Dawn felt sick. She was lucky she hadn’t known the two victims—Corrie and Edie must feel even worse, even though they didn’t like Payton and Elena, just for knowing them.
No wonder the four girls from the Circle of the Goddess were just sitting on the chairs, staring into space or crying. They’d just witnessed something incredibly horrific happen to people they cared about and trusted. She wondered whether they even realized they were still sitting there covered in blood.
“Ash and Chandra,” Corrie said. “How does what Meg described match with what you saw? Did you see the teeth?”
“I did,” said the girl in the black dress. “I didn’t feel the wind or see the foggy shape or the eyes, but a minute after Meg tried to stop the ritual, I saw the teeth come in. They went straight for Payton. I was holding her hand…” She shuddered.
“Payton was the one who was speaking at the time,” Meg said.
“I wonder if it would have gone for any of us who were speaking,” the fourth girl said, speaking up for the first time. “I don’t see how it could tell the difference between any of us. We all ran, but Elena stayed behind, so maybe that’s why it went after her next.”
“It knew.” Meg’s voice was firm. “It knew who was hurting it. It wanted Payton and Elena, and it let the rest of us go on purpose.”
“Did it speak to you in any way?” Edie asked. “How was it communicating?”
Meg shook her head. “I don’t know. It was like I could feel its pain. It wasn’t right. Now I wonder… I feel like it was always in pain, all along, and that’s why it killed. It just got worse today, and it wanted to stop the pain. That’s all it wanted.”
“You may have some empathic ability,” Ginny said. “You should take Professor Rook’s psionics class.” Meg just closed her eyes in response.
“Ash,” Corrie said. “You didn’t see anything different than what the others described?”
The last girl who had spoken shook her head. “I saw the same as Chandra. Just teeth.”
“Which direction did the teeth come from?” Dawn asked. All four of them just stared at her for a moment.
“It was on Payton’s right,” Meg said at last. “She was on the west. So, I guess, northwest-ish. But—I think it might have been near us the whole time. I felt the cold breeze as soon as I stepped onto the grass. I’d forgotten about that. I thought it was just cold, maybe a storm was coming.”
“No,” Dawn said. “No storm. That was probably it. It may have been interested in you to begin with just because you were outside at night.”
“Maybe that’s all it’s ever gone for,” Corrie said.
“I do not think so,” Professor Lal said. “Meg and Erika, do you feel comfortable going into trance again?”
Meg grimaced, but said, “That’s fine.”
“We’re not going back out there, are we?” Erika said nervously.
“Certainly not. I only wish you to look again at all of our magic in trance.” Professor Lal’s sweeping arm gesture took in herself, Ginny, Corrie, Edie, and Dawn—and Professor Rook and Professor Strega, who were just then arriving. Dawn nodded to them in greeting.
“One at a time,” Ginny advised. “Not all of us at once.”
“Certainly,” Professor Lal said with a nod.
“Yeah, we can do that,” Meg said, sitting up straighter.
They paraded themselves slowly past the girls. Dawn felt a bit foolish, but she thought she knew what Professor Lal was looking for. The attacker’s magic had evidently been similar to a faerie’s, but was it more similar to that than a human’s?
When they had finished their little parade, Meg was staring at them all wide-eyed, while Erika looked a little sick. “Compare our magic to that of the attacker,” Professor Lal said. “Whose is most similar? In what ways?”
“Yours is the most similar to what I saw,” Meg said immediately. “It follows the shape of your body, and it’s all cloudy like that. But some of you… your magic follows the shape of a completely different body.”
“Do not concern yourself with that aspect,” Professor Strega said. “It is normal.”
Dawn looked at her. Of course, her magic followed the shape of her lizardlike form, instead of the shape of a human body. But she’d told the trance class not to worry about the differences in her magic, so no one had ever commented on it. Dawn had just thought she’d been talking about the cloudiness of faerie magic, rather than the shape of it.
“But you saw no body to compare the attacker’s magic to?” Ginny asked.
“That’s right,” Meg said. “Other than the teeth and eyes being the right place. It was like it was all magic.”
“I believe that is possible,” Ginny said. “She must have wasted away over many years, her body falling into nothingness, but not allowing herself to die.”
Meg looked bewildered. Erika clapped her hand over her mouth.
“Erika, do you agree with Meg’s assessment?” Professor Lal said. Erika nodded, not removing her hand. “It was not like Edie’s or Dawn’s?”
“No,” Meg said. “It was like a very thin human. I told you.”