Heck, I wasn’t even really sure where they were. They could have been working in a building next door for all I knew.
The text was from my dad: “HAVE FUN THIS WEEK AT THE DANCE! BUT NOT TOO MUCH FUN! WE LOVE YOU!”
Like I said, sweet and sad at the same time. I tucked the phone away again and when Scout’s phone beeped, I jumped. She looked at the screen, read the message, then glanced at me.
“What?” I asked.
“The magical blackout—it’s not just us.”
“Worse,” Scout said. “All the Adepts in the city.”
“Awesome,” I sarcastically said, ’cause it totally wasn’t.
* * *
Daniel instructed us to meet him at the Enclave, which wasn’t as easy as it sounded. Enclave Three was located in the underground tunnels. So to get there, we had to sneak through the school from the dorms to the main building, through the basement to the door that led to the tunnels, and then through those tunnels to the Enclave.
Was it weird that the tunnels were actually starting to feel like home? I mean, I’d walked through them, laughed in them, and firespelled my best friend in them. They weren’t exactly cozy, but they also weren’t as uncomfortable as they had been before. Not awesome, but not horrible.
When we reached the giant wooden door that kept the Enclave safe from the things that roamed the tunnels, we knocked and walked inside.
The mood was not good.
Enclave Three was a vaulted stone room built into one of the tunnels. The walls were covered in mosaics, but the room was mostly empty except for a round table that Daniel had added so we actually had a place to sit and talk. Now we were the Adepts of the Round Table! Somehow, Scout never found that funny.
The rest of the Adepts—Paul, Jamie, Jill, Michael, and Jason—were already seated around the table, waiting for us to begin.
Paul was a magically enhanced warrior. He was tall, with dark skin and curly hair. His girlfriend, Jamie, was a witch with fire power, and her twin sister, Jill, had comparable skills with ice. The twins were slender, with long auburn hair and pale skin. They were identical, so there was something ghostly about them when they stood side by side.
Jason and Michael sat side by side, both staring at their cell phones. Along with Scout, we made up the Adepts of Chicago’s Enclave Three. Well, the “Junior Varsity” squad, anyway. We got the nickname because we were all still in high school.
Daniel, our Varsity Adept, was nowhere to be seen. He was our recently appointed team leader and a sophomore at Northwestern University. He got full varsity status because he was in college.
He was also the kind of hot that needed two syllables to pronounce. Hah-awt. Tall, curly blond hair, blue eyes. Very easy on the eyes, and a total doll as far as I could tell. And I was doubly lucky: I loved to draw, and Daniel was my studio art teacher at St. Sophia’s.
Daniel had replaced Katie and Smith—last names unknown—our former team leaders. They were the Adepts who’d been willing to throw Scout to the wolves, who’d refused to help rescue her when she’d been taken by Reapers. They’d been coming to Enclave meetings less and less lately, not that I was going to complain. I wasn’t a fan.
As we took seats at the table, Michael immediately gave Scout dopey eyes, and Jason gave me the intense ones. I took the chair next to his and squeezed his hand.
“Where’s Daniel?” I asked.
“Not here yet,” Paul said. “He’s on his way.”
“You’re okay?” Jason whispered.
I nodded. “I’m fine. I’d been working on decorations for Sneak. On the way back to the dorm, one of the other decoration committee girls was being used by a Reaper for fuel. I tried to firespell him, but nothing happened. I managed to knock him out, and that’s when Foley showed up. Foley’s our headmistress,” I added for the rest of the Adepts.
Jason’s expression tightened at the admission I’d been in trouble, and then it went a little fierce . . . and protective. That sent a little thrill through me.
“Scout tried her magic,” I continued, “and it’s not working for her, either. That’s when she called Daniel. What about you?” I scanned him up and down, as if that glance would be enough to tell me whether his magic had been affected. “Are you okay?”
“I can still change,” he said, but he didn’t seem thrilled about it. If the blackout wasn’t affecting him, maybe having a “curse” wasn’t all bad.
“It’s not magic exactly,” he added, “so I’m fine.”
“Which means the blackout is only affecting magic,” Michael said. “The other Enclaves are having the same problem. But given what Lily saw, it doesn’t look like Reapers are having the same trouble.”
“The Reaper’s magic worked,” I added. “And there’s a new stone angel on the grounds to prove it.”
“Free landscaping for all,” Scout muttered.
“Maybe he just got in one last lucky shot,” Michael said. “I can’t read anything.” He looked sad, and even his curls looked a little droopier than usual.
“No ice for me,” Jill said.
“And no fire, either,” Jamie added.
We looked at Paul. “I couldn’t even beat up a puppy with magic,” he said, “not that I’d want to.” But then he grinned cheekily and flexed his biceps, which weren’t bad. “But I can still use my own talents.”
“Show-off,” Scout said with a wink. “And that brings us full circle.”
“So none of us has magic,” I said.
“It’s like nightfall, but with charms,” Michael said. “You know, the sunset of our magical careers or something. Total charmfall.”
“Charmfail,” Jason coughed.
“In addition to the charmfall or charmfail or whatever,” Jill said, “a Reaper was draining a human out in the open in the middle of downtown Chicago. He was outside, and it doesn’t sound like he was trying to hide it.”
Reapers were usually behind-the-scenes types. They snuggled up to otherwise happy teenagers and sucked their energy a little at a time, leaving behind a depressed kid and not a lot of answers for parents and friends.
“You’re thinking Reapers are changing their strategy?” Jason asked.
Jill shrugged. “I’m just saying it’s a fact we should pay attention to.”
“He was young,” I said. “He wouldn’t be losing his magic, so he shouldn’t have needed the energy.”