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Across the Sands

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“You don’t have to leave,” Flora said. “You only just got here.” The girl took Arabella’s hands in her own and gave them a gentle squeeze. “We want you to stay here with us. We would never ask you to leave.”

Arabella knew they would not. In her way Flora grieved for Jonathan’s loss as well, and in that they had much in common, Arabella could not begrudge her this. Far from it, but Arabella needed a purpose. She needed something to fill her time, and most importantly she needed to find a way to bring her husband back. There was only one thing that would do that, and it was not languishing in her grief. Furthermore she refused to turn to the magician’s of England. None of them could ever hope to perform such a miracle, so it rested solely on her own shoulders, thin though they may be.

Doctor Greysteel was equally as welcoming, “Stay a while longer. You are good company to Flora. You know we both appreciate it.” He looked into her eyes, “I think you need a rest dear, you have been through much. What with losing Jonathan.”

“I know,” Arabella said. A smile was a hard thing to press onto her face, but she managed somehow.

Padua was not her home, and the thought of returning back to England without Jonathan left her heart constricting. Moreover she could not bear to break her promise. She would free him. No matter what. No matter the cost. She would not rest until they were free from the eternal darkness and back on this mortal plane.

She traveled.

Milan, Marseille, Andorra, Zaragoza, and across the Strait of Gibraltar to Marrakesh. She finally settled in there amongst the tightly pack, sand colored buildings. The heat and vibrant colors were utterly alien to her, and that in itself was a comfort.

The heat was oppressing, surrounding, and she took to dressing like a native, in layers of fabric, they shielded her from the outside world. A small comfort.

She employed a housekeeper, a guide, and a guard to look after her well being in this alien nation, and shut herself away for a time. Reading as Norrell had done. Gathering what books she could. This may not have been a problem that English magic could solve, but the world was full of other magics, deeper and darker ones. She would find an answer. She would wrest Jonathan away from the darkness.

oOoOoOo

“This is my favourite room,” Arabella said as she stood in the center. The room was full of mirrors. They covered every visible surface. Arabella’s reflection looked back at her, with Emma beside her.

“This is morbid,” Lady Pole said. “He is not here. You do realize he is not here.”

Arabella clasped her hands together, “You of all people should understand. I won’t give up.” She gave Emma a tiny smile. “I see him sometimes, though. Sometimes. Glimpses, and shadows were there should not be any. He is still there, and I will free him.” Her lips curled into a pleased smile, “With magic.”

Emma stared at her. “How can you turn to magic? You’ve seen what it is capable if. Look what happened to me. Look what it has done to you. Do you not remember.” The lady’s hands trembled as she wrung them together. Emma’s skin paled. “Besides, it will free that vile little man.”

Arabella’s lips pinched together, “Perhaps. I’m sorry I reminded you of that time.” Arabella barely remembered her time through the mirror. It was like a barely remembered dream. Hazy. It still haunted her dreams, leaving crinkled sheets, and a pounding heart in it’s wake. In the darkest time of the night she would remember, and beg to forget, but that plea would fall upon a silent and empty room.

Sometimes she would rise from her bed, skin dewy with sweat from the moroccan heat. She would wander the rooms and make her way back to the room she had made her workroom and reread the books she had gathered, pouring over the passages she had bookmarked, and over the careful, cramped notes she had taken. Emma did not need to know this. Her friend did not need to know the measure of her restlessness and her suffering.

She knew the pain that Emma had suffered, and yet it had been far more acute than her own in many ways. Arabella had not been trapped unable to tell anyone of her plight. Her imprisonment had been a far more gentle one in it’s way. She had not even known that she was kept in a gilded cage.

“It is fine,” Emma said, after the longest of pauses. “I don’t want to ruin this visit with arguments. I have traveled so far to see you. You know, Arabella, you are my dearest friend. They only one that can understand the---you are the only one.”

“You know I feel much the same,” Arabella said, and did not have to force the smile that followed.

oOoOoOo

The chalk scraped the floor as Arabella knelt on it. They felt bruised, but it was something to be ignored. The circle she drew was intricate, and precise. It was a far cry from the English magics she had read about, but just as dangerous. The creature she would summon...she couldn't think of that now. It did not bear thinking of. The price would be dear. She was ready to pay it and more. Her skirt bunched around her, and she did her best not to erase what she had already written. To leave some of it unwritten would spell certain death. The Faeries might be fickle and dangerous, the Djinn were more so.

Her fingers cramped, and the chalk made her skin feel uncomfortably dry. She finally stood, and walked around the circle, carefully checking the sigils. It was good. It was perfect, and the words to the spell slipped through her lips like a wisp of wind. They rustled and creaked, making static rise around her and the room fairly crackle with it.

She closed her eyes, and when she opened them again, it was there, standing in the circle. “I will give you anything,” she said, and then thought better of it, “Anything but my life and my freedom.” She knew this was a mistake, that the price would be just as high as the Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair would have ask for.

It smiled.

She no longer cared.