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The Legacy of Androva Series

New Book, New Series, Twenty-Sixth Chapter ⚖

The Spell Tracker has arrived, and he intends to collect what he's owed. Luca is out of time. So is Cass, though she doesn't know it yet. And Devin's attempts to save them both only serve to give the Spell Tracker more leverage. Chapter twenty-six is the penultimate chapter. One way or another, the story is about to end!

You can catch up on chapters one through twenty-five via the New series label at the top of this post, and thank you very much for reading 💕.


26 A Sacrifice

I recognized his energy signature from our dealings in the magical dimension, but I would never have connected it to the lanista without the visual cue. He normally looked very different. No wonder I had felt so uneasy around him.
“Nothing to say, Luca?”
“Who’s Luca?” asked Devin.
“Your boyfriend’s real name. Very little of what you know about him is true.”
I gave Devin a helpless look. My fear expanded in a sudden rush, as if my emotions had just caught up to the situation. It’s happening. I’ve failed. I turned to the Spell Tracker. “He’s got nothing to do with this. Let him leave.”
I got a nasty smile in response. “Nothing to do with this,” he repeated slowly. “How so? Are you not connected?”
“You don’t have a contract with him,” I said, raising my voice.
“Can someone please tell me what’s going on?” asked Cass.
“I’m not leaving,” said Devin. He took a step closer to me, keeping one hand on Cass’s shoulder, and the Spell Tracker’s smile widened.
“An audience. My favorite thing.” He opened his hand, palm facing upward, and slowly closed his fingers to create a fist. Cass let out a scream of pain and shock. Her back arched as her body tried to escape what the Spell Tracker was doing to it.
“Do you know what this is?” he asked.
With his other hand he created a wall of magic to trap Devin and me. Struggle though we might, we could not get past it to help Cass.
Rescindo. Rescindo!” I said frantically. Of course, nothing happened. The Spell Tracker was no fool. The terms of the contract between us meant I was unable to use magic against him. I knew that, but I kept trying anyway.
“This,” he went on, “is me collecting what I am owed.” He lowered his hands and Cass slumped forward, head bowed and shoulders heaving as she took in gulps of air. As I bent over her, murmuring the healing spell, Devin launched himself at the Spell Tracker. I had no time to remind him not to touch the skin. His fist barely grazed its target before he recoiled with a gasp.
“I wonder why Luca chose you to connect with,” said the Spell Tracker, dismissing the attempted punch with a shrug. “It obviously wasn’t because of your intellect. Try that again and your sister will pay for your stupidity.”
Cass raised her head slowly. “Now that you have our attention, what do you want? What kind of twisted game is this?”
“No game,” he said. “You’ve already lost. You belong to me. As Luca belongs to me.”
No,” I said. “You can’t take her.”
A short laugh. “Do tell me why not, Luca.”
The lines of our contract tightened against my magical core and I did my best to keep the pain from showing on my face. Devin lifted a hand to his own chest, obviously feeling an echo of what was hurting me.
“Avi?” he said. “Who is he?”
“She might still accept her life lesson,” I said. “Give me the time you promised. She’s so close.”
“I know she’s close. Why else do you think I’m here? And I didn’t promise you anything except failure.”
“What’s a life lesson?” said Cass.
“All in good time,” said the Spell Tracker. “Have you remembered who I am yet?”
“No. And just for the record, I don’t belong to anyone.”
“By all means put it on record while you still can,” said the Spell Tracker. He tilted his head, looking her up and down with an impassive expression. “Pain and fear have the tendency to reduce a person’s vocabulary quite dramatically. And, of course, the dead say nothing at all.”
Cass lifted her chin. “What’s that supposed to mean? I’m not afraid of dying.”
“No, you’re not,” he agreed. “Dying is not your worst fear.” He lowered his voice. “But I know what is. Timor pessimi.”
Her defiant expression faltered. I had no idea what he’d shown her, but from the way she was holding up two shaking hands to ward it off, he hadn’t pulled any punches.
“Hmmm. Not so brave after all,” he said. “What a shame.”
“You sick bastard,” she managed, her eyes glittering with unshed tears. “Subjecting me to a disgusting hallucination proves nothing. Bravery and fear aren’t mutually exclusive.”
“Better,” he said, nodding.
Stop. Just take me and leave them alone. Aren’t I enough?” I said, squaring my shoulders against the pain. “I won’t resist. I know how much you want the magic of a Light Mage. Cass and Devin are nothing to you. Are you so petty you would insist on killing all of us?”
Cass and Devin turned to me with identical expressions of shock. The Spell Tracker laughed. “Oh, Luca. Well done. I think they’re finally paying attention.”
“Avi,” said Devin. “What’s going on? If he’s not the lanista, then who is he?”
“I believe you called me ‘the thing that’s worse than hell.’ I think that was it. Am I right, Luca? One can never be certain of the nuances.”
Devin pressed his lips together. Through the connection I felt his fear rise, but he swallowed it back down before he spoke. “So you’re an eavesdropper, too? Classy.”
The Spell Tracker smiled. “I should interact with my victims in their earthbound covering more often. Your defiance is rather entertaining. I wonder how much you’ll regret those brave words when I restore your magic and you recognize me for who I really am.”
His face twisted with anticipation. “Would you fall to your knees and beg for mercy? Would you renounce everyone you’ve ever loved if I asked you to?”
“What?” said Devin, backing away. “I don’t… I don’t have any magic.”
“Just let them go,” I said. “Devin isn’t even tied to one of your contracts. You’re threatening him for your own amusement.”
The Spell Tracker smoothed a fold of his cloak. “Are you sure about that?”
“No,” I said, horrified. “Y-you… that’s impossible.”
He smiled and waited before answering me. “How quick you are to doubt yourself. Unfortunately, you are correct.”
“And Cass?” I said angrily. “What’s your excuse for denying her the extra time? I get why you want me, but you don’t need us both.”
“That’s where you’re wrong.” He scowled. “Do you know how long it took me to qualify to be the Spell Tracker?”
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“Do you know?” he repeated.
“I don’t give a shit,” I replied.
His scowl deepened. “It was all I ever wanted to be. As soon as I understood what it was—the pinnacle of achievement for a Shadow Mage—my mind was made up.
“I was on track to be the fastest qualifier in history. I was going to be the best Spell Tracker the High Council had ever appointed. Until you.” He pointed at me, then at Cass.
“What is he talking about?” said Cass. I shook my head. I have no idea.
“I’m due to step down next year. And I finally have a chance to even the score.”
“What score?”
I didn’t particularly want to know, but at least if he was monologuing, he wasn’t killing us.
“I failed my life path. This branch of my life path,” he added, gesturing to the Roman clothes he was wearing. “Because of you, Luca. Not only had I allowed… love, but it had flourished to such a degree that a new guardian was created too. I couldn’t be the Spell Tracker with that happening right under my nose. They suspected me of compassion.” He practically spat the word. “It took several more earthbound lives to convince them I possessed the right qualities for the position.”
“I thought you weren’t allowed to see my life path,” I said. “You couldn’t have known it was me.”
“I didn’t,” he agreed. “But I knew it was her.” He pointed at Cass. “She was saved by a guardian’s sacrifice. The only magician in my personal life path with that honor. When I became the Spell Tracker I couldn’t believe my luck when I found out she was bound to one of my contracts. I’ve been watching her. Watching and waiting. Supporting her failures, shall we say.”
“You’re the reason for the blackouts,” said Devin, catching on first. “You hid the notes. God, you really are despicable.”
“Thank you,” he said. “I try.”
“But… you never…”
“What’s that, Luca? I never mentioned any of this to you when we agreed our contract? No. I did not. Allow me to rectify that oversight.”
The Spell Tracker came closer. He reached inside the illusion of my physical covering to put his hand around my heart and my magic. The pain was excruciating. The edges of my vision grayed out.
He pushed Devin and Cass away with a spell when they tried to rescue me. I swallowed down a sob. The blade in the Colosseum hurt less than this. I wished I could tell them to run, but there was nowhere in the earthbound dimension he wouldn’t be able to find Cass. And Devin wasn’t likely to leave either of us.
“I will be taking you, and the girl, and enforcing your contracts because you are the reason I will be remembered as an ordinary Spell Tracker rather than an extraordinary one. I trained you both to die when I was your lanista, and you will finally make good on your obligation.”
He removed his hand and I dropped to my knees, gasping.
“I will enjoy every second of your torment,” he went on. “Especially when she knows you for who you are and realizes you failed to save her.”
Devin rushed over and put his arms around my shoulders. “Are you OK? Avi, say something. It hurt so much,” he said. “I can only imagine what it was like for you.”
“How sweet,” said the Spell Tracker. “It seems you’re still inspiring love, even now, Luca. What a great loss to guardian-kind you’ll be. Say your goodbyes. It’s time to leave this dimension.”
Love? Devin looked me in the eyes and didn’t deny it. I held onto his arms and focused on the connection. Me too. He smiled. Then he spoke, and it was like the Spell Tracker’s hand was clutching my heart again.
“Take me,” said Devin. “Take me instead.”
No.” Cass and I spoke at the same time. Devin ignored us.
“Avi is much more valuable to the world than I am, and my sister deserves a proper chance.”
Cass and I continued to protest, but the Spell Tracker held up a hand and silenced us. I got to my feet and curled my fingers into fists. Cass stood next to me, radiating anger. Before I could take a step toward him, the Spell Tracker smirked and immobilized us both.
“This is unexpected,” he mused, looking at Devin. “I wonder… Yes. It might work very well. The knowledge of what you suffered will be a burden to them the likes of which I could never hope to replicate. However…” He paused. “However. You can only save one of them. I will exchange one contract for another. One name. That’s all.”
The anticipation had returned to his expression when he faced me. I struggled against the magic holding me prisoner but failed to overcome it.
“I can only imagine what you’re trying to say, Luca. What if he saves you? Leaving you all alone while I do my worst. I wonder how many assignments you’ll fail after that. All of them, probably.”
I ground my teeth and he laughed. “More likely, he’ll save his sister. Is that what you want, Luca? Are you sure? Look at her.”
He forced me to turn. Cass was watching both of us with tears falling down her face.
“How long do you think she’ll last once I start torturing her brother? I imagine she won’t be able to live with herself. The guilt will cling to her life path and she’ll never escape it. You and he are all she has left, aren’t you?”
“Are you done?” asked Devin, sounding remarkably calm. My anger was rising and rising.
“Are you?” countered the Spell Tracker. “Do you have a name for me?”
“I’ll tell you the name once the agreement is in place,” said Devin. “I don’t trust you. I want Avi to check everything. He obviously knows how magical contracts work, and I don’t want you to be able to twist your way out of it.”
“As you wish.” I was released from the restraining spell with a flick of his fingers.
“Don’t do this,” I said immediately.
“I’m doing it,” said Devin. “You might as well help me; otherwise, he’ll kill us all.”
For a few moments we had a silent almost-conversation, our emotions swirling eloquently between us. Devin wasn’t going to change his mind. I pulled my emotions back before I revealed too much about the direction my thoughts were headed.
“You have to save Cass,” I told him.
The Spell Tracker laughed. “So predictable.”
You don’t know as much as you think you do, Spell Tracker. Devin is a Light Mage. If he sacrifices himself for his sister, he’ll graduate his life path and your contract with him will be void.
“I will. I promise,” said Devin.
The Spell Tracker weaved the four of us into a new contract. I checked the symbols carefully but he did not deceive us. As soon as Devin spoke his chosen name, that magician would be released from their contract for Devin to be bound in their place.
And when the Spell Tracker stops the heart of Devin’s physical body, Devin will become a guardian and Cass will have another chance.
“The contract says Avi, doesn’t it? Not Luca?” asked Devin.
“It does,” replied the Spell Tracker. “I have to use earthbound names because that is our current dimension. Not that it matters if you stick to your original choice.”
I frowned. “You promised,” I told Devin.
“I know. And I’ll keep my promise. It’s just… the name is important to me. I don’t care if that makes me sentimental. To me, you’re Avi.”
The Spell Tracker gave sigh of irritation as he finished what he was doing. He felt as uncomfortable in the presence of love as I did in the presence of fear. “The contract is complete. Get on with it.”
I checked again and nodded. “It’s ready.”
He wouldn’t release Cass so that Devin could say goodbye to her properly. Damn him. He’s so determined to make this as difficult for her as possible.
“You’ve kept me waiting long enough. I’m allowing this change as a favor, in case you’ve all forgotten. Get on with it.”
Devin looked at me and Cass, one after the other. He smiled. “I love you both,” he said. “I promise you this is my choice. I want to do this. You’ll make me very happy if you accept that. Look after her,” he added to me.
“What? How can I…?”
He didn’t answer, turning to the Spell Tracker.
“Cavi,” he said.

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