AN: So, good news, everyone. I've gotten to the part of the story where time starts moving. I know its been slow moving thus far. That is about to change.

CHAPTER 8: The Others

9/13/2015


Before Eliot knew it another week and a half had passed and he still had not talked to Alice, or Penny, or Kady. It was now coming up on the end of the second week of classes. He had just a week left before the Equinox. He had to find time (read: stop making excuses) to talk to Alice. She was the more knowledgeable and reasonable among those still not aware of Eliot's origins and would therefore be easier to approach. In theory.

Julia had reported that she had made a tentative friendship with Alice based upon their mutual intellect. Julia was trying to drop hints that she could come to her for help, but Eliot, knowing Alice's pride when it came to performing magic, didn't think that would be enough. If all else failed Julia would just find her on the Equinox and offer her help. It's what Penny had done, so it should work. It's not like Alice could perform the spell with less than four people, it would be too unstable even if she got it to work at all.

Meanwhile, Eliot had actually finished the first Fillory book and was now halfway through the second. Margo was now rereading the first book. While she had read them when she was younger it had been several years since the last time, and she wanted to make sure she was ready for whatever Fillory threw at her.

On this Thursday afternoon, however, Eliot was on the patio on the back side of the physical cottage practicing the advanced physical spells from the book Margo had found on using physical magic in a magical fight. He was nearly finished with the book and ready to find another text. He was working on a spell to lock someone in place like they were frozen in time- results vary, the spell warned. He wanted to try it on Fogg and see how it did against a nearly-master magician.

He noticed Quentin approaching from the other side of the cottage. Over the last week both Julia and Quentin had become regulars at the cottage. The rest of the residents gave them funny looks the first few times but didn't blink an eye anymore.

"Hey, Q," Eliot greeted him, pausing in his spellcasting.

"Hey."

"Where's Julia?"

"Studying in the library."

"With Alice?"

"No. According to Jules, Alice is not working on schoolwork and snaps at anyone who approaches her in the library."

"Yeah. She was the same way last time."

"Julia says she just studies near her and helps snap at people who disturb the quiet. It's slowly creating a minor bond."

"Good. Did you see Abby today?" Eliot asked. Quentin had promised to go in to see the healer who worked with magicians with psychiatric conditions.

"Yeah. She recommended staying on what I'm currently taking. Changing my meds could mess me up more since they take two weeks to start working. So she wants to keep me on them and see how I'm doing in a couple weeks.

"She's added a weekly potion which will reduce side-effects and help with mental clarity. She also gave me a potion for emergencies. Apparently it's a very mild version of the emotion bottle."

"I hope it's really mild. Drinking three hours worth of emotions will really fuck up your shit. I speak from experience."

"Yeah, she said it had a similar effect but instead of bottling emotion this potion will just allow some detachment from the emotion. Abby said it's for when I can't handle my emotions, whether it's depression or panic attacks. It'll fuck your casting for a day, so it is only for emergencies. I'm not even allowed to keep it. If I need it I have to go to the infirmary and a healing student will give me the dose."

"What about when you're so fucked up you can't move?" Eliot asked, alarmed.

"I asked, she said that I'd better not let myself get that far, for one. But if it does happen I can send a friend to fetch a healer. She warned me that if it happens she'll be seeing me weekly until further notice and that it will be mandatory."

"Damn. So, I guess you'd better speak up if you start feeling that way."

"Yeah. Jules said she'd be there to help if it happens, but she'll kick my ass afterwards, with prejudice," Quentin said with a chuckle.

"I'll be here, too, Q. Anything you need."

"Thanks."

"How're you classes going?" Eliot asked, and the conversation switched to a more neutral topic.

"Fine. My professors say I'm picking it all up rather rapidly. I'm not on Julia's or Alice's level but I'm not far behind either." There was a proud smile on his face.

Eliot was pleasantly surprised to hear that. Quentin 40 had always been terrified he'd be kicked out. Eliot had thought his grades must have been poor if that was the case. He honestly didn't know if this was a result of Quentin 41 being on his medications, or if Quentin 40 had just freaked needlessly. Both were distinct possibilities.

"Good. I'm glad you're doing well."

"All this life-or-death extra studying we're doing is really helpful. Not to mention the idea that a beast is coming to kill us is excellent motivation to master magic quickly."

"Yes it is."

"You get around to telling Alice, yet?"

"Nope, I'm still avoiding that," Eliot confessed.

"You're gonna have to stop procrastinating, Eliot. You only have ten days left till the Equinox."

"I know, I know! But I just-"

"What, El? What's stopping you?"

"I don't want to yell at her."

"What are you talking about?"

"When Q40 died, everyone kept looking at Alice40 like she was a grieving widow. She had gotten back together with you for all of one day and yet she was allowed to cry and mourn like she had the claim to being your widow."

"And you're mad at her for that?"

"Kinda?" Eliot half said, half asked.

"Or maybe you're actually mad that Quentin 40 really did love her?" Quentin questioned knowingly.

Eliot gave Q a guilty look. How did he know Eliot so well already? "Am I that obvious?"

"It's what I might feel, in your shoes. I mean, I'm a bit jealous of that wife you had and I know you're not even that attracted to women."

"You're jealous of Fen?"

"A little."

"That's so cute," Eliot gushed with a laugh.

"Fuck off," Quentin replied without any heat, giving him a smile.

Eliot sighed. "So I'm mad at her for being someone Quentin 40 loved. That is fucked up. And possibly unfair, especially since this isn't that Alice."

"You know it doesn't mean he didn't love you, right? I am capable of loving multiple people at a time."

"I know. And Alice 40 knew you loved me, too. We avoided each other for weeks, trying to give each other room to grieve."

"You two had something in common. You both loved, and were loved by, Quentin 40. But, Eliot, this Alice and I are not the Quentin and Alice you knew. You get that, don't you?"

"Sometimes. Sometimes I forget."

"You don't have to compete with Alice 41 for my attention. You've got it already. That look in your eyes when you think I'm not looking, it's pretty heady. I'm already getting addicted to it."

"What look?"

"The one that says 'you're my world'. I'm not going anywhere, El. We have time to make some excellent memories, whatever our future holds."

"Not if we don't get to work. Where are you in your basic studies?"

"Popper 250-280."

"Don't forget to keep practicing 1-250. Your fingers need constant practice."

"I know," said Quentin, pulling out his book. Seeing that he was now working, Eliot went back to his own work.

The girls joined them a few hours later. Julia brought a book she had found on meta-composition. She found the area easy for her, and Eliot recalled that it was a Knowledge discipline. He had never heard the exact area of Knowledge Julia's discipline was in, so he was not sure if that was hers or not. And he had no idea if disciplines changed at all from one timeline to another.

Margo had a battle magic text out and was reviewing the spells. She wasn't ready to cast yet, Eliot thinks, but she wanted to be ready for Martin's attack on the first years. So she was attempting a few select spells in the book she had. Eliot was joining her as he had finished with the physical magic for magical battles text as well and didn't feel like meditating just now.

Quentin was trying to meditate. He had read the texts that Eliot and Margo had found and had been trying to put the practices into place for the last week. It was hard going for him as he had one of those minds that didn't like to quiet down. His brain was always thinking, which often wasn't a good thing as far as he was concerned. It also made meditation difficult.

This was how the four friends usually spent their days. They attended classes in the morning and early afternoon. They did their homework and studied- well, most of them. Eliot didn't spend much time on that since he had long since mastered what his classmates were learning. But the other three did not have his advantage and needed to actually study the material.

After completing course work for their classes they worked on their advanced studies. Julia and Quentin worked ahead in their textbooks to master the basics. Then they would be able to start trying non-class spells after this week. Eliot was planning to help tutor them in some of the physical spells he had found that might be helpful in a magical fight.

Margo studied ahead and worked on further mastering the spells she found as well as looking for more spells to try. She meditated and was already learning to find that clam place that was needed to use battle magic reliably. When she needed a break she would read Fillory and Further to be ready to go to the real Fillory.

The four friends were not always together when not in class, but they were in a group more often than not. For Eliot it was familiar to be surrounded by these people, even if he had never spent much time with Julia before. For Margo it was still very new to be hanging around people other than Eliot, but she was adjusting like the king she was. Quentin and Julia were used to hanging around one another whether they interacted with them or not and were not phased by the addition of two more.

Well, for the most part they were unphased. It still sometimes shocked Quentin that he was hanging around the Brakebills' equivalent of the popular kids. He found it weird that said popular kids liked him and wanted him around. They weren't just trying to prank him, they genuinely cared for him. It was a new feeling. A feeling he kinda liked and wanted more of it.


ALICEALICE

Sunday afternoon Eliot was on a mission to find Alice Quinn. He had been putting this off long enough. It was time to talk to her, warn her.

He searched the library, where she was known to spend hours studying and researching. There were many students in the library, so it took him a while to search the whole thing. Most Brakebills magicians were also the geeky types, those who were above the curve when it came to intelligence. So, the library, the house of knowledge, was more packed than might be typical at another college.

There was no sign of the blonde Eliot was looking for in the library. Eliot checked her dorm room which she shared with Julia. The room was empty. She wasn't in the cafe, or in the practice room. Eliot wished he knew her better and knew where to look. He couldn't even do a simple locator spell as he didn't have anything that belonged to her. Damnit, where is she?

Eliot finally found her sitting outside by the Wolf fountain. That was a bit ironic. Alice's brother Charlie had niffined out here outside this very fountain five years ago. As far as Eliot knew, Alice was currently unaware of this fact.

"Alice Quinn?" Eliot called as if he didn't know.

"Whatever you want help with, find someone else," Alice snapped, not even looking up.

"I'm not really in need of your help, I just wanted to talk to you," Eliot tried.

"Well I don't want to talk to you!"

"It's not really gonna be a two-way conversation," he said.

"Tell it to someone else."

"Nope. Has to be you."

"Go away!" Eliot had forgotten just how prickly she had been before Quentin had befriended her. Eliot wished that he had the same natural draw that Quentin possessed. Quentin just had this natural ability to make people care. Whether it was to care about him, about magic, about themselves, he just drew people into his circle. Maybe if it was Quentin here instead of him she would listen.

"Look, Alice, I have something important to tell you, and it can't wait."

"Well I have no need to hear what you have to say," Alice shot back, finally looking up from her work in order to glare at him.

"Yes, you do. What do you know about horomancy?"

"Nothing you can't learn from a book," she snapped.

"I'm not grilling you for information! Honestly, I know more than you anyway, I just need to know where I need to start in my explanation."

"You can start by leaving, like I said."

"I'm not leaving. I need to talk to you, and it would really help if you weren't so hostile."

"Fine! If you won't go, I will." Alice started packing up her books ready to storm away, Eliot was sure.

"If you leave, I'll follow you."

"What the hell do you want from me?!"

"I just want you to listen. You can tell me to fuck off when I'm done, but I'm not going to leave until you listen to what I have to tell you."

"Why should I?"

"Cause it might save your life," he said in exasperation. At this she stared at him, trying to read his face.

"How?"

"Among other things, I'm here to warn you."

"About what?" she asked.

"The summoning you want to do to call your brother, it's not gonna work," he said quietly. Alice's eyes widened. As far as she knew there was no way he could know what she was trying to do.

"How do you-"

"Horomancy. What do you know about it?" he repeated.

"I know it's difficult magic no second-year physical student would be able to perform."

"Oh, I didn't do the spell," he said with a smirk.

"But- then who did?"

"Ever heard of the Merken Ziet ritual?"

"No."

"What do you know about timeloops?"

"Not much. The few things I've heard said you can't confirm if they exist unless you are the creator. No info on how you could create one, though."

"With certain magical devices created by gods or an actual horomancy expert, it's possible to create a time loop."

"Why would anyone do that, though?"

"To stop a tragic event. Like say, the death of a brother or lover."

"Seems there should be a simpler way to save said person," she muttered.

"Necromancy is nefariously unstable, Alice," Eliot responded.

"What's this got to do with me anyway?"

"The Merken Ziet ritual is a specialized spell to send the memories of someone to an alternate version of themselves. Generally, this is from one timeloop to another."

"Okay. Still not seeing the relevance."

"I asked some friends to do the ritual on me," Eliot said. Alice didn't take but a couple of seconds to grasp his meaning. She was a quick thinker, always had been.

"You're trying to tell me we're in a timeloop?"

"Yes."

"How do you plan to prove that? Even if there are spells that can create a timeloop, it doesn't mean you're not lying."

"That's why I'm talking to you now. The summoning you're planning? It's not gonna call Charlie. The beast that answers the call will come and attack the first year class. He'll try and kill Qu-Quentin. Hell, he might try and take you out, too, given what happened last time."

"How do you know about Charlie?"

"Timeloop. We were friends, of sorts."

"Right. A party boy like yourself and a socially awkward nerd like me were friends," she said sarcastically.

"We had a mutual friend. He kinda binded us together," Eliot admitted.

"I don't have friends. Nor do I want friends."

"I know you think that now, Alice. But friends are there for you whether you want them to be or not."

"So, what, are you trying to tell me not to do the summoning?"

"No, I'm not. As much as it will put all of you first-years in danger, it will also help prove my claim to the three of you who aren't involved yet."

"Involved in what?"

"In surviving the beast. Stopping him from killing us. He wants all magic for himself. I know magic is not exactly something you love, and I can't blame you, given your history. But there are those who are only alive because of what magic has given them."

"So, what are you saying? That I should do the spell, even though you claim a monster will try and kill us if I do?"

"Not a monster. A beast. Let's hope we never face the monster this time, okay? No, do the spell or not, I know the risks so I'm not telling you which to do. You have to make the decision yourself."

"Do you know what happened to Charlie?" Alice asked.

"Do you actually believe me?"

"It's not impossible, I suppose. Couldn't hurt to hear what you may know."

"Charlie was trying to reverse a spell a girl in his year had done to make herself prettier," Alice's face showed her horror. As a daughter of magicians she was well aware of the risks of performing such spells. "The magic was too much, yet he refused to stop. He, I'm sorry Alice, he became a niffin."

"How do you even know this?"

"We were friends."

"I don't think I'd tell you."

"No, you didn't tell me. You told our mutual friend and many, many years later he told me."

"Why? Why would he tell you? Why did I tell him?"

"You two were close. He helped you do the summoning, helped you find out what happened. He told me once when he was grieving a friend who had also gone niffin."

"Still, it wasn't his place-"

"Maybe not. But he was a mess and desperately wanted to reverse it. Your previous self had cobbled together a couple aspects of a spell to do reverse a niffin. He was looking into your research, trying to finish it."

"Shit."

"Yeah."

The two of them sat together in silence for a few moments. Alice was most likely processing what Eliot had told her, deciding whether or not to believe him. Eliot, himself, was just thinking back to the days when Quentin was trying to save Alice from being niffin.

Eliot had been dealing with his own crap in Fillory. Learning to run a country he knew nothing about. Trying to teach basic farming techniques to people who had relied on magic for ages. Trying to prevent a war with a neighboring kingdom. And missing his best male friend who was so lost to grief for the girl he had truly loved.

"I don't know if I should believe you or not," Alice said finally, shaking Eliot out of his own thoughts.

"I know it's difficult to trust, Alice. I'm not pushing you here. But be careful, okay?"

"No one has really cared about me since Charlie died," she said, sharing some small amount of herself with him. He smiled at her in understanding.

"I know what that's like. Brakebills was the first place I found someone who cared about me as well."

"Crappy family?" she asked, not unkindly.

Eliot didn't respond. He had only ever shared his family details with two people. He wasn't about to change that now. Alice didn't press him, seeming to understand he wasn't gonna talk to her about it.

"Yeah, I get it," she said. Eliot knew that she did understand. While Alice's parents loved her, they were not adept at showing that. Plus, her parents threw the kind of parties that no child under the age of thirteen should even know about. Even he didn't talk so openly to his kids about sex as to engourage orgies! But he was never close enough with Alice for him to share his own trauma.

"Well, good luck with your spell. And for what it's worth, you were always the best magician among us," Eliot said, getting up from his seat and leaving her to her thoughts. Now that he had told Alice, he just had to talk to Penny and Kady. That was more likely to result in someone getting punched. He just didn't want it to be him.


TIMETOGETAMOVEON

It took Eliot a few more days to pin down Penny and Kady and have a talk with them. It seemed that Penny 41 and Kady 41 were together in this timeline as they had been in the last timeline. It was more familiar to him then the Penny/Julia couple that Penny 23 had mentioned. Penny was a hardass and Julia was more gentle. Sure, she was a badass bitch when she wanted to be, but unless you pissed her off she was a loving, spirited woman.

The talk with the two of them went pretty much as he expected. When he finally told them he had the memories of the future version of another timeline they told him to fuck off. He told them what was coming for them in the next few weeks, as well as making illusions to his personal knowledge of them.

Kady was shocked when he told her where to find the Emerson's Alloy Repellent that Marina wanted. He warned her that she might prefer to keep it for when the beast attacks, but was unsure if she'd listen. Marina had a stranglehold on her right now, and he doubted she really believed him.

Penny was ready to flay him alive after what he told Kady frightened her. Eliot was quick to demonstrate that he was a stronger magician and he'd better be careful. Eliot had spent two years using magic to fight for his life, Penny as a first year student in his first month at Brakebills had nothing on him. Especially since he was a psychic, not exactly the best magic in a fight.

Eliot warned him that the voice he always listened to was trying to manipulate him to use him to kill people. Penny didn't know that voice was Martin Chatwin, magic-hoarding, sociopathic killer. Eliot didn't tell him much, only that the voice belonged to someone who wanted to use him as well as kill him and several other students.

"If you get my friends killed I will make your life, what little you will have left, hell on earth, or any other world for that matter," Eliot warned him.

"Fuck off, psycho!" was Penny's less than witty comeback.

"We'll talk more when your class is attacked."

"Whatever," Kady said, walking off with Penny following.

They didn't believe him and Eliot had not expected them to. Time would tell whether they would become allies sooner or later. Martin would try and kill all travelers in a few months, at that point Penny would need them if he wanted to survive.

Eliot and his three close friends continued to prepare for the attack and later battles with Martin. Eliot and Margo were perfecting the spells they had learned from the text about using physical magic in a magical battle. They were making slow progress on using battle magic, but were getting a few spells to do something. Only long-term meditation was going to make it a reliable tool, but that took time. It was unclear whether or not six months of meditation would make much of a difference in their ability to cast battle magic.

Alice was finally warming up a bit to Julia. She had asked her bluntly if she knew Eliot Waugh's secret. When Julia admitted she knew, Alice had questioned her further. She asked if she believed him and why. After that conversation Alice had allowed Julia to help her do the spell. Julia was a talented magician and Alice and her worked well together academically.

The night of the Equinox was tomorrow and Eliot was a nervous wreck. He paced in his room where he, Q, and Margo were making some last minute plans. Or maybe they were all just waiting anxiously. Julia was preparing the summoning spell and relevant material with Alice.

"El, calm the fuck down!" Margo finally snapped at him after listening to him pace and fret for almost half an hour.

"I can't. We are preparing to let Martin Chatwin onto campus and attack the first years- attack Q. What the hell were we thinking?!"

"You were thinking a little planned danger now might save their asses later. Now stop being a cock and cool it."

"This is crazy. I can't believe I agreed to this."

"El," Quentin jumped in before Margo blew up at his worrying, "it'll be okay. We know what's coming and we're as ready as we can be. You'll be there, so will Margo. It'll be okay."

"Since when did you become such an optimist?" Eliot asked.

"Since I met you. If someone as amazing as you can exist, and actually like a depressed super-nerd like me, anything is possible," Quentin said with a smile.

"Ew. I don't need this sugar coma, boys."

"So leave, Bambi," Eliot said. He kept his eyes on Quentin, though.

"Okay. I know when I'm not wanted," Margo replied.

"Never, Margo. You're always wanted somewhere," Quentin said.

"Good boy," Margo replied. "I'm going to find some other place to be wanted, then. Night boys."

"Night, Bambi," Eliot said, turning to give her a peck on the lips as she left.

"Just you and me now."

"What do you want to do?"

"Tell me more about the mosaic? What are the memories like for you? Are they like a dream, or like they happened yesterday? Did you feel fifty years older when you remembered? Have they faded over time, or-" Quentin finally trailed off realizing that he hadn't given Eliot time to reply yet.

Eliot sighed and sat down on his bed next to Q, wrapping his arm around the younger man. "It seemed like a dream, at first. The memories came slowly, but crystal clear at first. It didn't feel like I had lived it, that time was so separated from the rest of my life."

"So it was more like a movie you watched?"

"I guess you could say that. I felt too far removed from that idyllic life. Like it wasn't me, you know? Like I had one perfect day, but I had been some perfect version of myself. A version I couldn't be on a regular basis.

"That's why I said no. I was sure I would fuck it up, fuck us up… fuck you up."

"You didn't see how you could be that version of yourself with everything else going on at the time, with your friends and with magic."

"Exactly. I didn't trust myself." Quentin didn't respond to that, just nodded. He had not been there and had not had his heart broken by Eliot's fear so he didn't feel he could really offer absolution or forgiveness. It would mean nothing to either of them, just empty words, so Quentin remained silent.

"Did you feel you went from 80 to 27, or were your memories too separate?"

"It was more like I had seen a movie of that life, like you said I still felt like I was my twenty-seven year old self that never went on the quest to solve the mosaic. Yet I could still remember that life fairly well. It's hard to explain. I guess it was like I had two lives, and I didn't remember either one more or less than the other, until I chose to behave as my twenty-seven year old self would."

"Yeah, that's a difficult thing to get my mind around."

"Wasn't easy for me and I lived it."

"How did Arielle become part of our relationship?"

"She liked you, and she came by all the time, bringing baskets of peaches and plums. I was still scared of an exclusive relationship and was being biphobic. I was under the impression you were more straight than bisexual at the time. I was corrected years later. But her being with us gave us Teddy, so I never regretted it."

"Were we a true thrupple, or were you and her sister-wives?"

"Both. We were more like sister-wives, since I prefer men ninety-seven percent of the time. But occasionally it would be just me and her in bed together. Both of us preferred sex with you rather than with just us, so it was only a few times that it was me and her."

Talk between the two men continued like that for another hour, before they decided to meditate and try to get some sleep. On this night, Quentin stayed in Eliot's room, sleeping next to the man. He didn't always stay the night, but this wasn't an uncommon occurrence either.

They were still behaving like friends who were considering becoming more, but were not ready to act on it yet. The flirting and physical closeness were a staple in their relationship as it had always been. Both men agreed to take time to become friends before they moved their relationship in a more romantic direction.

Eliot wanted to move things along, he had missed Q and wanted to hold him, kiss him, love him. But he understood Quentin's desire to make sure that Eliot knew this Quentin and wasn't seeing only his lost lover. Quentin didn't deserve to compete with a ghost, though he told Eliot he knew the ghost of Quentin 40 would always be with Eliot and that given time that would be okay.

Eliot still wasn't sure himself which Quentin he saw when looking at the young man. That was enough to keep him in friendship territory right now. If he couldn't be sure who he saw, how could Quentin be expected to know? The problem was they really weren't very different, Quentin 40 and Quentin 41. They were the same man with the same childhood experiences.

The biggest differences between the men were Quentin 41 was on antidepressants and so wasn't so down on himself nor as terrified of being kicked out as Q40 had always been. He also hadn't spent months loving, mourning, and trying to save Alice Quinn. He was younger and more innocent than the Quentin Eliot had last known. But he was so like the man he had originally crushed on when he stumbled onto campus and into Eliot's life.

The two men continued to share dreams, and had learned the one who fell asleep first usually pulled the other into his own dreams. Since Quentin was a bit of an insomniac this meant they usually shared Eliot's dreams. This was often memories of their time at the mosaic, but also included more than one nightmare of his time being possessed. Eliot was grateful that so far he had not dreamed of the memory of the Monster using him to strangle Quentin. He knew it was inevitable, though.

Quentin's dreams usually included being in Fillory and strange warnings from Jane Chatwin as a child. Since the elder Jane was not around to give Quentin the dreams she had in previous timelines, Eliot suspected the Fillory dreams were a leftover from the dreams Quentin had been given in previous timelines. He mostly ignored their messages, as they seemed very jumbled and not very reliable.

On this night, Quentin fell asleep first, but the dream was one of the first year class at Brakebills being attacked by a man covered in moths. He recognized the man from Eliot's description of Martin Chatwin- Beast form. In this dream the beast managed to kill Julia and Alice before he ripped Quentin's heart out of his chest and crushed it. He bolted awake, sitting up with a choked off scream.

Eliot sat up after him, pulling him into his arms and holding him close. It was his worst fear realized, and he desperately prayed to any and every god he could think of to not let it come to pass. He couldn't lose him like that. Quentin just clutched at Eliot, taking comfort in his friend's presence.

It took over an hour for them to calm back down enough to try and get more sleep, it was still well before dawn and they needed to be ready for tomorrow. Eventually they did drift off again, still in each other's arms and into blissfully dreamless sleep.

SUMMONING

Eliot, Margo, and Quentin waited in the physical cottage for Julia to come give them a report. It was just after midnight, and the summoning had to be done at exactly midnight tonight. So the three friends waited together for news on how it went. Eliot went from pacing like a caged cat to sitting next to Quentin and holding him tight.

Quentin tolerated it with grace, well known for being a bit frigidity himself, he tended not to be bothered by similar traits in others. Margo rolled her eyes whenever Eliot switched from pacing to holding Quentin, but had yet to snap at him. He was worried, and right now they were just waiting, not trying to do something his nervous behavior was interfering with, so she graciously allowed it with minimal comment.

Finally, at almost thirty minutes past the hour, Julia entered the cottage, looking around before spotting them and coming over to join them. "Julia, thank god. This one here is driving me crazy," Margo said.

"Hush, Margo," Eliot replied, too serious to even use her beloved nickname.

"We did the spell. Kady and Penny arrived just after Alice realized we needed four people to perform the spell, just like you predicted, Eliot. Penny seemed a bit spooked that we were doing a summoning, but he ignored his gut to help us."

"Anything happen?"

"After everyone had cleared out, I went back to the room to grab an ingredient I left behind. On the mirror we used to call to Charlie was a smiley face drawn in the fog."

"Shit. That's what he did on the desk when he attacked the class of first years last time. It's one of Martin's calling cards."

"That's good, isn't it? We were expecting him to answer the call, right?"

"Yes, I know. I just-"

"Wish there was another way. We know, Eliot," Julia said.

The four friends sat in contemplative silence for several minutes. Each thinking about how bad things could go tomorrow afternoon and what they could do to limit the danger. Tomorrow, if the beast came, the real preparation would begin.

T.B.C. . . .