To the Death

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The amount of magic floating just above the shop windows was easily as much as there usually was in the shop, maybe more. She glanced sideways at Athena, who was watching her, still tapping her foot impatiently. The goddess had used all that magic without so much as flinching. How exactly was she supposed to out-magic a god anyways? This was ridiculous.

                Not for the first time, she wished she could just rub the bone necklace and ask Styx to smite her, or whatever it was that gods did. But that was just it, Styx was a goddess, not a genie. She didn’t take orders. It was astonishing that she was even here in the first place. Alice darted a glance at the river goddess, who was staring off into the distance, the ever-present black mist rising up from the bottom of her dress and curling over the sidewalk, leaching the brightness from the snow it fell on, turning it grey. She sighed and tilted her head back again to stare at the magic. The motion made something stab lightly into the small of her back, and she suddenly remembered the strange knife she’d strapped on earlier. It was strangely comforting - even though, in fight with the goddess of war, it might as well have been a butter knife.

                “Okay,” she breathed, “let’s get this over with.”

                Alice shut her eyes tightly. She did not want to see what she’d seen last time, all the magic pointing down at her like loaded guns, strange and threatening.  It took a few seconds to find her barrier and break it down, that reluctance and fear that stood in the way of opening herself up to the magic. Finally…finally she stretched out with her subconscious, feeling the threads above her, letting their frantic energy fill her until her fingers and toes buzzed with the hot electricity of the magic. There was potential in each thread she touched. Each strand of magic hinted at what it could be.  What it could create. There was potential in even a handful of magic, and this much of it made Alice’s head spin.  Now she could feel it coming closer, her entire body tingled as it descended on her, caressing her skin, filling her with radiant energy.  As much as it disgusted her to remember the lesson Ambrose had taught her, to remember his words, she allowed them in. She had to, to allow the magic to come in.

                Alice pushed more fear away, forced more internal barriers down, and allowed the magic to slip under her skin. The pulse of raw power was dizzying, a rush. Hot and intoxicating. Her cheeks grew warm with it and the darkness behind her eyelids exploded into radiant light.

                The light slowly dissolved, revealing the world behind it. Her companions seemed to be frozen around her. Altair was watching her, worry creasing his forehead, his blue eyes serious. But he didn’t move when she looked at him. Gabriel and Maya were clutching at one another, she could see the tension in their muscles, the way they hunched their shoulders. But neither of them moved. Azura and Shakra stood side by side, and Azura’s mouth was open, as if she were saying something. Alice felt a surge of panic and confusion over the roar of the magic in her head. Had she accidently frozen time? She wasn’t like Athena, she didn’t know how to unfreeze it to get everything back to normal. What had she done?

                But no. Something cold and wet brushed past her face, and she looked down the street to see snowflakes dancing in the yellow halo of a streetlamp. The world wasn’t frozen, just different. Because she could tell it was different. Something had changed, or maybe she had.

                Evening was fast approaching, and the sky was turning darker, the stars starting to emerge one by one. For just a moment, Alice thought she caught sight of something strange, a thin, shimmering thread that connected each star to the next. Just a flash of it, and then it was gone. Was she imagining things? Maybe Azura was right about people going insane from overloading on power. She could feel the magic pulsing through her now, like an electrical charge, it felt like all the hairs on her arms were standing up, like her feet should be floating several inches above the sidewalk. She was like a supercharged human battery right now. Had she already gone insane? How could you tell you were insane?

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