Edie had no idea what kind of spell Alice could be talking about, and she didn’t want to interrupt to ask. It must have been ritual magic; maybe Annie would understand it.
“I lit the candles—I used fire magic to light them all at once. Do you know how to do that?”
“Yes,” Annie said. “I’ve learned elemental magic. I don’t know any spells like the one you’re describing, but that makes sense, since I’m only in my second year.”
Alice looked down. “Yes, it would be too advanced for you.”
“What did it do?”
“What did it do?” Alice’s voice grew sharp. “It was intended to reveal to me the paths to other worlds. Each color of agate should have risen up into a bright ribbon to follow, and at the end of each I should have found the door to a certain world. Blue for heaven, black for hell. I cannot tell what the other colors should have been.”
Edie’s breath caught in her throat and she clutched her notebook tightly. If she had known this spell, would it have shown her the way to Faerie? She had looked so long—had the knowledge been with Alice all along?
It didn’t matter now, though. If Leila was there again, she didn’t want Edie following her. And it sounded as though the spell hadn’t worked for Alice, so it probably would not have worked for Edie, either.
“That’s not what happened,” Annie prompted her.
“No,” Alice said. “I pulled the power to myself in the center of the circle, as the spell indicated, and then pushed it back out to the edges of the circle. But it backfired on me. I remember… I remember great pain.” Her voice faltered. “And the next thing I remember, my room was clean and empty, not mine any longer, and I could not communicate with anyone. I don’t even know how long it has been.”
“What year was that?” Annie asked softly.
“It’s been more than a hundred years.”
“I thought as much.”
“It’s not your fault,” Corrie said. “We’ve found books with bad instructions for spells, too.”
Alice shook her head. “I overreached. I asked for too much. I…” She reached out into the air, as though she could grasp whatever it was she had been trying to reach for. “I thought I was ready for my time here to end, but I was not. I had not learned what I needed to learn.” She shook her head, then dropped her hand back into her lap. “If I had simply waited, perhaps I would have been too late for my father, perhaps not. And now I will never know what happened to my family.”
“I think we can help with that,” Edie said, lifting her head. They didn’t have Professor Strega anymore to help track down family members—but Alice’s family were all humans. They didn’t need a faerie with special knowledge to track down secretive faeries. If they could get on a genealogy site, or find any living relatives of Alice Atkins, they could probably get more of her family’s story.
“We can look for living relatives today. Did you have… well, I guess you wouldn’t have known him, since he wasn’t been born, but we found an Otis Atkins who went to Chatoyant College in 1965.”
Alice gasped, putting her hand to her mouth. “Otis is—was—my brother’s name.”
“So if this Otis was named after his grandfather, or if the name was passed down, then he’s probably a relative,” Corrie said. She turned and grinned at Edie. “Good thinking!”
“We’ll try to find him,” Edie said, “or any other living relatives you might have. Can you tell me your other family members’ names? Or where they lived?”
“It would probably help to know what years they were born,” Annie added.
“Otis was born in 1861,” Alice said in a faraway voice. “Our sister Grace was born in 1867.” She told them the names of their father and mother, uncles and aunts and cousins, and Edie wrote it all down carefully. It seemed to take her more time to remember the locations where they had lived, but she said they were all fairly close together in the next state to the south. Edie hoped they were still in that area. That would make it easier to track down anyone who remembered Alice.
“Does this help?” Annie asked.
“Yes… thank you.” Alice bowed her head for a moment, then lifted it again. “You have given me some hope. I have never had hope before.”
“I have another question, if it’s not too difficult,” Corrie said.
“Please. You have helped so much, I can hardly begrudge you another question.”
Corrie took a deep breath. “Are you able to leave this building?”
Alice looked slightly taken aback. “I do not know. I have never tried.”
“Really? Never?” Edie asked. “You were never so upset you tried to get out of the building?”
Alice frowned and put her fingers to her temple. “I… I can’t be sure. There are so many things that don’t seem to match. Memories that stop and start before they should.”
“Is there anywhere you would go, if you could leave?” Annie asked.
Alice nodded. “If I could leave, I would go to my family… but I do not know where they are now, of course.”
“I wonder if you can leave the building but not the campus,” Corrie said. “If you could leave campus, you would probably have done that way at the beginning of this and gone to your family. Is there anywhere else on campus you would go?”
“No… not that I can think of. Perhaps to the library, to see if there are any books that would explain to me exactly what I did wrong.”