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The Last Spell 33.2

by SilverNight


Dawn had called two cars to the curb just outside the skyscraper, and Mireya silently blessed the Saints— mostly as a figure of speech— that they didn’t have to carry Cyrin and Shane for long on the sidewalk. Each of the drivers looked vaguely confused, but Mireya read Dawn’s lips as she spoke to them— they had too much to drink. We’re taking them back. With that, the drivers seemed satisfied, and then they had seating arrangements to figure out.

Mireya was directed by Kasumi to one of them, and she took her seat in the back, slumping in it numbly. The car had a partition for privacy between the driver’s section and the back, allowing for two rows of seats that faced each other. After a wait where the Heirs must have been placing Cyrin in the other car, Leilan joined her, slipping into the seat next to her silently. Kaja, now carrying Shane by herself, claimed the other row for the two of them. After sitting Shane up and buckling him in, she closed the door, and the car’s engine rumbled as it pulled away and reentered traffic.

No one in the car was looking at her. No one was saying anything, either, even though they wouldn’t be heard by the driver.

Mireya closed her eyes.

How had this gone so badly?

It had been so many heists with her and Cyrin over the last several years. All of them, going unexpectedly in some way or another. All of them, always ending how they wanted them to. All of them, with the two of them laughing in the face of death.

It wasn’t so funny now, was it? All along, it had seemed like a grand joke that anything could ever happen to either of them. They’d both encountered death and then avoided it enough times that she had started to feel they were untouchable. She should’ve known better, but it had been unfathomable that Cyrin could have a meeting with it that he wouldn’t come back from.

Now she knew. He wasn’t like her.

A piercing scream interrupted her thoughts. Mireya flinched, eyes flying open as she put a hand on the seat between her and Leilan, ready to snap off her seatbelt and lunge if needed. It took her a moment to realize the issue was something else.

Shane had snapped into consciousness, and the green of his eyes was wild as he thrashed in his seat, lunging for the handle of the car door. Kaja snatched his hand just before he could reach it, throwing her other arm in front of him and pulling him back. Shane shrieked wordlessly again, continuing his struggle and trying to pry her hands away, but Kaja gritted her teeth and pulled tighter, even as Shane stomped his foot over hers.

“Shane, it’s okay,” Leilan said hurriedly, eyes wide. “Just please take a few deep breaths for me, okay?”

“Let me out!” Shane shouted, now shoving Kaja futilely. “I need out!

“What’s happening?” Mireya demanded as she sat forward, knowing it was a bad question to ask at the moment. No one answered her anyway.

“Shane, calm down,” Kaja instructed, ducking to avoid Shane’s elbow flying at her head. “You’re safe here.”

Shane ignored her, continuing his attempt to wriggle and fight out of her hold.

Leilan had his hand on his seat belt, looking ready to unbuckle and move across the passenger compartment, but Shane suddenly slumped, a defeated look in his eyes that were looking a little watery. He gave up, his head falling against Kaja’s strong shoulder as he stared blankly out the window. Kaja hesitated, but adjusted her arm around him so she could pull him against her side in a way that looked almost… comforting.

“It’s alright, Shane,” she said quietly. “Dawn checked the car before anyone got in. It’s safe. You’re alive. You’re safe.”

Shane sank even lower, a shudder rippling through him as he took a deep breath. Then, to Mireya’s shock, he turned his face into Kaja’s shoulder and let out a choked, heart-wrenching sob.

For a moment, Kaja looked like she didn’t know what to do. But when Shane’s shoulders shook again with another sob louder than the first, she took action, wrapping both arms around him in a hug. As Shane cried against her, she set a hand on his back, rubbing circles steadyingly over his shoulder blade as she stared distantly at nothing in particular, her face blank. Shane pressed closer into the hug, and after a minute, his sobbing was fainter, more muted.

Mireya had thought her heart couldn’t hurt anymore today. She’d been wrong.

She eventually sat back, and Leilan did the same a few moments later, though he still didn’t look relaxed. He watched Kaja and Shane for a minute longer before he turned to Mireya with an expression of heavy sorrow.

“Shane doesn’t like being transported in cars,” he said quietly, even though the other two probably weren’t listening to him. “His parents were killed in one. I’m sure you’ve heard of the incident. The two of them were driving through Starlight City when their car blew up.”

Oh.

Oh no.

“His parents…” Mireya whispered. “Gwen and Ray Hawking?”

Leilan nodded somberly, glancing back to Shane and Kaja. Seeing that neither of them had moved or reacted, he went on.

“He was supposed to be in the car that day, on a trip to spend the weekend with them,” Leilan said, his voice hushed. “He got lucky. He got assigned too much college work to travel anywhere.”

He paused, and Mireya felt her heart settling into the same chasm that had been ripped through it, piled over with dread.

“He saw the event, the same way anyone else did,” Leilan said. “On live TV. There was no warning. It simply happened.”

That wasn’t true. Some people had had a view.

“That’s horrible,” Mireya whispered softly. “I understand. I don’t judge him for feeling that way.”

Leilan nodded, slowly turning away to sit back in his seat again. His gaze watched Kaja, who was still reactionless.

“I thought some of us did,” he said quietly. “I’m glad none of us do, after all.”

There was more for Mireya to say, she knew. But it wasn’t hers to share.

Shane’s sobbing had subsided, and a silence slipped over the back of the car. The guilt crushed Mireya further into her seat for the rest of the drive.

~~~

Their entrance into the hotel was almost mechanical. Still feeling like she was seeing through someone else’s eyes, Mireya watched as Shane stood on shaky legs and Kaja went to get Cyrin from the other car. She and Leilan clambered out as well, joining Dawn and Kasumi on the sidewalk. She tried not to look at Cyrin as Leilan pushed the revolving door open for Kaja, instead slipping in on the next rotation. The heated hotel lobby air rushed over her as she entered, but it did nothing to get rid of her numb feeling.

As they piled into the elevator, with Leilan scanning the keycard, she knew. She knew once they got out, they’d sit down and talk, and she’d have to explain.

The faint ding as the doors opened and as they stepped into the suite was the sound of her fate being sealed.

It didn’t need saying that they were all going to the seating area where they’d all first discussed their beginnings of their plan— except for Kaja taking a detour down the hallway with Cyrin. Mireya saw her head into the bronze room for the House of Wisdom, and by the time they had all sunken into a couch or armchair, she returned without them. Feeling sick, Mireya huddled against the back of her couch, bringing her legs up to her chest and wrapping her arms around them.

She wasn’t the only distraught one. Everyone else looked similarly upset. But it took several seconds until their collective discomfort was brought up, by Leilan clearing his throat.

“So,” he said quietly. “We are… no better off than before.”

A sardonic laugh started in Mireya’s throat, that turned into a scoff, that turned into no sound at all.

“Do we have any… good news?” Leilan added weakly. “Something we might not all know about?”

There was silence for a few moments.

“I mean,” Dawn started faintly. Without turning her head, Mireya saw her hands were folded in her lap, shaking slightly. “Mireya and I thought we learned something that meant Clarity was on our side. But maybe not, if she… she…”

Mireya felt the gazes of the Heirs swivel to her questioningly. She sighed quietly, dropping her gaze to the ground.

“Clarity’s lab was ransacked,” she said. “Shelves overturned, equipment smashed, her work destroyed. No doubt it was Sparrow, probably only a few hours before we showed up. We were lucky enough to find her journals.” She paused. “In her experimentation with magic, she discovered something called flux magic. An unstable form of it that can’t stay within one type. She found it volatile and potentially dangerous, but when Sparrow learned of her discovery, he made her keep researching it.”

She stayed quiet for a few moments, wondering if someone would say anything. No one did.

“Clarity figured out that Sparrow’s plans for it were related to the First Spell,” she continued softly. “He wanted to make magic useless by changing it to flux— all magic that wasn’t in the hands of his mages, probably. And she got worried. She started developing a different kind of spell in secret from Sparrow that was supposed to solve the problem of flux. That’s what she left for us to find. But he must’ve found her out first.”

“So, he discovered she was working against him, and he found out we were trying to steal back from him,” Leilan said solemnly. “And then…”

Mireya didn’t mean to look at Shane, but her head turned his way anyway.

Shane was hunched over on the couch next to Leilan, staring blankly at the ground. The tears in his eyes were gone, but they had been replaced with a feverish, dull look, and his shoulders were still shaking slightly. She wondered whether he’d been aware of anything that was spoken around him until she saw his lips move.

“Sparrow told Clarity to make Salve flux.” Shane’s words were spoken numbly, aside from the faint crack in his voice. “That’s what she cast on me.”

“Yeah,” Kasumi said softly. “That explains it.”

Shane closed his eyes. “Unstable Salve magic. That’s just magic poisoning, isn’t it? I felt it. I felt like I was being poisoned. My lungs felt like they were out of air. My head was spinning until I couldn’t see anything in front of me. My chest—” His voice truly cracked there. “My chestfelt like someone had set fire to me from the inside, and I was burning. I thought I was dying. Dying.

He opened his eyes again, and Mireya saw the wild look was back.

“So why,” he demanded in a tone that was both fierce and trembling, “am I not dead?”

No one answered him for a few moments, and Mireya was sure that the dread sinking over her was a shared feeling with everyone else in the room.

“Shane,” Leilan said softly. “I think you need to rest. You’ve been through a lot—”

“Yes, I have!” Shane snapped, rising to his feet and shooting them all a sharp look. “I was dying and now I’m not! And I don’t know why that is except that it shouldn’t be happening and I should be dead! I have a right to know about that. And I want to know.”

Leilan looked like he was about to protest, but Kaja held up a hand.

“Shane,” she said, in a tone gentler than Mireya thought she could manage. “Yes, you’re right that it took some interference. You passed out, and Cyrin showed up later. Being a Minor Mage, they were able to remove the magic from you.”

She stopped speaking, as if that was all there was to say. But from Shane’s stare, he didn’t buy it.

“And it went where?” he asked.

Kaja faltered. “Well, it’s not poisoning you anymore.”

“I’m not dumb,” Shane said flatly. “I know that magic poisoning isn’t just removed. If it could be, no one would be dying of it. Did that magic seriously just vaporize, or are you not telling me something?”

Kaja wilted— actually wilted— and Mireya couldn’t take anymore of this beating around the box.

“Cyrin took it,” she said, quietly but firmly.

She almost wished she hadn’t said anything when Shane’s gaze snapped to her, and she finally got the full read on his expression. What she’d mistaken for a blank look with nothing but numbness behind the eyes was actually a look of deep horror that echoed across his face. This wasn’t only shell-shock. This was pain.

Pain at what? Was it more than one thing?

Pain at knowing Cyrin was now the one paying the price for him, certainly. But something about the way Shane had emphasized that he should be dead chilled her now.

She knew about survivor’s guilt firsthand. She’d seen it in people like Cyrin. And now that she’d heard from Leilan about how close Shane had been to becoming a third casualty, this seemed like a warning sign to her.

“Where is he?” Shane asked quietly.

“They’re in the bronze room,” Mireya said. “But you don’t have—”

Shane was already rushing out of the parlor, and from the determined clench of his jaw, she didn’t think anything they could say would get him to return. As he disappeared into the hallway, she heard a quiet, sad sigh from Kasumi.

“Is there… anything to do?” Kasumi asked softly.

Leilan took a deep breath, swallowing as he straightened. “There’s two things we still have to address,” he murmured.

Two? Mireya had figured the issue on the table would turn to her.

“While we were waiting for the rest of you to finish,” Leilan started, “Kaja and I overheard a conversation in the Arcade, between two of Sparrow’s followers. They were discussing a trip of his to Starlight City tomorrow.”

Kasumi sat up slightly. “But… we’re supposed to be there tomorrow. For the Houses’ anniversary.”

Leilan nodded. “We think that’s why he’s there, too. To enact his plan for the First Spell— which we know about— against a backdrop where the Houses will be the first affected, and the first to bear witness to it.”

“Of course,” Mireya muttered, the surprise of the news duller to her than it should normally be. “He’s crafty like that.”

“So, we’re going to the Houses’ event,” Kaja said. “To successfully kick that bastard’s ass and stop him for once, and hopefully the last time.”

“I’ll get us a private jet this time,” Dawn said quietly. “Since…” She waved her hand around. “I don’t think we can smuggle Cyrin onto a plane.”

The rest of them nodded in silence. That familiar lump in Mireya’s throat returned.

“Then let’s leave early in the morning,” Leilan said. “That doesn’t leave much time to sleep tonight, but we’ll be able to sleep on the plane. Before we get our rest…”

Mireya didn’t even react when Leilan turned his head to her. She’d known it was coming.

“It’s up to you whether you have something to say or not, Mireya,” Leilan said gently. “If you do, we’ll listen. If not, we’ll part ways for the night, and that will be it.” He glanced around between the three other Heirs. “Agreed?”

His words earned him three slow nods as Kaja, Dawn and Kasumi all watched Mireya intently.

Mireya took a sharp breath through her nose, pulling her legs closer to her chest. It had been a while since she’d told anyone. Cyrin and Clarity had learned once they’d earned her trust, and Sparrow had somehow known before he’d even invited her to the Arcade. She’d never meant for the Houses to know. But as it was, there wasn’t any denying it.

She’d tell them. She’d tell them, and get this job over with. And then she’d be rich.

And alone. Again.

She blinked her eyes to keep the prickling of tears at bay, then met the gazes of each of the Heirs.

“If the question in the air is whether I’m that Mireya,” she said, “the answer is yes. But I’m no Saint. Because creating the Houses was no saintly deed.”


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Fri Feb 23, 2024 9:46 am
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IcyFlame wrote a review...



Ok so it turns out I'm not as far behind as I thought I was, but I am about four months late to reviewing, so I'm sorry for keeping you waiting! I totally forgot to make a note when you first posted this, and then I was daunted by the thought of having like ten parts to read (I should have just checked because three is 100% more manageable and I've been fretting over basically nothing xD)

Anyway, rambling aside I've just gone back and skimmed the last part to this so I remember where we're up to but chances are high I'm gonna forget something that's happened so sorry for that in advance. Let's get into it!

A piercing scream interrupted her thoughts. Mireya flinched, eyes flying open as she put a hand on the seat between her and Leilan, ready to snap off her seatbelt and lunge if needed. It took her a moment to realize the issue was something else.

I immediately knew this was Shane, so just wanted to say that this information definitely stuck! Let's just add some more chaos to this already fraught scene... sure...

There was more for Mireya to say, she knew. But it wasn’t hers to share.

Shane’s sobbing had subsided, and a silence slipped over the back of the car. The guilt crushed Mireya further into her seat for the rest of the drive.

For this section I'm just going echo Plume's comments below. Shane's characterisation is superbly done. It's so consistent with what we know of him already, and I love how supportive everyone is of him. It really shows how much closer they've become. Also in total agreement that having this from Mireya's perspective was like a gut punch. We'd already had this all hinted at but I'd kind of put it to the back of my mind so to see her realise everything as we put the pieces together is painful but, from a writing perspective, excellent.

I'm still struggling at this point to know how bad things are with Cyrin. They don't seem to be looking to get them any help, so I'm not sure what I'm expecting here. Cyrin just kind of seems to be there and whilst Mireya's shocked by the turn things took I don't know whether I'm hoping they're ok, resigned to the fact they won't be or not worried because they just need to sleep it off. This part helped a bit:
“Cyrin took it,” she said, quietly but firmly.

She almost wished she hadn’t said anything when Shane’s gaze snapped to her, and she finally got the full read on his expression. What she’d mistaken for a blank look with nothing but numbness behind the eyes was actually a look of deep horror that echoed across his face. This wasn’t only shell-shock. This was pain.

Pain at what? Was it more than one thing?

Pain at knowing Cyrin was now the one paying the price for him, certainly. But something about the way Shane had emphasized that he should be dead chilled her now.

But then I still don't understand why they're all resigned to Cyrin being poisoned and not trying (however futilely) to fix the problem?

I feel like the next mission has been well set up here though. Mireya about to reveal (presumably) everything is a great cliffhanger too so I'm glad I waited and actually have the next part to read or I'd be harassing you for it every day. I'm hoping I'll get to it this afternoon (sadly I have to talk about Frappuccinos for two hours now) but if not then for sure next week. Catch you then!!

Icy




SilverNight says...


Ayyyyy welcome back Icy! Thank you so much for the notes on the poisoning-- I agree it feels like no one's thinking about that nearly enough rip. Glad to have ya back!



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Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review!

This chapter was insane in the best way possible. My heart hurts and I love it. It was equal parts engaging and emotional, and I am giving you a big round of applause.

You did a phenomenal job at characterizing Shane in this one. I honestly think it was made more powerful by the fact that it was all from Mireya's perspective, since it allows the reader to put the pieces together themselves and come to that slow, painful realization. You'll see my real-time reactions further down, but for now, know you captured that sadness and anger and guilt so so so well. Brilliant work.

Besides all of that, you did a great job at setting up what I assume is the final home stretch of the story; Sparrow's stunt at the House's anniversary is where I'm assuming it's all going down. I like that it's made particularly poetic by the fact that Mireya created the Houses and Cyrin's family is likely to be there as well, if I remember correctly. I can only imagine what kind of insanity lies in store, and I'm sure I'll enjoy every minute of it.

Specifics

Shane’s sobbing had subsided, and a silence slipped over the back of the car. The guilt crushed Mireya further into her seat for the rest of the drive.


Ughhghhg I don't think you know how ill that fact makes me feel. In a good way, of course! But gahhh both excited and so so scared for the scene when Shane finds that out.

“My chestfelt like someone had set fire to me from the inside, and I was burning. I thought I was dying. Dying.”


Tiny thing here: you forgot a space.

She knew about survivor’s guilt firsthand. She’d seen it in people like Cyrin. And now that she’d heard from Leilan about how close Shane had been to becoming a third casualty, this seemed like a warning sign to her.


STOP. NO. You are so cruel. Literally jumped out of my chair. I'm losing it. This is insane. Just the fact that he was supposed to die and didn't in two instances?? Insane and tragic and poetic. 10/10 no notes.

“If the question in the air is whether I’m that Mireya,” she said, “the answer is yes. But I’m no Saint. Because creating the Houses was no saintly deed.”


Really love this ending line, but I'm also mad that Mireya's perspective ends here before we get to delve into the aftermath. I assume we'll come back to it though, so overall, this is a great end to the chapter.

Overall: wow! I feel depressed right now! This is a good thing! Really wonderful job on this one. I'm absolutely gutted. Off to the next chapter now~




SilverNight says...


Thank you so much Plume!! Now if you'll allow me to evilly cackle and get sad again...




“Such nonsense!" declared Dr Greysteel. "Whoever heard of cats doing anything useful!" "Except for staring at one in a supercilious manner," said Strange. "That has a sort of moral usefulness, I suppose, in making one feel uncomfortable and encouraging sober reflection upon one's imperfections.”
— Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell