A reasonable amount of time later, when the Belltower is presentable even to magical Empresses of this or that, Bell and Sherlock and Tony take Isabella and Path and Kas and Petaal home with them.
"You're going to have to show her what she needs," Bell says to the Starks. "I don't know which locations or objects are relevant. Or which of you is going to be her someone-he-met focus."
|"I'll do it," says Tony.|
|"I have to cast in the place where he's been, so choose accordingly, I doubt you want me working in the middle of the street even if's he's walked down it a hundred times," says Isabella. Path on her shoulder keeps swiveling his head around, taking in the new world.|
|"Okay," he says, and leads her to his bedroom.|
|Isabella doesn't think much of the location. She just follows and waits for more specific pointers.|
|(Shell Bell does think much of the location. She doesn't say anything, just shivers and fixes her attention on her witch killer alternate who's going to fix this problem.)|
|"Right there," he says, pointing at a spot on the floor a few feet in from the door and slightly off to one side. "He stands there a lot."|
|"Okay." Isabella's carrying an advanced cornucopia. It won't do all possible spell components. But it'll do the ones she needs. She didn't even have to get Kas to hold the door while she ran home for a poison.|
"Bottle of wine," she says, and she casts the thickening spell on it and begins pouring her diagram around where Tony pointed.
Rune, rune, rune, line - "stand there, please" - curvy stylized arrow, rune, rune, rune, line, rune rune rune.
"Bottle of black peppercorns." (She places one in the center of each rune.) "Bottle of nutmeg." (She dusts it over the whole thing.) "Bayleaves." She puts them in Tony's clothes, tucked here and there, and has him hold one in each palm. "Marjoram." (A little heap in the middle.) "Spring onion." (It goes on the arrow, curved to match.)
The cornucopia won't do a live animal. "I need something to sacrifice - an animal. What sort of pests am I likely to be able to summon from here? A rat's good if there's one within calling distance, I can use a pigeon or a squirrel."
|"I know there's pigeons," he says. "Not so sure about the other two."|
|"I'll try for a rat and if that doesn't work I'll do a pigeon," says Isabella.|
She gets a rat on her first try! While it's still docile, she snatches it up with a practiced grip. It can't bite her, although it starts struggling.
She pulls her dagger out with her free hand.
"Last chance to decide you do not want this man to die. Or, you know, decide you want him to spend more or less than twenty-four hours being deathly ill," she says.
|"Go for it," says Tony.|
|When no one contradicts him, Isabella nods. Path has been holding the classy wristwatch that Snow once owned; she maneuvers it around the rat without giving it the freedom to sink its teeth into her, and tucks her pinky finger under it so it won't slide off. She holds the rat out to her left, her dagger out to her right.|
She didn't compose this poem. It doesn't rhyme. It crackles.
"Yambe Akka's knife is mercy
Suffer not such pain to live
Yambe Akka's knife is deadly
Yambe Akka's knife I twist
Suffer not this one, I say
Yambe Akka's knife I need
Suffer not his breath to draw
Still and calm I need him brought
Stillness, calmness, bring them down
Yambe Akka's knife I call
Yambe Akka's knife is sharp
Still and calm will kill in silence
Stillness, calmness, listen close
Yambe Akka's knife in heart
Suffer not that heart to beat
Suffer not his eyes to see
Suffer not his soul to fly
Suffer not his hand to harm
Yambe Akka's knife is mine
Yambe Akka's knife I wield
Yambe Akka's knife strikes home!"
And on the final syllable the rat is pierced through with her blade, and it dies.
|Even though he doesn't know it worked, even though he probably won't know it worked for a good long while, Tony exhales with relief.|
|The herbs - including the bayleaves - are all gone. The thickened wine is gone. The rat and the wristwatch - and the rat blood - are still there. "I recommend burning the rat, which I can do if you can provide me with a safe place in which to burn a thing. You can do whatever you like with the wristwatch," says Isabella, unconcerned with the blood on her hands as she disentangles the two objects. She does conscientiously murmur a spell to clean her dagger before she tucks it away into its sheath in her silks.|
|"I can provide such a place," says Sherlock.|
|"Lead the way," says Isabella, cleaning off the watch with another spell and setting it down before following Sherlock with the rat corpse in her hands.|
She just killed some living things. She feels pretty okay, considering. It's more sheer power than she's ever channeled. Kind of heady. She can see why some witches would be enthusiastic about this kind of magic. Not enough that she's going to start killing people any less discriminately, but. She's going to ride the high as long as she has it anyway.
|Perhaps, along the way, she will notice the way Kas is looking at her. You could describe it as 'slightly stunned admiration, with a component of lust'.|
Path does, looking directly backwards.
|Petaal, as a rattlesnake coiled around Kas's shoulders, flicks her tongue at him.|
|Path swivels his head ninety degrees. He whispers to his witch.|
She shivers, a little, and the hand that isn't holding the rat clenches against the side of her thigh.
Eventually they get to a suitable incineration place. Isabella dumps the rat unceremoniously, murmurs a spell to set it alight, and then helps it along by asking the cornucopia for some paprika and sprinkling it over the carcass. Before long there's nothing more left but thin, dry ashes.
|"Thank you," says Sherlock.|
|"You're welcome," says Isabella, not exactly cheerful, but with a sharp happiness in her voice. "Anyone else you want killed or cursed and can provide the stuff for?"|
|"Any other miscellaneous magic that you guys would find helpful?"|
|"I cannot think of any just now. You might like to ask Bell."|
And she cannot resist, as she passes Kas on the way out of the room, one teasing, dark-magic-is-lovely smirk.
Because she's going to get an alethiometer right when she gets home, right?
|Petaal turns into a ball python and wraps her coils firmly around Kas's torso; he hugs himself and leans his head against hers and shivers happily.|
|Isabella asks Bell, and promptly has a long discussion about what she can or cannot do, interspersed with asking the cornucopia for herbs, throwing them at people, drawing thickened-saltwater runes on the backs of Bell's and the Starks' hands, hanging a sacrificed pigeon from the ceiling of each bedroom in the house with string and walking widdershins around it reciting verse, and putting runes in chocolate syrup of all things on each inhabitant's bedclothes and vanishing them without so much as a poem.|
All of this takes about three hours. The Starks and Bell are now protected - not perfectly, but considerably - against many forms of natural disaster, disease, injury and drugging; anyone trying to invade their rooms will get a nasty surprise; they will wake up if danger approaches while they sleep; and in the event that one of them dies anyway, the other two will know it at once.
|Kas and Petaal are absent for the majority of the spellcasting after that first one.|
|At least one person knows exactly what they are doing.|
|Isabella can guess, too, but if the Starks don't mind a guest slipping off, she has no reason to object.|
|Shell Bell has no idea!|
When she's sure she's exhausted the likely-useful spells that Isabella can cast here and now, she hugs her, hard, and asks Tony if he can get a Milliways door so Isabella and Kas can go home. "If I were her I wouldn't want to stick around longer than necessary," she sighs.
|"Sure!" says Tony.|
He gets it on the first try.
|"Thanks very much," she says to Tony.|
She hugs Shell Bell. "I'll see you in the Belltower. We can leave notes even if we don't run into each other again in person anytime soon."
|"Of course," says Shell Bell, hugging back hard. "Thank you so much for everything."|
|"Hey, what are alts for?" Pause. "What are alternates of us for, anyway? And hey, I'm going to get me a device that dispenses absolute truth, leave me questions in your notes and I'll answer them for you - won't be fast but could help."|
She squeezes, hard, and then she lets go.
"Kas!" she calls. "Petaal! Let's not leave Tony holding the door forever!"
|Kas and Petaal appear in short order, Petaal draped across his shoulders as a linsang, Kas fully clothed but looking like he only just got that way.|
|Yep. She guessed right. Path chuckles in her ear.|
Out they go, with a final wave to their hosts.
|"So, how's that alethiometer spell coming along?"|
|"Oh, give me an hour and I'll have something ready to try," says Isabella, wasting no time in opening the door again to her room as soon as it's shut to Panem. Everything is as she left it; good. She puts her cloud-pine down, picks her notebook up, and gets to work.|
|"Cool," says Kas. "I'll be in my attic."|