“No, no, no.”
I threw myself against the terminal until my palms burned, trying to find the way in through the path of magical connections. The terminal stayed solid, the Crystic closed. Whatever skill the thaumaticians had developed to slide along the web between the terminals, I did not yet have it. That didn’t stop me from trying.
“Nova,” Fogwillow said.
“No, no, no.”
“Nova.” Fogwillow grabbed my arm and pulled me, twisting, away from the terminal. “Stop.”
I wriggled free. “You’ve never liked her! You let her get captured.”
“Nova, that’s ridiculous.”
“Why did you come after me?”
“To rescue you.”
“Why didn’t you get her first? She was closer!”
“Nova, I didn’t know where anybody was. I woke up to empty bedrooms and the shiftie camp halfway to being torn down. I followed my gut.”
“Well your gut is stupid.”
“You need some sleep, Nova. We’ll go back to Bo’s. You can rest.”
“I’m not going backward. We need to find the shifties. We need to get Candle back, and we need to disappear into the wild. Permanently. I don’t want any goals and I don’t want anyone following us. It’ll just be us three!”
“We can go find the shifties once you’ve settled down.”
“You’re not listening! We need to go find them now.” I threw myself at the terminal again. The sharp edges dug into my skin. Fogwillow grabbed my arm again to pull me back, but I shook her free. “Stop touching me!” I summoned my staff and held it to the terminal. Connecting to the Crystic, I pulled up all the magic I could and sent it barreling out the end. There was an explosion of sparks and a bang that shook the surrounding trees. I flew backward, landing in a heap, my staff disintegrating back into the Crystic. I scrambled to my feet and headed toward the terminal again.
“Nova, stop.” Fogwillow planted herself in my path. When I approached, she steeled herself, and I think she expected me to throw myself at her. But I stopped.
“Power my prisms,” I said.
I turned and lifted my shirt, showing her my back. “Power my prisms.” Over my shoulder, I could see Fogwillow flinch away in disgust. She was trying not to look at them.
“I’m not doing that.”
“Power them. Maybe with enough magic I can get through.”
“Where will you go?”
“Yillig. That’s where they’re going, I heard them say. Yillig to Eldehill. We can cut them off before they get there.”
“I’m not powering those things. Put your shirt down. Look at me.”
“You look at me! What is wrong with you? Am I that disgusting?”
“That’s not what—”
I lowered my shirt and spun on her, shoving her shoulders. She stumbled, surprised. A small, insidious voice was chattering in my mind, ceaseless. I didn’t believe what it was saying, but I couldn’t get it to stop. “Why are you holding me back?”
Fogwillow froze. “Is that what you think I’m doing?”
“Everything I want to do, you disapprove of.”
“That’s simply not true. We have followed your lead every step of the way, Nova. You wanted to go to the thaumaticians, we went to the thaumaticians.”
“Except I didn’t even staving want to go to the thaumaticians! It was all just, it was another…” Words failed me. Again. My head felt like it was about to burst. There was so much inside of me, everything, every thought, every feeling, everything from the past two days, ever since we arrived in Smoke Town, roiling and bubbling up, one on top of the other, and my words weren’t enough to get it all out. I needed a new pressure valve. So I summoned my staff.
Fogwillow, miraculously, was ready for me. I heaved a blast of power her direction that scraped the dew from the ground and sent it flying. Fogwillow raised her own staff and blocked, sending the energy petering away. She swung her staff up and slammed it down. The blast took me in the knees and flipped me to the ground. Hard.
I jabbed my staff out again. Curls of icicle cherry snapped from the end, which Fogwillow easily blocked. She volleyed by sending a punch of magic directly to my gut and I flew backward, flipping sideways across the glade.
Before I could roll to a stop, I tipped into the shallow brook, and the icy water splashed down the back of my shirt. Shouting with rage, I came to my knees, gathering so much magic that my skin thrummed against bone and muscle, and the water around me began to steam from the hot, lightning charged force of the Crystic. Fogwillow was marshaling her own power, but I cut her efforts short, pushing my sheer staving will through the pinprick precision point of my staff. The magic tore the ground up in its path. Fogwillow’s eyes went wide and she tried to block, but the force of it battered her down, and she stumbled to the ground.
I sprang from the brook and ran toward her, sending peal after peal of magic before me, weaker this time. She flicked them away wildly, rising and letting loose a pop of energy that sent my staff flying from my hands. I didn’t care. I kept coming, empty-handed. Fogwillow raised her defenses, then caught sight of the look in my eye, and her shoulders slumped, her fight suddenly spent. She lowered her staff and closed her eyes as I rushed her.
The collision was painful, bone hitting bone, heads knocked together, fingers grasping. I knocked her to the ground in a flurry of cloak and limb and hair. She smelled like steckleberries. I flailed, and then her arms began to close around me, containing me. I struggled, trying to fight, but her embrace was slow and unavoidable. It brought me in. Close. Smaller and firmer, bringing me to stillness. She hugged me to her chest until I couldn’t move, and we both lay on the ground, pinned to each other. I started to cry.
“What do you want to do, Nova?” Fogwillow said after a while.
“I want…I want to sleep. And then…then, I want to go to Yillig.”
“Then sleep. And worry about Yillig later. There will be time. Plenty of time. We have all the time in the world.”
Except we didn’t. And we were too stupid even then to realize that the window was rapidly closing.
“You never know what you’ve never known,” she said.
“And you’ll always know what is ever known,” I replied.