my ears, I wondered how high we had flown. With the way he could cover distance, I was sure our altitude would have petrified me if I could have seen the ground.

The frigid ascent lasted for long minutes, including brief bouts of rain and hail—during which I buried my nose in his feathers. Finally we seemed to peak, to break over the updraft’s edge and spiral downward, again detecting the precipitation in the air. The temperature was warming and my ears popped again, but the wind was tugging at me as if it were cognizant and seeking to snatch me from Thunderbird’s back. I squeezed as much with my legs as I did with my arms.

Then the lightning flashed again and a rumble filled the air around us. In seconds, the sound had escalated, roaring like a jet engine just inches from my skull. Caught in a rushing wind, we were tossed outside the cloud as a funnel formed beside us, and I saw the tornado’s tip lunge toward the ground so very, very far below.

My stomach heaved like I was on a roller coaster. I felt a static charge, then lightning flashed. A heat wave throttled me as thunder boomed with a metallic clang.

Thunderbird spread his wings wide, tilting to slow us down, but the buffeting winds were too powerful. He adjusted and pumped his wings as if trying to break free of the downward spiral. That didn’t work either.

We were dropping fast, and I knew my added weight was keeping the griffon from breaking free of the storm.

We looped around three more times and then the hair on my arms lifted. In seconds lightning struck just beyond Thunderbird’s flank. In the instant before it became blindingly bright, the erratic illumination was beautiful, as it always was in the sky. It had even been beautiful when it crawled over Menessos when I’d called my power up out of him.


My grip loosened on the griffon.

“Persephone! Hold tighter!”

I barely heard him over the freight train rumble of the tornado, so I didn’t even try to answer him. When I felt the next flare of static, I threw myself off the griffon.

As we tumbled head over heels through the air, the charge flooded my body, reaching through fabric, scouring my skin, searching me. Fingers splayed, my palms felt it most, like the friction from sliding down a rope. I clutched at that rope, squeezing as a thread of light formed.

In the milliseconds that it took for my core to open—as it did when I accessed the power of a ley line—the bright thread swelled in my hands, becoming a thick bolt. Every molecule of oxygen inside my body jolted as if joined with the lightning, scalding me, fighting my grasp, rejecting my will.

But I held on.

Bound with burning, itching pain, I ground my teeth together. I had burned in the heat of fire. I had drowned in the depths of water. This explosive bolt was the creative and destructive power of air. I would harness it. No matter how much it hurt.

I free-fell toward the earth, dragging the lightning, my instincts screaming, “Let go!”

But I held on.

Element encounters weren’t about obeying instincts. I had learned that much.

Arcing electricity crawled over me. It forced my head back. It choked me. It pried at my grip with electric fingers. It beat upon my forearms with a swordlike arc that raised welts on my skin.

But I held on.

The sword image made me think. In Tarot, air was linked to the suit of swords.

My intention of harnessing this element by bullying it into submission wasn’t going to work. Air was far more aggressive than little ol’ me would ever be. I’d never defeat it, and I didn’t need to. I had simply to embrace this gale force like the lightning that had already crawled inside me.

My fingers slackened, relaxed. I embraced the lightning like a long-lost friend.

Air. Glorious air. Atmosphere of earth! You are the breath of life!

The arcing arms of lightning hugged me back. Electric fingers stroked my hair.

My body exploded with sensation. I breathed every breath of my life in a second. I sighed and I sang.

The lightning flickered and sizzled and flowed continuously into my palms.

And still I was dropping.

Air gusted past me. The tornado threw me around like a speck of dust. I curled into a ball. I felt full, so terribly crammed with energy that my skin might split open.

Thunder trumpeted nearby, but softer.


Wings flapped up around me as his body flew under me. I stretched out and clung to his neck.

Beside us, the tornado dwindled and the wind died down, the roar falling into near silence. The griffon glided to the ground beside a white picket fence.

Here, there was no fog, or the storm had blown it away. I could see the pale barrier stretching endlessly across the land of my meditation world, penetrating the surface, an obstruction that divided this place that needed no separation.

Why, Menessos?

With my hands hovering above the white wood, I reached into my core again. Electricity crackled across my knuckles and I grabbed the fence, letting the energy and heat flash out of me.

Sparks crackled from the pickets, stretching in either direction. The wood blackened. Smoke wafted up. I opened the conduit as wide as possible and shoved all that I’d absorbed into this fence.

What binding there was is about to fade.

The spell is broken, magic unmade.

What binding there was is burned and scorched.

In signum amoris is no more.

In signum amoris is no more.

The fence exploded, shattering pickets into little more than splinters one by one for as far as I could see. When the energy of the bolt was used up, the land on either side of the fencing was unaffected, but what remained of the posts was reduced to ash.

I was awestruck by what I’d accomplished, but horrified by the ease of destruction.

“It’s done,” Thunderbird said. “And time for you to go home.” Behind me, he flapped his wings, and the talons of his foreleg wrapped around my arm.

I awoke from the meditation to a cold world of wetness and fog and pain. I threw my arms, splashing and thrashing, caught in a swift-flowing river.

The fog above me swirled and parted. Thunderbird descended through the mist, talons out. He gripped my arm and dragged me through the water. In minutes, I could hear voices, and weeping. My heels bounced over rocks and I twisted toward the shore.

Nana was sitting on the bank. Her cheeks were red, but she was silent. My mother stood a few feet away, sobbing, with her arm clutching her stomach, as if she were about to be ill. The griffon dragged me ashore, released me and flew away.

Both turned as I scrambled to my feet.

“Persephone,” my mother blurted in a choked voice. “Is it really you?” Her eyes were wide and watery with disbelief.

“Yeah.” As I shivered and rubbed at my aching head, everything that had happened snapped into place and I realized what they must’ve thought. “Yeah. It’s me.” I glanced from her to Nana. “What are you doing on the bank?”


After crawling up the embankment—swearing all the way over the ruined dress—I hurried

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