Jezi watched as Christian crossed over to Desi.
"Desiray... it is an absolute pleasure," he spoke softly, revealing nothing in his tone; Ever the politician. He reached out and tipped her chin up. "You're every bit as lovely as Raven was."
"Ah, well... thank you... I suppose," Desi mumbled.
He smiled, as Desi fiddled with her braid. He hadn't lost his touch, even after all this time. Christian spoke to Jezi, though he never took his eyes off of Desi. "And what are you calling yourself, these days?" He walked casually towards her.
"Jezebel," she answered.
He leaned in closer and his cologne wafted past her. "... suits you," he said.
The smell of him, the sight of him, the sound of him. Jezi's mind rebelled against the facts her senses bombarded her with. Against all odds, against all laws of nature and existence, Christian Brandon was standing right in front of her.
Jezi stared at him, trying to convince herself that this was all some terrible dream. She knew him well enough to know that he was baiting her, but she couldn't focus on anything but the questions burning through her head.
What was he doing here?
No... she knew the answer to that. He came for the Flower... and everyone in it. She always knew he would, but after nearly a century, she had begun to hope. There was only one question that mattered.
"How are you here?" she asked quietly.
"My dear..." Christian laughed, "...do you think you're the only witch left in the world?”
Jezi's mind raced. This was no ordinary witchcraft. There was no magic she knew of that could have brought Christian Brandon back from where he had been sent.
"What do you want?" Jezi asked.
"Why... I want an invitation to the party, of course..." Christian replied. "I even arranged for the... entertainment.”
"So that was you..." Jezi accused.
"I thought you'd might like that. Though, I was surprised to see them leaving here unscathed," he added, disappointed.
"They weren't real witch hunters.”
Christian put his polite smile back in place. "You'll be surprised what people become, once they find out what you …"
"I'm afraid our party is projected to be filled to capacity," Jezi interrupted. "I'm sorry.”
"Tsk." Christian frowned. "I was so looking forward to spending time with my old friends…"
They stared at each other for a moment, so much history going unsaid. But, it was Christian who broke first.
"Ah, well," he shrugged. "You'll let me know if anything changes, yeah?”
Before she could respond, Christian wrapped her up in a hug. "It's good to see you," he whispered.
His fists clenched tightly around her back, he pulled her in closer, and Jezi felt her spine groan in protest. He held her there, until she winced. This was the side of Christian Brandon that not many had gotten to see in his lifetime. But this was the Christian Brandon she knew. He didn't forgive, and he didn't forget.
And there was no doubt in Jezi's mind that he remembered everything.
Christian lightened his grip, keeping his hand flat on Jezi's back. "I'll see you soon... both of you.”
Jezi heard the threat within his sweet voice loud and clear.
Christian smiled at Desi, and shot her a quick wink, before turning and walking out of the door.
"Okay... who was that?!" Desi sighed.
Jezi looked down at her hands, and realized she was shaking. "Christian Brandon." She ran behind the bar, pouring herself a stiff drink, reveling in the burn. She needed the pain to focus.
"So..." Desi prodded, "what's the deal with this Christian.”
"It's a long story," Jezi replied. "All you need to know is that he tried to destroy the Flower... and James." Jezi took another drink. "And he damn near succeeded.”
"So, what do we do?" Desi asked. She hadn't seen Jezi so frazzled before.
"You continue taking care of the preparations. I'll go down to the tomes and see what I can figure out." Jezi left before Desi could respond.
She didn't miss the slight pout on Desi's face, though. Jezi hated leaving her out, especially at this critical stage in her training, but there were secrets, old secrets, deep secrets that she needed to keep buried.
Jezi opened the door, looking down the long dark staircase. She grabbed the candelabra from the wall, the candles flickering to life at her touch. She slowly made her way down the stairs, the air cooling as she descended. When she reached the bottom, she scanned the dank room for the glow of a lone candle.
Jezi didn't know why she wouldn't let her run electricity down here.
Over in the far corner, she saw it. From the low light, the candle must be nearly burnt out by now. She would never notice until it sputtered out completely. Jezi smiled at her focus. Walking over to the alcove, Jezi placed the candelabra on the table, illuminating the book. Only then did the reader notice her presence.
"Oh, Jezi! How are you?" Bright eyes blinked up at her.
"Hello Robyn." Jezi smiled at her. "I'm doing well.”
Every school kid knew the story of Robyn Red Breast. At this point it was reduced to a simple ghost story, a double dutch song, but not many people knew of the real horror of a sweet little bookworm with a special gift, who lived every school day in torment.
Bullied every day, because she was quiet and studious, she had finally had enough. She hadn't even known she could move things with the power of her mind until she had crushed the star quarterback and head cheerleader behind the bleachers on Halloween thirty years ago.
She ran from the school in terror, chased down by a group of popular kids that knew what she had done. They had cut through the buildings, where they finally caught up with her. They stabbed her in the chest, leaving her to bleed to death.
That was where Jezi found her, and brought her inside. Despite her enormous power, Robyn decided she wanted to spend the rest of her afterlife peacefully, and was content simply to read quietly in her corner, as she had most of her life.
She had read every book in their extensive library more times than she could count, and knew everything contained in those pages.
"What can I do for you?" she asked.
"How can a soul be brought back before All Hallows Eve?" Jezi asked.
"That is... powerful magic," Robyn looked skeptical."... and dangerous.”
"I know," Jezi said, "it's important, though.”
Robyn shrugged, glancing around. She lifted her hand, concentrating. A book came flying towards her. She caught it effortlessly, flipping through the pages.
Jezi already knew the answer to her question, but she really hoped she was wrong.
"Well, there's always possession..." Robyn began.
"No." Jezi shook her head. That wasn't the soul of Christian Brandon is someone else's body. That was Christian.
Robyn flipped another page. "The only other way is through blood magic.”
Jezi sighed. She was afraid of that.
Robyn read aloud. "A soul may be reclaimed prior to All Hallows Eve, so long as it remain confined to the location of it's reclamation."
That didn't make sense. Christian didn't seem to be confined by anything, not even the protection spells she had placed over the Flower. There was no doubt in her mind that today wasn't the first time he'd been inside.
She ran the risk of revealing more than she wanted to Robyn, but she really needed answers. "What about a soul... trapped in Purgatory?”
"Purgatory?! Are you sure?" Robyn asked.
Jezi hesitated. "... positive.”
Robyn had a look of deep concentration on her face. Then, she sprang up from her seat and stalked towards the bookshelves.
It took a moment for Jezi to follow her. Robyn usually brought the books flying to her. It was rare for her to move from her comfortable spot in order to seek out a specific publication. But, here Jezi was, winding through stacks of books and shelves in pursuit of a very determined Robyn.
"There aren't many records of people making it out of Purgatory, which I guess is the point of it, I suppose," Robyn narrated.
"But when it does happen, it is almost always on Halloween. The lines between worlds are blurred just enough that some people, if they are strong enough... or angry enough, can manage to get out.”
Robyn came to a stop, looking up on high shelf. She pulled a chair over and stood precariously, stretching to grab something from the very top shelf.
"Why don't you just... woosh it?" Jezi asked.
Robyn caught the book carefully, a layer of dust trickling all around them. "Too old," she answered. She flipped through the pages more excited than Jezi had seen in ages.
"There was this one case... Petyr St. Jacque. His mom was a witch. He got involved in some really...questionable practices, and got into a lot of trouble.”
Robyn started reading, and Jezi wondered if she'd forgotten she was there. "Holy Shit..." Robyn said.
"What?" Jezi asked.
"His mother was the one who created the Binding Spell for Purgatory!”
"How did he escape?" Jezi asked.
"Well..." Robyn sighed. "His father had a secret that he'd managed to keep from them both.”
She closed the book gently, stroking the worn cover. "He was a vampire.”
Shit, Jezi thought. She tried to keep her face neutral. "What happened to Petyr?”
Robyn shook her head. "No one knows. His return of course caused quite a stir. But then... there's just nothing.”
Jezi tried to smile. "Thanks for your help, Robyn." She turned and wound her way through the bookshelves, darkness closing in on her. She began to climb the stairs, feeling something she hadn't experienced in decades.
She walked into the parlor to find Desi dusting off and organizing the china. "Desi, have Liam close and lock every door and then…"
Desi smiled brightly. "I don't know where Liam is…"
Jezi narrowed her eyes at Desi's innocent tone.
"He could be anywhere," Desi giggled.
Jezi looked over the sea of plates and bowls and cups, noticing one teacup with a chip in it, and a broken handle. Jezi picked it up carefully, and placed it on a nearby table. “Desi..."
With a smile, Desi flicked her wrist and Liam appeared curled up on top of the table. With the slightest movement, he promptly fell off. When he rose, Jezi held up a hand.
"Unh! I don't want to hear it. I need for you to close and lock every door and window, and make sure they're secure. Now!”
With a parting glare for Desi, Liam scurried off to do his duty.
"What? You were gone. I was bored." she shrugged.
"Come with me," Jezi sighed.
Jezi led Desi to the hall of portraits, wariness growing with every step. Desi could feel something shifting in Jezi, and it scared her. "Jezi, what's going on?”
"We're gonna bring them back... tonight," Jezi said.
"We can do that?!”
"I can," Jezi replied. "This is blood magic, and it can be very dangerous. But, not as dangerous as Christian Brandon.”
Jezi halted Desi's questions before they began. "This will likely weaken me, so you will have to protect the Flower tonight.”
"Okay," Desi said.
"Christian Brandon cannot be allowed in, or it could be the end of us all.”
Desi nodded. "I understand. I won't let you down.”
Jezi stood in front of the first portrait and pulled a small jeweled dagger from the folds of her skirt. She cut her thumb, running it slowly across the golden nameplate at the bottom. She closed her eyes, quickly whispering words in a language older than the recording of time. She swiped her thumb over her tongue, continuing the incantation.
When she opened her eyes, the frame stood empty. Jezi's knees buckled and her vision blurred. Two pairs of hands caught her before she hit the floor. Jezi looked up to her left and a familiar smile restored a small hope.
"Fox!" she gasped.
Matthias smiled brighter and hugged her. "Hey there, Jezi..." When he released her, she still hung on, so he hugged her a little tighter. "Jezi... what's wrong?”
"He's back, Fox. I don't know how, but he's back…"
Matthias took a step back, frowning at Jezi. "He can't be. You put..." He saw the warning look on her face and decided not to finish his thought. "That's... not possible," he said.
"Sure it is," a deep voice chuckled.
Every breath held, and they all seemed to be frozen in fright. It was Desi who first broke the spell.
"Jezi, run!" she screamed.