Friends. Foes. Lots of trouble. The end comes for Sophie as she and her companions confront Blackwood for a final showdown at the Old Den. Wits and warriors are pitted against each other in fierce battles that will decide the fate of the werewolves and their beloved islands. Sophie must confront what she is and her feelings for Erik before it’s too late.
I had to admit that after seeing so many unbelievable things this was definitely strange to watch.
Our little group of heroes, companions, and annoyances were gathered around the circle of stone benches watching a witch and my werewolf mate as they huddled over a small fire in a deep pit. Greg and I sat beside each other on one of the benches. Methuselah the vampire stood off to one side outside the circle. Marge sat on another stone bench, and at her feet lay our unconscious captive, Carey, my somewhat arch nemesis.
"Does anybody think this is weird?" I asked our little group.
"Quiet," Hazel the witch hissed at me. She tossed in a couple more pieces of firewood to the glowing flames in the center of the pit and her eyes flickered to Erik. "Are you prepared to learn the ways of your mother's kind?"
Erik nodded his head. "I am."
"I'm really serious about this," I insisted as I looked at all their serious faces. "
Am I the only one who's ever had a normal life?"
Greg placed a hand on my shoulder and pressed a finger to his lips. I opened my mouth to speak, but he shook his head.
Hazel pulled a small bag out from her cloak and opened the rope ties. She reached inside and picked out a pinch of white powder. "Let me see your hand," she ordered Erik. He held out his palm and she sprinkled a little of the dust into his hand. "I want you to to use this powder to extinguish the fire," she instructed him.
Erik made as though to throw the powder in, but Hazel's eyes widened and she held up her hand. "Not yet!" She stood and hurried around to the opposite side of the benches further away than even where Methuselah stood. "Now you may try," she told him.
Erik frowned. "Why not before?"
"Because if this doesn't work I don't want to be near it," she explained to him.
All of us who sat on the benches glanced at each other and leaned back. Erik pursed his lips, but tossed in a smidgen of the pinch of white powder. There was a loud explosion of flames and a column of fire shot into the air. It probably could have been seen from space. The heat was so intense that I wondered if my eyebrows were still intact. Thankfully, the column was focused within the pit so that even Erik wasn't singed too bad. After a few seconds the flames reverted back to their original short height and intensity.
Marge jumped to her feet and turned her angry eyes on Hazel. "What the hell are you trying to do? Kill us all?"
Hazel sneered at her. "Do not put the blame on me for anyone's incompetence at magic," she snapped back.
"That might have told the whole lake where we are," Marge shot back.
"Then he had better learn quickly," Hazel barked.
"My Lady spoke of a motivation for the magic," Greg spoke up.
Hazel furrowed her brow and tapped her pointed chin with one long finger. "I suppose there is," she admitted.
Marge glared at the witch. "You suppose? Don't you know?"
Hazel narrowed her eyes. "This is my first time teaching the ways to an outsider. It is difficult to remember all of the necessary information to pass onto such a novice."
"I say we go to the Den and have the Lady teach him," Marge suggested.
"That would not be a wise idea," Methuselah spoke up.
"And why not?" Marge snapped at him.
"The Den may have already been taken," he pointed out.
"I say it's worth a look before this hag kills us with her foolishness," Marge insisted.
Erik rose and turned to us. "I will achieve this magic to help all of our friends and the islands. Please just give me time."
Marge pursed her lips, but plopped back down onto the bench. "Fine, but this better not take all night."
Erik turned to Greg. "What motivation did my mother speak of?"
"She spoke of magic as a will of the heart," Greg explained. "Each action is a reaction to how one feels."
"So if you're angry the magic will be evil?" I guessed.
Greg smiled. "Not quite. The more powerful the emotion, the more powerful the magic."
Erik looked down at his hand that held what remained of the powder. "Then I need emotion to stimulate the magic," he surmised.
"That might help," Hazel agreed. She rubbed her chin. "I didn't see feel any emotion when you tossed the powder into the pit."
"But what emotion's the best?" I asked our group. "I mean, should he be angry, or mad, or really mad?"
"The need to protect is the most powerful form of magic," Methuselah spoke up.
Erik pursed his lips and clenched the powder in his fist. "I wish to protect the islands and all who reside there."
Methuselah shook his head. "It is not a need to protect the many, but a need to protect those you know, those whom you truly care about. They cannot be faceless and nameless people."
"But they are my people," Erik insisted.
Methuselah strode over to me and grabbed the back of my collar. He lifted me off the bench and high enough that my feet couldn't reach the ground.
"Hey! What are you doing?" I yelled at him. He carried me over to the pit and held me over the flames. "Let me go!"
Erik jumped forward and reached out to take me from Methuselah, but the vampire held out his hand and stopped my mate.
"Throw the powder into the fire," Methuselah ordered Erik.
Marge and Greg jumped to their feet.
"But she will be killed!" Marge pointed out.
"I'd rather not become an overcooked marshmallow!" I chimed in.
"I cannot guarantee it will work," Erik countered.
"Then she will die," Methuselah replied.
"This is a little extreme," Hazel spoke up. She marched over to us and placed her hands on her hips to scowl at the vampire. "I am fond of for rough teaching, but this is too much."
"If Cassandra hopes to lift the curse, then this must be done," Methuselah insisted.
"Can we try a safer way?" I pleaded. "One where I'm not put over a fire?"
Erik looked to me and our eyes met. There was such determination in them that some of my fear was extinguish. Some, but not all. He needed to accomplish this, if not for himself or his mother then for his people. Our people.
"I will try it," he announced. "But only if you wish it," he told me.
I cringed. "You promise you won't singe me too badly?
A small smile slipped onto his lips. "I guarantee nothing, but I will try."
I sighed and gave a nod of my head. "All right, give it a try, but if this doesn't work we get to trade places."
"Agreed," Erik replied.
Hazel's eyes grew large and she scooted back to her spot beyond the stone benches. Greg and Marge reluctantly sat back down. Methuselah had so much faith in this experiment that he took a step back, but kept me over the fire.
"Thanks for the show of confidence. . ." I grumbled.
I wanted to avert my eyes, but if I was going to go out I would see it happen. Erik knelt down beside the fire and tossed in what remained of the powder. I pressed my knees against my chest and waited for my hot seat. When it didn't come after the first three seconds I chanced a glance beneath me. The fire was not only not going to kill me, but it was completely fizzled out. Only a small plume of smoke rose from its ashes.
I jerked when somebody started clapping. It was Hazel. She strode forward and clapped Erik on the back.
"Well done!" she told him. "I believe your mother would be very proud of you."
I let out a small yelp when Methuselah swung me away from the pit and back onto nonflammable ground. He dropped me onto my feet and I stumbled forward. Erik stood and caught me in his arms.
"I am very glad that worked," he whispered.
I looked up and gave him his shaky smile. "So does this mean you like me a little?" I teased him.
He returned my smile with one of his own. "Perhaps," he teased in return.
"What it means is that he is capable of performing some magic," Hazel explained.
"No, what it means is that we did all that work so he could throw some powder on a campfire," Marge spoke up. She turned her back on us and towards the path. "I don't know about you folks, but I'm tired of sitting around here watching these parlor tricks. I'm going to go to the Den and find out what happened to my captain."
"But his training is far from complete!" Hazel argued.
Marge spun around and glared at the witch. "And I don't see how any of this tomfoolery will help us!"
Erik looked to Hazel. "I must admit I don't understand how any of this is going to help us."
Hazel rolled her eyes and grabbed his shoulders. She spun him around so that I nearly flew from his grasp. Instead, I stumbled towards the benches and Greg caught me.
Hazel snapped a finger towards the path. "You see that tree near the trail?" she asked him. "The one with the knot halfway up the trunk?"
I do," he replied.
"Hold your palm towards it and focus on the knot," she instructed him. "Will your thoughts into fire and throw it from your palm."
"Throw fire from his palm?" Marge repeated. "Are you as senile as you are ugly?"
Hazel whipped her head to Marge and glared at our companion. "Shut up and watch." The witch turned her attention back to Erik and pointed at the tree. "Now try it!"
Erik pursed his lips, but he focused his attention on the woody target. He held his palm out as Hazel had instructed. We all watched with baited breath as the moments ticked into seconds. After ten seconds of nothing Marge marched towards him.
"See? Nothing is going to-"
A blast of fire burst from Erik's hand and flew across the small meadow. It crashed into the tree right where the knot lay. A cloud of smoke covered the point of impact for a moment before the scorched remains of the trunk were revealed to us by a conveniently-timed wind. The knot was gone and replaced by a large, steaming hole.
My mouth dropped open and I turned to Hazel. "Where can I get what he has?"
She smugly grinned and folded her arms across her chest. "There is no substitute for natural talent."
Erik lowered his arm and turned to us. His eyes glistened with pride, but his lips were tightly pursed together. "Now we may return to the Old Den and face my cousin."