Home > Tegan's Return (The Ultimate Power #2)(15)

Tegan's Return (The Ultimate Power #2)(15)
Author: L.H. Cosway

Noreen shakes her head. “I’ve told you time and again Rita, it is not a healthy reaction to derive pleasure from the pain of others.”

“I don’t really care what’s healthy and what isn’t right now,” says Rita dismissively, assembling the ingredients for her spell. I sit down beside her and ask her to explain to me what she’s going to do to heal Finn’s leg. Knowing that I have magic makes me want to gain a better understanding of what I can do with it.

“I had to pick these up at the market down the road, since all of my ingredients are back at the house and are more than likely incinerated at this point,” says Rita. “I was lucky too, because it’s late and the guy who works there was just ready to close up.” She starts tearing a range of herbal ingredients and throwing them into a big bowl. “I’m making a magical healing poultice to put on the wound, usually it takes a few hours to work, so he should be right as rain by morning.”

She picks up a spoon and begins mashing her concoction into a paste. “In here I’ve got echinacea, passionflower, root of ginger, aloe vera and tea tree oil. As a witch you need to know the correct properties of the herbs and other ingredients you use in your magic, because if you make a mistake, for instance by trying to use bee pollen in a healing spell when its function is to improve physical endurance, then you’re not going to get the result you were aiming for.”

“That makes sense,” I agree. I notice Noreen smiling proudly to herself out of the corner of my eye. She taught her daughter well.

Once finished mashing up her ingredients, Rita begins spooning them onto Finn’s wound. It looks all slimy and disgusting, but smells rather pleasant. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be at all outwardly magical. I’m a sucker for those shiny colours and lights.

“Would you like to be a part of the circle?” Rita asks me, I nod in enthusiasm.

Alvie comes over to sit with us and we all join hands. “All right, clear your minds boys and girls,” Rita begins, and we follow her directions, closing our eyes. “It would help if we could all envisage Finn’s leg healing tissue by tissue, knitting back together slowly until the skin is new again.” I try to do as she says, and the visualisation comes quite easily.

Finn sucks in a breath and says quietly, “The pain is receding already,” his is voice full of surprise.

We stay like that, holding hands and visualising for another minute or two before Rita’s voice fills the room again. “And now withdraw your thoughts.” Slowly I let my mind drift away from Finn’s leg and back to the present. I open my eyes and stare at the poultice, it doesn’t look gross any more, it’s all glittery and shimmering. Finn’s eyes are wide as he takes in the sight of his fairy dust covered wound. I smile and he meets my gaze, shaking his head in wonderment.

“You should go and rest now,” says Rita. Finn nods and rises from his seat, already walking distinctly straighter. He ascends the stairs, still shaking his head but not saying a word.

I sputter a laugh. “Now that’s definitely a first, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Finn speechless before.”

Rita shrugs her shoulders and addresses her mother, who has been sitting quietly beside Gabriel on the sofa all this time. “Mum, I want to go back to the house and see what I can salvage. There might be some things the fire didn’t get to.”

Noreen’s expression is worried. “I don’t think that would be safe honey, it’s only been a couple of hours.”

“I wasn’t asking,” is all Rita says in return, before getting up and stomping into the hallway. I hear her grabbing her goat from the hanger.

“I better go with her, make sure she’s okay,” says Alvie, hurrying out to Rita.

I see Noreen look to Gabriel pleadingly. “I’ll go too,” he says a second later, leaving me alone with Rita’s mum. The front door opens and shuts and they’re gone.

“Come on,” says Noreen, picking up the remnants of Rita’s healing spell. “Help me clean up this lot, will you love?”

I grab the bowl and follow her out to the kitchen. I hand it to Noreen and she begins rinsing it in the sink.

“Rita has always had a mind of her own,” she sighs, drying her hands on a dishcloth.

“I know. I think that’s one of the very first things I noticed about her,” I reply fondly, thinking of how much I disliked Rita when we first met. It’s odd when I consider just how much my opinion has changed since then.

Noreen goes to sit down by the table, wringing her hands, probably because she’s worried about the dangers of her daughter going into a dilapidated house.

She smiles at me then. “I’m glad you came back, Tegan. You’re the first friend Rita’s had since Alvie, and sometimes I don’t know how he even manages to put up with her sharp tongue. I suppose she’s always had to be independent, being the child of a one parent family.”

I sit down beside her and try to lighten the mood. “You know, for a while there I thought that Theodore might be Rita’s father, he kind of reminded me of her somehow. Where must my head have been, eh?”

Unfortunately, my attempt to make Noreen laugh doesn’t work. Her eyes widen in shock and she begins wringing her hands even more urgently now.

“Are you okay?” I ask, caught off guard by how she’s reacting.

Noreen is silent for a long minute before she whispers, “I was so young and foolish.”

Oh my God. Is she saying what I think she’s saying? Theodore is Rita’s dad. For some reason this revelation makes my heart thump loudly in my chest. And that’s not just because he’s the man who killed my mother. I knew there had to be a reason for Rita’s abilities with magic. This also makes me wonder about myself, and why exactly it is that I have magic in me too. My dad certainly is not a Sorcerer.

I remain quiet, waiting for Noreen to speak again. When she does she looks me directly in the eye. “I was only about your age, you know, when I had Rita. I became pregnant when I was travelling across Europe. I’d been spending a few months in Paris when I started keeping company with a group of Wiccans. I’d never heard of magic outside of fairy tales and story books before then. It was when they convinced me to join them at one of their rituals that I met Theodore.” She stops to take a deep breath, and I can see the memories as they flit across her deep brown eyes.

“He was intrigued to discover that I had been born and raised in Tribane, and began asking me lots of questions about the city. I know now why he was so interested, he hadn’t been able to return since he’d faked his own death, and I could tell him about the place he had once ruled over. His interest in me took me off guard, since he was the leader of the group and everyone seemed to worship the ground he walked on.”

I try to imagine a scenario where Theodore’s interest could be anything other than entirely creepy. But I can’t blame Noreen, surely she was too innocent to see past his flattery.

“What was he like?” I ask, intrigued to know whether Theodore had always been so terrifying and inhuman.

Noreen grins. “Admittedly, he wasn’t the handsomest of men, but he had a charisma about him that made it easy to look past his appearance. We spent a week or two together and within that time he taught me all about the supernatural world that had existed right under my nose. I learned a lot about witchcraft from him, I’ll admit that I was attracted to the idea of being able to do things other people couldn’t. I was so caught up in Theodore’s rhetoric that I became consumed by the desire to use magic to my advantage, to better my position in life. Then one day he disappeared and I never saw him again. I was angry at first and then I discovered I was pregnant,” she stops and grimaces.

“I considered getting rid of the baby, because I was so distraught that Theodore had left me all alone. But I pulled strength from somewhere and determined to keep my baby, it was the best decision I ever made. I was in a dark place for a while, but then Rita came along and changed my entire world. I realised that Theodore was wrong, that magic shouldn’t be used to gain power over others, but instead to better ourselves and the world around us. I returned to Tribane and raised my little girl, all the while teaching her that magic was something to cherish and respect and never to abuse.”

I smile. “It’s kind of a happy ending then, right?”

“In a way it is, but sometimes I get glimpses of Theodore in Rita and it frightens me. I’ve taught her as best I can how to practice magic responsibly, but she gets more and more talented with each year that passes. It worries me that one day she might decide that she’s sick and tired of playing by the rules. That she might become like her father. My daughter is a wonderful girl, but there is a darkness to her that will always be there because of Theodore.”

“Rita’s more like you than she’ll ever be like Theodore,” I disagree. “I think the darkness makes her who she is, but I don’t think it would ever be strong enough to take her over completely. Besides, nobody in this world is completely good, we’ve all got good and bad qualities. If we didn’t then we wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the two.”

Noreen half smiles and says, “You’re a very insightful young woman, Tegan.” She gazes at me for a moment. “Rita told me you’re confused about the magic you hold, that you want to know where it came from. I think that you shouldn’t become too concerned about the where for now, just concentrate on cultivating it, learning how to use it in a way that’s good for you.”

“I’ve never been good at accepting mysteries for what they are. I sometimes have a habit of trying to get to the bottom of things. Even when it’s to my detriment.”

Noreen considers what I’ve said. “I suppose it is possible that, like Rita, you’re related to a magic user. Have you ever studied your family tree?”

“Not really, although I never really got to know any of my relatives growing up. All I know is that my dad was Martin Stolle and my mum was Dora Peters. They got married and had me. That’s about the size of it.”

Noreen’s eyes turn thoughtful. “None of those names ring a bell, however…” she trails off for a minute, and something like an epiphany takes shape on her face. “This is quite far-fetched, but I do recall the story of a teenage witch from the magical family the Petrovskys, her name was Darya and she was always considered to be extra special by her father Filipp.”

This catches my interest for some reason, and I urge her on. “What happened to her?”

“Well, the rumour goes that Filipp kept her locked up in their house, never allowing her out of his sight. Then on Darya’s nineteenth birthday she disappeared, it’s a legend among the magical folk of Tribane. Filipp became consumed by madness, accusing the vampires of taking her, he searched all over the country and even abroad but she was never seen again. Your mother’s name brought back the memory of the story of the missing witch, since Darya is the Russian equivalent of Dora, and Peters is just so close to Petrovsky.”

I breathe out heavily, processing the information. I have to admit that it makes perfect sense. Growing up, I had never known any of my mother’s family, but I never questioned it because she died when I was so young and it had always been just dad and I from then on.

I still haven’t said anything when Noreen begins to speak again. “You know, you do resemble the Petrovskys somewhat, you don’t have their long regal nose, but you do have the pale skin and light eyes. Perhaps you are the daughter of their missing Darya. It’s the perfect explanation.”

“It is,” I admit. “But it doesn’t put my mind at ease. If I’m the granddaughter of this Filipp character then I don’t think I ever want to meet him. He must have been horrible for my mum to have run away from him and never make contact with him again.”

“That’s true,” says Noreen. “But perhaps he kept her locked up because she was a witch with Die Äuβerste Macht blood, which would make her a very special girl indeed. It would also explain why Filipp did not want her out among the supernaturals of the city for fear that they would discover what she was.”

There’s quiet, and I run my hand under my short hair, causing it to spike up at the ends. “This is crazy,” I breathe.

Noreen stands. “Remember what I said Tegan, there’s no necessity for you to go delving into where you came from. Embrace your magic for what it is, sometimes it’s best to leave the past in the past.”

I peer up at her tired features, she’s been through so much today. Lost her home. She doesn’t need to be dealing with my problems. “You’re right, thanks for talking to me,” I tell her with a small smile.

Before she leaves the room she hovers for a moment, her back to the door which is slightly ajar. “Would it be too much to ask that you keep what you know about Rita to yourself?” she asks in a hesitant voice.

“Of course not,” I reply.

Noreen sighs in relief. “Thank you Tegan, I really don’t know how Rita would react if she discovered Theodore was her father.”

I’m about to assure her again that I won’t say anything when the kitchen door bursts open and Rita’s furious face emerges.

“Theodore is my father?” she asks, staring at her mother with cold, accusing eyes.

The drama that ensues is not exactly what I’d expected. Rita shouts at her mother, but only to tell her that she had her suspicions all along and now that everything is out in the open they can get on with their lives. She seems slightly withdrawn though, like she knew Theodore was her dad ever since she stared into his eyes for the first time back on Ridley Island. Perhaps she’d been trying to pretend that it wasn’t true. Her anger at her mother is half-hearted, more like weary acceptance than anything else. The two of them go up to Finn’s room, where I can hear them having a conversation that switches between earnest and dramatic, and sort of simmers down to hushed.

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