With a trembling hand, Zeke held the crystal out before him, his hand balled into a fist around it. “Equal no credit-ay, to cray… to crawl… I don’t remember the words, Bo.”
“‘Equo nay credit, toe cry. Quit, quit its dust, time ay-oh Dan-ohs ate dunno ferrent us,’ you idiot. Now hurry up. I don’t know how much longer I can hold her.”
Zeke held the crystal up once more and repeated the phrase with only minor variations. “A quote nay crud eat, tofu. Quit, quit, it is, time for Dannie to eat ferrets!”
And nothing happened. Zeke repeated the words, this time with an entirely different variation (mostly because he couldn’t have repeated the last variation had his life depended on it), and again nothing happened. The crystal glowed red in Zeke’s hands, but otherwise remained inert, defiant of Bo and Zeke’s best efforts to invoke its power.
Finally, the girl grunted. “That is the most atrocious thing I’ve ever heard. I presume you’re trying to quote Virgil: ‘Equo ne credite, Teucri. Quidquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.’”
Bo grinned, one of his patented evil varieties, and looked to Zeke. “That’s it. Try it that way.”
Again Zeke thrust the crystal into the air and recited the words as best as he could remember them at the trembling hand that held the seemingly defunct and unresponsive crystal. “Equal nay credit-ay, Toe cree. Quit, quit it dust, Timmy oh Dana-os ate dunno ferentus!”
Apparently, the words were close enough because immediately the crystal began to pulse violently. Its red glow deepened as the light expanded outward. It crawled up Zeke’s arm in thin tendrils, causing Zeke to drop the crystal with a shriek. But its trip to the ground in no way disrupted its operation. The crystal shone brighter and brighter. Its light shot upward and outward until the entire barn was illuminated in a soft, red glow that intensified in an attempt to force Bo to shield his eyes from the light and the heat. But Bo was mesmerized by the preternatural beauty of the display and could not tear his eyes away. From the other side of the light, he was vaguely aware of Zeke, similarly enraptured, and he still felt the form of the girl in his hands, now unmoving. But none of this mattered. All that mattered was the light, so bright, so beautiful. Bo felt an uncommon kinship with that light. More than that, he felt an inexplicable, yet undeniable desire to possess it. But he dared not move to claim it. It was so thin, so ethereal. If he so much as breathed, it might vanish. So he watched, the desire a dull, unrelenting ache inside him that quickly grew to a fire that threatened to consume him whole.
As Bo watched, the crystal began to waver as if he were looking at it through the flames of a campfire. A mist detached itself from the crystal and wafted upward, and Bo’s gaze followed the mist like an obedient puppy. The light in the crystal faded as the mist rose, but the light itself did not dissipate. Instead, it followed the mist, integrating with it so that the mist and the light became a single, inseparable entity.
And then the mist began to take form. It expanded outward near the top. Two thin tendrils spread out from the main body, and similarly, the main body of the mist stretched downwards toward the floor, dividing as it did into twin columns, though columns was not really the right word. The columns were not straight. They were widest at the top where they joined with the main part of the mist, and as they made their journey to the ground, they narrowed, slightly widening a little more than halfway down before narrowing again toward the ground. No, they were not columns. If anything, they looked like legs.
Bo let his gaze roam upward again, and was dismayed to find that the resemblance to legs was more than just resemblance. The twin tendrils near the top had formed themselves into slender arms, while the main body of the mist took on the voluptuous curves of a woman, a very beautiful, very naked woman.
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