his fingers slipping. Then I was falling, and the world came back into view. Slices of the dark sky and flashes of brown—

  My back hit something hard, more than once.

  I watched the sky pull farther and farther away as I got closer to the ground. But my body slammed against something solid, and suddenly I wasn’t falling anymore.


  My arm was caught, and the pain tore up my shoulder. I blinked. I was trapped in a sea of long, brown… branches?

  “Dude, are you okay?” I turned slowly toward the sound of his voice. Link was standing at the base of the tree, staring up at me. Lena was beside him, completely panicked.

  “I’m trapped in a tree. What do you think?”

  Relief spread across Lena’s face.

  “I think I just saved your ass with my superpowers.” Link was grinning.

  “Ethan, can you get down?” Lena asked.

  “Yeah. I don’t think anything’s broken.” I untangled my legs from the branches carefully.

  “I can rip you down,” Link offered.

  “No, thanks. I got it.” I was afraid of where I might end up if he gave it another shot.

  It hurt every time I moved, so it took me a few minutes to climb down. As soon as I hit the ground, Lena threw her arms around me. “You’re okay!”

  I didn’t want to mention that if she squeezed me any tighter, I wouldn’t be. I could already feel what little energy I had left draining out of me. “I think so.”

  “Hey, you two are heavier than you look. And it was my first time. Cut me some slack.” Link was still grinning. “I did save your lives.”

  I held out my fist. “You did, man. We’d be dead if it wasn’t for you.”

  He tapped his knuckles against mine. “I guess that makes me a hero.”

  “Great. Now your head’s gonna be even bigger, if that’s possible.” He knew what I was really saying—thanks for saving my ass and the girl I love.

  Lena hugged him. “Well, you’re my hero.”

  “I did sacrifice the Beater.” Link looked over at me. “How bad was it?”


  He shrugged. “Nothin’ a little duct tape can’t fix.”

  “Hope you’ve got a lot of it. How did you find us, anyway?”

  “You know how they say animals can sense tornados and earthquakes and stuff like that? Guess it’s the same for Incubuses.”

  “The earthquake,” Lena whispered. “Do you think it made it to town?”

  “It’s already hit,” Link said. “Main Street split open right down the middle.”

  “Is everyone okay?” I meant Amma, my dad, and my hundred-year-old aunts.

  “I dunno. My mom took a mess a people down to the church, and they’re holed up in there. She said somethin’ about the foundation and the steel in the beams and some show she saw on the nature channel.” Leave it to Mrs. Lincoln to rescue everyone on her street with educational programming and a talent for ordering people around. “When I left, she was screamin’ about the apocalypse and the seven signs.”

  “We have to get to my house.” We didn’t live as close to church as Link did, and I was pretty sure Wate’s Landing wasn’t built to withstand earthquakes.

  “There’s no way. The road split right behind me as soon as I turned off a Route 9. We’re gonna have to go through Perpetual Peace.” It was hard to believe Link was volunteering to go into the cemetery at night, in the middle of a supernatural earthquake.

  Lena put her head on my shoulder. “I have a bad feeling about this.”

  “Yeah? Well, I’ve had a bad feelin’ since I got back from Neverland and turned into a Demon.”

  When we walked through the gates of His Garden of Perpetual Peace, it was anything but peaceful. Even with the glowing crosses, it was so dark I could barely see. The lubbers were going nuts, buzzing so loud that it sounded like we were in th
e center of a wasps’ nest. Lightning cut through the darkness, cracking the sky the way the earthquake had cracked the earth.

  Link was leading the way, since he was the only one who could see much of anything. “You know, my mom’s right about one thing. In the Bible, it says there’ll be earthquakes at the end.”

  I looked at him like he was nuts. “When was the last time you read the Bible? In Sunday school, when we were nine?”

  He shrugged. “Just sayin’.”

  Lena bit her bottom lip. “Link could be right. What if Abraham didn’t cause this, and it’s a result of the Order being broken? Like the heat and the bugs and the lake drying up?”

  I knew she felt responsible, but this wasn’t caused by a Mortal End of Days. This was a supernatural apocalypse. “And Abraham just happened to be reading about cracking open the earth to let all the Demons out?”

  Link looked over at me. “What do you mean, lettin’ the Demons out? Lettin’ them outta where?”

  The ground started to tremble again. Link stopped, listening. It seemed like he was trying to determine where the quake was coming from, or where it would hit next. The rumbling changed to a creaking sound, as if we were standing on a porch that was about to collapse. It sounded like a thunderstorm underground.

  “Is another one going to hit?” I couldn’t decide if it was better to run or stand still.

  Link looked around. “I think we should—”

  The ground underneath us seized, and I heard the asphalt splitting. There was nowhere to go, and not enough time to get there, anyway. The asphalt was crumbling around me, but I wasn’t falling down. Pieces of the road were jutting up toward the sky.

  They scraped against each other, forming a crooked concrete triangle, until they stopped. The glowing crosses started flickering out.

  “Tell me that isn’t what I think it is.” Link was backing away from the dead grass, dotted with plastic flowers and headstones. It looked like the headstones were shifting. Maybe another aftershock was coming, or worse.

  “What are you talking about?” The first gravestone came out of the dirt before he had time to answer. It was another earthquake—at least, that’s what I thought.

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