Alistair started to mutter as the night itself filled with his power. It was so strong I could almost taste it. It was now or never.
There was a faint whoosh of air on my nape and Gareth burst forward. He tackled Alistair and they both fell to the ground. I darted forward to grab the knife but they rolled away from me, grunting – and then the entire area was bathed in bright light. What the hell?
Both Alistair and Gareth froze, as startled by the light as I was. A voice boomed out and I spotted several shadowy figures towards the end of the line of graves. ‘Keep going! Don’t stop because we’re here!’
Morris Armstrong. And not just him: there was a cameraman, pointing the lens in our direction, and the white faces of both Barry and Amy staring at us.
‘This is not a damned television show!’ I yelled.
‘You’re right!’ Armstrong called back. ‘This is better!’ I heard him mutter an aside to Barry ‘Enchantment might be down the toilet but with this kind of footage our careers aren’t over. Not by a long shot.’
I briefly closed my eyes. This was all my fault; this was what I got for trying to warn them what was happening. The idiots had probably put their numbskull brains together to discuss what I’d told them and decided to track Barry’s car. I’d have thought Amy would have known better. Their interference was the last thing any of us needed.
Fortunately Gareth recovered quickly. Taking full advantage of Alistair’s shock, he lunged desperately for his hand and wrestled the knife from him. Gripping it tightly, he sprang to his feet and backed away. ‘You don’t need to do this, Alistair. You don’t want to do this.’
I walked up to Gareth’s side. ‘Give me the knife.’
‘An hour ago you were going to kill me, Ivy.’ He didn’t look in my direction.
‘I’m sorry.’ My words fell hollow. ‘There wasn’t any choice.’
‘So you’re going to kill Al instead? He’s just a kid.’
I reached over and took the knife from him, relieved that he let it go. ‘Just a kid who’s bullied you. Who was prepared to kill you. Who has hurt your sheep.’
‘He’s a teenager.’
‘That doesn’t excuse him.’
Gareth’s voice dropped to a whisper. ‘There’s still hope for him. He’s only fifteen.’
I passed a hand across my eyes. Gareth was right: Alistair was just a kid. Who was I to pass judgment on him? I’d done things I wasn’t proud of when I was that age. I defied anyone to put their hand on their heart and say they’d been teenage angels. But what Alistair was doing was different to a few childish shenanigans. This wasn’t a bit of graffiti or drinking alcohol or breaking a window.
‘I don’t need you to stand up for me,’ Alistair yelled at Gareth.
‘He’s a child, Ivy.’
Gareth persisted. ‘Our parents haven’t been any kinder to him than they were to me. He’s desperate to prove himself and he wants attention. He’s not evil.’
I had my doubts about that. I stared at Alistair, looking past the furious bravado. Immature eyes looked back at me with a mixture of fear and defiance.
‘Give him a chance,’ Gareth urged.
‘It’s not as simple as that,’ I whispered. I knew what I had to do.
I raised my hand to hush him. Alistair was on the edge of being consumed by the magic he’d unleashed but his blood was still red. He’d not gone so far that his death wouldn’t contain the power. If he’d pushed ahead with trying to raise Granny Morag it would have been too late but he’d not managed it. And he couldn’t have known what horror his actions would have created. Except … he knew what had happened to Benjamin Alberts. His zombie had done that. A man had died as a result of this child, whether he’d intended that death or not.
I pulled out the incantation scroll from under my shirt and unfurled it. Then I glanced at Gareth. ‘You need to promise me that you’ll get him help. That you’ll do everything in your power to stop him from using magic without appropriate supervision.’
‘He can’t stop me!’ Alistair shouted. ‘No one can stop me!’
‘I promise, Ivy,’ Gareth said, ignoring his brother’s rant. ‘I’ll speak to the Order first thing in the morning and we’ll get him what he needs. He’s an angry young man but I know his heart is good.’
I still wasn’t convinced but I knew I couldn’t kill him. I couldn’t kill a kid. ‘If he hurts anyone else, with or without magic…’
‘Ask for Raphael Winter. He has the patience of a saint. If anyone can help Alistair then he can.’ I took a deep breath. And then I started to read. ‘Per potestas penes me iubes me in magica.’
‘What is she doing?’ Alistair screeched. ‘What is that witch doing?’
‘Et tollet a vobis eo quod habetis.’ Goosebumps rose up along the length of my body.
Morris Armstrong nudged Barry in the ribs. He coughed in response and opened his mouth. ‘Ivy!’ He started forward then, when Alistair flung an irate look in his direction, seemed to think better of it and fell back again. ‘Can you tell us what you’re doing? What kind of spell is this?’
‘Ego relinquam vos…’ My heart rate increased just as Alistair clutched at his own chest.
‘What are you doing?’ Gareth shouted. ‘You’re hurting him!’ He grabbed hold of my arm but I shoved him away.
‘…et irrumabo magicae…’
Alistair let out a high-pitched scream. My knees trembled as my veins filled with power. I could feel it surging through me. Everything else around me dimmed and there was a dull roar in my ears. I sensed Gareth yelling again and Armstrong, Barry and Amy shouting. I dismissed them all. I was almost done.
‘…intrinsecus cava erat.’ The scroll fell from my hand. Magic thrummed through me and I felt my body being lifted upwards. I stretched out arms as far as they could go. Dying wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, with the euphoria that was coursing through me and increasing, I could have started to enjoy it. Of course, that was exactly when the pain started.
My little toe tingled. Then it hurt. It wasn’t like a stubbing your toe kind of pain, it was more like the pain that would make me saw my entire foot off just to get it to stop. My mouth opened in a silent scream as the pain began to move, travelling up my leg and spreading up and up and up. I was on an all-encompassing rollercoaster ride of screeching, mind-numbing physical anguish. It ripped through my body and my muscles jerked impossibly in every direction. My heart was beating so fast it felt like it would burst out of my chest.
From beyond Armstrong and his little group, I thought I saw Winter sprinting towards us through the gloom and the graves like a demon on speed. Hallucination or otherwise, I still managed to smile. That man really ought to learn the pleasures of a slow stroll.
‘I love you,’ I whispered.
‘Goodness,’ said the disembodied head of Benjamin Alberts’ floating next to me. ‘And we’ve only just met.’
For a very long time after that, I was aware of nothing else at all.
Bellows was shaking. It might have been with anger or it might have been with fear. Either way, Winter didn’t really care. ‘You abused your position to take advantage of several younger women. You assaulted them.’
‘Nobody said no!’
‘Oh, I think we’ll find they did.’ Winter leaned forward. ‘You tout yourself as a magical consultant. You pass yourself off as a witch. That means we can try you under Order jurisdiction, rather than the normal courts.’ He allowed himself a small smile. ‘Our methods and punishments are somewhat … harsher.’
Bellows blinked and paled. ‘I’m not in the Order! I’m not even a witch! I barely have any magic at all!’
‘That’s not what you tell everyone.’
Winter knitted his fingers together in satisfaction. ‘Indeed you are.’ He eyed Bellows. ‘Why are you using necromancy?’