Authors: Bill Hiatt
Tags: #young adult fantasy
DIVIDED AGAINST YOURSELVES
by Bill Hiatt
with cover art by Michael Federman
This novel is copyrighted by William A. Hiatt, 2013. All rights are reserved. This work may not be reproduced in whole or in part in any form without written permission from the author.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
The front cover illustration has been copyrighted by and purchased from Michael Federman. Tal's face has been derived from a photograph copyrighted by Pavel L Photo and Video and licensed from
This novel is dedicated to my parents, who have always been there for me.
As John Donne wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself.” My students over the years have provided much of the inspiration for this novel, and my colleagues have made its creation possible, because without them, I would be a very different person now, and probably not one with the desire to write—or teach. They have kept me sane during good times and bad.
I wrote this book knowing that not everyone who read it would have read
Living with Your Past Selves
, the first book in the series. Consequently, I tried to provide enough background for readers in that situation. However, if you have not read the first book and would like a synopsis of the events in the first book, you can find one here:
What Has Gone Before
CHAPTER 1: REUNION WITH AN OLD “FRIEND”
It was just a few days after Thanksgiving, but the memory of the feast I had pretended to enjoy was already fading, and even though winter break was only a couple of weeks away, I couldn’t seem to get excited about the holidays or even about time off from school, though I could use it. What with a heavy class schedule, soccer practice, band practice, and combat practice, I was feeling the schedule squeeze most of the time. And then there was visiting Carla, as I did every day after soccer practice. People told me I didn’t have to visit every single day, but somehow I couldn’t stay away from the gaze of those dead eyes, the void where her mind used to be, a void I almost got lost in every time I tried to probe her.
Yeah, probe her. I could read minds, remember, at least when there was a mind to read. Oh, well, if you’re just “tuning in” now, I wasn’t just the ordinary teenager my parents, and most of the rest of the world, thought I was. At age twelve, the barrier between my current life and all my past lives came crashing down, flooding me with memories of all those lives. I managed to recover from those revelations, but my life was never the same after that. After all, being a reincarnation of the original Taliesin, King Arthur’s bard, was hard enough to absorb all by itself, let alone all of the other lives I had to deal with and the discovery that I could work magic. Oh, and let’s not forget that someone who knew who I was started trying to kill me shortly after I turned sixteen. Yeah, I beat the odds over and over again in the last few months. Carla was not so lucky.
You see, in the big battle against my enemy, Ceridwen, Carla got hit with the same spell that had awakened my past lives four years ago. The problem was, she got hit with it twice. That extra shot might have killed her; instead, it left her comatose—and I couldn’t shake the feeling that her condition was my fault. I had let unsuspecting “civilian” friends go with me to that confrontation, thinking I knew what was going to happen. Well, seeing the future was never one of my gifts, but I had acted as if I could, and now Carla was paying the price.
She could wake up, of course, but the longer she stayed this way, the less chance there was, and her doctors had the disadvantage of having no idea what they were dealing with. Come to think of it, though, what could they have done even if they had known? I didn’t think medical schools covered counter-spells these days.
Actually, there were two people in Santa
Brígida, our little town, who might have been able to help, in theory. Nurse Florence, a member of the Order of the Ladies of the Lake and currently under cover as our high school’s nurse, had originally come to Santa Brígida to watch over me after I was “awakened,” when I was still confused and vulnerable. Well, at least more confused and vulnerable than I was now—I hadn’t quite gotten over the confusion. Anyway, she knew more than a little magic, particularly healing magic. There was also Vanora, a colleague of hers from Wales who saved me in the big battle by preventing me from saving Carla. (Vanora wasn’t exactly on my Christmas card list, but I would have forgiven all if she had come up with a way to cure Carla.) Together they had tried pretty much every trick in both of their books and had failed…over and over and over. Ceridwen had crafted that awakening spell herself, and with her dead, no one else knew how it worked. Perhaps if we had kept Ceridwen alive…but no, she had nearly beaten us, and as much as I wanted Carla to be all right—well, let’s be honest, as much as I loved Carla—I couldn’t have risked everyone else I ever knew or cared about by gambling that we could have found a way to keep Ceridwen prisoner. For that matter, even if she had survived, I couldn’t imagine what would have moved her to divulge the secret of the spell.
“Hey, Tal!” said a high, prepubescent voice right behind me. Without turning around, I knew it was the voice of Gianni, Carla’s little brother.
“Gianni, are your parents here?” I asked. The hospital was quite a ways from the Rinaldi house, but there was no sign of Mr. and Mrs. Rinaldi.
“Nah, I took a cab. I wanted to see Carla, and Papa had to work late.”
“Your mom let you come here by yourself?”
Gianni was studying the floor tiles intently. “She doesn’t know.”
“What are you trying to do, kid, give her heart failure? She’ll miss you and worry.”
Gianni’s brown eyes looked up at me. “I’m eleven now—she doesn’t need to worry.”
Yeah, dude, that line would work better if your voice didn’t squeak like that.
“Let me just give her a call and see if I can straighten this out.” I whipped out my cell and dialed the number from memory. Needless to say, I had been right; Mrs. Rinaldi was anything but delighted to discover that her son was AWOL. However, the fact that Gianni was with me and that I was bringing him home went a long way toward keeping him from being grounded until he turned forty-five. Even though the Rinaldis hadn’t really known me that long, they had been treating me like family ever since Carla’s coma, assuming, as pretty much everyone else did, that I was Carla’s boyfriend, though in fact we had only just started to move in that direction.
“OK, Gianni, I squared it for you this time, but you can’t just take a cab again without getting your parents’ permission.”
“I’ll bet you would have done it at my age if you had to.”
Well, he had me there, but I was trying to be less impulsive these days, and I certainly wanted him to be.
He talked to Carla for awhile, telling her what had happened at school over the last couple of days. It was predictably a one-sided conversation, just like all my conversations with Carla. One could always hope, though, that Carla was taking it in, that she was getting closer to consciousness with every word.
God, his hair was exactly the same shade of black that hers was, and his facial features were so reminiscent of hers. Sometimes I found it hard to look at him. It wasn’t his fault, though, that his very presence made my mute grief even more intense. In any case, we were connected through Carla, and he already looked at me like a brother. I was responsible for taking his sister away. The least I could do was fill in for her.
Gianni hung on until the nurses pretty much kicked us out. We each gave Carla a peck on the cheek and left. As we walked out the front door, I steered Gianni to the left, toward the lot where my new Prius was parked. My parents had resisted getting me a car before, since Santa Brígida was a relatively small place, and we lived in walking distance from the high school, with downtown only a quick bus trip away. Carla’s hospital, however, was west down the 101 in Coast Village, much too far to walk and requiring a tortuously long bus ride. How could they say no? Well, they did say no to red—I was going for the color the Welsh dragon, though naturally they didn’t know that—and I ended up with that not-quite black shade, gunmetal. All things considered, it was a reasonable compromise.
As soon as we opened the front door of the hospital, I knew something was wrong. When I had gone in to see Carla, the sky had been clear, yet now all I could see in any direction was fog so thick it blotted out the world beyond the hospital steps. Sure, we were close to the ocean, but I had seen this particular kind of fog too often to believe its occurrence was natural. Indeed, every time I had seen fog this thick in the last few months, it meant that something supernatural—and usually bad—was about to happen.
“Gianni, go back inside for a minute. It’s better if I bring the car around.” I glanced in his direction, but he was fascinated by the glow of the distant parking-lot lights in the fog and didn’t seem to be listening.
“Gianni…” I started again, more emphatically, but before I could get any further, a figure appeared at the bottom of the steps, emerging from the fog so abruptly that I jumped a little, despite myself.
Yeah, I would know her anywhere. Same long, glossy black hair, same flawless white skin, same model perfect features and body. Only the gown was different this time: white samite, instead of the red samite I had last seen her wear, perhaps to make her more inconspicuous in the fog.
Morgan Le Fay!
“Why, Taliesin, what a pleasant surprise! I scarcely expected to run into you again. And who is your young friend?”
“Gianni, get inside!” I barked the order in Welsh, knowing he wouldn’t remember afterward what had happened. In response to my magic, he turned quickly toward the door.
“No, Gianni, please stay here!” cooed Morgan, also in Welsh. I could feel the magic behind the words, and so could Gianni, who froze, his hand still in midair, reaching toward the door handle.
I needed to get Gianni away from Morgan, but I didn’t want his mind pulled in two different directions by two powerful spell casters. My research prior to the battle against Ceridwen gave me the upper hand with certain kinds of magic, but Morgan was at least as powerful as I with simple mind manipulation, if not more so.
Without hesitation I drew my sword, White Hilt, and flames instantly engulfed its blade. Perhaps if Morgan were distracted enough, she would lose her focus on Gianni, and he would follow my original command.
“I see your manners have not improved since last time. I only want to talk.” Morgan’s voice conveyed an icy calm, but I noticed she did back away a step.
“You tried to kill me last time,” I pointed out, trying to sound reasonable and not betray one freezing instant of the fear that frosted my heart. It was not that I was that afraid of facing Morgan in general. I was afraid of facing her with Gianni only a few steps away and totally vulnerable to any malign magic she might hurl at him.
“Some of my actions last time were…ill-advised. I let Ceridwen talk me into attacking you and your friends. What I did was foolish, and I crave your forgiveness.”
Well, an apology from Morgan was certainly a surprise—but it was probably also a trick, a way of lulling me into a false sense of security.