I stare at the empty bed next to mine so intensely it’s like I’m hoping to make him appear there just with my gaze. (Maybe I am. My magic has done some crazy shit before.)
I flop down on my bed, feeling exhausted but at the same time so restless that I’m sure there’s no way I’m sleeping tonight. Well, even if I were to fall asleep, I would only get three hours tops. Once again I spent the night scouring the grounds – the Wood, the Catacombs, even the hills – looking for Baz. No sign of him. It’s driving me crazy.
I have to do something. I can’t just sit here, chasing my tail in circles. I’ll drive myself nuts. I need to know where he is, to make sure he isn’t plotting my demise.
There’s only one way to know for sure. And it’s insanely dangerous. Absolutely ridiculous.
I’ll have to go to Pitch Manor and ask his family.
As soon as the sun is up I shower, get dressed and leave Watford (after grabbing a few scones from the dining hall for the road). I run all the way to the station and there I catch a train to Hampshire. Then I take a taxi, but the driver refuses to take me all the way to the manor. (He thinks it’s haunted.) (Knowing Baz and his family, it probably is.)
I have to run all the way to his manor from the main road. When I reach the gate my shoes are covered in dirt and my hair is all ruffled, which is fine because the Pitches already hate me. Looking sharp wouldn’t make any difference.
I walk to the door bravely (but also keeping my one hand on my hip, ready to draw my sword) and I ring the doorbell. After a little while, the door opens and I see some maid, scrutinizing me from head to toe.
“May I help you?” she says cooly.
“Oh, hi!” I say nervously. “I’m Simon. Simon Snow. Baz’s classmate.”
“And how can I help you, Mr. Snow?”
“I, um… I wanted to see Baz. Is he here?”
“I’m afraid Mr. Pitch is indisposed.”
“Indisposed? What is that supposed to mean? Is he busy? Does it mean he’s ill? Or maybe he’s out?”
She opens her mouth, probably to tell me to go to hell (maybe a bit more politely), but at that moment Baz’s father appears behind her.
“Vera, who is-” He trails off when he sees me. “Mr. Snow,” he says in such an icy tone that my blood freezes in my veins. The maid takes that as her cue to leave. I’m not sure if I’m relieved or terrified to be left alone with Mr. Grimm. Even with the dark circles under his eyes and his hollow cheeks, he still looks intimidating. “You’ve got some nerve, coming here.”
“I- I just-”
“Good day, Mr. Snow.” He begins to close the door in my face.
“Wait!” I yell. “Just tell me where Baz-”
The door slams shut and I’m left to stand there like an idiot, seething. I utter a few curses and then I turn to leave.
“Stand your ground!”
“Shit!” I try to move my feet, but they’re stuck to the ground. I look up and see Baz’s aunt, Fiona, looking enraged.
“You’ve got some nerve coming here, Chosen One,” she hisses.
I grit my teeth and draw my sword. “You Pitches are so original.”
“Malcolm is no Pitch.”
“I don’t care. Now let me go!”
She narrows her eyes menacingly. “And why would I do that? You and your Mage kidnapped my nephew! I should kill you where you are!”
A chill runs down my spine. “Wait, what? Baz- Baz was kidnapped?”
She takes a few steps closer, but remains out of the range of my sword. “Don’t play dumb with me, Chosen One. You and the Mage did this together!”
I feel my anger rise up my throat. “Oh, really? I got Baz kidnapped and then I came here to… what? Boast?”
She shrugs. “You’re powerful. Nobody said anything about you being smart, though.”
“Well, I’m definitely not that stupid.”
She snorts, unconvinced. “Well, if you didn’t come to boast, then why are you here?”
“I wanted to know where the hell Baz was. It’s been more than two weeks since lessons started.”
“And what’s it to you?”
“I just wanted to make sure he wasn’t plotting my death.”
“Pfft.” She waves her hand dismissively. “I wouldn’t worry about that if I were you. Basil’s gone soft lately.”
I splutter. “Soft?” I echo incredulously.
She raises an eyebrow. (I’m starting to see where Baz got the habit from.) “Well, he hasn’t tried to kill you in two whole years, has he.”
“Yeah, that’s the exact definition of ‘soft’,” I mutter.
She squints at me. “Though, now that I see you properly, I’m starting to get it.” She grins wickedly. “You’re a handsome bloke, aren’t you?”
I shudder. Getting compliments from Fiona Pitch can’t be a good sign. “Whatever,” I say, eager to change the subject. “Did the kidnappers contact you? Did they ask for ransom or something?”
Fiona huffs. “Of course they did.”
I frown. “And you paid it, right? So he’ll be back soon.”
She shoots me a look of utter contempt. “Pitches don’t pay ransoms.”
I stare at her, appalled. “Are you people crazy?” My voice has risen. “He could be dying right now! He could be tortured!” My stomach twists as soon as I utter the words and I think I’m going to be sick. He isn’t dead, I tell myself. Baz is not dead.
“Why do you care?” she inquires, narrowing her eyes at me.
“I- I don’t!” I shake my head vehemently. “I just can’t believe how little you care about your own family!”
I expect her to yell at me, or curse me. To my surprise, she smirks at me, a knowing look in her eyes. “Uh-huh,” she says unconvinced, still grinning slyly.
I scowl at her. “What?”
She tilts her head, eyeing me with a calculating look on her face. “Alright. I’ll let you go.”
I blink. “What?”
Her smirk widens. “If you help me find Baz.”
“Deal,” I say, way too quickly, and my eagerness seems to amuse her immensely.
I gingerly raise one foot and see that I’m no longer stuck to the ground. I raise my eyebrows at Fiona.
“Let’s get going then,” she says, grinning crookedly at me.
“Where?” I start feeling anxious. Maybe agreeing to work with the Pitches wasn’t such a good idea.
“To rescue Baz, of course.”
I have no idea where we’re driving to. Probably to some altar, where she’ll perform some kind of dark ritual to find Baz, using me as a sacrifice. This was a really bad idea. I can already picture the reproachful look Penny will give me when I tell her what I’ve gotten myself into. (If I live that long.)
When we stop at a red light, Fiona starts looking for something in her bag. Finally, she takes out a folded piece of paper and gives it to me.
“What is it?” I ask, eyeing it suspiciously.
“A spell to find Baz.”
I frown. “If you already had a spell to find him, then why didn’t you use it before?”
She grins mischievously as she starts driving again. “Because it wouldn’t work for me.”
“Well, for one, it’s a very powerful spell.”
I’m not satisfied with her answer, but still I unfold the piece of paper, curious. My eyebrows shoot up. “The Beatles?”
“So, I just say the lyrics?”
“Yeah, but think of Baz while you’re casting.” She shoots me a warning glare. “And no angry thoughts.”
I huff as I take out my wand, but when I start casting, all I can think about is: Please, come back. Or at least don’t be dead. Please?
“Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you/ Tomorrow I’ll miss you/ Remember I’ll always be true/ And then while I’m away/ I’ll write home every day/ And I’m sending all my loving to you.”
Something warm and fuzzy forms inside me and I feel it exiting my body. I look down and I see a small ball of light float in front of my chest for a few moments before it starts moving. I watch it pass through the windshield in wonder.
Fiona cackles loudly next to me. “It fucking worked! When we find Baz, I’ll tease him to death.”
I have no idea what she’s talking about, but I’ll worry about it later. “Now what?” I ask.
“Now we follow it.”
And that’s exactly what she tries to do, but there’s lots of traffic at this time of day and the ball of light doesn’t wait for us when we fall behind.
Fiona grits her teeth impatiently. “Make way for the king!”
A car moves aside to let us pass, but there’s still a whole line of other cars in front of us. I groan loudly.
“Why don’t you cast it? Aren’t you the Greatest Mage?” she snaps at me, enunciating the last two words mockingly.
I raise my wand tentatively. My spells have a tendency to go terribly awry. But the light is already way ahead of us. We’ll lose it if we don’t hurry. “Make way for the king!”
All the cars as far as I can see part to let us through. I blink and Fiona laughs, amused. “That’s more like it,” she says and slams her foot on the pedal, sending the car flying in pursuit of the light.
“I’ll take care of them!” Fiona yells at me. “You keep following it!”
I don’t wait for her to tell me twice. I let her send curse after curse at the numpties and I start running after the ball of light that’s still floating deeper and deeper at the big cave-like room, all the while thinking: Don’t be dead, don’t be dead, please don’t be dead. In my one hand I hold a torch Fiona gave me and in the other my wand, which I point at all the numpties that get in my way. Half the things I shout with magic aren’t even spells, but it still sends them flying.
Finally, the ball of light stops over some sort of box. When I reach it, I point my torch at it and all the air is knocked out of my lungs like I’ve been punched in the gut.
It’s not a box. It’s a coffin. Baz is in a coffin.
He isn’t… He can’t be…
The light slides downwards and disappears inside the coffin. I take a few deep breaths to calm myself down, and when I raise my wand I realize my hand’s shaking.
Don’t be dead, don’t be dead, please don’t be dead…
The lid flies open and gets ripped from its hinges before it falls on the floor with a bang that echoes all around the chamber. I point my torch towards the open coffin and look inside with dread.
I’m awakened by a blinding light.
I open my eyes but I close them again immediately, blinded by the painful brightness. I stretch out my hands in front of me and I touch the wooden lid of the coffin. I frown. If the lid’s still closed, then where’s this light coming from?
I blink many times, and then a few more, before I can at least squint at the source of the light and see that it’s… just light. A small ball of pure white light floating above my chest, having no source that I can see. I look at it, baffled, and then it lowers itself until it touches my chest.
The warmest, sweetest feeling in the world seeps through me when the light slips inside me and it spreads to every part of me, chasing away all the pain, the fear, the hunger, the despair. All that’s left is this pure cleansing feeling and an image of bronze curles, blue eyes and freckles.
I sigh and close my eyes, feeling peaceful and happy for the first time in (three?) weeks. But I open them again when I hear the lid burst open with a loud noise. I’m blinded by a light again and I blink away the tears. The light moves away from my eyes and I can see again.
Simon Snow is looming over me, smiling.
I blink again, certain that I’m hallucinating. I suppose starvation can have such an effect on people. (And on vampires, I guess.)
“Baz,” he whispers.
“Simon,” I breathe before I pass out.
My knees almost buckle when I see him blink at the light pointed at his face and relief washes through me. I can’t stop a smile from spreading on my face as I point the torch lower so as not to blind him.
When he can finally see me he blinks in bewilderment a few times. My smile falters now that I’m taking in the terrible state he’s in. He’s practically skeletal, his jawline too prominent, his cheekbones sharper than ever above his now hollow cheeks. His face is greyer than usual and his eyes are sunken deep inside his skull.
A lump’s lodged in my throat. “Baz…”
I see a small smile form on his lips and I think that maybe he doesn’t recognise me. But then he says my name. Like, my first name. I don’t think he’s ever called me by my first name before.
Before I can dwell on it too much, he loses consciousness. I panic again. I put my wand in my pocket and then place two fingers on his throat, searching for a pulse. (Do vampires even have a pulse?) I think I feel something but I’m not sure. I consider casting healing spells on him, but I decide against it. My magic is too unpredictable. I might cause more damage than I fix.
I put the torch between my teeth and scoop him up from the coffin – bridal style. He’s really light now that he’s lost so much weight. I carry him back to Fiona who’s just finishing off the last numpties standing.
“Is he alive?” she asks when the last numpty hits the floor. Her face is like stone and I’m sure she expects a negative answer.
I spit the torch from my mouth. Fiona’s is enough. “Yes, he’s alive.” I’m sure now – I can feel his breaths on my shoulder where his head is resting.
Relief flashes in her eyes momentarily before she shakes her head disdainfully at him. (Bloody Pitches. It’s like they think feelings are some sort of contageous disease.) “Jesus Christ. Baz Pitch, kidnapped by numpties. Fucking ridiculous.”
I roll my eyes. “What a touching reunion.”
She actually smirks at me before she starts casting one healing spell after the other. My arms start feeling a little numb from his weight but I don’t complain. Baz shifts a little in his sleep, nuzzling the crook of my neck, and I almost smile. Fiona doesn’t miss that, and her smirk turns even more mischievous. I scowl at her, but she just laughs. “Come on, Chosen One. Let’s get him home.”