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Reese gasped. Think, think, he demanded of himself. His power was responsible for bringing Morgana here. Removing his power had to be the key to getting rid of Morgana. But when they’d tried to leave the mansion before, the spirits had just followed them. But had David followed? Reese couldn’t breathe. The world was going black around the edges. Could he die in the spirit realm?
No, David hadn’t followed, had he? Because he’d said, “Once I had you back.” Did that mean that Morgana couldn’t leave the house?
Reese’s vision was swimming. Above him, his view of the Morgana beast was growing dimmer and dimmer. He had to get away!
He concentrated as hard as he could…
…and tumbled down the imaginary steps of the spirit realm back into the physical realm. His eyes snapped open, and he was lying on the floor in Wyn’s bedroom, gasping for breath.
Madame Braith stood over him. “Lancelot,” she sneered, her eyes narrow.
“Madame Braith,” panted Reese. “You’re not Morgan le Fay.”
“If Arthur betrays me again, I’ll have him executed along with you and the whore,” she said.
God dammit. What on earth could Reese say to Madame Braith that would be painful? What could he do to snap her out of it? “You’re fat and old and washed up,” he tried.
“Why my bear gives you scum so much loyalty, I’ll never understand,” said Madame Braith.
Okay, well that hadn’t worked. Reese shot a look at Gavin and Wyn, who were still in the spirit realm. They sat on the floor, their heads slumped against their chests as if they were asleep. The spirit stuff had worked on them to bring them out of the Arthur fantasy stuff. Maybe it would work on Madame Braith too. And if he could get her out, she could pull them out of the spirit realm. She was powerful. “You liked fucking your student, didn’t you?” said Reese. “He was young and exciting and had…stamina.” God, this was grossing him out.
Madame Braith’s face twisted. She shook herself. “Reese?” she whispered. “I never meant to do that. I was under the control of—” She looked down at her body. “I’m not pregnant anymore, am I?”
Wow. She’d been messed up for that long? Reese guessed the Morgana spirit had really screwed up her head, then. Reese pushed himself to his feet. “Get Wyn and Gavin out of the spirit realm. And if you know any kind of protection spells we can use against a pissed-off ancient spirit that used to be the Irish goddess Morrigan, that would be a big help.”
“So wait,” said Gavin, “you’re saying that David is actually Morgana or Morrigan or whatever, and that he used us and the spirits in the house to manifest physically?” Ever since Madame Braith had ripped him out of the spirit realm, he’d been feeling really confused.
“The spirit used me,” said Madame Braith, looking grim. They were all crammed inside her office. She’d done some strange barrier spell, which involved chanting in Latin and lighting smudges of sage. Gavin liked the way they smelled, but he wasn’t sure they were going to be very effective. “I found that incantation tucked inside one of the books here. I thought I’d always had it, but the spirit must have placed it there. Then, when I invoked Morgana, asking her to make her power mine, the spirit impregnated me in a sort of way. When I was pregnant, I was carrying the spirit. It had a residual control on me even after I delivered the thing. I’ve read about things this powerful, but I haven’t heard a report of something like it in hundreds of years. I can only conclude that Reese is right. We’re dealing with some kind of ancient ex-goddess.”
“So what do we do?” said Wyn. She was hugging her knees to her chest. Gavin had tried to comfort her, but she’d shrugged him off. She hadn’t let Reese get close either, though, so that was something.
“Well, I’ve been thinking about that,” said Reese. “The Morrigan spirit is tied to this house, because it didn’t leave when we did, even though the King Arthur spirits came with us.”
“Maybe,” said Madame Braith, “but it seems unlikely that a spirit so powerful couldn’t go where it pleased.”
“At the very least,” said Reese, “it’s tied to us. You told me the first day I got here that we were like power packs for the spirits. Our energies made them stronger.”
“That’s true,” said Madame Braith.
“And I think the power of the spirits in this house make the Morrigan spirit stronger too,” said Reese.
“David did close off the house after we tried to leave,” said Wyn. “Maybe it needs us close.”
“So we should just leave,” said Gavin. That was the obvious answer, right?
“We can’t,” said Wyn. “The house is closed off. The spirits can’t leave, and they are tied to our bodies.”
Madame Braith made a face. “I’m afraid Wyn’s right. We’re stuck here.”
“This is stupid,” said Gavin. “What does it want? Why would it go to all the trouble to get all this power, if it couldn’t leave the house?”
“It wants to be alive in its current incarnation,” said Madame Braith. “It doesn’t want to change form. It thinks that would be like death.”
“So we have to convince it to change form,” said Wyn.
“Or strip it of all its power by getting the spirits riding us to change form,” said Reese. “Then we can leave, and without our power, especially mine, it should be harmless.”
“We’re back to square one,” said Wyn. “We don’t know how to get rid of these spirits. They’re trapped here too. We’ve tried everything.”
Trapped spirits, thought Gavin. He remembered something. “Not everything. I read something. Back when all this was just getting started. It said that trapped spirits were stuck in a loop of a dark, powerful event, and that to free them, they needed to relive the event and successfully resolve it.”
“But we tried that,” said Wyn. “We put the murder on a loop. David stopped us.”
“That was to make the environment inhospitable,” said Reese. “That wasn’t to help them resolve it.”
“Besides,” said Gavin, “the murder may be what trapped them, but it isn’t what isn’t resolved for them. Their story isn’t resolved. Brenda never finished the book.”
Everyone was quiet for a moment. Gavin chewed on his lip. He was trying to think this through. If the characters of the book needed a resolution, how could they give it to them?
Wyn nodded. “We need to resolve the characters’ love stories.”
Madame Braith made a face. “You’re going to suggest that we let those spirits take over our bodies again, aren’t you?”
Gavin shrugged. “Well, for a teacher, you’re not such a bad kisser.”
She glared at him.
Reese crossed him arms over his chest and looked at Gavin, who was standing next to the door of Madame Braith’s office. “I’m just worried that once I open this door and let the spirit take over me again,” he said, “that the Morrigan thing will swoop back in and start screwing everything up again.”
“I think if Morgan le Fay sees what you’re doing, she’ll stop it,” said Madame Braith. “She’ll close the door before anything can happen. And as long as we’re inside the office, we’re still inside the spell.”
“Great,” muttered Wyn. “But we’re all going to be under, and who knows if we’ll ever come back out. Who knows if they’ll resolve anything?”
“We have to try,” said Reese. “We just have to.”
The four nodded at each other.
“So, we’ll start where we left off,” said Gavin. He put his hand on the doorknob. “Take this corridor. It will eventually lead you to the stables.”
“Lancelot,” said Madame Braith. “If Arthur betrays me again, I’ll have him executed along with you and the whore.”
They waited, each peering anxiously at the others. Nothing was happening.
Gavin turned the knob, slowly, opening the door an inch and then—
Morgan rushed forward, shutting the casement to the corridor and wedging her body between Arthur and the opening. “I would do it, you know. I would rather have you dead than for you to be against me.”
Arthur stepped back, shaking his head. “I’ve never been against you, Morgan.”
“You’ve thwarted me at every turn. You’ve abandoned me. And now you betray me with them.” Morgan pointed at Lancelot and Guinevere, who stood stunned.
Arthur put his hand on Morgan’s cheek. “It’s you who’ve been against me.”
“I have loved you, my bear, to distraction.”
Arthur kissed her on the forehead. “Yes, and I you. And our love has destroyed my kingdom.” He turned to Guinevere. “I’ve driven my queen to the arms of another. I’ve fathered a son who wants to tear down everything I’ve built. And all of these things have been because I have valued you, Morgan, above my role as king. But I am the king. Above everything else, that is what is most important. Camelot.”
“Camelot is a dream,” said Morgan.
“No,” said Guinevere, crossing her husband and placing her hand on his arm, “you made it real.”
“Yes,” whispered Lancelot from behind her.
Arthur sighed. “But it’s over now, isn’t it? It’s crumbling. Mordred has been ruling in my stead since we imprisoned you both. He’s made deals with the Saxons. Everything is falling apart.”
It was quiet for a few moments.
Guinevere squeezed Arthur’s arm. “Perhaps it’s time for something besides Camelot to be important, Arthur. Perhaps it’s time for you to put yourself first.” She looked at Lancelot. “Perhaps it’s time for me to put myself first, too.”
Arthur considered. “Where would we go?” he asked Morgan.
“The isle of Avalon is always welcoming to me,” she said. “I will take you there.”
Arthur looked at Lancelot and Guinevere. “And you?”
“We’ll disappear as well,” said Guinevere.
“And Mordred gets Camelot?” said Lancelot. “I don’t like it.”
“Neither do I,” said Guinevere. “But we are old, my love, and we have fought hard for our dream. Even heroes deserve rest.”
Arthur put his arm around Morgan and opened the door to the casement. “We’ll head down the corridor first. And the two of you can follow—”
The casement door burst open further and Mordred forced his way into the corridor, sword drawn. “Running off without me, Mother and Father?” he said. “I don’t think so.”
Lancelot drew his sword and rushed at Mordred.
Mordred raised his sword to block Lancelot’s thrust. The two blades met with a clatter that echoed throughout the corridor.
“I’ll teach you once and for all, you little whelp.” Lancelot gritted his teeth.
Arthur pulled his sword from his scabbard as well. “He’s mine, Lancelot. You can’t fight him. I have to finish this.”
Lancelot began to back away, but something niggled his brain, something strange. Something that didn’t quite make sense. He shook his head. “No, Gavin,” he said, unsure of why he used that name for Arthur, but sure it was right somehow, “if you fight him, you both die. That’s the legend. You have to leave this battle to me. It’s my power that brought him here.”
Arthur hesitated, looking bewildered. “Lance, he is my son. I can’t shirk my duty to Camelot.”
“You have to,” said Lancelot, swinging his sword in a wide arc.
Mordred parried the blow with his own weapon, laughing in Lancelot’s face. “You may have your wits about you, Reese, but these others are too weak. I have to fight Daddy. Just let it happen.”
“Don’t listen to him,” said Lancelot. “Arthur, you have to live happily ever after this time. Trust me. Now take Morgan and go.”
“But…” Arthur’s sword wavered in the air.
“It’s like we said,” said Guinevere. “You must do this for yourself. For yourself and Morgan.”
“You can’t fight him, my bear,” said Morgan. “It would break my heart.”
Mordred raised his sword above his head and brought it down over Lancelot.
Lancelot was too quick for him. He blocked the blow with his sword in one hand, and used his other hand to drive his fist into Mordred’s unprotected stomach. Mordred doubled over, coughing. He dropped his sword.
“Go,” said Lancelot.
“Don’t hurt him,” said Morgan.
Arthur took Morgan’s hand and pulled her down the corridor with him.
Lancelot advanced on Mordred, his sword at Mordred’s throat.
There was a whooshing sound. Reese felt something ephemeral leave his body. He looked up and thought he caught a glimpse of ribbon-like spirits floating away from him, no longer tattered or black, but whole again. He felt lighter. He hadn’t realized he’d felt so heavy. He hadn’t felt this good since…before the exercise with Madame Braith.
Gavin and Madame Braith were standing in the hallway outside her office, their arms still around each other. Wyn was behind him. He was still holding an invisible sword. Self-consciously, he thrust his hand into his pocket.
“They’re gone, aren’t they?” said Wyn.
Reese turned to her. “Yeah, I think so.” They were gone. But when he looked at Wyn, he still thought she looked beautiful. Quickly, he turned away.
“So now what?” asked Gavin.
“Now, we leave,” said Madame Braith. She dashed into her office and grabbed the keys to her car from her desk. They jingled as she hurried towards the door. “No time to gather any of our things, I’m afraid.”
Reese and others went after her.
They careened around the staircase and made a beeline for the front door.
The door to the den flew open by itself and a huge hardback book flew out of the room. It smacked Madame Braith in the face. She stumbled, her hand going to her cheek where she’d been struck.
More books flew out of the room. One struck Reese’s shoulder. Another hit Wyn’s forehead.
They hit the floor, hands over their heads as heavy books rained down on them.
“It’s the Morrigan spirit,” Madame Braith got out. “It doesn’t want us to leave.”
“Great,” said Reese. “So now we’re in Poltergeist.”
Madame Braith lifted her head off the floor and glared at him. “It’s not a poltergeist. It’s an ancient goddess. Bet you’re wishing you did your homework about now.” A book landed on her fingers with a thud. She recoiled and put her head back down.
“I thought if we released the Arthur spirits, it wouldn’t have any power,” Gavin yelled over the sound of books striking the hardwood floor.
There was a splintering sound. Reese lifted his head for a second to look up. The wooden steps were ripping away from the staircase and flying through the air towards them. “It’s still got power, all right,” he said. “It’s got us.”
One of the steps smashed against the floor, inches from Wyn’s head. She yelped. “We’ve got to get to the door!”
Reese glanced at the distance between them and the door. They’d never make it. Not while they were dodging all this stuff flying around. He rolled out of the way as a piece of the steps hit the floor right where he’d been lying. And it wasn’t like homework would really help with something like this. The last reading he remembered doing was on talismans, and it wasn’t like they hadn’t tried using talismans already.
Wait. Talisman. Irish goddess. And she’d totally looked sort of like a crow-cow thing in her incarnation in the spirit realm…
Reese leaped to his feet.
“What are you doing?” screamed Madame Braith.
“Remembering my homework,” said Reese. He started for the den. A book collided with the side of his head. He cried out, the pain pulsing through his temple, but he kept going.
He crossed the threshold of the den and saw the twisted metal of the statue. Gavin had called it Madame Braith’s Irish goddess thing. The rest of the den was in shambles, furniture overturned, books lying open, pages whirling in an unworldly wind. But the statue stood unharmed, gleaming at him.
He started for it.
There was a screeching noise, the sound of something dragging against the floor.
The couch was coming for him, sliding across the floor at vicious speed.
He dove out of the way and the couch crashed into the wall.
Reese picked up the statue. “Morrigan!” he yelled. “Your talisman calls you.”
Reese had to admit he was a little blurry on the details. He remembered that Workman had used the talisman to convince the spirit to change form, but he didn’t know exactly how he’d done that.
“Morrigan!” he called again.
Abruptly, the activity in the room became more frenzied. The couches and chairs lifted off the ground and began to spin in the air. Books began to knock against the walls of the room, their pages tearing out with a loud scritch.
Reese held the statue over his head. He was pretty sure he had the spirit’s attention now. “Be released,” he said. “Leave this form. Find your power outside the bounds of the Morrigan.”
The air went icy cold. All of the objects in the room that were lifted off the ground froze in midair. There was a high-pitched shriek that seemed to reverberate through the ceiling and floor. It tore into Reese’s ears, making his head throb. The sound swelled, as if it had been joined by the voices of hundreds, filling the room, the house, Reese’s body. He felt like he might explode.
For several seconds, he was convinced he could see the ghostly figures of Sophia, Luke, and Meaghan, banging with all their might against the windows in the den.
Then there was a bang. All the glass in the mansion shattered, from the windows to the glass jars of herbs Madame Braith kept, to the glasses in the kitchen. The furniture in the den dropped back to the ground. It was deadly silent.
Reese slumped against the wall, letting the statue fall out of his hands to clatter on the floor.
Wyn paused to wipe sweat from her forehead as she taped the last of the plastic sheeting up over the windows in her bedroom. It felt like she’d been cleaning up broken glass for years. It was a few days after the incident with the Morrigan spirit. The four of them had been sleeping in a hotel, coming back to work on cleaning up the mansion each day.
Wyn didn’t know if she could completely believe that it was all over, even though the four of them had been into the spirit realm, searching through every nook and cranny of the house and its surrounding property. Believe it or not, there were no spirits at all. Anywhere. Madame Braith had said something about the release of power creating a kind of spiritual sonic boom, which had pushed away all the spirits for period of time. Near as they could tell, the Morrigan spirit had changed form. The King Arthur spirits were gone. Everything was okay.
Well. Almost everything.
The problem was Reese. She didn’t feel the spirit of Queen Guinevere anymore, but that didn’t mean her feelings for Reese had exactly gone away. They weren’t the feelings she’d had before, the kind of unearthly, overwhelming pull she’d felt, but they were there. On top of that, she still had feelings for Gavin as well.
She’d been avoiding them both. When they offered to help her with sweeping or cleaning up, she told them she wanted to be alone. She didn’t know what she was going to do.
Madame Braith had told them that she’d understand if they wanted to leave the school. She’d understand if they didn’t trust her anymore. But Wyn didn’t really want to leave. This was the only place that had ever really felt like home to her. She didn’t know what she’d do if she went away. Still, she didn’t think she could stay here with both Reese and Gavin.
Wyn sat down heavily on her bed, staring through the plastic at the world outside. The view was warped and cloudy. It was exactly the way she felt.
Gavin appeared in her doorway. “Hey,” he said.
“Gavin,” she said, “I really can’t talk right—”
She broke off as Reese appeared next to him. Wyn looked at the floor.
“We’re going out to eat in town,” said Gavin.
“Yeah,” said Reese. “We’re sick of ordering pizza and room service at the hotel. We were thinking Mexican.”
What did they want her to say? “Okay.”
“Will you come with us?” Reese asked.
Wyn shook her head. “I can’t.”
“If you’re not that hungry, you could just have some chips and salsa,” said Gavin. “We need to talk to you.”
This was it. They were going to force her to make a decision. And she didn’t know what she would do. “No,” she said. “I can’t…choose.”
The guys exchanged a look.
“Between the two of you. I thought when the spirits left, I wouldn’t feel conflicted anymore, but it didn’t make any difference. And I don’t know what to do.” Wyn stared up at the ceiling.
Reese and Gavin came into the room and sat down on the bed, one on either side of her.
“That’s why we wanted to talk to you,” said Gavin.
Gavin took her hand. She almost pulled it away, but then Reese took her other hand. She looked first into Gavin’s blue eyes, and then into Reese’s dark ones. They were both so beautiful, Gavin with his fair hair and chiseled features, and Reese with his dark, soulful eyes and adorably crooked nose.
“We went through something,” said Reese. “Together. All three of us.”
“A big something,” said Gavin. “And while I was possessed with King Arthur, I felt what he felt. He cared about Guinevere, you know, and he cared about Lancelot too. He wanted them to be happy.”
What was he saying? “It’s not like that,” said Wyn. “It’s not like I want Reese, and I don’t want to hurt you. It’s like I…I want both of you.”
“Well, yeah,” said Gavin.
“I think we get that,” said Reese.
“We’ve been talking,” said Gavin. “Me and Reese. I haven’t had a close guy friend since we got to the academy.”
“And I’ve been a loner since my dad died,” said Reese. “I’ve never been as close to anyone as I’ve been to the two of you.”
“I think what we’re saying is that we agree with you,” said Gavin.
“Yeah,” said Reese. “I want both of you too.”
“Me too,” said Gavin. “But not in like a gay way.”
“Right,” said Reese. “In a totally non-gay way.”
Wyn squeezed her eyes shut. “That’s insane. You think we should…like the three of us?”
“Well, how is either of us going to find a girl that’s going to understand us as well as you do?” said Gavin. “Someone who knows about spirits, who’s been through the same stuff we have?”
“I wouldn’t want to leave Gavin alone, and he wouldn’t want to leave me alone, and you want both of us, so why not?” said Reese.
“Because you’ll get jealous. You already are jealous. You have been this whole time,” said Wyn.
Gavin and Reese looked at each other over Wyn’s head.
“Yeah, well, we’re working on that,” said Gavin.
“All relationships have issues of some kind,” said Reese.
“Will you at least come to dinner with us?” Gavin asked.
Wyn bit her lip. This was crazy, but wasn’t everything in her life crazy? “I guess Mexican food does sound good.”
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