Dad closed his eyes and took a deep breath, like he was having to physical y restrain himself from yel ing. "Sophie,"he said slowly. "I can't do this alone. The magic sealing this case is too strong even for me. But if both of us were to try...wel , I think we could do it."
"Why?"I asked. "You said yourself that the grimoire is fil ed with the most ancient, darkest magic in the world. So what do you want it for?"
Another deep breath. "Academic reasons."
Anger rushed through me, and I felt my magic start to rise up. "If you want my help so much, tel me the truth."
"This is extremely dangerous business, and I think it's better for you if you know as little as possible. That way, if we're-if we're caught, you can honestly say you didn't know what I was doing."
"No,"I said, shaking my head. "I am so sick of people lying to me, or only tel ing me half of what I need to know. You said yesterday that it was time I started learning about the 'family business,'and I gave up Ar...a lot for you, and for the Council. So tel me what's going on."
It was Dad's turn to look surprised. For a moment, I thought he might just cal the whole thing off. But then he nodded and said, "Fair enough. I told you that the Council had been trying to raise a demon for hundreds of years before Virginia final y located this book."He gestured to the grimoire.
"After Alice, the Council agreed that the magic was too dangerous, and the book was locked in this case. Ever since then, no one's been able to do a possession ritual. But now..."
"Daisy and Nick,"I murmured.
"So what? You think someone took the grimoire out and used that spel to make Daisy and Nick demons?"
Dad ran a hand through his hair, and for the first time, I noticed that his fingers were trembling. "No, it's not that. This case is exceedingly difficult to open. I just want to see the ritual itself, what's required for a possession spel . If I knew exactly what had been done to Daisy and Nick, then maybe it would help me figure out who did it to them. And why."
It sounded like a rational enough explanation, but, to be honest, it stil scared the crap out of me. Unleashing a book that contained the darkest magic in the whole wide world could never be seen as a good thing, you know? But I didn't say that to Dad. Instead, I asked, "Okay, so how do we get it open if it's so 'exceedingly difficult'?"
Dad laid a hand on top of the case. "Brute strength, basical y. The case requires al twelve of the Council members to unlock it."
I raised my eyebrows. "Okay, wel , since there are only two of us, and only one of us is a Council member-"
Shaking his head, Dad cut me off. "No, technical y, we're both Council members. You're the heir apparent to the head of the Council, ergo-"
"Dad, it is way too early to be using words like 'ergo.'And even if I am a Council member, that stil leaves us ten people short."
"Yes, wel , that's where the brute strength part comes in. Between our combined powers and the blood, it should open for us."
"Blood?"I echoed faintly.
Dad looked grim as he pul ed a short silver dagger out of his suit jacket. "I told you, blood magic is very ancient and very powerful. Now give me your hand. We don't have much time."
The light from outside was beginning to turn more golden than blue-gray, and I knew the house would be waking up soon.
I also knew that I real y, real y didn't want to give Dad my hand.
"This is why you worked with me yesterday, isn't it?"I asked, my voice barely audible. "You wanted to make sure I could do this without blowing the library to smithereens in the process."
Something washed over Dad's face, and I hoped it was guilt. "It wasn't the only reason, Sophie,"he replied.
"Okay, but please remember that I stil broke a lot of mirrors yesterday. Shouldn't we wait until I've had a little more practice?"
Dad shook his head. "Yesterday afternoon, The Eye attempted a raid on Gevaudan."
It took me a moment to remember that that was the name of the fancy shapeshifter school in France. "Time is no longer a luxury we can afford,"Dad said. Then he moved the blade over his left palm in one quick flash. I gasped, and he laid his now-bloody hand on top of the bookcase. His blood trickled over the runes carved into the glass, flowing into them. As it did, the markings began to glow with golden light. Inside its box, the book seemed to shudder a little.
I waited for my newfound psychic feelings to kick in, tel ing me what a horrible idea this was. But there was nothing. Yeah, I felt kind of sick, but I think that was more about the blood than any terrible feelings of dread.
"Sophie,"Dad said, holding out the dagger. "Please."
I thrust out my hand before I had time to think about it, giving him the palm that was already scarred by demonglass. The pain was bright and quick, and not nearly as bad as I'd thought it would be. Fol owing Dad's lead, I put my hand next to his on the case, even as I winced, remembering how hot it had been last time.
But there was no heat. I felt the magic covering it, and my powers surged in response. "Now what?"I whispered, unable to take my eyes off my own blood as it flowed into the runes. As it did, the golden light got brighter.
"Do what we did yesterday,"Dad said, his voice low and even. "Picture a human memory. A human emotion."
Suddenly, I saw Archer sitting in the window of the corn mil again, and a sense of longing flooded through me. Almost instantly, at least a dozen books flew off the shelf nearest to me, the force breaking their spines and sending pages fluttering al around us.
"Something else!"Dad hissed, raising panicked eyes to mine.
"S-sorry, sorry,"I stammered, shaking my head like my brain was an Etch A Sketch that could erase Archer.
Think calm, happy thoughts. Mom. That time you went to the carnival when you were eight, and she let you ride the Ferris wheel over and over again. Laughing. The twinkling lights, the smell of funnel cakes.
My heartbeat slowed, and I felt my powers curl up inside me, safe, ready to be directed.
"Much better."Dad sighed with relief. "Now, focus on the case and just think Open."
I took long slow breaths and did just that. My hand was starting to feel cold, and I had the unsettling sense that the case was somehow drinking my blood. My knees went wobbly at the thought, and I rapidly blinked my eyes, trying to clear the gray fog that was threatening to overwhelm me. I had teleported, and made things appear out of thin air. I had flown, for God's sake. I wasn't going to faint opening a stupid glass box.
Stil , I'd never felt anything like this, even when doing those hard-core spel s. My magic didn't feel like it was rushing from my feet so much as trickling. And even though my teeth were shattering like I was freezing, I was drenched in sweat.
My fingers were numb, and my hand looked awful y pale, but I kept pressing it to the box. But other than the glowing, bloody runes, nothing seemed to be happening.
Across the case, Dad didn't look quite as wrung out as I felt. "It's more than just the case,"he said, his hand slipping on the bloody glass. His voice was ragged. "It's the book, too."
The gray spots were getting bigger. "What do I focus on, then?"I whispered. I wasn't trying to stay quiet; whispering was al I had the strength for.
"Both of them,"Dad answered. "Picture the case opening, and the book in your hands. And don't lose sight of your human memory."
My head felt too heavy to hold up anymore, and I lowered my forehead to the case. "That's a whole lot of stuff to picture, Dad."
"I know it is, Sophie, but you can do it."
So I did. I kept Mom's face in mind, al the while focusing on the case, and the grimoire, and trying very hard not to focus on how woozy and drained I was feeling.
And then-final y-the glass started to move.
"That's it,"Dad murmured, his eyes bright in his haggard face. "Almost there."
I'd expected the glass to open, or for maybe one side of it to fal off or something. Instead, it just vanished, like a bubble popping. It was so abrupt that both mine and Dad's hands fel to the wooden shelf with a loud slap.
Dad reached out and grabbed the book, which looked like any other old, dusty book now that it was out of its magical case. The black leather cover was dul ed with age, and it smel ed like ancient paper and mold.
As Dad flipped through the book, my knees gave out. I slipped to the floor and leaned against the nearest bookcase. I felt like I was watching Dad from a distance, or like I was in a dream. I glanced down at my hand and wondered if the rest of me was as chalky white as it was.
"Oh my God,"Dad breathed. I felt like I should probably be alarmed by how freaked out he looked, but even that was too much effort.
"What is it?"I muttered drowsily.
He raised panicked eyes to me, but it was like he didn't even see me at first. "It's the ritual, it's-Sophie!"
As I lurched sideways and gave in to unconsciousness, the last thing I saw was the book fal ing to the floor, its cover opening to reveal a jagged edge of paper.
A page had been ripped out.
When I came to, I was lying on one of the library couches near the big windows with a blanket on me, and Cal was holding my hand.
"Dejavu,"I said as I watched silver sparks of magic race over my skin. He gave a tiny smile, but his eyes were trained on the rapidly closing cut on my palm. I looked past him and saw Dad standing at the end of the couch, his face etched with worry. Suddenly, everything came rushing back to me. The case, the book.
The missing page.
Dad gave a barely perceptible shake of his head, but I knew better than to say anything in front of Cal. Stil , now that I didn't feel like I was dying from blood loss, I felt every bit as disturbed about that missing page as Dad had looked.
Like he could read my mind-and for al I knew, he could-Dad said, "I want you to rest here for a little while, Sophie. Once you're feeling better, we can discuss the ramifications of that spel in my office."
"Must have been some hard-core spel ,"Cal remarked as he gently laid my hand down on the couch.
"Yeah,"I said, my mouth feeling like it was ful of sawdust. "Dad's been working with me on control ing my powers. Guess I overdid it."
Dad walked around the couch and, to my surprise, leaned down to kiss my forehead. "I'm sorry,"he said softly. "But I am also very proud of you."
It was hard to talk around the sudden lump in my throat, so I just nodded.
"I'l be in my office. Come see me when you're feeling up to it."
Once Dad was gone, I flexed my hand, studying the place where the gash had been. There was no sign of it, and I could swear that even my demonglass scar looked a little better. "Okay, so the ability to heal people has to be the coolest magical power ever,"I told Cal.
His lips quirked. "Yeah, wel , I didn't always think so."
"What do you mean?"
"It's what got me sent to Hecate."
I perked up. I'd always wondered how someone as straight-and-narrow as Cal had gotten sentenced to Hex Hal . "They sent you there for healing someone?"
"Making someone's leg magical y unbreak itself kind of draws attention to you,"he said.