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“Reese,” Meaghan was saying. He opened his eyes. He was lying in a strange room, covered in blood stains. But he knew the woman standing over him.
“Lady Elaine?” he asked. He got to his feet. “Where are we?”
“Lady Elaine? Geesh. You think you’re Lancelot even if your dreams?” said Meaghan. She turned behind herself to Sophia and Luke. “This is worse than we thought.”
“It needed our power,” said Luke. “So it consumed us. It wants to consume you too. Consume it all.”
“You’re Reese,” said Meaghan. “Remember? Reese?”
He spun around in the room, which looked so unfamiliar. What were these things? Why was there so much blood? “Lady Elaine, have you been injured?”
“I’m not Elaine. I’m Meaghan. And you have to snap out of being Lancelot or you aren’t going to be able to do anything.”
Sophia grabbed Reese’s arm and pulled him into the corner of the room. There a glowing box displayed words. But he could not read. That was a skill better left for monks and scribes. There had been no time in his warrior’s training—
Wait. He could read. The computer screen—that’s what it was called—said:
“Our king does not wish our death,” he said. “I know it.”
“Perhaps he should,” she said. “How could we have done this? How could we have been so utterly selfish?”
And there was no answer for that. No answer at all.
That had been his conversation with the queen in the dungeon. Why was it written here? He turned sharply to the Lady Elaine—Meaghan. “What does this mean?”
“They’re coming!” said Luke.
“This was all we could show you,” said Meaghan. “You must figure it out, Reese.”
“Please,” said Sophia, but she was cut off by a scream. The three figures and the room began to wobble before his eyes and to grow more and more blurry. The screams grew louder. The blood on the floor and on the couch splashed up, covering everything in red. “No! Adam, please!” screamed a woman’s voice. “Don’t hurt me!”
Then, out of the darkness, a voice. Male. Frightened. “Reese, watch out! Can’t you see the headlights?”
Reese opened his eyes in the bedroom with Wyn. “Dad?” he said aloud. Dad. Dad! His father. It all came swimming back to him, the accident. Bright lights. Screeching tires. His father’s hoarse scream. He knew who he was.
“You were dreaming, Lancelot,” said Wyn, looking at him with haggard eyes. They were both still tied up.
“Not Lancelot,” said Reese. “I’m not Lancelot.” He tugged at the ropes that bound him, but they held fast. “You aren’t Guinevere. You have to try to remember, Wyn.” And he had to figure out why he kept having dreams about Meaghan. It had seemed like she was trying to tell him something. What if they weren’t really just dreams? What if they were messages? What if the spirits really had consumed the energy of Meaghan, Sophia, and Luke? Maybe the spirits were strong because they were feeding on the essences of their former classmates. Was that even possible?
The door burst open and Gavin ran inside. “She means to kill you both,” he said.
“Madame Braith does?” asked Reese. Gavin’s speech sounded sort of formal, but he couldn’t be sure if Gavin still thought he was King Arthur or not.
“No, the Lady Morgan does.” Gavin crossed the room to Wyn and began to untie her. “I won’t have it. I don’t care what you’ve done. I can’t let you be killed tomorrow.”
“You want us to run, Arthur?” asked Wyn. “But we’ve committed treason against the crown, and we must be punished.”
Gavin kissed her fiercely. “I’d sooner the entire kingdom be destroyed than watch your beautiful face burn, my queen.”
Wyn began to cry.
Seriously? “This is touching, guys,” said Reese, “but what I really need is for you two to remember who you are. You are not the king and queen of Camelot. You are simply two kids in a school who are being controlled by spirits. Wake up!”
Gavin freed Wyn’s arms. She embraced him. “Lance has been acting strangely. The activity has unhinged his mind.”
Unhinged his mind? Right.
Gavin broke his embrace with Wyn and turned to Reese. “My dear friend,” said Gavin.
“Yeah, okay, I don’t buy that we’re still dear friends after you found out that I’ve been sleeping with your wife,” said Reese.
Gavin began to work at the knots that secured Reese’s wrists above his head. “I can’t say the thought of it is not painful for me, but it does not mean I wish you dead.”
“So, you’re rescuing me? This isn’t even in the original myth. In the original myth, Lancelot escapes and comes back to free Guinevere while she’s at the stake, about to be burned. Wake up in there, Gavin!” Reese yelled in his friend’s face. Gavin didn’t seem to register it at all.
Gavin yanked the rope away, and Reese’s hands were free. He lowered them, massaging his palms, trying to restore circulation.
Gavin held out something invisible to Reese. “I brought you a sword. Use it to defend the queen.”
Reese just stared at Gavin’s empty hand.
“Take it,” urged Gavin.
Sighing, Reese mimed taking the sword from Gavin. “There’s nothing in my hand.”
Gavin went to the other side of the room and threw open the bedroom window. “Take this corridor,” he said. “It will eventually lead you to the stables.”
Wyn started forward.
Reese grabbed her and pulled her back. “That’s not a corridor. It’s an open window. You go through that, and you’ll break your leg.” What was he going to do? How the heck could he possibly get through to them?
Wyn stared at him like he was crazy. “Don’t you want to get free, Lance?”
Gavin firmly pulled Wyn out of Reese’s grasp. “Through this corridor. Hurry.”
Wyn started towards the window again.
Reese pulled her back again. “No.” What had caused him to snap out of it? Memories of his father? Of the car accident? Of something personal and painful?
“We don’t have much time, Lance,” said Gavin.
Reese wasn’t sure about personal, painful things from their pasts. But he did know that he might be able to exploit what was going on between the three of them. Maybe. “It’s not just the spirits, you know, Gavin.”
Gavin looked confused for a second. “Lance, you must make haste.”
“Sometimes it’s us. Me and Wyn. Nothing controlling our bodies except ourselves. Isn’t that right, Wyn?” He turned to her, gazing pointedly into her eyes.
She looked away, shaking her head.
“I’ve been with her a lot,” said Reese, pushing forward. He thought this might be working. They were reacting. But it wasn’t easy to say these kinds of things out loud. “We share a bed every night. Sometimes we do it more than once.”
Gavin let go of his hold on Wyn slowly. He narrowed his eyes as he looked at Reese.
It was definitely working. Reese swallowed. He looked Gavin square in the eye. “She likes it,” he said. His mouth felt dry. He shouldn’t say things like this to Gavin. Shouldn’t have to rub his nose in it. “You should hear the noises she makes. She—”
“That’s enough, Reese!” Wyn interrupted.
Thank goodness. She was back. Reese turned to her. “It’s you, Wyn?”
“My queen?” whispered Gavin, cocking his head.
Reese turned away from both of them, studying the carpet. “Tell him how much you like it, Wyn, if you want to snap him out of it.”
“Reese, no, I can’t—”
“The Lady Morgan could come in at any moment,” said Gavin. He gestured to the window. “Please go into the corridor, Guinevere.”
Wyn grasped both of his hands. “Gavin,” she said. “Gavin, come back to me.”
Wyn shot Reese a pleading look.
“Hurt him,” said Reese. “It’s the only thing that will make him wake up.”
Wyn looked back at Gavin. She hesitated for another moment. Then she spat out, “Sometimes I think I’m falling in love with Reese, Gavin. Me. The real me. Not because of the spirits.”
Gavin dropped her hands. “What the fuck, Wyn?”
“Gavin?” she whispered. “It’s you?” She threw her arms around him and tried to kiss him, but he pushed her away.
“Sorry,” said Reese. “We were trying to get to you. We needed you to shake off the spirit. It seems like traumatic emotions help us to resurface our original identities.”
Gavin shoved his hands in his pockets. “Right. I guess it’s not even true, then, right?”
Neither Reese nor Wyn could meet his gaze.
Gavin slammed the window shut. “What are we going to do if we get out of this, huh? We can’t go back to way things were before, can we?”
“Once the spirits are gone,” said Wyn, “everything will go back to normal.”
“No, it won’t,” said Gavin. He glared at Reese. “How many times have you fucked her anyway?”
“Gavin!” said Wyn.
“I haven’t counted,” said Reese, his voice even. This wasn’t productive. He wished he hadn’t had to say anything. But he’d had to bring Gavin back. “It doesn’t matter what things will be like if we get rid of the spirits if we never get rid of them. We have to focus on something besides how much both of us want to screw Wyn and how much Wyn wants to screw both of us.”
Gavin raised his eyebrows. He looked furtively at Wyn. “You do still want me?”
“Focus,” said Reese.
“Right,” said Gavin.
“Right,” said Wyn.
“I’ve been having dreams about Meaghan and Sophia and Luke,” said Reese. “They always take place in the den, but it’s different. It’s covered in blood. There’s a ratty couch, and a bunch of posters, King Arthur books all over the room, and an old computer. And they keep telling me that they’ve been consumed by the spirits. For power. I just had one before I woke up. Do you think they could be real? Like it could actually be Sophia or Meaghan trying to communicate with me?”
“You say they take place in the den?” said Wyn. “But it’s laid out differently? Different furniture and all of that? An old computer?”
“Yeah,” said Reese.
“This den. The dreams take place in this house, but in the past?” Wyn said.
“I guess so,” said Reese.
Wyn clapped her open palm against her forehead. “We’ve been forgetting everything we’ve ever been taught. Doesn’t Madame Braith say that you always start with the history of the house when you’re dealing with spirits?”
“So there was a murder here?” Gavin said from his perch on the bed. He looked across the bedroom at Wyn, who was at her computer. He couldn’t help but think that she looked beautiful. He wished he could believe what she’d said, that after the spirits left their bodies things would be normal again. He remembered how simple and perfect their relationship had been. Not anymore, however.
Reese lounged against the door. “Was the murderer named Adam?”
Wyn shot him a surprised look. “How did you know?”
“Something from my dream,” said Reese. “It all seems so clear to me now. I can’t believe I didn’t see it before.”
“Yeah, this guy named Adam Tisdale murdered his ex-wife Brenda Wyatt in this house almost fifteen years ago,” said Wyn. “She was a historical romance novelist. She was working on a story about King Arthur.” Wyn clicked on a link on her computer. “Listen to this.” She read from the screen. “‘Wyatt’s unfinished manuscript about Arthurian legend put a new spin on the story by centering it around two doomed love affairs—the incestuous love between Arthur and his half-sister Morgan le Fay and the adulterous love between Guinevere and Lancelot.’“
“That’s why there were King Arthur books in the dream,” said Reese. “She must have kept them in the den for research. And that’s why I saw part of the scene that Wyn and I had just acted out on the screen of her computer. She was writing it.”
“So you think we’ve been acting out scenes from her book?” asked Gavin. This was too freaking weird. Maybe Reese thought it seemed obvious, but Gavin thought it seemed extremely strange.
“That would make sense,” said Wyn. “It explains why things don’t match up perfectly to the original myth. Because we’re possessed by spirits who are reflections of this author’s interpretation of the characters. Let me Google the book name.” A pause. “Oh wait. It gets even worse.”
“What?” said Gavin.
“The spell we did? The one that started all of this? It’s from the book.” She read aloud, “‘Wyatt’s estate has been unable to publish a partial manuscript posthumously, as the rights to a Welsh incantation used by one of the characters belongs to the family of Wyatt’s murderer, her ex-husband Adam Tisdale.’“ She looked up. “The website has the incantation posted right here.”
Gavin got up off the bed and went over to peer over Wyn’s shoulder at the computer screen. “Huh,” he said. “It is the spell.”
“So what do these spirits want?” asked Reese. “Do they want to finish the book? I mean, maybe it’s just closure.”
“Don’t you ever pay attention in class?” said Wyn. “They’re violent spirits. They were born in the wake of extreme violence. We had a whole lecture on this the other day.”
“Right,” said Gavin. But what had Madame Braith said to do to get rid of them? “I don’t think I was there that day. I’ve been skipping class a lot lately.”
“There are some rituals in the supplemental reading that Madame Braith said might work,” said Wyn. “Let me get my book.”
“So they’re violent spirits,” said Reese. “Don’t we have to figure out what they want, though, before we can encourage them to take a new form?”
Wyn was rummaging through her pile of schoolbooks. “That’s the thing, Reese. These kinds of spirits are created by violence. They have a completely different energy. They’re very resistant to changing form. You remember the example in Workman, right?”
“No, I don’t,” said Reese. “I haven’t read a chapter in Workman in weeks.”
“I don’t remember either,” said Gavin.
Wyn sighed and settled on the bed. “Workman used garlic to focus the spirit elsewhere. It seemed to morph into some other incarnation, but continue to do its harmful kind of mischief.”
Oh. “So, maybe we should deal with them in this incarnation?” asked Gavin. “At least we know what we’re up against.”
“I think,” said Wyn, paging through her supplemental book, “that we’re going to have to skip straight to the ritual that makes it inhospitable for the spirits.” She stopped on a page and scanned it quickly. “Yeah, if we try this, maybe they’ll find their current incarnations so limiting that they’ll switch to something more benign.”
“These books that Madame Braith gives us are bullshit.” Reese crossed his arms over his chest.
“What else are we going to do?” asked Wyn. “What other ways can we fight them?”
“What’s the ritual say to do?” asked Gavin.
“Call the spirits to us in the spirit realm. Invoke the trigger event and force them to relive it over and over again,” said Wyn.
“What if that makes them stronger?” asked Reese. “What if that doesn’t chase them off at all? I mean, this event is what formed them in the first place. Why should seeing it over and over again make them want to leave?”
“I don’t know,” said Wyn.
“Look, we have to try something,” said Gavin. Reese was bringing up good points, but they were completely without any idea of what to do about these spirits. Things were getting bad. He had no doubt that the spirits of Morgan and Mordred would try to kill Reese and Wyn in the morning. He couldn’t let that happen. They didn’t have time. They had to act. And now. “Let’s give it a shot. If it doesn’t work, we’re not much worse off.”
“I’m game,” said Wyn. “Reese?”
He sighed. “I’m willing to try, but I think we need to be prepared for this to blow up in our faces.”
There was a knock at the door, and Brenda Wyatt walked across the den to answer it. Reese watched from above. They were replaying the event for the spirits. He could see them. Using a summoning ritual, they’d managed to gather all the spirits in the house. The black, tattered spirits floated around him in the air. They were all in the spirit realm. He could sense more than see Wyn and Gavin, also hovering with him above this scene that was about to become violent. Reese didn’t like several things about the current arrangement. One, of course, was that he really didn’t think this ritual was going to succeed. He also didn’t like being in the spirit realm, where they couldn’t communicate if something began to go wrong.
“Adam?” Brenda Wyatt was saying, as her ex-husband pushed past her. “What are you doing here?”
“You used the invocation in your book,” Adam was saying.
“How do you know about that?”
“I talked to Maura, who said she had a draft,” Adam said.
“That bitch,” muttered Brenda. She walked away from Adam and into the den.
Adam followed her. “You stole that invocation from me.”
Brenda turned on her heel. “I did no such thing.”
“You stole it. It belongs to my family. It’s ancient, and you found it when we were visiting my family in England.”
“We were in England so that I could do research, Adam,” said Brenda.
“I want a percentage of the profits of the book,” said Adam.
“Are you kidding?”
“The spell is practically the whole idea,” Adam said. “You saw it and decided to write a sympathetic Morgan le Fay. From that incantation, you got the idea to make it a dual tragedy of two loves that couldn’t be fulfilled. That incantation is what shaped your book, and you’d never have seen it if it weren’t for me. I want percentages.”
“I can cut the spell from the book and the book will still be basically the same,” Brenda said. “The only thing the incantation is for is to show that Morgan is serious about thinking that she and Arthur will live again in another life. I don’t need the incantation for that. I can make it so that she thinks they’ll be reincarnated, not so she thinks some other witch will find her spell and invoke her, and she and Arthur’s spirits will take over.”
“You’re not going to give me the money, are you?”
“We’ve been over this, Adam, with the alimony. You signed a pre-nup. You can’t take my money just because we were married for three seconds.”
“Technically, we’re still married,” said Adam.
Brenda crossed to the door and opened it. “I think it’s time for you to leave.”
Adam didn’t move. “I’m still in your will, aren’t I, Bren?”
“What are you talking about?”
Adam advanced on Brenda, yanking her away from the door and slamming it shut. He pressed her body against the closed door. “I’m still your heir.”
Brenda struggled against Adam, but he held her fast. “Let me go.”
Adam pulled something small and metal out of his back pocket. He pressed on the object, and a switchblade sprang out.
“Adam,” said Brenda, her voice starting to shake, “don’t hurt me.”
Adam took a step forward, and Brenda moved away from him.
He slashed at her with the knife.
Brenda screamed, turning away to run. But her feet tangled in each other, and she tripped, sprawling on the floor.
Adam hauled Brenda to her feet, pulling her body tight against his.
“Adam, no,” said Brenda. “Adam, don’t.”
Adam drew the knife against the skin of Brenda’s neck. She shrieked. Blood gushed up everywhere, erupting all over Adam’s hands. He made a small noise in the back of his throat, dropped the knife, and let go of Brenda.
Brenda had a hand to her throat, but blood was burbling through her fingers, onto her shirt, staining it bright red.
Adam must have cut her jugular, Reese thought as he watched the woman stumble into the den. There was blood everywhere. Brenda fell onto the couch, reaching over for a phone on the end table, but it was too late. She bled out and died right there on the couch. There was so much blood, just like in his dreams.
Adam walked into the den on shaky legs. He stood over the body of the dead woman. He was crying.
That made Reese pretty pissed off. You didn’t get to cry after you killed someone. No, you should think about that before you killed someone. Feeling sorry afterwards didn’t really help the situation at all.
Abruptly, the scene below them reset itself. Brenda was walking to the door to answer it again. Reese felt a little sick. He didn’t know how long he could stand watching this scene over and over again. Maybe it would work to get rid of the spirits.
At least seeing this helped it make more sense to Reese. If the altercation between Adam and Brenda had been about the incantation and her invention of Morgan le Fay as a witch who wanted others to revive her spirit so she could be with Arthur again, then it made sense that the spiritual activity attached itself both to the incantation and to the idea that they were the spirits of King Arthur’s court reborn. It did make sense.
Or did it? Adam had just told Brenda that the incantation was real, a possession of his English family. And it had been awfully complicated, hadn’t it? Nine Sensitives all had to be together at once, holding various objects, three people had to be killed (or consumed, whatever) for the charm to be wound up. Was this really just the imaginative world of an Arthurian novelist or—
David had walked into the middle of the scene between Adam and Brenda, and he was giving Adam rabbit ears behind his back.
Why hadn’t his spirit been gathered with all the others? Why was he still in human form? What was David, anyway?
“This is going to get really boring, really fast,” said David. He snapped his fingers and the scene froze.
Reese didn’t like that. It had taken a good bit of effort on the part of all three of them to set this scene up on repeat in the spirit realm. Now, instead, David had just shut it completely down without any effort at all.
David looked up at the ceiling, where Reese, Gavin, and Wyn were hovering. “I can see you up there. Isn’t anyone going to come down and scold me for being a bad boy?”
David looked so solid. He didn’t have a spirit body, like Reese and the others. There was no way Reese could confront him like this. He’d never had a body in the spirit realm.
“Sure you have. What do you think those dreams were?” whispered Meaghan’s voice, close to his ears.
He whipped around his spirit body, but there was no sign of her. Maybe that was because she’d been consumed by this house. In the dreams, he’d felt solid enough, but he’d always know it was a dream. Still, he’d had a body, not like in the spirit realm. He thought about the sensation of his dream body, the feel of his fingers, toes, and limbs.
And suddenly, he was in a heap on the floor, right in front of David. He had a body. Reese got to his feet carefully. He surveyed his surroundings. Definitely still the spirit realm. David had that kind of buzzy, shiny look he had only in the spirit realm. And next to him, Brenda and Adam were frozen mid-discussion.
David smiled at Reese. “Not bad, there. You’re the first of your friends to master corporeal forms in the spirit realm. I’m impressed.”
Reese didn’t respond to David’s comment. Everything was a little strange. He thought about the ritual. How the lights had gone out and everyone had passed out. How the ritual summoned Morgana of the nine circuits and her power. Reese put his finger against David’s chest. “You aren’t Mordred at all, are you?”
David arched his eyebrow even higher than it normally arched.
“You’re Morgana. You’re something else…not really the Morgan le Fay from the Arthur myth, but an older spirit. Something powerful. Something—”
“You’re very smart, Reese,” said David. “Super smart. If I hadn’t seduced her with that little incantation, I’m sure you would have become Madame Braith’s star student in no time. Of course, if I hadn’t found you and shown her where you were, I never would have gotten out in the first place.”
Reese was stunned. He remembered when he first arrived, Madame Braith saying something about needing him to complete the ritual, but he’d thought it was only because there needed to be nine people. He guessed, however, that the dreams had always come to him—the ones with the den, at any rate. Somehow, the way out of this lay within him. Maybe that was why he’d been skeptical of trying to make things inhospitable for the spirits. Some part of him had always known. “But why the King Arthur spirits and the possessions and the references to Brenda Wyatt’s novel?” asked Reese. “Why so convoluted?”
David smirked. “Maybe you aren’t so smart, after all, Reese.” He paced around Brenda and Adam, sizing them up. “People have been getting me confused with that bitch in the King Arthur legend for eons. I have nothing to do with that stupid story. Nothing. Your little Madame Braith had it more right than she knew. I used to be worshipped. I used to be a goddess. Morrigan. The Irish goddess of strife. Of warfare. I was terrible to behold. I struck fear in the hearts of our enemies. I—”
“And then everyone stopped believing in you and you had no power,” said Reese. “Sucks to be you. What does that have to do with anything?”
“My incantation,” said David. “I needed someone powerful to invoke me. I got the incantation into a book. At least I thought I did.” He paused and glared at Adam. “Then he ruined everything.” David turned to Reese. “Do you know how hard it was to use what scant power I had to lure Madame Braith here? To convince her to start a school of Sensitives? To get you here? To get her to perform the incantation? And even then, even then, I needed to consume three of the powerful students here. And during all of that, the violent spirits were tied to the place in the form of people from Camelot. Tied to me and my power. It’s been very frustrating.” He cocked his head to the side. “But kind of fun to watch. I have to admit that.”
The other spirits were tied to the Morgana spirit? So that meant that if Reese could vanquish Morgana/David, this would all go away, didn’t it? It was up to him to stop it all. But how? Reese did the only thing he could think of. He threw a punch.
He connected solidly with David’s jaw and David’s head jerked back from the force of it.
Not bad. Of course, last time that Reese tried to fight David in the real world, he’d lost. And Reese didn’t even know if a spirit realm fist fight would do much of anything.
But David slowly rolled his head back forward to face Reese. “You want a rematch, huh?”
David threw back his head and thrust out his arms. Black smoke began to pour out of his mouth and eyes engulfing David’s body. David, now a pillar of black smoke, hovered a few inches off the ground.
Reese wasn’t impressed with the parlor trick. He threw another punch into the black smoke. It was cold, like a wintry blast. Reese recoiled, cradling his hand. The skin on his fist looked withered and frosty.
Laughter emanated from the smoke, and it began to clear. It was no longer David floating in front of Reese, but a huge birdlike woman. She wore a cloak made of black feathers and the tips of her fingers were sharp claws. She dived onto Reese, knocking Reese down onto the floor.
Even though this wasn’t a physical body, Reese felt the impact. It didn’t feel nice.
Morgana moved quickly, slashing and swiping Reese’s face and midsection with her claws.
It was all Reese could do to try to wriggle out of Morgana’s reach. Things were coming too quick. And they hurt. Reese could hear his skin tearing, and he saw blood spray into the air.
What kind of spirit realm was this anyway?
Morgana swept in, her hand going to Reese’s throat. Her clawed fingers tightened, squeezing away Reese’s air supply. “Surprise, surprise,” said Morgana. “I win again.”
If not, wait until next Thursday to find out how it all ends.
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