RIOUCH SARA, YA URBAN FANTASY
Danielle stared at the ground fifteen feet beneath her, and screwed her eyes shut as her breakfast threatened to make an unwelcome reappearance. Funny, she’d never had vertigo before. Then again, she’d never contemplated jumping out of a two-story window before.
Her hand sought the cold comfort of the metal bracelet strapped around her wrist. It pulsed with the same power it always did, sending sparks of warmth through her arm. The magic stored inside – her mother’s magic – felt different, though. On edge. Like a knife balanced on its point, about to tip over.
Reckless insanity on one side, bitter disappointment on the other.
Danielle blew out her breath and channeled her will through the bracelet. The metal slowly warmed against her skin – reluctant, a warning. But the shield obediently appeared around her, encasing her in a bubble of green-tinted energy.
Still, she hesitated.
She couldn’t stand here forever. Jamie was bound to come looking for her sooner rather than later, and then she’d have to explain why his sister was hanging over her balcony’s railing. She couldn’t imagine that conversation going well.
But she wasn’t suicidal. Just desperate.
Once the clock struck midnight, she’d officially be eighteen. She’d officially be normal. Powerless. The magic lottery would have passed her by. Her mother’s bracelet would be the only spark of magic left to her. And what use was a shield against sorcerers who could make the earth itself do their bidding?
Who would avenge her mother’s memory then?
Danielle took a deep breath, prayed to Gods she knew couldn’t hear, and let her hold on the handrail slacken.
Startled, she automatically scrambled for the handrail again. Her hand closed around it, but not before Jamie had finished tracing his bindrune.
Her heart skipped a beat as she recognized it. The Summoning Rune.
“No!” she called out, but it was too late. Jamie’s magic impacted with her shield. Her brother was a powerful witch, a downright prodigy for his age, but her mother had been a Priestess, the strongest of their kind.
Danielle screamed as the shield violently reflected Jamie’s Summon, then fizzled out into nothingness. She barely had time to see her brother’s eyes widen in horror before the impact of the battling spells wrenched her away from the railing and sent her hurtling through the air.
Frantically, she squeezed her eyes shut and cast her mind inward. She could feel her magic on the edge of her consciousness, enticing and vast and ever out of reach. Every time she’d tried to grab it, it had slipped away like dreams upon waking, and this time was no different.
She hit the ground on her back and rolled, once, twice, before coming to a stop. For a second, she couldn’t feel anything.
Then came the pain.
Danielle stared at the sky and concentrated on the feeling of the grass underneath her cheek, prickly and cool, a soothing contrast to the fire dancing along her nerves.
From the corner of her eye, she saw Jamie race down the stairs, saw him mouth her name, or maybe shout it, but the only thing she could hear was the sound of her heartbeat pounding in her ears.
Boom. Boom. Boom.
Jamie fell down beside her, and she flashed back to the first time she’d seen him, blond hair falling into too big eyes as he glared at her five-year-old self, the intruder he’d had to share his dad with.
“Danielle,” he said, and her name was a prayer on his lips. She wanted to reassure him, to wipe that stricken expression from his face, but every breath sent white-hot flares of agony through her chest. She tasted something metallic on the back of her throat and choked.
Something hot trickled down her lips.
“Don’t talk,” he said, his hands hovering over her body as if afraid she’d break at the barest touch. “It’s going to be alright. I’m going to make you all right. Oh god, Danni.”
He hadn’t called her Danni since they were kids. Ignoring the way her body protested, she clasped his hand in her own. Jamie fell silent and carefully squeezed her palm, before replacing it by her side. He closed his eyes and breathed out.
The Sigil on the corner of his left elbow shimmered with an ethereal quality as he gathered his magic and traced the Healing bindrune on the center of her chest.
Berkano, the birch rune, for healing. Sowulo, the sun rune, for strength. Teiwaz, the Tyr rune, for protection.
She knew the lines and the curves like the back of her hand, knew how to entwine the solitary runes and bind them into a single, more powerful, whole. She’d spent years studying rune magic, learning how to write scripts and bindrunes, had waited day after day for her Sigil to appear on her body.
And now it was too late. If fear of dying didn’t jolt her magic awake, then nothing would.
Bitterness flooded her throat, or maybe that was the blood. Danielle closed her eyes and let the warmth of the healing rune take her away.
And if there were tears in the corner of her eyes, if her breath came in hitches, if her hands shook and her chest heaved, well, then, she’d just fallen out of a two-story building.
The last time Danielle had had a Healing rune used on her, she’d been eight and had twisted her ankle while playing tag with Jamie. The only thing she remembered about it was the warm concern in her father’s eyes and the way he’d hugged her like she was something precious.
“Stop,” Danielle said when Jamie began swaying with fatigue. His eyes fluttered open, a frown creasing his brow. “It’s just bruises now.”
Jamie looked like he wanted to protest, then his expression closed off and he nodded. “Fine,” he said and stood up, dusting grass and dirt from his jeans. Silently, he turned and headed for the stairs that led to her balcony.
She’d always loved the view from her room, but now she wasn’t sure she could ever look at the garden without remembering the feel of the wind on her face, the sound of her body hitting the ground, the smell of grass and tears and blood.
Danielle bit her lower lip and followed him upstairs. Jamie’s magic had healed most of the damage, but her body still felt sore, her head heavy.
Jamie was waiting inside her room. He was sitting on her bed, staring at the blue carpet with the kind of intense scrutiny he usually reserved for bullies and her potential boyfriends.
She closed the sliding door behind her, the sound echoing loudly, but he still didn’t look at her. His left hand rose to clutch his pendant like he wanted to rip it off, a gesture she hadn’t seen him make since the fight he’d had with their father five years ago.
“Jamie,” she finally said when the silence became suffocating. Jamie’s eyes rose to look at her, and she regretted having spoken at all.
“My god, Danielle. What were you thinking?”
She licked her dry lips, and winced as it stung where she must have bitten it. Jamie was never supposed to find out about this, never mind actually watch it.
“Look, I realize it wasn’t my most brilliant idea.”