"The warlock. I think it's Morgan."

29 3 10

Eventually, they make their way back to the main part of the cave. Zoe has pages and pages of notes and half a lunchbox stuffed with glowing mushrooms and impossible flowers, and they're so busy arguing over whether or not she should take them home ("What if your mom finds them, Zee?") that neither of them notice Widow Adeline until they've all-but run into her.

"School's out for the day, is it?"

Eli yelps, which comes out as a kind of strange bark, and his immediate instinct is to rear up on his hind legs and spread his wings to try and hide Zoe. As if Widow Adeline hadn't seen them coming from yards away.

"Um!"

"I assume I don't want to know," Adeline says. Then, tilting her head to the side as if to peer around Eli's wing: "Good afternoon, Miss Chung."

Zoe, bravely, steps out from behind Eli. "Um. Hello, Ms. Desmarais," she says which, actually, Eli thinks is the first time he's ever heard someone call Window Adeline anything other than "Widow Adeline."

"Desmarais, darling," Adeline says. Correcting Zoe's pronunciation, Eli assumes, although he can't hear the difference.

"Oh, well, I mean. It's Chung, not 'Chung'"-that difference, Eli can hear-"but, yanno . . ." Zoe shrugs.

"Touché. I see Elias has let you in on his little secret."

Zoe looks between Eli and Adeline, brows arching, and Eli says, "It's okay. She knows. She's been helping me."

"Attempting to teach you the language and history of your ancestors, yes. And you, Miss . . . Chung"-better, this time-"I hear you've also been indulging in some extracurriculars." She gestures at Zoe's lunchbox, brimming with flora.

"Uh . . ."

"Here." Widow Adeline has a small stack of books, and she holds them out for Zoe to take. "Master Drake attends instruction with me. If you're going to pursue this little witchcraft game of yours, I'll expect your presence also."

"I, um-" Eli holds Zoe's lunchbox and her bag so she can take Adeline's books. "I'm not sure-"

"It's not optional," Widow Adeline says, voice prim and arch. "Magic is dangerous. Deadly. Now that you've grasped the basics, you need to learn to apply that knowledge responsibly."

"These are grimoires," Zoe says, flicking through the tomes she's been handed. There are three of them, ranging from the leather-bound-hand-lettered variety to something that looks like it was printed on the cheap from someone's CreateSpace account.

"Yes. Read the first two chapters of Malikan's Primer by Saturday morning. I'll expect you here sharpish, along with Master Drake. Oh, and please do leave the mushrooms here. You'll find they won't survive outside the cave."

Zoe looks between Adeline and the lunchbox, small and strange in Eli's claw. " . . . Really?"

Adeline makes a mhm sort of noise. "Incorrect etheric resonances," she says. "You'll learn about it in chapter six. For now . . ." She holds out her hand, clearly expecting the lunchbox to be handed over. After a brief nod from Zoe, Eli complies.

"You, ah . . . you're not mad, then?" he says. "That, y'know. I told Zoe about the whole-" He gestures to himself.

"Absolutely furious," Adeline says, voice not so much as quavering. "It was incredibly foolish. But it's done, and can't be undone. And as far as allies go, you could have done far worse than a witch."

"She's my friend," Eli says, feeling oddly unsettled at the accusation that he, what? Only told Zoe because she could be useful to him.

"She's still in the room," Zoe reminds them both, although her voice is distracted and her eyes haven't left the book she's reading. Not the Primer, Eli notes, which is the kind of crappy looking print-on-demand volume. Zoe, meanwhile, is engrossed in the big, leather-bound tome, lips moving as she struggles to read the indecipherably ornate and looping handwriting.

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