Shades of Magic (Raven Point Pack Trilogy Book 2)
Basically, I was up shit creek without a paddle. That was the only way to look at my current situation. I had to ask someone to sacrifice their life to save my father’s or let him die. That was not a choice I wanted to make. How was I supposed to do such a thing? As I processed Zarai’s words, my heart slowly shattered into a million pieces. My dad would never want this. He put all others before him. I wasn’t ready to live without him, though.
Sitting across the table in my dad’s room from Zarai, I was at a loss. I yearned to ask my dad what to do, but that wasn’t possible. I was grateful Zarai had finally shown up and was able to give us the information we so desperately needed, but I didn’t like it. Not one bit. My adulting skills still needed some refinement, apparently.
“We’re going to need to discuss this as a pack, Zarai. It’s not a simple thing to consider,” I said dejectedly. I’d have to speak with Augie and Davis before presenting the information to the pack.
“I understand that, but if the pack’s bonds are still as tight as they used to be, I’m sure it won’t be a problem. You have seven days to decide.”
Of course, there was a deadline. Why wouldn’t there be? Why couldn’t any of it be easy? Oh, that’s right. Life was an asshole.
“Why the deadline?” I asked, assuming there was a specific reason for the cutoff. Or maybe seven was her lucky number. I wouldn’t know unless I asked.
“The soul exchange can only be done during a full moon. If you can’t work it out by then, I have no intention of hanging around long enough to wait for the next lunar cycle. My coven leader was very clear when I told her I was coming here. I was to make you stop looking for us, or else. You don’t want to know what the or else is.”
Alright, then. I wouldn’t ask. I was smart enough to know when to push and when not to.
“If saving your father will stop your search for the witches, then I’m permitted to help. Now, with the information about Jaye… Once I am back with some of my coven, we should be able to reverse most of the chaos she has caused and track her down.
“She used to be a member, but she disappeared a few years ago. We assumed her dead or with her sister Mari, neither option being good for her. We will need to tread carefully, especially if both sisters are together. Just remember, your wolf business is still your own. We will not interfere or assist with Declan and his people.”
I nodded my head, processing all she had said. I was certain the only chance we had at defeating Declan and Jaye were with the witches’ help. We didn’t have the resources to fight against magic like that. I wasn’t worried about handling Declan on our own as long as Jaye was out of the way. There had been no talk of another witch or sorceress, so I wasn’t too worried about this Mari person.
“There’s not a lot of history written about why the witches fled. I know your kind had many losses during battles with the packs, but was that it? Or is there more to it?” I asked, curious to know anything that would help me understand her better and why the witches had fled.
“Oh, dear child, there is so much more.” She sighed, leaning back in her chair. “Do you know the difference between a sorceress and a witch?”
I shrugged. There hadn’t been a Witch 101 class during our homeschooling. I had no idea what the differences were or what they were capable of besides conjuring magic. Even that concept was pretty vague. Magic could be so many things. I decided to take a guess.
“A witch is good, and a sorceress is bad?”
A small smile played at her lips as she shook her head. “There are both good and bad witches, as well as sorceresses and sorcerers. We are all born with a raw gift. That gift must be nurtured and respected. Then, with time, a witch can rise to sorcery levels if one so chooses. Though, it takes decades for that to happen. There are some who don’t have the patience to wait. Their greed gets the best of them and they allow a darkness to take over. Something powerful that was meant to help others instead of harming them. Those who wish to use their magic for nefarious purposes can force the change to sorcery. They offer up sacrifices to darker beings who use unorthodox methods to increase one’s power and abilities. This is what Jaye has done.”
I wondered how many had to die for the bitch to get her way. How many more would die before we were able to stop her. “How many times has this happened in the past?”
I wasn’t sure why, but their history intrigued me. With all the searching we had done for the witches, we’d uncovered very little, which only further fascinated me. Plus, Zarai seemed to be warming up and willing to chat, so I planned on taking full advantage.
“To answer your question, we’d have to start at the beginning,” she mused. “Do you know why you exist?”
“We were created to protect the humans. We even lived alongside them until they turned against us, forcing us to go into hiding. We still do our best to protect them against others like Jaye that come along and attempt to harm humanity, as long as it’s not at the expense of potentially exposing ourselves.”
It had been ingrained in us since we were pups. Humans were fragile and needed protecting. Even though history told us they had turned against us at one point, the humans did so more out of fear than anything else.
“Correct, but it wasn’t that they turned against the shifters. The history books leave out what they’d rather the future not know. Our kinds turned against the humans first. Instead of using magic to heal, witches began experimenting with sacrificial magic, using humans instead of the standard herbs, crystals, and verbal commands we were taught. Shifters began abusing the humans and enslaving them. It wasn’t common, but word got out and the humans fought back.”
Holy shifters. I had no idea, but I didn’t blame our elders for not putting all of that in writing. It likely would have given the wrong ideas to the wrong people, but still, there weren’t even old fables that spoke of such atrocities.
“When the leaders of the shifters and covens found out, they did their best to track down those who had done the humans wrong. The shifters fought alongside the witches to stop those who had ascended to unnatural sorcery levels, and the witches performed tracking spells to locate the wolves who needed to be punished.
“Once as many of the offenders as possible were dealt with, a deal was struck between the witches and shifters. We would continue to work together and protect the humans as best we could, but from a distance, as we do so now. The witches hid the shifters and the shifters were the muscle when needed. It was well-balanced for a long time.”
“Until more witches began dying at the expense of the wolves, right?” I asked. This part I knew a little about. My dad had spoken of this on occasion. He had missed having Zarai around our pack.
“Correct. It was decided we’d still leave the packs with whatever shields or magic we could leave behind, but there would be no more assistance in their petty pissing competitions.”
The laughter that escaped was deep and pure. I needed that. Zarai had backbone and some sass. She was my kind of people. If only she planned to stick around longer, I could see us being good friends.
“Understandable, but you could have left an emergency number instead of making us search everywhere for you,” I joked. “Speaking of which, we went to your old house and found some things you might want to take back with you. Looks like you all left in a hurry.”
She grinned. “The shifters weren’t too happy with us when we told them we were done. Your pack was not the only one we helped around here. There were several witches in our coven that supported various packs within your territory. We decided a quick escape was best. It had its pros and cons. I know our coven will appreciate your generosity in retrieving the items, though.”
Suddenly, there was a loud bang against the outer wall of the room. I stood up quickly, knocking my chair over in the process. I took a few steps toward the wall and muttered several curse words. Outside of the window, the top of Liam’s head peeked through.
“What the hell?” I said out loud.
“They must not have liked being locked out,” Zarai said nonchalantly, picking a fictitious piece of fuzz from her pants.
“Locked out?” I questioned, while trying not to laugh. The situation was actually quite funny if you weren’t Liam.
“We needed privacy. They didn’t look like the type to give it to us. Turns out I was right.”
Laughter once again took over my body. She was good. The next time I turned back toward the window, Liam’s face was fully visible in the glass, and he was glaring daggers at me.
I strode over to the window and pushed it open. “Hey there, Romeo.”
“Not funny, Taya. We couldn’t hear anything. We had no idea if you were alright. What did you think we would do?”
“Well, considering I had no clue you’d been blocked from the room, I’m at a disadvantage. Had I known, I would have placed bets on who would come first and how long it would take you to come up with a plan and execute it. That was a missed opportunity.”
“Move,” he grunted.
I slid back, watching as his muscles pulled taut and he climbed through the window. Totally worth it.
“It’s not funny. You can wipe that smirk off your face now.”
He was being a party pooper. Grouchy old man.
“Zarai, this is Liam. He’s from the Catskills Pack and son to their alpha Elijah. He and his brothers have been helping us with Declan and Jaye.”
Zarai nodded at him and Liam just glared at her. I almost felt bad for the enjoyment I was getting out of his unease. Almost.
Liam stood much closer to me than necessary. “So, care to fill me in on why we were blocked from the room?”
I patted him on the chest. “I’m pretty sure you can figure that one out all on your own,” I said with a wink. “Zarai, would you mind coming downstairs and helping me explain what we’ve discussed with the others?”
“I don’t mind, but I’ll be leaving right after. I’d like to take the things you found from our old house back with me as well. If they’re of importance, it will go a long way in making sure my coven leader knows you’re only trying to help, not use us. The more assistance she is willing to extend, the easier it will be for me to help you. My coven leader is the equivalent of the human’s president for the witches. You need her to be on your side.”
I nodded. I could understand that. After hearing Zarai’s stories, I couldn’t say I blamed the witches for disappearing, but I was grateful for their help now, even if it was limited.
Zarai waved her hands in the air and my ears popped. “What was that?” I asked.
“The block on the room.” She grinned at Liam, causing him to growl at her. I was going to have to keep these two in separate corners at this pace.
Before we could open the door, Augie burst through it. “Dude. Thanks for letting us know she’s okay,” he said with an eye roll.
“We were coming out. Don’t be so sensitive,” Liam replied, his turn to be nonchalant. I was more than happy to call him out, but Augie beat me to it.
“Says the guy who took an ax to the door before deciding to scale the walls and climb through a window. Sure, I’m the sensitive one.” Augie laughed.
My eyes widened. “You did what to the door?” I screeched as I pushed Augie out of the way so I could see.
“I’ll replace it. It’s no big deal,” Liam said with a shrug.
The door had chunks missing from it around the door knob and hinges, plus a massive lopsided circle carved out of the middle. “We need to talk about your overprotectiveness.” I gestured toward the door with my hand.
“Some other time. Now, I’d rather talk about how we’re going to wake your dad and stop Declan. I’m assuming that’s why she’s here.” Liam nodded to Zarai.
“And this is why I don’t miss dealing with shifters. Always so impatient.” Zarai tsked as she walked toward the door, then stopped in front of it. She muttered words I couldn’t hear and pulled some herbs from her pocket. Once she was done murmuring, she blew the herbs from her hand toward the door. Slowly but surely, the door became whole again and the herbs burned up before ever coming close to the ground.
Damn, that was badass.
“Don’t mess with her,” I said to Liam. “She’s apt to give you a permanent tail or snout.” I had no idea if she could, but I wasn’t one to miss an opportunity to poke the wolf.
Liam just huffed and followed Zarai downstairs. Augie came over to me and gave me a hug. Liam and Zarai disappeared around the corner, but I took the moment to enjoy my best friend’s company. Augie’s worry for me was pouring off him in waves.
“Will you try not to worry us like that again?” he asked, keeping his tone light.
“Doubtful, but I’ll try.” I grinned.
“That’s all I can ask.”
I walked over to my dad’s bed and kissed his cheek. “Sorry for the ruckus. Hopefully, we will have this sorted soon and you can yell at us all you want.”
I gave his hand a squeeze and turned back to Augie to go downstairs.
We found Zarai already settled on the couch in the living room. “Liam went to go fetch the others.”
I ignored the jab at Liam and settled into the plush oversized chair. Augie chose the seat across from Zarai on the other couch and we waited. The silence was awkward, but I was enjoying the moment anyway. I felt like we were finally going to get somewhere, and progress was good. I was still uncertain about letting one of our packmates trade their life for my dad’s, but nobody would be forced. If no one volunteered, then we would have to figure out another way.
I let my mind wander to Cord and my father. I was curious to know if they were with each other at that moment. I didn’t know how the spirit world worked, but it would be nice to know that something good came of what Declan did to my dad. If he had been able to say goodbye to Cord, it would make the situation a little more tolerable.
Liam came down the hallway with Davis in a wheelchair. My heart constricted at the sight, but he had a smile on his face, so I tried not to be too concerned. Aiden and Caleb followed in behind and everyone took a seat. Liam lifted me up, taking my seat and settling me in his lap. My wolf perked up at the contact as my heart beat a little faster. I wasn’t used to that kind of affection from him in front of the others yet, but I had to admit I liked it.
I glanced at everyone before I introduced Zarai. How different everything was from just a couple weeks ago. A meeting like this wouldn’t have been something I’d be subject to, but now I was basically leading it. I hadn’t even known the Anders brothers existed before everything went to shit, but they’d quickly become an instrumental part of our pack.
Even though so much had changed, it all felt right. Having this particular group of wolves around and supporting the pack was more than I could have expected when my world quickly began to crumble, leaving me no choice but to woman up and deal with it.
“Everyone, this is Zarai,” I began. “She is the witch who used to help our pack. Zarai, this is Davis, Caleb, and Aiden. You already met Liam and Augie upstairs.”
“Let’s get started, so I can be on my way before dark.” I loved her no-nonsense attitude and how she got straight to the point, but to those who didn’t know about our previous conversation, the comment made it sound as if she wouldn’t be assisting us.
“You’re not staying to help us?” Caleb asked.
“I’ll be helping to bring Gerald back as it wasn’t his time to go and bringing others to help capture Jaye, but that is it. Your wolf business is your own. We decided long ago not to meddle in it and nothing has changed,” Zarai said with an air of confidence that had Caleb keeping his mouth shut for once. Having her around had more than a few perks.
“What about the turned humans? Jaye did that to them. Doesn’t that make it your business?” Aiden asked.
Zarai nodded. “I agree. There are several things I will be speaking with my coven leader about in regard to this situation. I will make sure to point out the humans need our help as well. If all goes as planned, I will see how many witches my coven can spare and put a team on figuring out how to reverse whatever spell Jaye used to turn them. Do you have possession of all of them?”
“One is here, the others are spread amongst a few packs within our territory. We didn’t have the time to keep an eye on them all, so other alphas volunteered to help out,” I answered.
“Not a problem. It will be easier to do them in groups anyway, so the witches don’t get drained. I’ll ensure that their memories are wiped as well. We don’t need them going off and telling their friends and family of the wolves and witches they hung out with in their time away.”
I hadn’t even thought of that. We couldn’t handle dealing with a human revolt against the shifters while we were trying to chase down Declan. No, thank you. There was enough on our plate without adding that type of craziness.
“So, how are you going to save Gerald?” Davis asked. It wasn’t surprising to me that he would be the one to bring it up.
“The only way to bring him back from the spirit world is to exchange his soul for another.”
Silence swept over the room. Liam stiffened beneath me and tightened his hold. I could sense the fear emanating off him. He likely assumed I’d volunteer, but I knew better than that. My dad would waltz right back into the spirit world just to kick my ass for that one. I liked to push his buttons, but not that much.
“So, we have to wait for someone to die to bring him back?” Caleb asked.
“No,” Zarai answered. “In seven days, when the full moon is at its highest point, there is a ritual we can perform, asking the spirit gods to give one for the other. If the sacrifice is great enough, it will be granted. You must give one of your packmates up if you to wish bring to Gerald back.”
The thought of presenting the plan to our pack later in a meeting killed me. I didn’t want to lose any of them. I may not have socialized with all of them on a regular basis, but they all had their purpose within the pack, and I cared for everyone in one way or another. We were pack. That’s what we did. Drama ceased to exist when one of our own was in danger.
“I’ll do it,” Davis said from next to me.
I snapped my head and glared daggers at him. How had I not seen that coming? He shouldn’t have been allowed in here. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
“No, I won’t allow it,” I demanded as I stood from Liam’s lap. “You said I was alpha until we get my dad back. I get final say in who is sacrificed.”
“You never accepted, Taya. I am still interim alpha, and I no longer wish to pass my duties on to you or anyone else.”
Oh, that sneaky little bastard!
“Davis, you can’t do this. The pack needs you,” I begged.
He shook his head. “No, the pack needs your dad and a capable beta. I am neither of those things. How do you see the rest of my life playing out? Because I know how I do. If my wolf can’t run free and be the predator he was meant to be, he’ll slowly go crazy. As my wolf’s mentality goes, mine won’t be too far behind it. What happens then? I’ll go rogue. You’ll be forced to put me down anyway. It’s not if, but when this happens, and you know it.”
Damn it all to hell! I didn’t like it. I wasn’t going to accept it.
I turned toward Zarai. “When I mentioned it before, you said you might be able to help Davis. What can you do for him? There has to be something.”
Zarai stood as well, making her way toward Davis. “Wolf healing is a powerful thing. If his body didn’t heal on its own, the damage may be permanent now that the open wounds are closed, but I’ll do my best. Do you mind if I touch you? It’s the only way I can know for sure.”
Davis nodded. Zarai’s hands settled on his legs as she closed her eyes. Sparks erupted from her hands, causing most of us to lean back a few inches. We waited in silence as the tension rose in the room. Finally, Zarai opened her eyes, pulling away from Davis.
“I’m sorry, Taya. His nerve damage is severe. I could keep him comfortable, but it’d be as though he was heavily medicated. His mind wouldn’t function the same as it does now.”
I needed time to think. I needed to figure out another way. Davis was family. I couldn’t lose him, too. I moved away from where I stood next to Liam as he made a move to follow me, but I shook my head. “I need some time. I’ll be back.”
Liam nodded, and I headed for the door, grateful he didn’t push me. There was a lot for me to process, and I didn’t need anyone pushing me to do what they thought was right. Davis had been my dad’s beta since before I was born. He was like the uncle I never had, and I was done watching my family die.