“I think the bunnies are watching us.”
Dakotah, Pete, and Val all looked up from what they were doing. Phin was peering intently through the blinds into the yard, standing at a slight angle as if worried about sniper attacks.
“Dude…what?” asked Dakotah.
Phin let the blinds drop. “I’m serious. There’s a whole bunny army out there. Un conejito ejercito. I think they’re watching us.”
“Why…would they be watching us?” Pete said with arched brows.
Phin shrugged. “You said we aren’t safe. Maybe they’re waiting for their moment. You know, a bunch of bunnies could be more dangerous than just one giant salamander.”
“Stop saying bunnies!” Val giggled. “Is this how you get when there’s no homework?”
School was out in two weeks, and with all their AP tests done at the end of May, Phin and Pete were pretty much home free.
Dakotah and Val were the opposite. She had to do super well on two final projects to get her grades up. He had had to go around to each of his teachers and figure out a way to avoid summer school. Unlike last year though, his teachers were more helpful and less resigned. Putting in more effort during the school year had definitely helped sway some opinions of him.
Ike would’ve been happy. He’d always had a lecture for Dakotah on the importance of school. Dakotah still didn’t give a shit about school but at least it’d be out of his hair for three months, and then he’d be a senior. He did not have time for summer school this year. He had big plans for marketing the shop.
“Besides, the salamander was like three weeks ago,” Pete pointed out.
They’d spent a ton of time trying to figure out the salamander—what its real name was, where it had come from, if it had been sent by someone, if it had died, why it tried to attack them—with no luck. Dakotah had put a strict ban on using the Lake (the only thing he hadn’t tried was going back on it and seeing what happened). Beyond that, he’d sent a note to the Seelie prince, a note that had gone unanswered.
“Three ominous weeks,” responded Phin, with another look out the window.
Val cracked up. “Well, I’m done with this,” she said, dropping her pencil. “Let’s go outside and practice sensing. Maybe you can tell how big the bunny army is.”
“Cool. You guys coming?”
Dakotah and Pete shook their heads.
He said, “I have to finish this.”
She said, “I have to read about salamanders on Wikipedia.”
They all laughed and Phin and Val went out to the backyard.
“Apparently if you coat yourself in salamander blood it makes you immune to fire,” Pete said. “We should remember that.”
Dakotah grimaced. “That’s some Walking Dead shit.”
“Ooh!” said Pete.
“What?” He looked up from his homework.
“There was a Power Rangers salamander monster called Saliguana! That’s what we should call our salamander!”
“Oh Jesus,” said Dakotah, looking back to his homework. “We can’t, it’s probably copyrighted.”
“And stop reading me the Wikipedia page. I read that before the grimoire.”
There hadn’t been a salamander grimoire so they’d been having Val read random tomes, like reptiles (which included amphibians; grimoires weren’t very scientific), winged beasts, and fire. The Fire Grimoire had been surprisingly long.
“Maybe I’d better be practicing Hero stuff with Phin,” Pete wondered. “In case we have to fight.”
Dakotah made a face. “Nobody’s fighting anyone.”
She arched her eyebrows. He sighed.
“Ok, just a little more researching. If we can’t find anything today, we’ll just…”
But he couldn’t finish the sentence, because he didn’t know what they’d do.
“Close your eyes,” Val instructed. She held the heavy grimoire in one hand, referencing it as she told Phin what to do. Ever since Dakotah had first inherited his shop, they’d all been experimenting with the magic they came into contact with. Now she was organizing, setting up mini lessons and trying to teach things to Phin and Pete in a logical way. Unfortunately, she didn’t have any magic herself, but the magic of Heroes was way more clear-cut than Guardian magic, so they could figure it out together.
“Picture the backyard in your mind. No, wait, look at the area three feet around you, then close your eyes and picture that.”
“Ok, then, like fill it with color?”
Phin opened his eyes. “Was that a question?”
“I think you have to picture it like, really, really clearly, then you infuse it with magic and you can start separating things—even how many blades of grass there are.”
“Ok,” said Phin. “I already know the shop really well, so I’m gonna sense for bunnies.”
“Dude, you are so weird–”
But Phin was already trying. His eyes were closed and he frowned slightly as he concentrated.
“Got one,” he said after a moment. Without opening his eyes, he started to walk forward. “You circle around the back side of the fence.”
“We’re gonna trap it.”
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