Quote of the Moment

"Magic comes from what is inside you. It is part of you. You can't weave together a spell you don't believe in." - Jim Butcher

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Halloween 2015

We interrupt your regularly scheduled chapter posts of Chains of Nect for...

HALLOWEEN!

There will be a chapter up next Wednesday. Promise.

Anyway, Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year. Unless there is some major life event getting in the way, I throw a party every year. This is as social as this hermit writer ever gets. The rest of the year, you'll find me forcing myself to interact outside the house.

This means I decorate every year. I had some help from a friend this year, since I was pretty sick in September and beginning of October, so I was behind on a lot of things (though, I fully admit, I'm always decorating last minute - I'm always running at least a little behind).

I figured I should start posting a few pictures every year. So, here they are!

BEWARE of the MOAT! We had to have the sidewalk ripped out on the side of our house because it was putting pressure on the foundation. Clearly we haven't done anything with the hole that was left from that. I went with it.

Pumpkins. Yes, the small one says Pika. My toddler is obsessed with Pokemon. She even has a stuffed Pikachu she carries around. Pikachu was her first 3-syllable word. I wasn't about to carve the whole name into her pumpkin, though, so she got the short version.

The altar! This is a yearly must. Though this year, I was missing a chalice (still packed away from the kitchen remodel - oops). That skull candle there is supposed to look like it bleeds. It kind of does. Sort of.

Clearly I don't like showing off pictures of myself too often, but I'll give in this time. I was a Walking Halloween Cliche with my cat ears/tail, fairy wings, and Ouija Board shirt. Hey, look, you can even catch a toddler head in the corner. Little Photo Bomber!

I hope you all have a Happy Halloween (and Blessed Samhain for us Pagans)!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession - Chapter 13

DISCLAIMER: This is rough draft material. Don't be surprised if you fall into plot holes, trip over inconsistencies, and get hit in the head with direction changes. I've done my best to read through several times before posting, though, to make sure most spelling and grammar errors are corrected. Any constructive comments are welcome for when I revise this novel. Thank you for reading!

All current and previous chapters for Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession can also be found on Wattpad. And for an easy to access list of all chapters that have been posted to Born to Write, please visit the Table of Contents.

A new chapter is planned to be posted to Wattpad every Friday, and that chapter will then be posted on Born to Write on the Wednesday after.

Chapter 12

* * * * *

Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession

Chapter 13

The magic of the swirling flame washed over Obsidian. She'd been prepared for heat, fearing burns, but an intense cold pierced her instead. So freezing that she thought she'd come out of the other side an icicle, frostbite covering her skin.

No matter the temperature, though, she made sure to hang on to Damian. She wouldn't lose him, or allow him to be lost. All of this was her fault, after all. If she hadn't allowed the gate to consume her, to take over her actions, they wouldn't be in this mess.

And she saw the compulsion now for what it was, wondering if the portal back home had burrowed the same obsession in her heart, if the reason she was only on this path to begin with was because of the magic and not her own will.

But she couldn't see the line, the one with her own desires on one side and that of the portals on the other. That chilled her more than passing through this gate ever could.

Sid gripped Damian, and he followed. He was fool enough to follow. She knew the gate would close behind them, the book had said so, but it was blind faith that they wouldn't walk into something even worse than the chance of getting caught in a shift.

That they wouldn't walk into turmoil.

Walking through felt like it took hours, but it was only seconds. The cold ended as abruptly as it had encompassed her. And her skin was clear, no signs that she had passed through fire and ice.

Sid looked back at the gate--the fire dissipated to a spark in the center, which then snuffed out.

"No going back now," Damian said.

She flinched. Though she still held him around the waist, she had forgotten he was there for a moment. But she didn't let go. No, she didn't want to let go. Lest the madness take her again.

When Damian had grabbed her hands, she had felt some of the magic transfer to him, but he had also grounded her, cleared her head. Just with his touch.

Perhaps another type of magic altogether. Nice to think that there was still magic within the people of Nect. Likely a fruitless dream, but so was the thought of opening a gate and entering another world. And here they were.

Where exactly were they?

On this side, the gate wasn't enveloped by a hill--it arched evenly, vines twining around the stone. It looked as if it had been as neglected as her one back home. On the pinnacle the script said Nect, a rune more intricate than any she had yet to see.

They seemed to be on a little island of land, the grass tall and wild around them.

Sid finally let Damian go and inched over to one edge. A sheer drop greeted her, disappearing into a swirl of fog. No telling how far up they were.

It was impossible to see into the distance as well, the night as dark here as it was in Nect, cloud cover blotting out the stars. If they existed in this world. At least a moon filtered through the clouds to allow some light.

She circled the island and came to the beginning of a bridge. This wasn't any ordinary bridge, though. No wood, no stone, not even anything to hold onto. Large metal links, one secured to the island they were on, stretched into the distance, until they too disappeared in darkness and fog.

A chain. Like the mural on the ceiling in the House of Portals.

Sid touched the metal, and like the gate had surprised her with its cold, the chain startled her with its warmth. It vibrated under her hand, like a heart beating in every link. She glanced back at Damian, who had sat down near the arch. "It's like it's alive."

"I'd join you, but I'm still dizzy." He placed his hand on his head. "Does your book mention how to open the gate from this side?"

In a new world, and all he could think about was going home. Sid wanted to explore, to see what was on the other side of the chain. Or did she? Doubt of her own desires clawed up her throat.

She sighed and pulled the book from under her cloak, opening it. "What?" The first page was unintelligible. "I can't read it anymore." "Bring it here."

She obliged, settling down next to him after handing it over.

He paged through it, each flip of a page quicker than the next. "I can't either." Then he looked near the end, in the second half where the words she originally couldn't make out were.

She craned her neck so she could see. "Still unreadable like in Nect."

"Yes, but they don't seem as out of reach now. Before it felt impossible to even comprehend a single stroke. But now, it's like when I first started to learn the script--I can feel the knowledge just out of reach, there but distant."

Sid focused, her eyes following the flowing strokes. He was right--that wall she had sensed initially was gone, or at least penetrable. She just had to find the door. "Perhaps what we need to decipher it is across there." She motioned to the chain, feeling a pull to traverse it.

"That's what I'm afraid of." Damian slammed the book shut. "We shouldn't even be here in the first place. The Council is going to have our heads for this."

More literally than he likely thought. "We might make it back before they notice."

He laughed. Not a joyful one either--the days of trying to make him smile were past. After what she'd done, she didn't think she'd be able to convince him there was much to smile about when it came to her anymore.

"The sooner we go, the sooner we can find a way home." If they could find a way back to Nect. "How are you feeling?"

"Better. Not that I want to chance walking across a giant chain with a long drop below it. But what choice do I have?" He pushed himself up.

"I suggest we crawl. Safer." Sid stood, but before she returned to the chain, she studied the arch. Then she touched it.

Damian grunted. Clearly he still thought touching the gates was a bad idea. No turning back now, though.

Anyhow, she wanted to make sure she attuned herself to it, thinking it might work the same way it had with her portal and the Turmoil one. Nothing asserted itself, though. No spark, no pull, no sense of magic tugging at her, just the feel of cool stone on her skin.

She didn't want to consider what that meant.

They both approached the edge. "I'll go first," Damian said.

"But--."

He waved her off and knelt, crawling out onto the chain. "Wow, you're right. It's warm. Like flesh, not metal."

Alive. Her mind hooked onto the word. Now she didn't want to cross it.

"Let's hope we don't have too far to reach the other side." He crawled forward, carefully making his way over each link.

Sid crouched by the edge, trying to figure out how she was going to secure the book. Her inner pockets weren't big enough for it. Nothing to do but clutch it to her chest. She scooted out onto the chain, less one hand to steady herself. This would prove interesting, but she couldn't lose the book--it could be their only way back. Wanting to explore this world didn't mean she didn't also want to go home eventually.

Damian looked over his shoulder. "Are you alright?"

"I'll be fine. Just let me concentrate."

He continued forward, soon disappearing into the fog.

One inch at a time, and soon she'd be on the other end. She urged herself forward. The longer she touched the chain, the more it felt like skin, the vibrations throbbing to a set beat. She shivered and almost lost her balance.

Sid stopped, taking a deep breath. She had to get herself together--all she had to do was cross and ignore the texture of the chain.

"I reached the other side." Damian's voice sounded far. Too far.

Into the fog she went, taking her time. Finally, the mist cleared slightly, revealing Damian waiting for her on another patch of overgrown earth. Not far now.

She picked up her pace a little bit, eager to reach the other side. Only one link away, in her haste she scratched the metal with her nails.

And the chain shook beneath her.

Sid screamed, her precarious balance slipping. No, she couldn't lose the book. So she did the only thing she could--she threw it to the other side. Her aim was true, and it thudded next to Damian.

The links shook again and tilted.

And she tilted with it.

"Sid!" Damian scrambled out onto the chain, barely able to keep his own balance. He managed to cling on, fighting for every inch to reach her.

She slid off the flesh-like metal, feet tumbling down. No. Reaching out, she dug her nails in, barely maintaining a grip on the link with both hands.

The chain trembled even more. She was hurting it, this living metal.

Damian's progress halted. "Hang on."

"I'm trying." One hand slipped off, pain lancing through the fingers of the hand still clinging to the metal. "Just get off the chain. Take the book and find a way back to Nect."

"Are you crazy?"

"I don't want you dying because of me." He'd have the book at least. And he'd have the woman that got him into this mess out of his life.

Damian could go back to being a stoic Guardian, keeping his distance from the portals, and forget any of this ever happened.

Obsidian felt her fingers losing their hold. She wondered what it would feel like to fall so far, to slam down into whatever waited for her below. Soon. She'd find out soon. One of her fingers slipped off.

Not long now.

* * * * *

Chapter 14

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Fractured Fairies Snippet - Ode to Buses and Libraries

Fractured Fairies: Immortal Woes & Ode to Buses and Libraries released on Tuesday! I thought it would be nice to offer a brief snippet from "Ode to Buses and Libraries." So, here it is. If you like what you read, consider visiting Amazon and snagging a copy. It's also currently available through Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners' Lending Library.

"So, you're going to send us five hours in the opposite direction when our destination is only an hour away?" The nerve.

"Yep."

I scramble over the counter and yank the metal chain around the centaur's neck, the one proclaiming him "Too Cool." "Look. We wouldn't have been late if it weren't for the damned bus driver." The ogre went in circles to waste time, I know it. Not to mention the restroom break. Syndago learned it was a bad idea to enter a bathroom just after an ogre finished taking a two-hour crap. "I won't stand for it."

The centaur shrugs, as cool as the chain I hold him by. "Nothing I can do."

Syndago pulls me back.

Too late.

The centaur's head explodes, splattering all over the kiosk. So much for Syndago's warning, but sometimes my power has a mind of its own. Really.

Two short stories about a sea nymph with a bad attitude, a potty mouth, and the power of destruction.

Immortal Woes

Nothing like having a suicidal not-so-giant giant as a best friend. Unless you also have a couple of drunken fairy pests tormenting him about his small stature. Grinka's the lucky sea nymph who has both. Between comforting her friend and stopping the lewd fairies from taunting him with a suicide powder, her temper gets the best of her. And when it does, things explode.

"Immortal Woes" received an Honorable Mention in Quarter 3 of the 2015 Writers of the Future Contest.

Ode to Buses and Libraries

Grinka has a maddening itch on the back of her neck. And the only place she can find any answers about her skin condition is at the library in the Immortal World. Of course getting to the library isn't easy, especially when riding the Immortal Express bus line. Between a lackadaisical centaur and the drunken fairy twins, it's a wonder Grinka hasn't exploded them all. Oh wait, she has.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession - Chapter 12

DISCLAIMER: This is rough draft material. Don't be surprised if you fall into plot holes, trip over inconsistencies, and get hit in the head with direction changes. I've done my best to read through several times before posting, though, to make sure most spelling and grammar errors are corrected. Any constructive comments are welcome for when I revise this novel. Thank you for reading!

All current and previous chapters for Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession can also be found on Wattpad. And for an easy to access list of all chapters that have been posted to Born to Write, please visit the Table of Contents.

A new chapter is planned to be posted to Wattpad every Friday, and that chapter will then be posted on Born to Write on the Wednesday after.

Chapter 11

* * * * *

Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession

Chapter 12

This woman before Damian was neither the one he had met at the doorstep of the House of Portals, nor the one who had stood before the Council.

Obsidian rubbed one hand back and forth on the cover of the book she grasped, blood leaking from a wound on her arm. The insanity he had only heard of flickered in her eyes.

The gate had her in its grasp, and he also felt its pull. It sucked at him, the magic licking his fingers like a cat. And then he truly saw the cover of the book. "Is that the same rune as above this portal?"

She nodded.

Perhaps it wasn't just insanity, but she held a real way to open the portals.

Damian looked at her, feeling the need to save her from whatever brink she was on, throw her before the Council, and read the book to open the gate all at the same time. He couldn't be sure which were his own emotions and which ones the portal plucked like strings.

But he had to do something, instead of simply standing there like an indecisive idiot.

He stepped toward her.

She raised the book above her head. There, in the lines of her face, the determination etched in that fierce glare, he saw one of the old Obsidians, not just the madness that tickled her soul.

"I'm not going to hurt you," he said.

Sid laughed. "You'll take me to the Council, though. They'll make sure to do the hurting."

"They'd never--."

"Oh, no? You're even more naive than I originally thought."

Her accusation cut him--all the things he thought she was, cruel wasn't one of them. "Please let me see the book." If he got it out of her hands, perhaps the insanity would leave her. Of course, that meant it was possible it would seize him. He'd take the risk.

She lowered the book at least. "Not unless you promise not to take me to the Council. Or mention this to them at all. And the book comes back to me." A wicked little smile lit her face. "If you're a real Guardian, you'll keep your word. What was that precept? Oh, yes. The truth in all things."

That was the precept she had finally remembered out of the endless list?

Damian sighed. "I promise."

"Come get it, then." It sounded more like a taunt than an offer.

He approached cautiously, reminding himself that she was no Guardian, and with all of her secrets the truth meant nothing to her. The closer he got, the thicker the magic became. It choked him--it wasn't just coming from the gate or the book, but from her as well.

One more step.

She raised the book again, swinging down, aiming for his head.

Damian tried to block her and only changed the trajectory. The book clipped him on the shoulder and he staggered back.

Sid came at him again, this time successfully striking his head.

He toppled to the ground, blood trickling past his eye. That thing had sharp corners.

She hovered over him, book poised for another assault. "Don't move. I'm opening this gate, and you're going to lie there and watch."

His head spun. He couldn't stop her if he wanted to. And that was the big question--did he want to? The magic swirling around him seeped into his skin, sneaking in through the wound on his forehead. It would be amazing to actually see a portal opened in his lifetime.

Not like this, though.

Damian fought against the tug of the magic. No, it wouldn't engulf him.

Sid turned away, satisfied he'd stay down since he didn't move or respond.

Just a few beats of rest, then he'd stop her, stop her from making a mistake. No portal should be opened lightly.

What was he thinking? Lightly? The portals shall remain closed to all, lest we allow the demons on the other side to consume us. That's what he should be thinking. Ever since Obsidian entered his life, the precepts in his mind were crumbling to dust.

He swiped at the blood dripping into his left eye, trying to see what Sid was doing.

She drew words in the dirt before the gate with some type of pin. Script. And she murmured some words. Ones he couldn't make out, she spoke so quietly.

The candle under the gate flared, touching the pinnacle, setting the rune ablaze.

If possible, the magic inside the hill grew. No. He didn't have much time. He had to stop her.

Damian crawled along the ground, his head spinning too much to allow him to stand.

She didn't seem to notice, too intent on her ritual. The closed book rested at her feet, his own blood marring one of the corners.

Almost there.

"Turmoil." The word rang from her throat clear and strong, the magic crackling along the ground.

Sparks danced along the gate, and the rune burned. The flame reached toward the center, the empty space between the stone, which flared to life, a swirling fire turning counter-clockwise.

Too late. Damian grabbed Sid's ankle anyway, and pulled her down.

She screamed, falling face first on the ground, covering the book and the runes she'd written in the dirt. And then she rolled to her side, a wildness in her eyes, hands out like claws, teeth barred.

But before she gouged his face with her nails, he grabbed her hands. "Sidi, stop. Please." The magic coursing through her jumped to him, his fingertips tingling, but he rode the wave of power, siphoning some of what held her enthralled, somehow keeping it in check so it wouldn't overtake him as well.

Her mouth softened, and the madness slowly drained from her eyes, replaced by that stubborn streak. "Only my mother calls me Sidi."

"I know. I'm sorry." Though he wanted to smile, not apologize. She was back. Thank the Ancients.

And the realization spread across her features--eyes widening slightly, lips parting. She raised her hand, hovering it over his wound. "No. I'm sorry." She twisted toward the gate, the spiraling inferno behind her. "What have I done?"

"Nothing that can't be undone." He hoped. "Does that book of yours mention how to close a portal?"

She nodded, released his hands, and picked the book up, dusting it off again. "I just want to check one thing quickly."

The pages she flipped to were near the back, covered in script that Damian couldn't read. Trying to make them out felt like he was battering his fists on a steel door.

"I still can't read it." Sid looked back at the gate. "A mystery to be solved another day." And she turned to another page. "Here we go."

Damian sensed a shift in the magic. The power remained heightened around the opened portal, but steady vibrations hummed through the ground under him.

The shift.

He'd completely lost track of time. "How quickly can you close the gate?"

"A couple of minutes."

"That's not soon enough."

"What? Why?" Sid placed her hand to the ground--she must have finally felt it as well. "Run and come back to close the gate after the shift?" The confidence in her question was non-existent.

"We have no clue what will happen if we leave a portal open during a shift. The results could be...destructive." Damian was afraid the House of Portals would be incinerated. But they had to do something before they became part of the hill.

Obsidian grabbed his hand. "There is one thing we can do."

"I'm not going to like this, am I?"

"If we go through the portal, it'll close behind us."

Nope. Didn't like it at all. There were no other options, though.

She stood, tugging him up with her, and she wrapped an arm around his waist when he teetered--the blow to his head still bothered him.

He stared at the swirling fire, wondering how badly it would burn. Not as badly as his failure as a Guardian. Jump through and thwart all that the precepts were meant to protect, or become fertilizer.

Sid pulled at him. She seemed to have no qualms making the decision to pass into another world. One named Turmoil, no less.

The magic of the shift swirled around Damian's feet like fog. Ignoring the dread in his chest, he gave in to Obsidian's coaxing and stepped into the inferno with her.

* * * * *

Chapter 13

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession - Chapter 11

DISCLAIMER: This is rough draft material. Don't be surprised if you fall into plot holes, trip over inconsistencies, and get hit in the head with direction changes. I've done my best to read through several times before posting, though, to make sure most spelling and grammar errors are corrected. Any constructive comments are welcome for when I revise this novel. Thank you for reading!

All current and previous chapters for Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession can also be found on Wattpad. And for an easy to access list of all chapters that have been posted to Born to Write, please visit the Table of Contents.

A new chapter is planned to be posted to Wattpad every Friday, and that chapter will then be posted on Born to Write on the Wednesday after.

Chapter 10

* * * * *

Chains of Nect: Obsidian's Obsession

Chapter 11

Sid had seen both Ama and Enid slip off to study rooms on the first floor after dinner. She hoped they'd remain occupied for a while. And she ate in haste, Damian's eyes upon her the whole time.

Forget him. He wasn't about to lurk outside her door, seeing what she had hidden. Nor could he open up and peek inside her head no matter how much he studied her.

"I'm off." Sid stood, tray in hand. "I may take another look at the language book before I head to bed."

It was as if that eyebrow of his had a brain all its own--it crept up near his hairline. "Good luck." His words sounded dead, fake.

She didn't need any luck because she had already figured it out. And he knew it, but he hadn't confronted her about it. No clue why. Perhaps he wanted proof, to catch her in a lie. She imagined his smug satisfaction if he did.

Nope. Not going to give him the pleasure. "See you in the morning."

Sid took care of her tray and sped back to her room, then dove straight into prying her precious book out from under her dresser. It took some time, and she had to open a window because of the smell of the turpentine. Hopefully the other women wouldn't notice the stench--it should all clear out before they got back.

Finally, though, she held the box in her hands.

Instead of triggering the mechanism right away, she rubbed her hand along the metal. A strange fear ran up her spine. What if the book wasn't what she expected? What if it was something silly like recipes? Or what if it was what she thought? What then?

No way to know until she read it.

She worked her fingers, popped the mechanism, and pulled the book out. Then dropped the box in a clatter because of the rune on the book's cover.

It had changed.

It no longer echoed that blurry rune in her mind from the gate back home. No.

The rune said Turmoil.

Clearly this book had more magic than just the ability to preserve itself. It shifted with a person's focus. She was sure if she went down to the courtyard right now and studied, wait, no, touched, another portal, then held the book, the word would change to reflect that gate.

Amazing.

And convenient. Only one book needed to still exist to be able to open all of the portals.

Again, she hadn't confirmed that it contained such knowledge, but there was less doubt now.

Sid opened it gingerly, hands shaking. The first sections seemed to detail the world itself. At least the landscape, terrain, geography, as well as the types of animals that populated it. She skimmed this, watching for mention of other people, but there was none. Odd.

Finally, though, she found something she sought. Clear instructions on how to open the gate. And it was obvious that these directions would only open Turmoil. Kind of a give away when the final word needing to be spoken was that of the rune etched in the gate. But of course since this magic was a written kind, speech wasn't enough--oh, no. And it all had to be perfect. One mistake and the gate would remain closed to her.

But these instructions were only halfway through the book. She paged past them, and though the runes in the next section looked exactly the same, she couldn't read them. It was as if a stone wall fell down in her mind, blocking her from comprehending them.

She puzzled over them, trying to focus as she had when she learned before, but that wall didn't budge. It even felt like it grew closer, like a living entity refusing her entry. Strange.

Perhaps this was the section about the inhabitants and history of Turmoil. Not that there was even a hint what the words meant. This was worse than when she first found the book. Not only was she clueless, but even trying felt hopeless.

And she had no one to ask. Unless she confessed everything to Damian. If she did so, he'd surely drag her in front of the Council this time.

Sid stared at the obstinate words. Perhaps she'd be able to read them once she opened the gate. Yes, that had to be it.

And she knew how to do it. That's all she'd do. Just open it, see if she could then read the rest of the book, and close the gate before anyone even noticed.

Only for a moment did she consider herself mad, but she felt such a deep need, a compulsion, to follow the steps listed in the book, that she settled herself by insisting that it was instinct that pushed her, not madness.

It's not like she needed many materials. She could do this now, tonight, no need to wait.

She dredged her mind to recall what Damian had pointed out during the tour on her first day. Supplies, she had to find a supply room.

Sid rummaged through her chest and pulled out a small knife and a thick, gray cloak. She changed into a regular pair of clothes, shirt and breeches so a skirt wouldn't get in the way, and wrapped the cloak around her. The book could be hidden nicely in its folds, and she stowed the knife in one of the inner pockets.

Then she slipped out of the room, careful to avoid anyone in the halls, ducking into shadows and doorways when needed. At one point she saw both Ama and Enid pass--good thing she was no longer paging through the book in their room.

It took some time to get downstairs. Thankfully the main level wasn't too crowded, since by now most people were either in their rooms or shut away studying.

She recalled most of the supplies were kept near the kitchens, so she headed that way. Yes, she lucked out on the first large room she tried. Oil lamps, candles, matches--perfect.

Sid pawed through the candles. The instructions were specific--it had to be a certain color. Most of what she found was simply white or yellow. Normal, boring candle colors. What need did they have for an array of colors anyhow? Ancients forbid the Guardians had any aesthetic sense.

Finally, though, at the bottom of a box, she found exactly what she was looking for. A brilliant red pillar. She snatched some matches, tucked her finds into her cloak pockets, and returned to the hall.

A scrape echoed from around the corner. Sid ducked into a doorway, feeling exposed, not in the shadows enough. Her heart pounded with the thought of being caught, however it ached more at the thought of the portal remaining closed for any longer. She waited several beats, but no one appeared and the sound didn't repeat itself.

Now or never. She continued her way to the door labeled Crossroads, and when she stepped through it, she again felt the same tingling she had on the first day. This time though, she shuddered from the force. She squeezed the book under her cloak, as if it were trying to escape.

The night was thick with magic, and she only brought more with her.

What time was it? She'd lost track, and she hoped she wouldn't be caught in the shift. No, it couldn't be that late.

Sid wove through all of the gates, not caring what they said or where they led. Only one mattered tonight. As she walked, though, she watched for a loose branch. By the time she'd reached the misshapen hill, she still hadn't found one. Damn these Guardians for keeping everything so proper.

She needed something to trace in the dirt with, and she couldn't go back to the main building now.

Ah, of course. Sid plucked the two large pins out of her hair that Ama had insisted she keep. Her hair tumbled down her back. One of these would work, since she couldn't use the knife--the book insisted that which spilled blood couldn't work the magic needed in the words. And her hair felt better down, anyhow. Right. More powerful. Free.

If Sid was successful, she'd free more than just some strands of hair.

She ducked through the opening in the hill, and the magic of Turmoil hit her. It slithered along her skin, sucking at her pores, made its way down her throat and spread to her fingers and toes, almost choking her with its desperation.

Yes, yes. Soon.

Sid pulled out the candle and the knife. She held her breath as she nicked her arm with the blade, blood welling from the cut. And with that blood, she slowly etched the rune into the candle, just right, every stroke in the proper order, or the magic would disintegrate.

Then she placed the candle under the arch in the center. Even though the gate was crooked and the ground not level, there was still a perfect spot for it, an indentation that would have been mistaken for a simple dimple in the earth unless you knew what you were looking for.

She took out a match and struck it, hands trembling so fiercely from nerves and the power running rampant around her and in her, she could barely hold it to the wick long enough to light it. But she finally did, the flame flickering and climbing, as if reaching up toward the etched rune of the portal.

So beautiful.

"Ouch." She dropped the match which had burned to her fingertips. She should really pay better attention. Every detail counted.

Speaking of details. Sid pulled out the book and paged to the directions, to re-read them, just to be sure.

"What are you doing?" Damian's voice sliced through the magic swirling in a cloud around her.

She dropped the book and spun to find him standing right behind her. How had she not heard him? Bad. Not being careful enough. Something had surely taken hold of her.

He stepped closer and pointed to the book. "What's that?"

No way out of this now. He'd take her to the Council no matter what. But she had to open Turmoil--it needed her.

Sid picked up the book and dusted it off, thankful no pages had come loose. "A way to open the portals."

And she was prepared to knock Damian over the head with it when he tried to drag her away.

* * * * *

Chapter 12