Indigo Springs is a sleepy town where things seem pretty normal . . . until Astrid's father dies and she moves into his house. She discovers that for many years her father had been accessing the magic that flowed, literally, in a blue stream beneath the earth, leaking into his house. When she starts to use the liquid "vitagua" to enchant everyday items, the results seem innocent enough: a "'chanted" watch becomes a charm that means you're always in the right place at the right time; a "'chanted" pendant enables the wearer to convince anyone of anything . . .
But as events in Indigo Springs unfold and the true potential of vitagua is revealed, Astrid and her friends unwittingly embark on a journey fraught with power, change, and a future too devastating to contemplate. Friends become enemies and enemies become friends as Astrid discovers secrets from her shrouded childhood that will lead her to a destiny stranger than she could have imagined . . .
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A.M. DELLAMONICA has had stories published in various fantasy and science fiction magazines and anthologies. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, where she is at work on Blue Magic, the sequel to Indigo Springs.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
(· Chapter One ·)
“You’re going to fall in love today.” It is the first thing Astrid Lethewood says to me. A heartbeat later Patience joins us in the foyer and I nearly believe her.
I’ve seen Patience—on TV, on security feeds—but nothing has prepared me for meeting a demi-goddess. My brain seizes up, my hands get damp, and my mouth dries. I smell popcorn, hear the distant music of a carousel. A tingle of arousal threatens to embarrass me, but that, at least, I am ready for. My jacket, folded over one arm, hangs discreetly over my groin.
Today Patience is curly haired and black, with breasts—I can’t help looking—as firm and curvaceous as if they had been sculpted by Rodin. Her lips are full, her teeth straight, and her brown eyes are luminous and warm. Her skin has the seal-fat sleekness of youth, but she does not look young.
Soon she will look utterly different, if just as devastating.
“Who are you?” she asks, voice full of music.
“My name is Will Forest. I’m—”
“Another of Roche’s inquisitors? When’ll he give up?”
“Don’t be naïve,” I say.
She pops a candy into her mouth, crunching defiantly. “I got nothing to say to you.”
I pull in a breath. The carousel music tinkles on, and my spirits ride along, taking my inner child to the circus. “I’m here to talk to Astrid.”
“Great—another therapist type who thinks he can get through to her.” She puts a protective hand out to Astrid, who is hiding in her shadow. Proximate invisibility, the doctors call it, as if naming the behavior gives them a measure of control. The everyday world of telecommunications and two-hour commutes is crumbling, so they crouch in the surveillance center, labeling Astrid’s every twitch.
Even now she is shrinking against the wall. “Is this when the guards start shooting?”
I glance at the well-armed young women in the corridor. They frown back, probably annoyed that I’m blocking the threshold of the apartment entrance.
Astrid sobs into a clenched fist, and Patience strokes her hair, glaring at me. “Just leave us alone!”
“I’m not here to upset you, but I’m not going away either.” To emphasize the point, I step inside and shut the white door. Steel bolts clunk into place behind it: a vault door sealing us inside. This prison is two hundred feet belowground and surrounded by bedrock. To get here, I have been X-rayed, frisked, fingerprinted, and DNA tested. My identity has been confirmed and reconfirmed so completely that I am almost beginning to doubt it.
“As I said, my name is Will Forest.” I take care to speak to them both. “I’m here to interview Astrid about—”
“Please, Doc, go away.” Patience locks her bewitching eyes on me. “She can’t help you.”
I want to give in, like the others before me, but I hold her gaze, fighting the spell with thoughts of my missing kids. “I’m not a doctor, Patience, and I’m not leaving.”
Astrid stops crying with a hiccup. “Didn’t I show him around the place?”
“Show him the door, sweetie.”
“Why don’t you let her decide?” Opening my suitcase, I bring out a battered, plastic-wrapped paintbrush.
Astrid’s breath catches. She looks at me closely, searching my face. “I’m supposed to believe you’d let me have it back?”
“Cooperation is a two-way street. I don’t expect something for nothing, Astrid.”
She licks her lips. “I need paper. Cards. Playing cards.”
“I’ve brought them.”
“Astrid, you’re not ready,” Patience says.
“How long do you expect us to give her?”
“She’s in shock.”
“Astrid?” I say.
“It was okay, Patience.” She slides to her knees, face raised, eyes locked on the paintbrush.
“Fine.” Throwing up her hands, Patience wafts away.
Astrid begins to hyperventilate. “When are we?”
“You said something about showing me around.”
“I said that?” Her tone is dubious. “Is that today?”
“Do you know how long you’ve been here?”
“We were locked up for about twelve weeks....” Her eyelids flutter; she seems to be counting. “Eight in jail, four here. That’s twelve.”
“That’s right. You were moved here a month ago.”
“The comfy prison.” She shudders.
The apartment is part of an underground military base: a VIP housing unit that got converted to a jail cell when this crisis arose. It comes with false windows, frosted glass alight with phony full-spectrum sunshine.
“You razed your gardens,” Astrid says. “Bird blood, right? If you put tulip bulbs in the front, daffodils—”
“I’m not much for the outdoors these days,” I say.
“The woods aren’t as deep as they seem.” She breaks off, eyes wandering. “Have we...Sahara—”
“It’s all right,” I say, because I’ve watched hundreds of hours of surveillance footage on this pair, and that is what Patience tells her.
Astrid curls away, then bangs her head against the drywall. “Roche sent you down here to screw me over.”
“It’s not like that.” I grasp her shoulders. “You help me, I’ll help you.”
“Help...” She jerks her head again, but I’m holding her away from the wall.
“Let me help you, Astrid.”
She flinches, then seems to calm down. “Want to see the rest of the place?”
She listlessly tours me through the apartment. Every counter, shelf, and tabletop is cluttered with baubles and jewelry, offerings from Patience’s admiring public. The air smells of paint, and the furniture is inexpensive particleboard, two decades out of date. One piece stands out: an oak cabinet that dominates the living room wall.
“My grandfather is gonna make that,” Astrid explains.
“I thought he was an accountant.”
“He took up woodworking after he retired. Terrible at it—made Ma a rocking chair that almost killed her. Tips too far, falls, hits her head.”
“Ouch.” Evelyn Lethewood has mentioned the incident too; it happened when she was a teenager.
Astrid leans a damp cheek against the varnished wood. “Colonel Roach takes this out of Ma’s garage for me.”
“I asked him to.”
“Yes.” She’s mentioned the cabinet in her ramblings, even searching for it in the spot it now occupies.
“You’re a regular Santa Claus, aren’t you?”
“I meant it as a show of good faith.”
“It’s all happening.” Her hand drifts out, settling on my briefcase. “It’s finally Will day, isn’t it?”
“It’s the sixth of September.”
She starts to weep, tugging her hair. “Will day, Jackson day, fire, quake day, cutthroats, boomsday. Blood on the paintings, painted spatters across the walls...”
Patience peers through a doorway, arching her brows in challenge. “Making out okay, Santa?”
“I’m fine.” I rap my knuckles on Astrid’s cabinet, drawing her attention. “Only things my granddad ever made were model airplanes and bad wine.”
She sniffles. “Think you can trade with me? I’ll bare my soul for treats, like a dog?”
“I thought you’d like to have something familiar around, that’s all.”
“Thinking of my welfare.” Her eyes narrow. “I know about you.”
“You’re divorcing, I know that.”
“Am I supposed to believe you’re psychic? Patience could have gone through my office.”
“Right, Patience. I’m small potatoes, right? The side issue. The material witness.”
Her mouth tightens. “You have two kids and a pit bull, which is funny because you don’t like dogs.”
The words bring up gooseflesh on my neck. “My son Carson wanted a puppy. I’m a soft touch.”
She scoffs. “You’re here to break me open.”
“Astrid, all I want is to talk.”
“Gull dropping mussels onto rocks, that’s you. Cracking shells, getting the meat. Break everything open.”
“Astrid, I know you’ve been through a traumatic—”
“I’m not insane.”
“Then you’ve no excuse for not cooperating.” I will coax the truth from this raving, damaged woman. I need to learn how Patience became a shape-changing beauty, how she defies locks and assassins by turning to mist and drifting through walls and bullets, rocks and people.
I’m here to find out how Astrid, a landscape gardener who never finished high school, came to possess a collection of objects we can only label as mystical, despite our science and rationality.
Most important, I’m supposed to learn how Astrid’s childhood friend, Sahara Knax, took those mystical items and used them to create an eco-terrorist cult with half a million devoted followers. I need to discover Sahara’s weaknesses, anything that will tell my panicked government how to fight as her numbers grow, as she unleashes monsters into the seas and forests, as she forces us to napalm U.S. territory to destroy the infestations. Her actions grow more dangerous d...
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