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Equinox couldn’t stop herself from staring out of the window. She knew it wasn’t a good idea, it never was, but she hadn’t yet found the strength to stop herself from doing it. At the same time as usual a group of three girls walked past her house, and she watched them wistfully. They were all normal teenagers while she was one of the Seen. No one outside the family and the Seen Council even knew she existed. It hurt to watch them because they got a chance to live their own lives while everything she did, especially the books she read, had to be vetted by her Watcher. Some days she imagined what it would be like to be one of them. A normal girl with a normal life. When she had the window open it was possible to hear them complain about how boring their lives were, and she always felt the same disappointment. They couldn’t see what they had. They didn’t know how lucky they really were. Their mundane life was the thing she wanted more than anything else, but they wanted something more, something better, when their lives were so much better than hers.

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The call had drawn her to what appeared to be a school. After everything she’d been through Astrid knew better than to think what she was seeing was what she was actually going to be dealing with. She wouldn’t have been called if there wasn’t something unusual going on. Biting hard on her lip, her heart pounding in that way it always did when she found herself standing close to a lot of magic, she gave herself a moment to think things through. Just running in, as much as she wanted to, wasn’t going to do her any good, so she took a few steps backwards, in the hope it would help. It didn’t. Whatever was in that school was strong, and strong often meant dangerous. Raking a hand through her hair she thought about the stories she’d heard while she was in town.

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Ace had visited the house every night for six months. He’d started on the night of Rebecca’s 18th birthday, and every time he walked in the door he gave her parents a look. She knew the look meant that they were meant to have told her something, but she was glad they hadn’t. There was something about him, probably the whole vampire thing, that terrified her, so the last thing she wanted to hear was that they’d sold her to him. It was something she’d heard stories about, even though she didn’t quite believe they were true, and she really didn’t want the proof to change her life.

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Crying again wasn’t going to change anything. Anastasia pushed aside the emotions, doing her best not to think about how things might be for her sister, and instead focused on Lauren. Of course she was surprised to find Woody was gone. The last time she visited he was still pretending he was normal, still making it seem like he was the man he had always been, still doing his best not to push her into doing something it was obvious she didn’t want to do, even though that pretence had quickly faded once she was gone. After that his emotions had been all over the place. He didn’t believe that she didn’t want to join with them. Like so many things he’d been able to blame the World Government for her choice, wanting to believe she was trapped by them. Forcing her to stay would be nothing more than rescuing her.

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Tears streamed down her cheeks, but Amelia knew she was doing the right thing. It would keep her family safe, which was the most important thing, and no one would be able to find her. At least that was what she had been told. Going underground, into a sanctuary that had always been used by people like her, was the only logical thing to do, even though she had no idea what would happen then. After one last hug, her mother crying just as hard as she was, she walked away from the people she loved.

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The bathroom seemed the best place to go. I could feel the spell wrapping around me, and I tried to breathe as it tightened around my rib cage. It wasn’t the easy thing I’d ever had to do. Whatever had been used made me want to curl up on the floor and sleep, but I knew that letting the spell get the better of me was going to be a mistake. Then my cousin would grab me the way he’d been threatening to since he realised what I could do, because he needed me for the next step in his plan to take over the world. Laughing at him when he asked me for help probably hadn’t helped things.

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There was a light. I remember that better than anything else. I felt it drawing me towards it, in such a way I knew I wouldn’t have been able to stop what was coming from happening, and then I stepped into it. I glanced over my shoulder, at the car in the ditch and my body. I was dead, so, logically, wherever I found myself must have been the afterlife. Yet, when I looked around, I found I was surrounded by tall trees, which made me think I was in a forest… and I definitely wasn’t expecting there to be a forest in the afterlife. Slowly I looked around, trying to work out where I was. At the same time I wasn’t entirely certain I wanted to know. I was definitely dead. I couldn’t have survived the crash.

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The first thing Melody noticed was the sound of snoring. At first she wasn’t really awake, so she thought it was the end of a dream, because she was sure she could remember her car going into a tree and a vampire saving her life. It seemed so utterly impossible that even when she was awake enough to open her eyes that she couldn’t quite believe that she could hear snoring. Being able to hear someone snoring, when it wasn’t something she would normally hear in her bedroom, could mean only one thing. Her dream hadn’t been a dream. Slowly, breathing deeply in an attempt to stop herself from panicking, she sat up and stared down at the vampire who had saved her life.

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Father was never the sort of man who felt the need to explain the orders he was giving me and he didn’t when he sent me to Ildieu with a scroll in my hand that described how to create a sanctuary using blood magic. The mages of Ildieu didn’t use blood magic, because they’d lost all knowledge of it when they willingly removed their own memories, so no one would know how bad things had become. Unfortunately we didn’t know anywhere near as much about blood magic as we once did, either, after our libraries were burnt down during the wall. All we’d ended up with was a few left over scrolls, most of which were no use to anyone at all. Maybe, if Father had told me he didn’t have any idea of what would happen to me if I used that magic, I never would have created the Hollow. Being immortal was never something that I wanted. Unfortunately that’s exactly what happened to me when I used a magic I didn’t know enough about – and in the end it was my own stupid fault.

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Even though Fintan had been told to wait until morning, when the elders would explain what needed to happen, he knew if he did that something bad was going to happen. He could feel it. Being unbonded for as long as he had… keeping the magic inside him had been hard enough before she arrived, but knowing she was there, that he could share the burden for the first time, made things much harder. Glancing around, he made certain that no one had seen him before using his magic to unlock the door to the house, hoping that everyone was asleep, because he didn’t think he could explain what he was doing once he was inside the house. They didn’t know what it was like to be unbonded. All of them had found their other half within a year and he’d been waiting for a decade, because that was how long it had taken to find her.

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The island was safe. Crossing the sea hadn’t been a mistake. Breathing deeply, the wind blowing my hair, I stepped off the ship. When I was told about it I had no reason to believe there would be any problems. In all the time Hekate had been talking to me she hadn’t caused me to make any mistakes. Finding out there was somewhere safe… it was our only option. Considering what was happening it had been our only option for a long time, but until I was told about the island I had no way of knowing it was there. Some of the others had only followed me out of hope. They didn’t believe me. They were still having trouble coming to terms with the fact I spoke with a deity, as it had seemed so impossible, and yet I had brought them to safety. It was the first time we had been safe for a long time.

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There was nothing. Moving was… I didn’t dare do anything more than breathe. I had my feet on the very edge of… something I wanted to call land, but couldn’t be certain was land, because I was mostly lost in the nothing below me. Doing anything wrong would lead to me falling into it, and that really wasn’t something I wanted to happen. At the same time I didn’t know how I was going to be able to stop it. Fear was definitely getting the better of me, and I never thought that would ever happen. Not after everything I’d already been through. Finding out how wrong I was about that wasn’t the nicest of things to happen.

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Once Aurora was across the border she felt a weight lift from her shoulders. It had been longer than normal since the last time she’d managed to visit her father and Griffin, which made her feel guilty, but there seemed to be more work to do than ever before. Thanks to her help more people had been surviving blooming, so she was spending more of her time attempting to learn about the different powers. Her notebooks were slowly filling with information that had been lost when all the books on magic had been burnt. Everything had to be fitted in around her work at the library, which was getting harder because no one had any control over when someone bloomed, but she couldn’t just stop working. She knew she needed some time out more than she ever had done before. It was just a case of trying to work it in around her shifts, people blooming, and all the research she was doing.

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Like everyone else they’d both heard the rumours. The Dragons were back. Although that did mean admitting that the Dragons had existed in the first place, which was something no one had done for centuries. When they disappeared they left no trace of themselves behind, no history, no bones, nothing whatsoever, and that meant that there had been no proof that the stories everyone had read since the rumours started were more than that. Yet that was all beginning to make sense, as much as everyone hated to admit it, if the Dragons had been kept as slaves since the end of the war and those who were close to death chose to use the last of their life energy in order to hide their city.

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On a Saturday morning I always headed over to my boyfriend’s house, because it was the one day we made sure we spent together. He was working, a lot, while I was at college, so it was really the only day we had. There were days when I couldn’t help getting jealous of the girls who had boyfriends at college, who they could see during breaks and at lunch, but it made me all the more grateful for the time we did spend together. We made plans for the future, planning on being together for as long as we loved each other, and as I couldn’t imagine not loving him I didn’t think that we’d ever split up.

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There was a moment when all Alice could do was stare. As it was Halloween she’d made sure that she was on the reception desk, which gave the normal receptionists an unexpected night off, just in case someone turned up that she didn’t want in the House. Halloween brought out all the creepiest vampires. What she hadn’t expected was the group of children that walked though the door. As a general rule most children in the local area avoided the Donor House. She couldn’t help smiling at them when she realised that they were all dressed in costumes, and that meant they were obviously out trick-or-treating.

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There were days when Monty wished he’d never let himself be talked into doing something so monumentally stupid, but it was past time the world learnt the truth about vampires. All of the dramas were quite obviously fictional and they all made sure to include a romance between one of the vampires and one of the humans. Even though it wasn’t all that unusual for a vampire to fall in love with a human, or at least lust, most of the time it didn’t go well. None of the script writers seemed to understand how close a vampire family could be, which meant that there were plenty of occasions when the human ended up dead, or a vampire, or sometimes, if they were particularly unlucky, an addict. Of course not all vampire families were that bad and he knew he was more than lucky to have been created by one of the more unusual vampires.
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As Thalia walked into the throne room of the man she’d been told was her brother she tried not to let the fear she was feeling show. Everything that had happened since she’d been found had added to her worries. She didn’t know how they’d found out about her or why they’d chosen to invite her to the palace, and she couldn’t seem to convince herself that everything was going to work out. Looking at the King felt too dangerous, so she kept her eyes locked on the floor, before curtsying the way she had been taught to. Nothing was too debasing if it meant she was going to survive the meeting.

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Jason walked alone along the street, not paying attention to anything other than the voices he could hear. Some of the wishes were ones he would never even contemplate fulfilling, because they were selfish or they’d affect someone else adversely, but then there were others, more heartfelt, that tugged at his empathy. Not all wishes could be granted, so he spent much of his time learning about each person he wanted to help. That was what everyone with wish magic did. Every day they heard the voices of the many races of the Web and made their choices about which wishes they could grant.

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The Many Worlds of K. A. Webb

July 2017

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