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 Charmed Vengeance

The Aether Chronicles - 2

by

Suzanne Lazear

For Reina and Rachel.

Thank you for never giving up on me, even when I gave up on myself.

Dim vales-and shadowy floods-

And cloudy-looking woods,

Whose forms we can't discover

For the tears that drip all over!

Huge moons there wax and wane-

Again-again-again-

Every moment of the night-

Forever changing places-

And they put out the star-light

With the breath from their pale faces.

About twelve by the moon-dial,

One more filmy than the rest

(A kind which, upon trial,

They have found to be the best)

Comes down-still down-and down,

With its centre on the crown

Of a mountain's eminence,

While its wide circumference

In easy drapery falls

Over hamlets, over halls,

Wherever they may be-

O'er the strange woods-o'er the sea-

Over spirits on the wing-

Over every drowsy thing-

And buries them up quite

In a labyrinth of light-

And then, how deep!-O, deep!

Is the passion of their sleep.

In the morning they arise,

And their moony covering

Is soaring in the skies,

With the tempests as they toss,

Like-almost anything-

Or a yellow Albatross.

They use that moon no more

For the same end as before-

Videlicet, a tent-

Which I think extravagant:

Its atomies, however,

Into a shower dissever,

Of which those butterflies

Of Earth, who seek the skies,

And so come down again,

(Never-contented things!)

Have brought a specimen

Upon their quivering wings.

—Edgar Allan Poe, “Fairy-Land”

And we fairies, that do run

By the triple Hecate’s team,

From the presence of the sun,

Following darkness like a dream.

—William Shakespeare,

“A Midsummer-Night’s Dream”

Prologue

The Sacrifice

“Welcome everyone to this special day.” High Queen Tiana’s voice carried over the crowd. “We gather here, as we always do, to honor the magic. Without it we wouldn’t exist, and neither would the Otherworld.” She paused and looked at the people assembled in front of the Lake of Sorrows, basking in the attention. “Like everything else, the magic must be nourished or it grows weak and fades away. We bring nourishment to her as thanks for all she does for us.”

In her chair, Charlotte shivered in spite of herself. James stood beside her, squeezing her hand. She gave him a reassuring smile in return. She was ready to go, but the love of her life wasn’t as at peace with her decision. At least they’d had this much time together. For that she was grateful. She looked at James and her friends Noli and V. Soon, it would be time.

Certainly, today was a festive occasion and she took comfort that the end of her life was celebratory, not somber. A big arch of greenery, purple and gold flowers, and ribbons had been constructed in front of the Lake of Sorrows at the edge of the wildwood.

“This has been a trying cycle, as it grows harder and harder to find the right mortal girl,” the queen continued. “But a girl with the Spark has been found. This mortal girl volunteered to be the sacrifice, offering up her life to preserve all of ours. It gives me hope that there are still young mortals willing to make such a choice.” Queen Tiana looked at Charlotte and smiled. It wasn’t comforting but triumphant.

Everyone seemed to think so much of the fact she’d volunteered. But she was dying. Since she had the Spark, that extra bit of something some mortals had, why shouldn’t her death mean something? She’d rather feed the land, the sentient magic that composed the Otherworld and kept all its citizens alive, than die unwanted and forgotten.

Charlotte looked at Noli, who’d turned away, her face contorting in pain. No matter how hard she tried, she just couldn’t get her friend to understand. V pulled Noli to him and she leaned her head against his chest.

“Noli, I chose this,” Charlotte whispered. “This way it means something. Remember that, all of you. Take care of him, please?” Charlotte whispered to Noli and V. She prayed James didn’t mourn her too long.

“Of course we will.” V clapped her shoulder.

Charlotte squeezed Noli’s hand. “Live your life. Be with V, go to the university, invent wondrous things, and be a great botanist.”

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