Home > Redeemed (House of Night #12)(4)

Redeemed (House of Night #12)(4)
Author: P. C. Cast

She paused in the preparation of my smudging and her sharp eyes met mine. “Tell me, u-we-tsi-a-ge-ya, why did you kill those two men?”

I shook my head and brushed my tangled hair from my face. “I didn’t know that I killed them until Detective Marx came to the House of Night. All I knew was that they’d made me mad—they were hanging around Woodward Park looking for people, mostly girls, to scare into giving them money.” I paused and shook my head again. “But that doesn’t make what I did okay. Once they realized what I was, they were going to leave me alone.”

“And move on to find another victim.”

“Probably, but not one to kill. They were panhandlers not serial killers.”

“So tell me what happened. How did you kill them?”

“I threw my anger at them. Just like I’d shoved Shaylin earlier and knocked her on her butt. Only I was even madder in the park. Somehow the Seer Stone amplified my feelings and gave me the power to attack all of them.”

“But you did not kill Shaylin,” Grandma said logically. “I saw the child at the House of Night just before I came here. She looked very much alive to me.”

“No, I didn’t kill her. Not that time. Who knows what would have happened if I hadn’t taken off and found my way to the park—and vented my anger on those two men? Grandma, I was out of control. I was a monster.”

“Zoey, you did a monstrous thing. But that does not make you a monster. You turned yourself in. You gave up the Seer Stone. You allowed yourself to be imprisoned. Those are not the actions of a monster.”

“But Grandma, I killed two men!” I felt tears well in my eyes again.

“And now you will have to face the consequences of your actions. But that does not mean you may give up and cause the people who love you even more pain.”

I bit my lip. “My whole point was to take responsibility by myself so that I didn’t hurt anyone else, especially not the people I love.”

“Zoeybird, I do not know why this terrible thing has happened. I do not believe you are a killer.” She held up her hand to quiet me when I tried to speak. “Yes, I am aware the two men are dead, and that you appear to be responsible for their deaths. And yet even you admit the Seer Stone played a major role in the accident, which means Old Magick is at work.”

“Yes, I have been using it,” I said sternly.

“Or it has been using you,” she countered with.

“Either way, the results are the same.”

“For the two men. Not necessarily for you, u-we-tsi-a-ge-ya. Now, stand before me. You need your mind cleared and your spirit cleansed so that you can analyze exactly what has brought you to this cell. You see, I am not here to help you hide from what you have done. I am here so that you may truly face it.”

As always, Grandma was the voice of reason and of unconditional love. I stood and allowed myself the brief, small comfort of watching her cradle the oyster shell in one hand while with the other she placed a tiny round piece of charcoal on top of the herbal mixture and lit it. As it sparked, she said, “Three deep breaths, u-we-tsi-a-ge-ya. And with each, release the toxic energy that clouds your mind and darkens your spirit. Envision it, Zoeybird. What color is it?”

“A sick green,” I said, thinking of the disgusting stuff that had come out of my nose last time I’d had a sinus infection.

“Excellent. Breathe out and envision ridding yourself of it along with your breath.”

The charcoal had stopped sparkling and was beginning to gray around the edges. Grandma reached into the black velvet pouch and began sprinkling the herbs over the coal, saying, “I thank you, spirit of white sage, for your strength, your purity, your power.” Sweet smoke began to lift from the oyster shell. “I thank you, spirit of cedar, for your divine nature, for your ability to create a bridge between earth and Otherworld.”

More smoke lifted and I breathed deeply in and out, in and out.

“And, as always, I thank you, spirit of lavender, for your soothing nature, for your ability to allow us to release our anger and to embrace calm.” Then Grandma began walking a clockwise circle around me, shuffling her feet in an ancient, heartbeat rhythm that seemed to electrify the fragrant smoke and pulse it into my body as she wafted it around me with her eagle feather. Not missing a beat in her dance, Grandma’s voice paired with her movements, echoing through her blood to mine. “Out with what is toxic—green and bile-like. In with sweet smoke—silver and pure.”

I concentrated as she moved around me, falling into the ritual as easily as I had throughout my childhood.

“Draw in healing. Draw in cleansing. Draw in calming. Green bile, gone it will be. Replaced by silver and clarity,” Grandma sang to me.

I lifted my hands, guiding the smoke around my head, concentrating on the silver cleansing.

“O-s-da,” Grandma said, then repeated in English, “Good. You are regaining your center.”

I’d been lulled into a sleepy, trance-like state by the smoke and Grandma’s song. I blinked, as if surfacing from a deep dive, and my eyes widened with surprise. Clearly visible through the smoke was a bright silver light that, bubble-like, surrounded Grandma and me.

“That is what you are projecting now, Zoeybird. It has taken the place of the Darkness that was within you.”

I drew another deep breath, feeling an amazing lightness in my chest. Gone was the terrible tightness that had been there when I’d begun coughing. Gone was the awful sense of despair that had been with me for—

For how long? I wondered. Now that it was gone, I realized how smothering it had been.

Grandma had halted in front of me. She placed the still-smoking oyster shell between us at our feet, and then she took my hands in hers.

“I do not know everything. I do not have the answers you seek. I cannot do more than cleanse and heal your mind and spirit. I cannot take you from this place or change the past that has brought you here. I can only love you and remind you of this one, small rule that I have tried to live my life by: I cannot control others. I can only control myself and my reactions to others. And when all else fails, I choose kindness. I show compassion. Then, if I have made poor choices, I have at least not damaged my spirit.”

“I failed in doing that, Grandma.”

“Failed—that is past tense, and you should leave that failure in the past where it belongs. Learn from your mistakes and move on. Do not fail again, u-we-tsi-a-ge-ya. That means if you must stand trial and go to prison for this terrible thing that has happened, then you do so speaking with truth and acting with compassion—as would a High Priestess of your Goddess.”

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