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Tangled Webs: White Lies (Extended Version)

Novel By: Divena

It all started with one little white lie. Really, it wasn\'t even like Skylar wanted to lie. She wasn\'t very good at it. But when she was given an assignment that required her to go under cover, that little white lie became very important. So important that it was vital no one discover the truth. She had to find and retrieve the magical artifact hidden within Dark Rivers Academy before her secret was blown. It may have been a quick in and out mission, if not for the headmaster, who seemed to hate her, her cold roommate, who was always watching her, and the sheer amount of space she had to search. And none of that took into consideration the dark secrets that seemed to lurk in the school halls. Skylar is about to learn just how tangled a little white lie could make things. *Completed* View table of contents...


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Submitted:Oct 25, 2010    Reads: 219    Comments: 3    Likes: 1   

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"Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive!"

- Walter Scott

I lived a simple, honest life for the first sixteen years of my existence. I was truthful, and straightforward, because I didn't really have the patience for lies and subterfuge, so imagine my shock when I was chosen for an undercover mission.

The sun was shining brightly, and the birds were singing sweetly, all while I was stuck inside a stuffy classroom. I had never really been a good student when it came to academics. I had trouble focusing on the droning teacher, and now was no exception as she went on and on. Every so often, I tuned back into the lecture, but most of my attention was on the window and the scrap of sky that I could see.

Bullshit, Bambi snapped suddenly, drawing my attention away from my daydreams and back to the lesson. It wasn't unusual for my constant companion to comment on what was going on in my life. It was, however, odd for him to be so angry over what was probably some dumb little thing.

"Now," the teacher, Aunt Rebecca, was saying, "who can tell me why the Great War lasted as long as it did?"

The Great War. Everyone in the Lumeire coven knew about the Great War between the angels and demons. It began and ended ages ago, well before any living human's time. As white magic users, we studied what records we could find on the war, mainly because of the destruction and chaos it caused.

Most people viewed angels and demons as these ultimately evil or good creatures. They aren't. While it's true that angels were usually serene and pure hearted, and demons tended to be on the darker side, neither race cared much about what happened to the human race. As far as we could tell, they were made of opposite magics, black and white. This severe difference had them constantly at each other's throats, but according to history, there was only one real war between them. Every other time the two races clashed, it was in small brawls that were quickly and easily squashed by the angels.

"Sarah," Aunt Rebecca called on the bouncing blonde sitting a few seats to the left of mine.

"Because of the demon king," the girl answered, her tone smug and superior. I twitched and resisted the urge to slap her. That would have been bad.

Sarah was what I liked to call a queen bee. She was a leader and she knew it, and often abused the charisma that drew others to her. She was the preverbal alpha dog of my peers. Taking her on, even if it was just an impulsive moment of irritation, would mean dealing with my entire peer group. Mind you, it wasn't like the other girls my age had much use for me as it was, but I had no intention of being targeted for bullying.

"That's right," Aunt Rebecca answered, smiling approvingly. "Very good, Sarah. Who can tell me which demon king was ruling during the Great War?"

"There's only one," another girl, mousy Patience, answered without looking up from her book. Someone who didn't know her would have thought she was meek or timid. She wasn't, she was just that absorbed in her studies. "The demons never had a single ruler before him, nor any after."

"Correct," the teacher agreed, though she lacked that approving tone she'd had for Sarah. "Please raise your hand in the future, Patience. What made the king different was just that. He was the king. The demons are, by nature, chaotic and vicious. They often turned on one another, and followed no single set of rules. However, when the demon king rose to power, he managed to bring all of his kind under his rule, and, shockingly enough, they followed him.

"When he led the attack against the angels, he had a well trained and uniformed army, something the angels had never seen before. They were taken by surprise and even when they recovered from their shock, they found they were facing a powerful enemy. Why were the demons more powerful with their king than they had been before? Patience?"

"Because they were no longer fighting each other, they were fighting together," the girl answered, absently turning the page in her book. It had always amazed me how she could read with such intensity and still pay attention to the world around her.

"Very good. Now, the angels didn't know how to handle this new, organized version of the enemy, so they tried everything they could. It was during the war that most of the artifacts were forged. What can you tell me about the artifacts, Sasha?"

"Oh, um," Sasha hedged. She sat directly in front of me, her brown curls pinned up in a style that was carefully designed to appear messy. I never understood the attention my sister witches gave their appearances. Who was really going to care what they looked like?

Oh come on! Bambi groaned when Sasha continued mumbling and muttering, delaying the inevitable. How can she not know anything about the artifacts? That's only the whole reason your little club exists!

"Not the only reason," I muttered. I tried to keep my voice low but Aunt Rebecca had amazing ears for an old coot.

"What was that, Skylar?" she asked, coolly. I managed to suppress a wince. I had learned at a very young age that I was the only one who could hear Bambi, and that none of my aunts or sisters were willing to accept the fact that he had a mind of his own, let alone that he spoke to me.

"They're objects of power," I answered her previous question, ignoring the one that I couldn't really answer honestly. I'm not a good liar, I never have been. I always got trapped in my own lies, unable to keep them straight, and guilt at lying in the first place often showed on my face. Bambi, however, had taught me the value of tweaking the truth to help my cause. He wasn't always a good influence on me. Strike that, he was rarely a good influence on me.

"Go on," Aunt Rebecca coaxed, leaning against her desk as she crossed her arms. I knew what she was doing. I was one of the worst students in her class, so she was hoping to embarrass me by forcing me to admit ignorance.

I could have mumbled an excuse about not knowing anything else. I could have acted properly chastised for speaking out of turn. I should have, she was my elder and deserved my respect, but I have a slight problem. For as long as I could remember, I always had the undeniable urge to push back when someone pushed me. I couldn't help myself. So when Aunt Rebecca challenged me, despite my better judgment, I rose to the occasion.

"The black magic the demons wielded was poisonous to the angels, just as the white magic the angels tapped was deadly to the demons," I explained, sitting a little straighter. "But they couldn't just drench each other in their respective magics. So each side wove spells into ordinary every day things, to help enhance their own strengths. These spells were unique because they survived even after the caster died. This left a lot of seemingly normal objects floating around with little to unimaginable power.

"If the artifacts were made of demonic or angelic magic, then it wouldn't have been such a big deal. But there's not such thing as demonic or angelic magic. There's only black and white magic, or light and dark as some people call them. And even normal humans can use this world's power if they have the knowledge and the talent for it. What makes the artifacts so dangerous is that you don't have to have any talent or knowledge, just the right kind of…" I trailed off, grasping for a word. I hated my hesitation because Aunt Rebecca smirked, clearly thinking my well of information had run dry.

Personality, Bambi quickly supplied and gratitude washed through me. I knew there was a reason I liked him most days and tolerated him others.

"Personality," I obediently repeated before plowing on ahead. "Just like it takes a good, nurturing person to be a white mage, it takes a dark and twisted person to be a black mage. The artifacts aren't quite the same. Each one chooses its master and will only work for certain people, but personality and magical ability aren't a part of it. Desire and connection are everything. It's like tuning into the radio, if the artifact and person are on the same wavelength, the artifact will work for that person."

I frowned, mentally reviewing what I had just said. I understood the technicalities of how the artifacts worked, but I wasn't very good at explaining things. I wondered if what I had even said made any sense.

"That's correct," Aunt Rebecca admitted reluctantly. "Why are the artifacts important to us, Skylar?"

Great, she was still going to pick on me.

"Because it's one of the duties of the Lumeire to gather and protect the artifacts," I answered, on firm ground. Even the youngest girl knew that, though despite what Bambi said, that wasn't all we did. "Even an angelic artifact, drenched in white magic and with a benign purpose, can cause no end of havoc in unsuspecting hands. Particularly strong artifacts have even been known to take over their owners. The Lumeire collect and protect these artifacts to keep them out of trouble."

"Right," the teacher agreed, hiding her irritation well. She quickly shifted the topic back to the lesson at hand. "So the angels and demons created all of these artifacts in their war with one another. Where did that leave the humans?"

"Cowering in fear or creating new religions?" I offered when it was clear Aunt Rebecca still intended on keeping me on the spot. "Isn't that what the ignorant always do?" A small smattering of chuckles erupted and the older woman clearly decided it was a bad idea to let me keep talking.

"Stuck in the middle," she corrected, frowning at me. "Most of the world was unaware of what exactly what was going on and the Great War has since faded from general knowledge. It became the source of legends and myths, but no one these days believes in angels or demons. The truth has been extorted. Which, in the long run, is a good thing. There are some things that humanity just isn't mature enough to handle yet.

"During the Great War, however, no one knew what was going on, and everyone was wrapped up in their own issues. It fell to a single, small coven of white witches to do what they could to minimize the damage created by the angels and demons. These are your foremothers. This coven would, over time, become the community known today known as Lumeire. No one knows what the original coven called itself, if they had any name for themselves at all."

They were annoying little bi…ah…brats, Bambi quickly corrected his language. He didn't always censor himself with me, probably because I was the only one that he could talk to, but occasionally he remembered that I was, as he put it, a "child" or "woman." It all depended on his mood. When he was feeling fond, I was a child. When he was being serious, I was a woman. And when he wasn't particularly concerned with anything, which was most of the time, I was just his Skylark, someone he didn't need to be polite around. I preferred it when I was Skylark. Something about a polite Bambi was just wrong.

"It's likely that the angels and demons weren't even aware of the coven," Aunt Rebecca continued, unaware of how wrong she was. Bambi wouldn't have commented if he hadn't known anything about the coven. Unlike anyone else in the classroom, he had been there for the Great War. "What eventually brought an end to the bloodshed?"

Sarah's hand shot up into the air so fast that I was certain she had sprained something. She was probably hoping to show off her extensive knowledge. After a moment's pause, Aunt Rebecca nodded once at her, giving her silent permission to show off.

"An angel general killed the demon king," she answered, damn near gleefully. I could practically feel Bambi radiating anger. The Great War had always been a sore spot for him, though he never explained why to me. Whenever he spoke about that time of his life, he was generic and almost distant, as if he was recounting someone else's story. As a result, I found the whole thing particularly fascinating.

Bullshit! Bambi burst out, practically buzzing with warm anger. No one killed the king! Tell them, Skylar. Don't let these bitches tarnish his name like this. He was a strong warrior, there was no possible way that any angel could have taken him down, sure as hell not alone. Tell them!

I flinched, regretting it before I even opened my mouth. However, Bambi was my best friend and the closest thing to a brother, uncle, father that I'd ever had. I loved and respected him, and when he felt this strongly about something, I couldn't help but take his side. Not when I didn't feel particularly strong one way or the other.

"The demon king isn't dead," I said, forcing strength into my voice even as I sank into my seat a bit. Every eye in the room turned toward me as a fearful hush fell over the room. Though no one remembered the king, he was the boogieman used to scare troublesome little girls into behaving. What he represented was a nightmare that none of the aunts, and thus none of the sisters or nieces, wanted to return.

"That might be true," Aunt Rebecca agreed with me, though her expression and voice were tight. It was clear that she hadn't wanted to admit to this little bit of the history. "Alone, he was too powerful for the angels to eliminate. Two things made him particularly dangerous. Do you know what those two things were, Skylar?"

I didn't, really. Most of the history books were vague about the demon king, leaving stories of him to be passed on by word of mouth. Some superstition or tradition was the source behind that, but I never understood why. I should have shaken my head and let the teacher go on with the lesson. I was prepared to do just that, but then Bambi spoke up.

Three things, he corrected. Three things made him damn near unstoppable, not two.

"What?" I muttered, startled. It wasn't often that Bambi shed some light on the mysterious Great War. I was so surprised and eager to hear more that I temporarily forgot I was in a classroom.

"I said, do you know what those two things were?" Aunt Rebecca repeated, clearly thinking I was talking to her.

"There were three things," I told her, unable to stop myself. I was usually pretty good at filtering my own thoughts before they reached my mouth, when I wanted to be, but Bambi's were harder.

"What?" Aunt Rebecca asked, showing a similar shock as the one I had felt.

"There were three things, not two," I repeated, trying hard not to wince. I fixed my gaze on the top of my desk and tried to keep the flush off my cheeks. I knew everyone was staring at me as though I was a freak. It wasn't unusual. I was used to those looks. It still hurt a little to know that my peers, the girls I was supposed to bond with and trust, were jealous or afraid of me.

"Alright," the teacher snapped. "What are they?"

"His advisor," I answered, automatically repeating what Bambi was saying, "his sword and himself."

"Explain," Aunt Rebecca ordered, her dark eyes narrowing like a hawk that had spotted a particularly juicy field mouse. Doesn't that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy?

I licked my lips nervously as Bambi rushed to explain, in a proper snit now. "No one remembers the advisor anymore, but he was the king's right hand man. He was the tactician behind most of the king's victories and kind of like the king's heir. Even if the angels did take down the king, they still would have had to deal with the advisor. The king was also unique among the demons. He had a high tolerance for white magic. Levels that would have killed any other of his kind only singed him. This made him really, really hard to kill."

"And why was he so resistant to white magic?" Aunt Rebecca demanded.

I hesitated, waiting for Bambi to supply the answer. He didn't say anything, the little traitor. "I don't know," I admitted when I realized that Bambi was keeping his mouth shut on the issue. Aunt Rebecca frowned at me.

"No one does," she admitted, reluctant. Maybe she was hoping I'd come up with some bullshit answer so she could claim I was lying through my teeth. "But you're right, there are some historians who believe the king had an advisor who was his right hand man in his rise to power. Not much credence is given to the rumors, however, since there's no record of what happened to him after the war.

"The demon king did have an unusually high tolerance to magic, it was one of the two things that made him legendary. The other was, as you said, his sword. Supposedly forged in the hottest fires of hell, it bathed in the blood of angels and innocents alike until it took on a twisted will of its own. The king was feared for his strength and mercilessness, but his sword was feared in its own right. Who can tell me what this sword was called?"

Nearly every hand in the room except mine shot up into the air. My fellow students were all carefully avoiding looking at me, though I knew they were all very aware of my presence. I kept my hands folded neatly on my desk and trained my eyes on them, determined to not react.

Naturally, Aunt Rebecca called on me. "Skylar," she said, her voice firm with an undercurrent of disgust. Whenever the topic came up, the aunts always had that tiny note of disgust.

"Banzar," I answered, my voice soft. The classroom was so silent that no one had trouble hearing me, though. I took a deep breath and raised my head, lifting my chin defiantly. I had learned years ago that the best way to deal with shame was to combat it with pride. I would not let my sisters look down on me just because the aunts didn't know what to make of me. "He… it was called Banzar, the angel slayer."

"Correct," Aunt Rebecca agreed, her gaze flicking toward my right ear.

I knew what she was looking at and I was mildly surprised that she had allowed that tiny slip when everyone else was so careful not to stare. I suppose it was hard not to. After all, we were talking about him. It was easy to ignore the dangling earring I wore when it wasn't the topic of discussion.

I suppose the jewelry would have been pretty under other circumstances. From a sapphire stud hung about half an inch of unhindered delicate copper chain. The chain then wrapped around what appeared to be a two inch long sword. The charm was silver, with a black hilt and a blue stone where the blade met the pommel. The jewelry looked heavier than it was, though I suspect that had more to do with the magic binding the sword than anything else.

The aunts had pierced my ear when I was very young, deciding that was the best way to deal with the sword. I'd grown up with its reassuring weight and light brushes against my cheek, so much so that it was a part of me, like an extra arm. Of course, everyone knew what it was, so maybe it was more like an extra head.

"At the end of the Great War, it is true that the king disappeared," Aunt Rebecca rushed on, clearly not wanting to dwell too much on what was hanging from my ear like a gaudy piece of jewelry. "No one knows what happened to him, so it's presumed he was killed. Banzar, however, survived. It carried on its legacy in the hands of lesser demons, often taking over its hosts to kill millions."

That's flattering, Bambi muttered, disgusted. She makes me sound like a parasite.

"Is she wrong?" I muttered under my breath. Luckily, Aunt Rebecca was so wrapped up in listing Banzar's, or as I called him, Bambi's many crimes that she didn't hear me.

I lost track of the lives I took, he admitted. But I'm not a parasite. Have I ever taken control of your body?

I pursed my lips together, absently stroking Bambi's blade to let him know I was still listening. I didn't want to be called crazy today, if I could avoid it. I also didn't know how long Aunt Rebecca would stay wrapped up in her own world. It was true that Bambi had never possessed me, that I remembered anyway. However, he hadn't exactly denied that he could if he wanted to.

Besides, Bambi went on, sounding disgruntled now, how can you believe I'm capable of such things and still call me Bambi?

I choked, trying to swallow a laugh. It caught in my throat and I spent several minutes trying to remember how to breathe as I fought back laughter while trying to gulp down air at the same time. When I finally managed to catch my breath, I realized that the entire class was staring at me, Aunt Rebecca looking particularly annoyed. I tried to wipe the grin off my face but just barely managed not to laugh at Bambi's next comment.

You're old enough to say Banzar now, he informed me. You have no excuse.

"If you can't behave then go stand out in the hall," Aunt Rebecca snapped, glaring at me.

"Yes ma'am," I choked out, standing quickly. Ignoring the snickers of my classmates, I all but fled out into the hallway where I was able to sink to the floor and cover my mouth without anyone giving me an odd look. Bambi took pity on me and kept quiet while I struggled to calm myself down.

"I can't help it," I told him, softly, when I had succeeded. I leaned my head back against the wall and closed my eyes. "Banzar is a dignified, dangerous demonic sword. It's seen more battles than I will in my entire lifetime. It's feared by everyone who knows about it. That so isn't you, Bambi."

I'll have you know that I earned that reputation, Bambi scoffed, mildly offended by my declaration.

"I know you did," I soothed, gently brushing his tiny body. "You're fearsome and terrifying, and that's why the aunts insist that you be bound like this. I see them flinch every time I touch you. I believe that you deserve your reputation, but… Bambi, I'm not afraid of you. It's hard to connect my Bambi with the mighty Banzar when I've got you bitching in my ear about hair gel."

I do not bitch about hair gel, Bambi argued, stiffly, though I knew he was going to give up the argument soon. It was an old one, more like a playful bicker topic than a real argument. He accepted my nickname for him, because it was what I'd always called him. Personally, I didn't really know why I called him that. Bambi didn't fit his personality at all. But according to him, when I was young I couldn't say "Banzar." I called him Banny and that somehow morphed into Bambi which was easier for my toddler vocabulary.

"Hey, Bambi?" I muttered, my good mood fleeing in wake of my memories. I couldn't remember a time when Bambi wasn't at my side, taking care of me. He must have recognized my tone because he didn't even wait for my question.

I chose you because you're special, Skylark, he told me, using his old pet name for me.

Maybe I had asked him too many times. That was the same answer he gave whenever I asked him why me? I was a white witch, not quite yet disciplined enough in my magic to earn the title sorceress. Light magic came to me as easily as breathing did. I shouldn't have had an affinity to any demonic items. The world just didn't work that way.

No human was completely balanced between light and dark, one or the other always tipped the balance a little bit. It was an inherent thing, one that was present since birth. My balance was tipped firmly toward light, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to tap into white magic. I shouldn't have been able to use the most powerful of the demonic artifacts. And yet, Bambi was mine. He was my sword, my friend, my family.

The only thing that kept the elders of Lumeire from locking me up and throwing away the key was the fact that white magic still came easily to me. The day I could no longer use my magic would be the day I spiraled down into the darkness for good.

I had told Bambi that the Lumeire didn't just collect and protect artifacts. We, they, also protected our world from the destructive effect of dark mages. They weren't above killing dark mages and demons who got a little too power happy. It was unheard of for a white mage to suddenly start using black magic. You either had a talent for one or the other. Whenever a white mage slipped into the darkness, they lost the ability to tap into their power.

But then again, it was also unheard of for a white witch to successfully wield a demonic sword.


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