“Thomas is almost here,” Matthew said.
“He’s already trying to bridge the barrier,” Donny said, confirming Matthew’s information. “I can’t stop him. He’s too powerful.”
Bethany dropped the cheese she was eating on the floor and held her hands out towards the cave’s entrance. She chanted and moaned. Samantha added her alto tones to Bethany’s soprano.
“Our historians knew what they were talking about when they said Thomas was one of the most powerful dark witches of all time,” Samantha said. “If that doesn’t keep him out, we’re all doomed.”
“I don’t understand,” Laura said. “I thought no witch knew about this cave until two hundred years from now, but Uncle just found it.”
“We altered the cave’s history by bringing you here. Hopefully not too much, but we won’t know how much until we arrive in the future.”
“He cast another spell,” Bethany said, loudly. “It’s pushing the barriers towards us.”
“We need to keep him out until mid-afternoon tomorrow.” Yannis broke into the conversation with his rough voice. “Longer, if possible.”
“I think we can do that,” Donny said, “so long as he doesn’t call for a back-up.”
“There’s another witch with him,” Matthew said, softly.
Terrance stretched with his whole body towards the cave’s mouth. “You’re right. But he’s there against his will. I smell fear and resistance.”
Samantha put her palms flat on the barrier. “I can’t feel anything, which means Thomas can’t see us. I bet he captured John, which is probably how he got here so fast. I hope John sent a message to the coven at York before Thomas caught him.”
“What good will that do? None of them has half Thomas’ power.”
“Only one witch living in present day England can stop him,” Samantha said.
“Yes. Let’s hope she gets the message.”
Padma laughed a light-hearted tinkling sound. “I phoned Robert Long before we left. He promised to come as soon as he could.”
“But he lives in Australia!”
“Have you ever met him? He’ll manage.” Padma said, and her mischievous laugh rang through the cave.
Bethany turned away from studying the cave’s access point. “Shhh,” she said, whispering. “If he hears you, it will give him a handhold. Keep the volume down.”
They grew quiet, everyone paying attention to the tension in Bethany and Donny’s posture. Samantha started chanting, under her breath. Padma stroked David’s back. “It’s okay,” she said, quietly. “Every witch has their specialty. Donny is a barrier specialist. It would be difficult for anyone to break his spell. Beth and Samantha are pretty fierce, too.”
“What about the hole the light comes through?” Laura asked. “Could he enter through there?”
“He could,” Donny said, “but we’re holding that tight, too.”
After a while, the tension in the room dropped. Bethany left the passage entrance. Samantha stopped chanting and looked less worried. She explained that Thomas’ spell had failed. “Sit next to me,” she said to Laura. She pointed to the stump on her right. “David and Matthew, you need to hear this, too. Padma and Yannis, feel free to chime in.”
They situated themselves in a circle around Samantha. She picked up Laura’s hand and studied it. “You get stronger minute by minute. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Laura had noticed a slight buzzing in her hands while her uncle was trying to break into the cave. She held her hands out in front of her. They radiated a little bit of a nice purple.
Samantha shook her head as if to clear it. “Here’s the deal. We will give each of you a stone that we picked up when we left our time. You must place it next to your hearts. It’s your most important guide into the future, but there are two others: the web and us. Laura may be able to see the threads by tomorrow, or at least to feel them, but Matthew, you and David won’t.”
“I’m not okay,” Yannis said, abruptly, “with Matthew coming. It will only create trouble.”
“Why?” Laura asked. “I have known him all my life. We love each other.”
“That’s one problem. No witch can marry a reptile. Especially not you.”
“Not true,” Padma said. “You don’t know your history, do you? Matthew has both reptile and witch blood.”
“What?” Terrance said. “I don’t smell any.”
Matthew sniffed his own armpits and shook his head.
“We knew about him when we planned this operation, so we thoroughly investigated his heritage. It’s only the barest trace of witch, diluted through the centuries by human matings, but it’s there. He has even fewer reptile genes. He’s not a danger.”
Laura had grabbed Matthew’s arm. She clung to him. “I won’t go without him,” she insisted.
“Fine,” Yannis said and folded his arms. He stared at Matthew as if he could see into his soul.
“Are you finished? Because we have a lot of ground to cover,” Samantha said.
Yannis nodded, though he looked angry.
“The web is made up of golden and silver threads. Silver runs through space. If you follow a silver thread, all points on it have the same time.”
“Gold is time?” Laura asked.
“Yes. You don’t want to go very far along a silver one and end up outside this cave.”
“Spells often show up as extra threads, weaving at a diagonal, or as holes in the web. You want to avoid passing through one, so stay alert,” Padma added.
“I hate to interrupt, but I need you again,” Donny said. Everyone tensed. Bethany and Samantha began chanting.
“I smell blood,” Terrence and Matthew said, in unison.
“Damn. A sacrifice,” Samantha said. “I hope Lady Margaret or Robert arrives soon.”
They heard rumbling. A rock fell off the wall. “He’s trying to bring the roof down on us,” Padma said. “Yannis?”
Laura shivered. Matthew put his arms around her. David left Padma’s lap for the safety of his sister’s. “Are we going to live?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” she said. The three of them huddled, while the witches worked together to protect the cliff and the cave within it. The ground rumbled and stilled, then rumbled louder and louder. The sound of rocks crashing into each other filled the cave. The earth shook. Rocks flew at them from the top of the cave. Laura leaned over David, terrified, hoping to protect him from the debris.She tucked her head under her arms, then felt Matthew put his body over hers. “I won’t let you die,” he shouted. The noise went on and on, then gradually stopped. The earth stilled until the only sound came from their coughing.
Laura untangled herself. She still shook with fear. Everyone else looked just as scared as herself. Even Padma had turned white.
“Landslide,” said Terrence, breaking the silence.
“We deflected his energy to another part of the hill, but couldn’t stop it altogether,” Yannis said, rubbing his hands together, then patting them on his breeches as if cleaning them. “We barely managed to prevent him from closing the cave’s entrance and trapping us.”
“I thought you couldn’t send magic out of here,” Laura said.
“We opened the walls for an instant, right when he threw his spell,” Samantha said. “Very dangerous, if we had missed, but we had little choice. We can’t take that risk again. He’ll step right in. We’d better hope he doesn’t try the same thing.”
“He won’t. He needed a witch’s heart for that spell,” Donny said.
“No!” Samantha said and started sobbing.
Padma patted Samantha’s back. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I know how you felt about John.”
“That bastard,” Samantha said. “I’ll make sure he dies a very ugly death.”
A little smile crept across Laura’s face.