Hazel and Holly — Locks and Shadows, Part Two
Previous: Locks and Shadows, Part One
Hazel’s mind went blank as she seethed in fury. She closed her eyes and forced herself to breathe. Throwing a fit wouldn’t help her here, she needed to think.
When she had composed herself, Hazel opened her eyes. The room looked different now. Instead of a warm, comfortable space, it was now cramped and oppressive. And very, very dark. The coals in the hearth had died down again, and all Hazel could see were the stones in the fireplace and the surrounding floor. All else remained shrouded in darkness. Before Hazel could do anything, she needed light.
She summoned the little glowing moth Hemlock had showed her, swallowing the lump that rose in her throat when she thought about him. It felt like so long ago when she and Hemlock had stood on that hilltop together as he helped her learn her first Wyr magic spells. But it hadn’t been long at all—a couple of months. It was nothing, all things considered, and now it was all over.
Hazel tightened her jaw and examined the handle on the door. It looked to be made of iron, but given the damp air and the absence of rust, it probably wasn’t. It was scratched and nicked from where she had taken the fire poker to it, but otherwise looked to be in good condition.
She spoke Weaving spell that snaked into the lock, found the tumblers and levers and manipulated and pushed them back so the door would unlock. Except nothing happened. She tried again. Through the spell she could sense the inner workings of the lock, she could see in her mind’s eye the tiny little pieces that all worked together to determine if the bolt of the lock was thrown or not. But whenever she tried to manipulate a switch or a tumbler to do what she wanted, nothing happened. Her spell wasn’t failing, it was working exactly as it should. It was the lock itself that wasn’t responding.
Hazel closed her eyes and rested her forehead against the door. The lock must be enchanted, though she didn’t understand how. Any warding placed on the lock would be a Weaving spell, so she should be able to at least detect its presence, but there was nothing as far as Hazel could tell. Was it necromancy? Her father was a necromancer, so it stood to reason that would be the magic he’d employ, but she didn’t understand how manipulating ether or spirits had anything to do with warding locks.
With her head still resting on the door, Hazel cleared her mind. She stopped trying to detect any magic or wards and instead just let herself be. When she turned her attention back to the lock, it was like it had changed.
No, not changed—it was the same as it always had been only she had been too distracted to notice. There was a darkness among the tiny crevices and sockets of the lock that seemed to cling to the metal like an oily film. Was that the ward? It wasn’t like any ward Hazel had ever seen or heard of. It was more like a living veil, expanding and contracting as if it breathed, preventing the lock mechanisms from moving because, somehow, it had become the lock.
Hazel took a step back, unable to shake the feeling that the door had, at least partially, come to life. Necromancy was at play here. It was in the door in front of her, and its implements stood on the table behind her. She felt as if she had become entangled in a sticky web, and any attempt to free herself would only further enmesh her.
What was she supposed to do?
Necromancy, it would seem. It was no mistake that she found herself locked in her room with only a silver basin, ewer, and mirror for company. Her father wanted her to perform necromancy, though to what end, Hazel certainly didn’t know.
But it was what he had always wanted, wasn’t it? He had left a trail for her, somehow knowing she’d be able to use necromancy to find it. And she had. She had done everything he thought she would, without her ever realizing she was playing into somebody’s plan.
What was his plan for her now? Apparently it wasn’t enough just to have her there. The notion could hurt Hazel, if she’d let it. But she hardened her heart. Ash hadn’t been a father to her for a very long time. Nothing had changed.
She stared at the basin and ewer as the light from her little moth gleamed off the polished silver surfaces. She didn’t want anything to do with whatever game Ash was playing. She didn’t want to do anything to encourage him. But what was the alternative? To sit and wait and slowly starve until Ash took pity on her and let her out? That wasn’t an option, as far as Hazel was concerned. She had used necromancy to find him, and so she’d need to use necromancy again to overcome him. The thought was a frightening one. Ash had been practicing necromancy for years— more than a decade, if not longer. Trying to figure out how she would ever be able to overcome him seemed like an unsolvable riddle.
“One step at a time, Hazel,” she said. She walked over to the table and stood in front of the basin. Taking the ewer, she then poured a steady stream of water that glinted silvery white as the moth flitted around her head. She looked into the mirror and found a strange sense of calm as the glass remained dark and absent of any reflections. Keeping her gaze on the mirror, she thought of her sister. Then, in a voice barely above a whisper, she said, “Holly.”
A mist collected over the glass, though there was no mist in the room. Then it cleared, but the mirror still stood dark. Hazel frowned. Had the spell failed? She had worked the spell just as her father had done; she had done everything right, hadn’t she?
“You’re not a necromancer, Hazel,” she said, no longer feeling so awkward with talking to herself. “What would you know about any of this?” She stared at the mirror a moment longer, then, with a sigh she started to turn away.
In the corner of her eye, an image flickered across the surface of the mirror. She turned back to it, but the mirror remained dark. Hazel released her moth spell and leaned in closer to the glass—so much so that her nose began to fog the glass. The mirror remained shrouded in shadows, but the closer she looked, the more the shadows appeared to have… texture. It wasn’t absolute darkness, there were variations in gloom that suggested that something was there, hiding in the shadows.
Then a flame flared alight in the mirror. Startled, Hazel stumbled back. It was Holly, holding a little flame in her cupped hands that illuminated the worry on her pallid face. She looked to be in a dark room, but as Hazel watched, she realized Holly’s quarters were much too cramped to be a room. She stood in something smaller—much smaller. With a shaking hand, Holly reached out—almost like she was about to touch the glass of the mirror—but instead pressed upon a surface that Hazel couldn’t see. Holly’s face went slack with fear. Then she started to scream. Hazel couldn’t hear her, but she knew from the look of abject terror on her sister’s face that she was screaming. It woke in Hazel a similar panic. Her heart racing, she pawed at the mirror, trying to reach Holly even though she knew that it was impossible.
“Where are you?” Hazel whispered. Then the spell faded and Holly sank away into darkness, leaving the mirror to show only Hazel’s distressed reflection.
She gripped the edge of the table as she spoke the spell to bring Holly back to the mirror, but nothing happened. She dumped the water from the bowl back into the ewer and then poured it back into the bowl and tried again, this time speaking Hemlock’s name. Nothing.
Hazel cried out in frustration as she backed away from the table. She rubbed her forehead as she paced back and forth. She needed to keep calm. She needed to think.
She needed to get to Holly and help her.
Hazel rushed over to the door and tried to open it, but it was still locked. She cried out again as she slammed her hand against the door, ignoring the pain that slapped into her palm. Did Ash know about this? Was he also watching Holly from his own silver bowl, did he know what had happened to her? Had he had a hand in it? If so, what did he have to gain? Was it to get Hazel to cooperate with him?
She didn’t know the answers to any of these questions, but, at that moment, she didn’t care. Hazel returned to the bowl, poured water from the ewer into it and then spoke her mother’s name.
Hazel’s insides twisted at having to work the spell like this—the way her father had done it. But she didn’t have any cake or food to crumble into the water, and so she didn’t know of any other way.
Hazel turned and found Willow standing near the dying coals in the hearth. Her mother’s brow furrowed as she looked around, as if she were perplexed to be standing there.
“Do you know where you are?” Hazel said.
Willow lifted her chin. “What are you doing here?”
“You know what I’m doing here. I’m here to stop Father, just as I said I would. To make him undo what he did.”
“I see,” Willow said, her voice flat. “It seems to be going well.”
Hazel narrowed her eyes. “You’re different around him. What has he done to you?” When Willow said nothing, Hazel added, “Do you even remember it?”
“Why am I here, Hazel?”
Hazel was tempted to tell her she was there because Ash had trapped her soul, wanted to shake Willow’s shoulders until her mother showed some emotion other than this apathy. But instead, she said, “He’s done something to Holly.”
Willow’s brow flickered into a frown. “What do you mean? What has he done?”
“He’s trapped her somehow. She’s alone in the dark somewhere, I don’t know where.”
Willow’s frown deepened as her concern shifted to anger. “You left her alone? You let this happen to her?”
“I didn’t let it. I came here alone to keep her safe!”
“You should have never come here.”
“I came here for you!”
“I never asked you to! I told you, time and again, the geas cannot be undone but you refused to listen! You’re just like him—you think only of yourself, of what you want—and now look what’s happened!”
Hazel clenched her jaw as she struggled to get her breathing under control—as she struggled to keep her mother’s words from hurting her. “You can hate me if you want, but help me find her.”
Willow gave a hollow laugh. “What is it you expect me to do? You are not the only one trapped here, Hazel.”
“Funny, you didn’t looked trapped the time last I saw you. You looked quite… content.”
Willow’s face darkened. She looked angry but also hurt, and Hazel regretted her words.
“Release me,” Willow said.
Her mother’s face tightened. “I cannot leave unless you release me. I cannot help you, you need to find Holly on your own.”
Hazel searched for something to say. She didn’t want to leave things between her mother like this, but nothing came to mind. She released the spell, swallowing the lump in her throat as Willow faded into the darkness until she was gone.
Hazel stood in the shadows alone, staring at where her mother had been, letting the cold feeling gnawing in her gut to spread throughout her body. She needed to find Holly and Hemlock. She needed to get out of this room. She needed to do whatever it took to make that happen.
She turned back towards the door, letting the coldness consume her until she no longer felt anything at all. She summoned a spell—it was like a Wyr conjuration only she twisted some of the words and turned them into something else—something dark and cold that matched the emptiness within her heart. The shadows around the door darkened and drew closer as the conjuration took shape. Every now and then the shadows would part and a gleam of light would lance into the room, leaving burned images on Hazel’s vision. But as soon as a light would surface, the shadows would gather over it like clouds covering the sun, and the room would be made all the darker because of it.
“Unlock the door,” Hazel said.
The shadowy form bobbed and weaved in what might have been a sign of acquiescence. It put its darkened hands—if they could be called that—to the door handle, and it was like they seeped into the door. The shadows sank into the wood, darkening the handle and sucking in what little light existed. Then the light was thrown back into the room in a blinding flash. Hazel put up her hands to cover her eyes. When she looked back, the shadowed creature was gone.
She walked to the door. It looked just as it always had and Hazel was almost afraid to try the handle. But she did, and felt a fleeting rush of relief when the handle gave way and the door swung open.
Then she headed down the hallway in search of her father.
Next: An Imparted Plea