2 Spells Too Many
A giant funnel cloud was headed straight toward us.
Dust and debris began to blow through the air.
There were shouts and shrieks of panic. People stampeded toward the store, trying to get out of the path of the tornado.
Marco picked up Richie, grabbed Karen’s hand, and began to lead them toward the building.
A horrible chill seeped into me, like I’d jumped into an ice bath. “No!” I screamed. “Come back!”
But they couldn’t hear me over the wind.
Without thinking, I extended my hand, shouted my name, and magically summoned them.
The biggest thing I’d ever summoned before was a spear, and I was certainly not prepared for the force three bodies would deliver as they flew through the air and slammed into me. We tumbled to the ground, a collection of tangled limbs and surprised grunts.
“What happened?” Karen asked.
“We flew!” Richie cried. “That’s so cool!”
“Crosswinds,” Marco supplied quickly, shooting me a nervous look. “Never underestimate the power of crosswinds.”
I flashed him a quick smile of gratitude for offering an excuse to explain away my having used magic.
Sol, somehow keeping his top hat in place, yanked everyone to their feet one at a time, pulling me up from the bottom of the pile last. “Get between the campers,” he ordered as the winds swirled closer.
Karen and Richie stared open-mouthed at the storm, unable to move until Marco shoved them in the direction we were to head.
“That won’t be enough protection,” I yelled over whipping winds.
“But it will provide shelter from prying eyes,” he shouted back, grabbing my hand and dragging me with him.
Karen and Marco were hunched over, trying to shield Richie from the whirlwind. The boy was sobbing in terror.
“Pick him up,” Sol ordered Karen.
She did, the boy burying his face in her shoulder.
“Everyone needs to hold on very tight to each other,” Sol shouted. “Understand?”
We nodded. Standing behind Karen, Marco wrapped his arms around her waist.
It was getting dark quickly as the tornado closed in on us. Streetlight poles began to snap and I saw a shopping cart fly through the air.
I hoped that Sol had a plan other than standing here, because we were about to be demolished by the fury of the storm.
Richie, keeping one arm looped around his mother’s neck, reached for me with his other. I grabbed his hand with one of mine, interlocked my other arm under Marco’s elbow, and squeezed Karen’s shoulder.
Sol hooked his arm around my waist and nudged my foot with his, and I knew what his plan was.
“Don’t let go,” Sol shouted so everyone could hear. “On the count of three, everyone close their eyes and hold their breath.”
I put my foot on top of his.
He threw his hat on the ground.
I held my breath.
We stepped into the hat and went down the rabbit hole.
The ride seemed even bumpier than the last time we’d done it. We were lashed by updrafts, doused simultaneously with hot and cold, damp and dry, bright light and total darkness.
We hit bottom with a jolt, but no one let go. Even as we lay on the ground, gasping for breath, we hung on to each other, waiting for whatever was next.
And then Sol released me.
“I think we’re okay.” I disentangled myself from Marco and Karen and tugged my hand free from Richie’s grasp. “It’s okay.”
Slowly, the others followed suit, sitting up and looking around.
Richie’s eyes were wide as he felt the dirt that made up the walls. “Whoa, cool!”
Remembering that Sol would be in white rabbit form, I turned and carefully scooped up the hare’s limp body. “Ravena Renata Valentina. Ravena Renata Valentina.” As I murmured my name, heat filled my body. Eventually, the bunny stirred, but he did not change back into his human form.
“Where are we?” Karen asked fearfully, clutching Richie to her.
I couldn’t blame her, the first time I’d gone down Sol’s rabbit hole and ended up underground, I’d been freaked out, too.
“We’re safe,” I soothed.
“Were we buried alive by the storm?” Richie asked.
I chuckled. “No, sweetie.”
“It’s a sinkhole,” Marco offered. “Perfect protection from the wind.”
Karen arched her eyebrows, clearly not believing his lie.
“Where’s Sol?” Richie asked.
“Resting.” I stroked the soft white fur of the rabbit. His lavender shimmer was lighter than I’d ever seen it, and I swallowed hard as panic rose in me that he was dying.
Karen glanced all around. “What if we suffocate?”
“We won’t,” I assured her.
She did not look convinced.
“Are you okay, Marco?” I asked, realizing he’d been uncharacteristically quiet.
He nodded but remained silent, seeming to be lost in thought.
Richie scrambled over to me and stared at me angrily. “Are you lying to me, Smoosher lady?”
I drew back, surprised. “No. Why would you think that?”
“Because grown-ups lie to kids all the time.” He scowled at me with such ferocity that his eyebrows practically touched.
“What is it you think I’m lying about?”
“You said Sol’s resting, but he’s not. He’s dead.” The boy’s lower lip quivered and his eyes filled with tears.
“No,” I told him gently. “Sol’s not dead.” Instinctively, I clasped the limp rabbit tighter to me, hoping the magician wasn’t stuck in Leporidae form permanently.
Richie wasn’t about to let the assertion go unchallenged. “How do you know?”
I hesitated, unsure of how to respond. None of them knew about Sol’s magic and I didn’t want to be the one to out him. I wasn’t worried about Marco. Not only had he been a wizard’s assistant before, but he’d also witnessed me dispatch the Culler, Nightway, who’d wanted to take Richie, with a sparkling feather, and it hadn’t fazed him one bit. But Karen and Richie didn’t know.
And I thought they’d be better off never knowing magic exists. I was pretty sure I would have been.
Before I could come up with an answer for the kid, heat flashed through me and Sol morphed into his human form…as was becoming usual, with his face squashed against my breast.
“Whoa!” Richie’s eyes were wide. “How’d you do that?”
I gently shoved Sol off me. The boy was his problem to deal with now.
Richie turned to Karen. “Mom, did you see that?”
Her response was to pass out.
None of us were quick enough to catch her, but, thankfully, she’d been sitting down and didn’t fall far.
Marco fussed over her, feeling for her pulse on her wrist and putting his ear to her lips to listen to her breathe.
Richie scowled. “She’ll wake up in a sec. She does that when she’s afraid. A couple of weeks ago, a snake slithered past and she did the same thing.”
“It was pretty scary,” I told him.
“It was cool!” Richie declared. “Do it again, Sol.”
“I can’t right now, buddy.” Sol slowly sat up and surveyed our surroundings.
Karen groaned and stirred.
I let out a sigh of relief as Marco helped her sit up.
“Told ya,” Richie said.
“Nobody likes a know-it-all,” Sol gently scolded. “Give your mom a break. She deserves a couple of moments of peace.”
Richie crossed his arms over his chest and hung his head, sulking.
At the mention of the elusive goal of peace, I remembered Mildred. “Oh no.”
Sol’s gaze flew to mine. “What?”
“We left Mildred. If she was killed by the storm, I’ll never be rid of her.” The thought made me sick to my stomach, or maybe that was a delayed symptom of the rough ride down the rabbit hole. Either way, I sucked in some deep breaths, trying not to puke.
“I’m sure she’s fine,” Sol soothed.
“Me too,” Conroy piped up.
“Really?” I asked them both.
“How do we get back and check?” I asked eagerly.
Sol hesitated, running a hand through his hair as he looked around.
“Sol?” I didn’t mean to sound so demanding, but he was scaring me.
Looking back at me, he said, “I’m not sure where we are.”
I frowned at him. “What?”
“There wasn’t time to set a destination,” he admitted.
“So we are going to suffocate down here,” Karen moaned.
“No,” Sol replied sharply. “There’s a way out. There’s always a way out. It’s just that I don’t know where we’re emerging.”
“Can’t Erich tell us?” I looked to the beat-up top hat lying a few feet away.
The hat remained silent.
“He can’t,” Conroy explained. “The hod is as drained as his owner. Sol only recovered quickly because you shared your energy with him.”
Watching the faces of Richie, Karen, and Marco, I realized they couldn’t hear my necklace talking.
“So we’re lost?” I asked Sol.
“In a manner of speaking. The important thing is we’re alive and unhurt.”
Suddenly, Marco, who had not spoken the entire time we were in the rabbit hole, blurted out, “I was a storm chaser for a season.”
Sol rolled his eyes. “Of course you were.”
Marco lifted his chin defensively. “I am a man with an intense sense of curiousity.”
“Which is wonderful,” I quickly soothed. “Your range of expertise is amazing.”
Mollified, Marco nodded and returned to his original train of thought. “My point is that I know the science. That was no ordinary tornado.”
I felt Sol tense and glanced over to see he was clenching his jaw.
“Don’t say it,” the magician warned.
Marco frowned and twiddled an end of his mustache. “You can’t ignore the possibility.”
“What possibility?” Richie blurted out.
“An Eternal could be involved,” Marco said quietly.
“What’s that?” I whispered to Conroy.
“Legend,” Sol spat out, having heard me. “Bedtime stories, nothing more.”
“Like a Keeper?” I challenged, knowing that he thought I was one of the mysterious and magical Keepers of the worlds.
He looked away.“An Eternal,” Conroy explained, “if it, in fact, is one, can be way worse than a Culler. Much harder to hide from. And more difficult to fight.”