Black Heart Page 70

Then I needed to find some way to make her hurt as much as she had hurt me. It was the only thing she understood.

I could offer her compassion in the face of her loss and she would simply spit it back at me. I could try to explain, try to broker a peace with her.

There was no point. Titania had decided long ago that I was her enemy. And every time I had selfishly refused to let her hurt me, or humiliate me, or kill me for the amusement of her court, I had only compounded her notion that I existed only to defy her.

So many of my choices seemed to come down to this. I could kill, or I could be killed. It was not the life I wanted for myself, or for my child. But it was the only life I had, and I couldn’t let Titania take it away.

She laughed like a mad fiend as I grew visibly weaker. Blood was still running from my nose and the loss was making me feel dizzy and sick. I pulled my focus together, reached deep inside me for my magic.

And touched the black heart inside of me, the swirling, dark mass of power that threatened to consume me.

I could use that power, and survive, and possibly be someone else afterward, someone that Beezle had warned of, someone that may not be recognizable as Madeline Black.

Or I could let Titania keep me locked in a cage for the rest of my short life while she poked me with sticks.

When I thought about it that way, there really wasn’t much of a choice at all.

I’m sorry, Beezle.

I plunged into the darkness.

17

THE PAIN DISAPPEARED IMMEDIATELY. TITANIA WAS still throwing the spell, but I could no longer feel it. My mind had retreated to a place where her magic could not harm me, a place that was cool and dark and seething with coiled energy waiting to be loosed.

I lifted my head and looked into the eyes of the Faerie Queen. Shock spread across her face. She had been convinced that I was broken.

And I had been. But now I was born anew.

I wiped the blood from my face with my sleeve. “Stand down, Titania, High Queen of all Faerie. Or be destroyed.”

“Do you truly believe you can defeat me?” she asked. “The power of the Morningstar is diluted inside you. You are nothing but a pretender to Lucifer’s line.”

“I warned you,” I said steadily, and never took my eyes from her face. “When you are crying out for Oberon at the end, remember that I warned you. I gave you the chance to leave.”

Then I let the darkness inside me surge up. Magic filled my every pore, racing through to repair the damage wrought by Titania’s spell. The storm above us disappeared as abruptly as it had arrived, and the clouds blew away to reveal the blazing sun and the fresh blue sky of a spring day.

The heart of my power was the sun, a sun covered by the moon in a burning eclipse. I’d never truly understood this before. I had always held back, always been afraid of unleashing the full extent of my power.

I was no longer afraid.

When I’d touched the dark heart inside me in the basement, I’d felt intoxicated by the power, so overcome that it had set me ablaze. Now it felt like the power and I were one, that it moved easily within me. It would not harm me, or overtake me. It would do as I bid.

I flew toward Titania and wrapped my arms around her before she realized what was happening. Her arms were locked in my embrace. I let the darkness flow from me until it covered her, smothered her, drowned her magic in mine.

I turned the two of us upside down and arrowed toward the churning waves of Lake Michigan.

“What are you doing?” she shouted, her face furious. I could feel her magic pulsing weakly against me, but it was a small thing battering against a castle wall.

I said nothing, only held her tight to me. The darkness wrapped around her again, smothering the light that burned inside her.

Her white skin grew sickly gray, and the sparkle faded from her beautiful jeweled eyes.

“How can this be?” she said.

Then we broke the surface of the water, and went under.

It was as dark as the ocean here in the depths of the lake, and just as strange. Silence surrounded us, and still my magic worked my will without direction. The seeping, oozing darkness continued to bind Titania like a cocoon.

She struggled feebly against me, but she could not fight this. This was not a blazing magic that she could battle with her own power. This was as insidious and inevitable as the night itself, a creeping shadow that gave her no quarter.

I swam deeper, unaffected by the lack of oxygen, until I reached the very bottom of the lake. Then I removed one arm from Titania, but she no longer struggled. Her eyes were closed, and her face was still and gray as stone.

I blasted a hole in the bottom of the lake, prepared to drop Titania in it and then bury her forever. Then I hesitated. The black spell had pushed Titania’s magic to the limit, but it was still not completely doused. There was still a little flicker of flame inside her. I could sense it, like a moth battering against a streetlight. If I left her alive, she would find a way to return, to take up where she had left off.

I couldn’t leave her alive. And I would never have an opportunity such as this again.

But the problem of the magical blowback remained. I didn’t want Chicago to be leveled by an earthquake when Titania’s magic was released.

Send her through a portal.

I don’t know whether it was my own thought, or a thought directed by the magic working through me, or a message from Lucifer or Puck or Gabriel. It didn’t matter, really. I knew what I had to do now.

I closed my eyes, sent my power reaching out into the far-distant galaxies of the universe, looking for a broken place, a place that would not be harmed by Titania’s destruction.

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