(Note: Short(er) update as I am sick and have been for the better part of the last 2 weeks. Hope you enjoy it anyway, and look forward to next week!)
A gnawing, hollow hunger spread across my chest. It informed me that I wouldn’t be doing any magic tricks anytime soon. It also served as a (meta)physical manifestation of my relationship with Atlantia. My blood bond with my mother –excuse me, my Honorable Queen and Esteemed Mistress– had always been complicated, but this recent betrayal of hers was new. Maybe betrayal was too strong of a word. It’s not like I’d lost her loyalty; she’d never been loyal to me from the start.
Suddenly drained and weary, I had only enough strength to quietly ask, “Why’d you do it, Ma?”
She tilted her head to look down her nose at me through the screen. “What are you gibbering about, welp? You’re not making any sense.”
Sami spoke up, cringing even though she knew that Atlantia couldn’t see her. “I told her, Mistress. I told her everything.”
The Queen of the Blue’s mouth flattened into an unflattering shape; the lines around her eyes and mouth became more apparent and surprised me. I’d known that my mother was ageing, but never had I seen it so clearly. “I see.” She blew out a breath and closed her eyes. “So you hate me, do you?”
“I just want to know why. And even though Sami says she told me ‘everything’, I’m almost certain there are some parts I’m missing. Care to fill me in?” I gestured to my left, and Sami titled the phone so my mother could see the thing wearing my face. Recognition turned to alarm; for the first time in my life, I heard my mother curse, and it wasn’t to twist a spell. Book’s appearance must have shocked her to the core. “Yeah, and that happened, too.”
Book bowed deeply. “Gracious One,” it murmured silkily. I shuddered. I would never get accustomed to some other being prancing around in a copy of my body and speaking with my dulcet tones. It was way too weird, though I did find myself admiring my curves and cheekbones. Which was kind of creepy, actually, when I thought about it.
“What do you want to know?”
“Tell me,” I leaned forward, “about Blue. And what all of this-” I twirled my hand in the air “-has to do with me. Oh, and my death. Was I supposed to die?”
“That one, I can answer easily enough,” she interjected with a sigh. “No. You weren’t.” She looked at me, really looked at me. Her gaze bored into mine, drilling right to my soul, even though I was only a soul at this point. “Samilla was supposed to put you in a state of suspended animation until I could separate you from your power-”
“WHAT?! How could you do that to m-”
“-or, rather, find a way to duplicate your power to send off with Samilla to give it to those fanatics she works for.”
“…huh?” I snuck a glance at Sami; her uncomprehending expression matched mine.
Atlantia, who must have been sitting behind her desk, propped her elbows on something I couldn’t see, laced her fingers together, making a cradle, and rested her chin on it. “Do you really think I would strip my you, my progeny, of your incredible power, leaving you at risk, knowing what I know about what is to come?” She shook her head. “I know I wasn’t the…cookie-baking, after school special kind of mother to you, but I did the best that I could. My position is demanding, and because I had you so late in my life, I was forced into grooming you to take over instead of just…loving you. I do offer my apologies, Kiera; whether you accept it or not is up to you, but there are larger, more serious matters at hand.” She nodded her toward Book. “How much has Grimick told you?”
My eyebrows rose of their own accord. “Grimick?”
“Its full name is long and complicated. I’ve always called it Grimick –Grimoire of Mimicry– for short. What do you call it?”
She nodded. “That’s fitting.”
“I hate to interrupt, Head Mistress, Master,” Kenzie said quietly, “but shouldn’t we get on with it?”
“Who said that?” Atlantia snapped. “I know that voice; I’d swear to it.”
I said, “This is Ken-” at the same time that Sami shouted, “Nobody!”
“Kensington Cunningham.” My mother answered her own question with flashing eyes and a clipped tone. “Female, age 15, class 6C. Father listed as Dr. Yakov Cunningham, currently unreachable, mother listed as unknown/deceased. What is she doing there?” Whether she pulled up a file or read the energy signature in the air, I didn’t know, and I doubted I’d ever be privy to that knowledge. When Atlantia went into Academy mode, she was a force, not be be reckoned with, but to get out of the way of. From the stiff hunch of Kenzie’s posture, I was sure the kid knew it well.
“Kenzie is helping me. Kid was nearby when I kicked the bucket, felt the curse, came to investigate.” I leveled a stare at the screen. “Is that going to be a problem?”
Atlantia sat back and chuckled. “My puppy has learned to bite.” She seemed…proud? I was wary, and started to question it, but she continued. “I see. Felt the curse, she did.” She muttered to herself for an agonizing stretch of several seconds, then cleared her throat. “It can’t be helped. Let her stay. I will inform her teachers that she is undertaking a special project for me.”
Kenzie, unwilling to believe in such possible good fortune, stammered, “You’re not going to kick me out? Torture me? Bind my budding powers? Make me move into the dorms?” Sami gasped she lost lost her grip on the phone; Kenzie had snatched it and was squeezing it tightly, gazing reverently upon my mother’s face. “I swear, I won’t let you down, Head Mistress! I will aid your daughter with my life! Uh, breath? Breath and life?”
“Don’t make me regret this, child,” Atlantia’s stern voice cut through the air.
Kenzie’s head bobbed up and down. Sami gently extracted her phone from the death grip it was in, and turned the screen back toward me.
“What were we discussing?”
“You were going to tell me about Blue,” I prompted. “I know she’s some ancestor or something of ours, right? Spiritually speaking, I mean.”
“Blue is not ‘our’ ancestor. Blue is ‘my’ mother. I was that first child that she placed upon the beach.”
I blinked rapidly, then busted out laughing. “Yeah, right, Ma! That would make you-”
“682 years old. I know this well; I feel every year of my age daily. However, there are things the story that Grimick has probably told you that are…not quite correct. For example, none of the others that came after me were Blue’s natural children. And I know that you are questioning your place in this, and what happened to Blue, why she needs to return after all of this time. You have questions; anyone in your situation would. You and your apprentices –and I use that word loosely– will need to come here.”
I stared hard at my mother. “You’re 682?!”
“That’s the part that bothers you?” Kenzie sat back in the chair with a thump. “There’s something seriously wrong with you people.”