“We will carve these now,” he said to Amaya in a low voice.
“How much should I carve?” the witch asked.
“Of course, we won’t need all of this wood. We’ll take what we need and then burn the rest. Just be sure to cut shavings from both of them.”
He left Amaya with the chairs and walked halfway across the room, where a round stone slab was propped up against the wall. He gripped its edges and laid it down gently on the floor before kneeling down over it and running his palms over its smooth, sanded surface. He glanced back over his shoulder at Amaya, who had already bent down with a sharp knife and was beginning to carve off shavings from the chairs. She worked quickly and with ease, as though she were slicing cheese rather than solid wood. Clearly she had placed some sort of charm over the knife. Within thirty seconds, she’d created a pile of splinters from both my mother’s and father’s chairs. She gathered them up in her palms and handed them to Jeramiah. He set them down on the floor, next to the round slab of stone.
“Hand me the adhesive,” he muttered. “And also the sealant.”
The witch picked up two cups that had been sitting on the dusty mantelpiece. One was filled with a thick white substance, while pooled in the other was a transparent, runny liquid.
“You’ll also need a brush,” the witch said as she placed the cups down next to the vampire.
She walked to one corner of the room where an old broom leaned against the wall. She turned it upside down, gathering strands of its bristles between her fingers, before yanking hard and detaching them from the wood. Reaching for her knife again, she cut off a long, thick slice of wood from one of the chairs, the tip of which she dipped into the bristles. Magically, the bristles clung to the stick. She approached Jeramiah, holding out her makeshift brush for him to take.
Jeramiah dipped the brush into the thick, white liquid and ran it in strokes around the center of the stone. Then, collecting some of the shavings between his fingers, he began to lay them out on the sticky stone surface, slowly and carefully, in the forms of letters. The white adhesive dried quickly, becoming transparent, and soon I found myself staring down at the words:
In honor and memory of Lucas Dominic Novak.
Jeramiah reached for the sealant and brushed a generous coating over the wooden letters. Then he stood up and gazed down at the stone with brows furrowed and a thoughtful expression on his face.
“Add a few flourishes around the edges, will you?” he asked the witch after a pause. “Even with the letters, it still looks rather bare.”
Amaya heaved a sigh and bent down over the slab, holding the same knife that she had used to cut my parents’ chairs. She angled the blade against the stone, and again, as though the slab was made of butter, she began etching a pattern of ivy leaves around the edges.
“Good,” Jeramiah breathed after she’d finished. His sharp blue eyes glistened slightly, and there was an odd warmth to them—warmth that I hadn’t witnessed in my cousin before.
A span of silence fell about the room as Jeramiah continued to admire the slab, now turned into a memorial stone. Still gazing at the two of them in disbelief, I found myself holding my breath—as though I even had any to hold—like I was afraid they might hear me. It was Amaya who finally disturbed the quiet.
“Do you think that one last call will be enough?” she asked.
Jeramiah took in a breath, his eyes darting toward the wind instrument that rested near the front door. “It will have to be enough,” he replied. “Nuriya’s favor only stretches so far.”
Amaya’s expression was doubtful. “And what if it doesn’t happen?”
Agitation played across Jeramiah’s face. He shot a sharp glare at the witch. “Don’t consider it.”
He dipped down to the stone again and trailed his fingers over its now uneven surface. “It’s perfectly dry now. It’s time we head for the Great Dome. The ceremony is still going on, and we ought to do this before the funeral is finished.”
“Wait,” Amaya said, alarmed. “Now? During the day? I thought the plan was to do it at night. What if somebody enters the Dome?”
“You’ll have cast an invisibility spell over the two of us. Worst comes to worst, someone enters the chamber and is unable to see us, but notices the stone. But I doubt it will come to that—not if we’re done before the funeral ends.”
Amaya still looked worried, but she didn’t argue. She swallowed and sealed her lips.
Jeramiah headed out of the living room and crossed the hallway. He stopped at the woodwind instrument and, picking it up, stowed it in his belt, beneath his robe. Then he returned to the living room. He placed his hands either side of the memorial stone and stood up with it.
“Cast the spell now,” he ordered Amaya.
As the witch’s palms twitched, I was certain that she had cast the spell—yet I could still see both of them as clear as day. Apparently the vision of ghosts was not susceptible to being impaired by invisibility spells.
“Now vanish us to the Dome,” Jeramiah said.
Amaya planted a hand on Jeramiah’s shoulder, and both of them disappeared from the spot.
If I’d had a heart, it would’ve been hammering in my chest by now, blood pounding in my ears.
I need to reach the Dome.
I hurtled toward the nearest wall of the living room, and, passing through it, I emerged from the dilapidated farmhouse, reappearing in the dark field outside. The crowd of ghosts was still gathered round the building. They looked like they had hardly budged an inch since I had left them. Some looked after me as I whizzed across the fields, shooting toward the direction of the woods, while others even called out to me, but I ignored them all. I had tunnel vision as I urged myself faster and faster.
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