Gates to Asphodel, Chapter 23

Recap: Corey’s parents had an argument about her and were found dead the next morning. Corey then meets Detective Skylar Adams. She is later adopted by Helen and Andy. Two years later, Corey is in school and meets a friend, Terese, and the class bully, Sandra. One day, two students are found dead and Corey meets Detective Adams again. Corey starts 2nd grade, which brings her face to face with a terrifying new teacher. As you can expect, her teacher does not last long. And then neither do her adopted parents, but things look up as Corey may have found a forever family. Corey moves in with Detective Adams and his wife and learns Terese lives across the street. One Friday night, Corey has a typical, happy evening with her mom, but seems out of sorts when Skyler comes home looking haggard. One night, Terese is sleeping over, but it doesn’t stop Skyler from working on the strange murder case. Corey and Terese get an interesting ski lesson and Corey provides some important information regarding the murders. Skyler and Dimitra go on an overnight trip, leaving Corey with a babysitter who does not meet with a happy end. School is back in session after winter break and the class gains two new students, twins Aiden and Cate. During recess, Corey is drawn to the twins and starts to get to know them. Then one snowy evening, Corey’s family has the Asphodels over for dinner. Corey has a chance to chat with the twins and learns magic is real, but it’s a secret. Turns out Corey isn’t a great secret keeper and grows suspicious of the twins. Aiden and Cate explain magic isn’t bad and induct Corey into magic. Corey’s magic lessons begin. Corey, Aiden, and Cate are caught doing magic by the principal and something bad happens to him. Sent home for the day after the principal’s death, Corey and Terese get to hang out and start planning Corey’s birthday party.

 

It was past midnight, but Skyler couldn’t sleep. Corey’s principal had been killed nearly two weeks ago the same way everyone else in her life had died. It was a brutal death, one he wouldn’t wish on anyone, no matter what they had done. The cases were really piling up and his supervisor was pressuring him to solve this. Five years’ worth of deaths, of people dying in the exact same manner, and none of them solved.

He picked up the most recent picture. Mr. Connors was face down in the snow. His lips had been bluish and his body was cold and rigid. It looked like he had been standing and had just tipped over and fallen perfectly straight. None of his clothing had been out of place, but his face had been clawed almost beyond recognition. After removing articles of clothing to get a better look at the body, they had found the body had looked like it had been mauled by an animal. But not a single piece of clothing had been torn or even slightly ripped. It was like something had gotten under his clothes and torn up the body.

Skyler shivered and put the picture back down. He started examining each picture, studying each one for anything he had missed.

A soft knock came at the door and he looked up. Dimitra poked her head in and gave him a soft smile, her black hair falling across her shoulders.

“Still awake?” Skyler asked.

“I couldn’t sleep,” Dimitra admitted, stepping into the office and closing the door behind her. “I can’t get Mr. Connors’ death out of my head.”

Skyler’s brow furrowed. “But it happened almost two weeks ago.”

“I know,” Dimitra said softly as she made her way over to the chair across from his desk. “I need to talk to you, Sky.”

“About what?”

Dimitra waved a hand at his open file. “About your cases.”

He frowned at her. “Why?”

“Sky, please. I don’t know if this is important or not right now, but do you remember when you gave me your hypothesis back in December? About someone protecting Corey or maybe trying to get to her through all these people?”

Slowly, Skyler nodded, not quite sure where this was going. His wife had been adamant about not believing his theories. She thought they were farfetched and, sometimes, he had to agree with her. But he didn’t have any other theories.

“I told you Corey asked about magic a couple of weeks ago, right?”

Slowly, Skyler nodded. “Yes.”

“And you said that maybe it made sense. That maybe someone was magically connected to her.”

“Yes,” Skyler said slowly. “I remember that. You didn’t believe me.”

Dimitra looked down as she fiddled with the sash of her bathrobe. “Well, maybe I do. Corey said that she, Aiden, and Cate had been playing under the trees that one day when Rhiannon and I dropped the kids off early because we had to be in the office early. Corey said the principal had snuck up on them and accused them of playing with fire. It was probably some kind of light reflection off of the snow, but he thought they were playing with matches. Corey said he was mean to them, especially to her, and he scared her.”

Skyler’s frown deepened. Instead of answering his wife, he began to hurriedly rifle through the pictures scattered across his desk. He was muttering to himself and Dimitra just gave a puzzled look.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Here,” Skyler said, holding up a picture. He took a long look at it and then handed it over to her. “Take a close look, Dimitra. Do you see what he’s holding?”

Dimitra squinted at the picture. “Is that a matchbox in his fist?”

Skyler nodded. “It is.”

Dimitra looked up at him as she handed the picture back. “What does that mean?”

“I don’t know. But he accused the kids of playing with matches and he had a matchbox in his fist when he died. I’m starting to think those twins are a bad influence on her. I don’t think I want her to hang around with them anymore.”

Dimitra furrowed her brow. “But they’re such good friends. They live next door. Rhiannon is a lovely woman. The kids are in the same class. How can we keep her from hanging out with them? We can’t just say ‘I forbid you to ever spend time with your friends again.’ No one is going to listen to that. And it’ll make school awkward for her. How can we do that to Corey? Hasn’t she been through enough?”

Skyler’s face hardened. “If it’s for her safety, her protection, I don’t care what we have to do. I don’t want her hanging out with those twins anymore.”

Dimitra pursed her lips. “Fine. Then you’ll have to be the one to tell her.”

“All right. I’ll tell her first thing in the morning.”

“I doubt she’ll take it very well.”

Skyler shrugged. “It’s either she obeys us or we send her to another school.”

Dimitra stared at him. “This is one point I don’t agree with you on. But have it your way. See if she obeys. I’ll be waiting to tell you I told you so.”

With that, Dimitra rose and swept from the room. Skyler watched her go with an impassive face. Then he returned to studying the pictures once more.

 

“Look who I have with me,” Aiden announced as he and Corey stepped into the gazebo.

Cate looked up from where she was sitting on the middle of the floor. She jumped up and hurried to embrace her friend. “Oh, Corey, we’re so glad you’ve come back. You know, you really shouldn’t take two weeks off from working with magic. But we’re glad you’re here. Come and sit.”

Cate guided her friend to the middle of the gazebo and the three of them sat around a tall, red candle.

“Why haven’t you come, anyways?” Cate asked.

Corey shrugged. “My parents got really scared after Mr. Connors died. I didn’t want to worry them.”

“They wouldn’t have known, anyways,” Aiden pointed out.

Corey shook her head. “My father has been up almost every night for the past two weeks. When he’s working, he never falls asleep until almost morning. He would have known something weird was going on if he suddenly woke up at his desk. I couldn’t let that happen.” Corey hesitated and fiddled with her fingers for a few moments before whispering, “And my parents don’t want me to have anything to do with either of you.”

Cate and Aiden stared at her in shock, but Corey refused to meet their eyes.

“What?” Cate asked, confusion in her voice. “I don’t understand.”

“My father thinks you’re a bad influence on me. He doesn’t want me to play with you anymore, for my own safety. My mother doesn’t agree with him, but she does want to keep me safe.”

“But we would never mean you harm,” Cate said.

“I know. But they think something weird is going on with you and your family.”

“Corey, you know what’s going on. I know you can’t tell your parents about magic, but surely you could let them know there’s nothing weird about us.”

Corey shrugged. “It’s either I stop playing with you or I get sent to another school,” she said in a small voice. “I don’t want to leave this school.”

“So, what’s going to happen?” Aiden asked.

“For the sake of my parents, I won’t play with you in public, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop learning magic. If this is a part of me, something my biological parents handed down to me, then I’m not going to say no to it.”

Cate smiled. “That’s a good compromise.”

Aiden nodded. Then the twins looked serious.

“We need to tell you something, Corey,” Cate said seriously. “It’s about Mr. Connors death. There’s something you need to know about yourself.”

Firmly, Corey shook her head. “No. I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to have anything to do with that.”

“But, Corey,” Aiden said. “You need to hear us.”

“No,” Corey said, her voice ever more firm. “I don’t want to talk about it. I’ll leave if you insist on saying one more word about it.”

Aiden and Cate looked taken aback. They traded worried looks, but nodded reluctantly.

“Okay,” Cate said. “We’ll agree for now. But you will have to find out about it one day.”

“I’ll find out then. I don’t want to know right now. All I want to do right now is learn magic. Are we still working on fire?”

Aiden nodded. “I think we should teach you how to infuse it with warmth than can fill a room. Since you’re like us and get cold too fast even when it isn’t really that cold, we think you should learn it. It’s a little more complex. It uses some air magic, but I think you should get a good feel for it.”

“Will I be able to do what you’re doing when you’re teaching me? I mean, when I turn ten, will I be able to conjure a flame?”

Cate nodded. “You’re already familiar with the patterns. All you have to do is concentrate, remember them, and then it’ll happen.”

“So, the more I learn now, the more I’ll be able to do when I turn ten,” Corey stated.

Cate nodded. “That’s right. Now we’ll teach you how to use fire to make a room warm, even after putting out the flame. Then we’ll teach you how to use fire to put up a protective wall.”

Corey nodded. “Okay. But I don’t want to stay out too long.”

“Of course,” Cate said. “This shouldn’t take too long. We’re not going to experiment with how magic goes wrong this time, so tonight it’ll feel pleasant.”

Corey nodded as Aiden moved into place behind her. He cupped the backs of her hands with his and held out their hands. Moving them slowly, he and Cate began to breathe together. Corey joined in as the sides of her hands touched each other to form a cup. Cate added her hands, placing the backs of her hands in Corey’s.

Ever so slowly, Corey felt the magic sweeping through her, feeling that pleasant flexible feeling in her spine. It made her feel tall and expansive and she sighed at the sensation. Slowly, a flame grew in Cate’s palms. Corey’s eyes were fixated on it so hard that she almost missed a subtle change.

Cate was adding in strands of air magic, making the flexible sensation in Corey feel lighter and lighter. She almost felt like her skin was shedding around her and she was about to float away. She felt free, as though she could meet the clouds and sleep on them, she was so light. As she was experiencing this, warmth began to seep into her and then it flooded the room.

Across from the flame, Cate smiled. She moved her hands together to extinguish the flame. The flexible feeling was gone, but the buoyancy was still there. She still felt like floating.

“I’m going to make the warmth disappear,” Aiden murmured in her ear.

The warmth began to grow chill as the buoyancy feeling slowly seeped out of Corey’s body. As soon as she felt herself return to normal, the gazebo had gone back to its original temperature. It was cool, but some heat remained.

“How did that feel?” Cate asked, looking at her friend intently.

“It felt good,” Corey replied. “I felt like I could float away into the clouds and that I was so light I could sleep on the clouds.”

Cate nodded. “Sometimes the sensations we feel are similar to the element we work with. When I work with earth, I feel very grounded, like I can sink into the ground. When Aiden uses water, he feels like he’s being swept out to see, but can still keep his head above the water.”

“It’s when I feel like I’m drowning that I know something’s gone wrong,” Aiden added. “As we work with you, you’ll learn how each element feels and how they feel in combination. You’ll also get to know what it feels like when something goes wrong.”

Corey shuddered, remembering the painful feeling of the fire gone wrong. “Let’s just stop for the night, okay? I’m really tired.”

Cate nodded sympathetically. “It can be tiring if you use it after not using it for a while. Aiden, why don’t you take her home? We can work some more tomorrow night, okay?”

“I’ll try my best,” Corey said as Aiden helped her stand. “But it depends on if my father will be awake tomorrow night.”

“Of course,” Cate said quietly. “But do try your best.”

Corey smiled at her as she finished bundling up and let Aiden escort her from the gazebo.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Aiden asked as they walked, leaving behind no trail.

Corey nodded. “I’m okay.”

Aiden looked over at his friend and gently wrapped an arm around her shoulders, keeping her close.

 

 

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