They didn’t have to wait long.
Not even fifteen minutes later, a bang sounded on the doors of the throne room. Amity jerked her head up and stared as they blew open with a blinding spear of light that flew straight at Belos. He merely shifted to the side to avoid it.
When the light faded, Amity made out the shape of Eda, floating a couple feet off the ground. Her face was etched with pure fury, her teeth bared in a menacing snarl. Even Amity couldn’t help but be intimidated by the frenzy written across the Owl Lady’s features. Once the light had disappeared completely Eda dropped to the floor, panting, and stared up at the Emperor and his Coven head. She hadn’t seemed to notice Luz and Amity yet.
“I see you got my invitation to a witches’ duel,” Lilith said coldly.
Eda didn’t reply verbally. She gathered up another barrage of fire and flung the flames in every direction, not even flinching as one hit a pillar and crashed to the ground a few inches away.
“Eda!” Luz yowled. She banged her fists against the bubble, but the thick magic barrier muffled her cries.
Lilith shot her own blast of blue magic at her sister. “Where is she?” Eda spat as she ducked underneath it.
Lilith waved her hand dismissively at the space next to the throne where Amity and Luz were trapped. “They’re safe. For now.”
Eda’s eyes went wide with shock when she saw the bubble. “You took Amity too?”
“It wasn’t hard. She follows the human around everywhere like a sad puppy.”
“Give them back.”
“Oh, you can have them back. I don’t particularly need them for anything important. You just need to give yourself to the Coven nicely, and we’ll ensure that no harm comes to the human and her little pet.”
“Bonehead back there’s awfully quiet,” Eda mocked. “Is he making his Coven leader do all his dirty work now? That’s a new low.” She snorted. “You’ve always looked down on me because I’m wild, sister. But all that means is that I’ve worked harder than the both of you combined!” She slammed the butt of her staff into the floor and the shape of a great fiery owl rose behind her and spread its wings.
Amity gasped. If they all hadn’t been in mortal danger, the sight would have been majestic.
Then the two witches fought. Blue against golden, the owl against the raven. The Emperor on his throne looked almost bored.
“It’ll be over soon, it’ll be over soon, it’ll be over soon,” Luz whispered to herself. Amity offered her a comforting touch to her hand.
A particularly strong burst of magic hit Eda and she fell to the ground with a screech. She sat on her hands and knees for a moment, gasping for breath. When she looked up, she met Lilith’s cool gaze evenly.
“It’s sad to see you slowing down, sister,” Lilith murmured. “You poor thing. The curse must really be taking its toll.”
Even from a distance Amity could see the darkness in Eda’s gem spreading. Eda didn’t have much time left in this form, and judging from the devastated look on Luz’s face, Luz knew that too. Amity’s heart ached for her girlfriend. It must be so horrifying to have to go through this twice. I can’t imagine…
“I don’t know if the curse is the reason I haven’t blasted you to shreds yet,” Eda replied. “But if it is, then how pathetic are you that with Belos at your back you still can’t best me at my worst?” With these words, she released her most powerful-looking attack yet, a dozen flashing lightning bolts that filled the room with scorching energy. It was useless, though- Lilith put up a shield around herself, not unlike the one that Amity and Luz were being contained in, and the magic deflected off the sides, leaving only a few small cracks in the glass.
“You may have worked harder but I worked smarter. I was the one who joined the Emperor's Coven. You were not. That’s a real sign of power.”
“I gave up my spot willingly!” hissed Eda.
“Only because you were too weak to take it. Because you couldn’t duel me. Because you had been so easy to curse!” The second the words had been spoken, Lilith slapped her hand to her mouth.
Eda’s staff clattered to the ground. Amity glanced at Luz. Her girlfriend pulled her knees to her chest and let out an eerie, keening moan. Her devastation at seeing her mentor endure this reveal for the second time was nearly tangible.
“And I- I can remove it-” Lilith amended hurriedly. “If only you’d give me a chance-”
“I will never fall prey to your games,” Eda interrupted. She threw herself at her sister, knocking them both at the wall just above Belos’ head and below the great thumping green heart. This seemed to take the last of her strength, as by the timeand thatwhen she crashed to the ground at Belos’ feet, her gem was completely black.
“No!” Luz held out her hand as if in one last desperate attempt to reach Eda.
Eda struggled to her knees. Her golden stare finally met Luz’s and she took a deep breath. “Okay, kid,” she said grimly. Already the darkness in her gem was spreading to the whites of her eyes. “I’m going away, and I don’t know if I can bounce back this time. Watch over King. Remember to feed Hooty. Amity- thank you for being there for Luz. And Luz, thank you for being in my life.”
“Not again,” Luz whispered. “Please. I don’t want to see this again.”
It was too late. Feathers sprouted on Eda’s limbs. Her ears elongated, her talons grew sharp, and a huge pair of wings unfolded on her back. She roared once and the transformation was complete.
Luz began to sob. It wrenched her heart almost as much as having to see Eda’s horrific demise up close.
Within a moment, long red cords had wrapped themselves around the Owl Beast’s body and pinned her to the ground. Eda shrieked and lashed out with her claws, but the Emperor's magic had already contained her. From his throne, Belos let out a low chuckle.
“It is complete,” Lilith said quietly. She sounded strangely… regretful. She loves Eda. She really does, Amity thought. She’s just going about it in all the wrong ways.
“You will heal her now, yes?”
“I believe you are mistaken.” Belos snapped his fingers and four guards appeared from the shadows behind the throne. Were they there the whole time?Amity wondered. “We will not be healing her. She is a perpetrator of wild magic, and there is only one way to deal with those who break this rule. This is the will of the Titan.”
“Not healing her,” Lilith said. “So… so you’re…”
“Petrifying her, yes. The same way we’ve been petrifying wild witches for fifty years. The Day of Unity is nearly upon us. I need only one thing before Edalyn is gone, and that’s the portal the human came through. I will get that from her before the ceremony- which I would like to hold now. Let’s get it done with as quickly as possible.” He pointed at the guards and barked a command. “Holding cell. Now.”
The guards obeyed and dragged the wailing Owl Beast away.
Belos turned to the orb that held Luz and Amity. “As for these two…” He flicked his wrist and the bubble disappeared. “Go quietly, please. We’d hate to have any disturbances before the ceremony begins. This one is very important.”
To Amity’s surprise, Luz dipped her head respectfully. “Okay.”
Amity followed Luz out of the throne room, the thumping of the great green heart echoing in her ears.
Once they were well away from Belos, Luz grabbed Amity’s arm and pulled her into a dark corridor. “Here’s the plan.”
“We have a plan?”
“We’ll do it just like last time. Except I’ll have you to help me.” Luz hesitated. “You… want to help, right?”
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world,” Amity assured her. “Good. I wouldn’t be able to do it without you.” Luz’s eyes shone with affection, and Amity found herself wondering why she’d ever doubted her. “So. This time, the ceremony will be held almost twenty-four hours earlier, which means we need to be faster. No running around the human realm. No sitting through Lilith’s sob story. If she tries to pull that on us, we run away.”
“Hopefully we won’t even run into her.”
“Hopefully not. Anyway, I know how to get into Eda’s holding cell from here. We’ll need to go quickly and get on the platform with Eda as fast as possible- Belos will be down there, just like he was last time, and…” Luz seemed to struggle to get her next words out. “He’ll… he’ll want the portal.”
A cold ball of dread appeared in Amity’s stomach. “No…”
“I have fire glyphs on me. I can destroy it.”
“You shouldn’t need to.”
“Amity, it’s alright. It means I’ll get a few more months with you,” Luz said softly. “I miss my mom, but… I’ll miss you too when I’m gone. At least this way I’ll be able to give you the goodbye you deserve.”
Amity shrugged. “That’s why I’m here, I guess, and I… I never would have predicted how amazing the last couple months have been. I wouldn’t have traded them for anything in the world.”
Luz wrapped Amity in a tight hug. “Me neither.” She pulled back and offered her girlfriend a small smile. “Let’s go rescue Eda.”
Amity joined her hands with Luz’s, and they ducked out of the corridor.
The hallways were quiet. Surely everyone in the castle had already caught word of the Petrification and was beginning to gather in the plaza where the ceremony would take place. As they darted around, Amity kept her ears pricked, but there was no sign of danger- or of any other presence at all.
It took them several minutes to find the holding cell, and Amity feared they were already too late. But Luz remained determined and was no longer showing any sign of fear. She slapped an ice glyph on the cell’s padlock. The ice broke and the ice fell away. Luz bowed her head. “This is it,” she whispered. “This is where it ends.”
Then she pushed open the door.
Stale, cold air hit Amity’s face when she stepped inside, and she wrinkled her nose in disgust. The dank stone-lined walls gave off a horrible feeling of fear, of begrudging defeat, of one last battle that was never won. Eda must have already gone insane in here. Amity knew she would have.
On the far end of the room tethered to a round platform by chains that radiated magical energy, was Eda. Her eyes were shut and she emanated soft growls as the two girls approached. It was almost like she was crying. Could a creature like the Owl Beast feel sorrow in this state?
Luz approached the platform and reached an arm out. Amity trepidatiously remained a pace behind her. She noticed that Luz kept one hand hovering over the pocket of her tunic- presumably ready to bring out her glyphs if- and when- the need arose.
“Eda,” Luz murmured. “Hey.”
The beast’s eyes snapped open and it roared. She bared her teeth and snapped at Luz, but the chains kept her in place.
Bringing out a glyph, Luz created a small light orb and shone it close to Eda’s face. “It’s okay. It’s just me. It’s Luz.”
The glassy gaze of the Owl Beast vanished instantly and was replaced with a much more humanoid expression. When Eda registered the presence of her visitors, she blinked in shock. “Oh no. No no no no no. Why are you two still here? Belos told you to leave!”
“I’d never do anything Belos told me to,” Luz said bravely.
Courageous words for someone who knows Belos is probably watching us right now.
“You’re not safe here, kid. I know you want to rescue me, but you can’t. It’s alright.” Eda tapped Luz lightly with one claw. “You know, I’ve lived a good life. I got away with a lot… a lot more than most witches like me can usually get away with. And I got to train you, even if it was only for a little while. I’ve never been happier than when I got to know you.”
The heartfelt words did nothing to deter Luz from her goal. “I’m rescuing you anyway. I know exactly how I’m going to do it, and I’ve got Amity to help me this time.”
Amity nodded in confirmation.
“This time?” Eda asked, startled. “Never mind. I admire your determination, but…” She sighed forlornly and stretched one birdlike arm into the mane of feathers atop her head. When she drew out the familiar key and tapped the eye to open the portal, she handed it to Luz. “You already have a family. Go back to them.”
Luz didn’t even turn around to look at the portal that had opened behind her. “Eda, you’re my family. And I’m going to save you.”
“You can’t. Just go!”
“Eda!” Luz pressed herself into Eda’s chest and wrapped her arm around Eda’s wide, feathery frame. “I’m going up with you.”
Eda recoiled. “You’ll do no such thing!” she snapped.
“Amity, come on.” Luz clambered onto the platform and extended her hand. “Let’s go. We’re gonna end this right now.”
Amity was interrupted when the dull gray lighting in the cell suddenly switched to a harsh red that made her head ache. Luz continued to cling to Eda, but Eda picked her student up by the cowl and placed her on the floor. “Save yourself, Luz,” she said weakly. “Before my sister comes back. Get yourself out of here!”
“I can’t leave you!”
Amity briefly touched Luz’s shoulder. “Luz, it’s okay. We’ll have another chance. The platform will come back down, and-”
“Well, I was hoping I wouldn’t have to face Belos this time, but okay.”
Amity could only watch as bars appeared around the platform where Eda stood, and the cage began to ascend. Eda looked hopeless, heartbroken, and regretful. It was strange to see the most powerful witch on the Boiling Isles have to admit defeat.
It made her very scared. After all, if Eda couldn’t fight her way out, how would a couple teenagers manage an escape from the Emperor?
She’s done it once, she can do it again. I need to have faith in her.
When Eda was out of sight and silence had fallen over the holding cell, Luz clicked the eye on the key and the portal closed back up. It condensed itself into its case and she clutched it to her chest. “I was hoping she’d listen to me,” she mumbled. “I was hoping I could get up there before Belos even knew I was here. Then I’d stop the Petrification before it even began…”
Chills racked Amity’s body. “We’ll be alright,” she lied. She wouldn’t admit as much to Luz, but she was terrified. If this played out like it had last time, and they’d have to face Belos head-on… she reminded herself that Luz had done it all alone before. And she knew she wasn’t as half as brave as Luz. But she did know that she had to try.
As if on cue, another light turned on the back of the holding cell.
“Wonderful attempt, children. But I’m afraid there’s no hope for the Owl Lady now.”
It was a little strange that the emperor of the Isles had a makeshift throne in the dungeon’s holding cell. It was almost as if he’d created it for this perfect theatrical moment. And theatrical it was- Belos’ glowing blue eyes piercing in the low light, the constant thump of Amity’s heart in her own ears, the stifling and stale air around them. He made no attempt to move at first, instead merely watching the two witchlings with terrifyingly cold interest.
“I know you want this!” Luz yelled, holding out the portal case. “And I’ll give it to you as long as you let me go up to Eda!”
“Ever the hero, aren’t you, human,” Belos sighed. “It’s an admirable quality. But I’m afraid you don’t need it here.”
“I’ll save her! I will! Just watch!”
Belos stood up. “You know, you’ve a strange aura about you.” He crossed the cell and bent over Luz and Amity. “Ever since you arrived in the throne room, I’ve sensed it, and I’ve had many questions. How I yearned to ask you about it. And- ah, I believe I might have an idea of what it could be.” He held out his hand and lifted both girls into the air- first Luz, and then Amity. The breath was sucked out of Amity’s lungs and she choked on nothing. From the looks of it, Luz was in similar pain, and she’d dropped the portal in the process. “You’ve both been tampering with some strange and wild magic.”
“Let us go!” Amity gasped.
Luz thrashed around in the Emperor’s invisible grip. “Please! I’ll give you the portal! Just put us down!”
“The portal’s not half as interesting as what I’m about to learn from you,” murmured Belos. After a moment of pondering, he let out a deep and threatening chuckle. “Strange magic from before the Savage Ages. You’ve certainly that energy about you. And judging from your conniving whispers and planning earlier…” He tilted his head. “Could you have tampered with time? Have you already lived this day?”
“Time magic isn’t real,” Luz said weakly.
“It disappoints me greatly that the witches of the past have felt the need to hide this knowledge of magic from me. What an incredible invention. Don’t they know that it’s the will of the Titan that powerful knowledge like that is shared with me?”
“We don’t do anything wrong!” Luz protested. “I’m just a human, I can’t even do magic! And Amity’s still in school, she, she… she’s not fully trained yet!”
Belos jerked his neck around to look at Amity. “Is that a valid excuse?”
Amity swallowed. “Yes-”
“Wrong answer.” Belos dropped them both and they fell, shrieking, onto the elevating platform which had since returned to the ground. “And there is only one way to deal with perpetrators of wild magic.”
Amity looked at Luz. “He doesn’t mean-”
“Yes, yes, I do believe this means you will be suffering the same fate as your beloved Edalyn. I suppose it is sad… Amity, did you say your name was? Amity here had her whole future ahead of her. But I cannot allow you to go on knowing what you do.” He tapped his fingers on the head of his staff. The same bars that had enclosed Eda on her way up now surrounded Luz and Amity. Tears appeared in Luz’s eyes and she threw herself into Amity’s arms.
“Though it will have to be just a moment before we move you up there. After all, we must wait for the previous Petrification to finish. We cannot have two ceremonies going on at once.”
“Eda,” Luz sobbed. “We’re gonna be too late.” She buried her face in Amity’s shoulder.
Belos jerked Luz away from Amity and turned the human upside down so that all the glyphs in her pockets fluttered through the bars of the cage and landed at his feet. “Ah, that’s much better. You certainly won’t be needing those up there.” He deposited Luz where she’d been. Amity curled her arms around Luz protectively.
Then they were rising.
It was a strange feeling, watching the malevolent form of the Emperor grow smaller and smaller as they got higher and higher. As they rose towards the light, Amity closed her eyes. She didn’t want to see the crowds that remained for Eda’s petrification that would now witness the demise of the two young witches.
The sunlight struck her much more forcefully than she expected and she instinctively blinked her eyes back open. The crowd was still large, and if Amity squinted she could see a few familiar faces in the crowd.
Luz’s many-eyed demon friend from the Conformatorium.
Luz seemed to see their friends as well. As if the full gravity of the situation finally hit her, she let out a loud, grief-stricken caterwaul. Amity pulled her closer. The contact was all she could do to comfort her girlfriend.
“In a shocking turn of events, two new witches have come up for Petrification,” declared the announcer. Amity recalled somewhere that this was Gus’s father, whose tone betrayed only an alarming neutrality. “Amity Blight and Luz the human, participating in what looks to be the hug of the century.”
“We should stand up,” Amity whispered. “Face them with dignity. It’s the best way to go out, right?”
“We shouldn’t have to be here at all,” Luz sobbed. “This is all my fault, I-”
Amity gently turned Luz’s face towards her own and brushed a tear out of the corner of the human’s eye with her thumb. “Shh. Look at me. It’s nobody’s fault.”
“It’s no one’s fault.” Amity re-emphasized. She brought them both to their feet just as the eyes of the stone statue next to the cage lit up and the volume of the crowd increased, disbelieving murmurs mixed with outraged screams of protest.
“Wait.” Luz’s eyes flashed with recognition. “Isn’t…”
Amity’s feet suddenly felt strangely heavy. Actually, no- she couldn’t feel them at all, and she realized that the petrification beam was moving upwards, slowly encasing her in stone. “Isn’t what?”
“In your pocket…”
Just as the numbness reached her knees Amity reached her hand into her pocket and pulled out the page that Luz had given her from the time spell book. “Luz, you’re a genius,” she choked out.
“It’s our only way out.”
“But…” Amity hesitated. “Everything we’ve been through together. We can’t just throw it all away. What about us? What about the things we’ve seen together, the memories…”
“The memories won’t go away,” Luz reminded her.
“Can’t we just go back to before you left?”
“You and I both know that’s not in either of our best interests,” Luz said firmly. “It’s just like Belos said. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you. You’ll go on and do great things, Amity. I know you will. You need to go live your life.”
Now her waist was gone.
“But what about you?” Amity asked. “I wasted your time. I came back to be with you, and now look how badly I’ve messed everything up.” Now it was her turn to hold back tears. “I was falling in love with you, remember?”
“Just because we didn’t last forever doesn’t mean we wasted time.”
Just because we didn’t last forever doesn’t mean we wasted time. Amity turned the words around in her mind. Maybe they were true.
“That’s not to say I won’t ever see you again,” Luz went on. “You know that not a day will go by where I don’t think of you.”
A few tears made their way down Amity’s cheeks. She let herself watch Luz’s face for a moment longer, allowing herself to get lost in her gentle eyes and soft smile for what might be the last time. “Can I- can I kiss you?” she asked. She wondered if the tears had muddled her words so badly that Luz couldn’t understand them.
But Luz certainly did. She leaned forward and captured Amity’s lips with her own, curling her arm around the back of her girlfriend’s shoulders, and with the kind of softness and finality that warmed Amity to her very core. Amity tried her very best to memorize the softness of Luz’s lips against her own, and the way Luz’s arms were wrapped gently around her waist.
“Are you ready?” Luz asked when they parted at last.
Amity nodded- not that she had any other choice. It was death or returning to Luz’s painful departure, though she wasn’t sure which would hurt more.
She drew a spell circle, and, feeling the stone beginning to creep down her arms, rested her forehead against Luz’s and closed her eyes. They recited the spell together, each word stronger and with more conviction than the last.
“ To rewind. To rectify. To try again. To make it right. Remember now, the start of time. Go back and don’t put out the light.”
Brightness surrounded them. The noises of the crowd faded away, and for a moment, it was only the two of them in time and space- until the light began to fade, and they were led back towards their own lives, towards the future, towards something new, yet achingly familiar.
When Amity opened her eyes she was standing in the living room of the Owl House.
Four pairs of eyes blinked at her, each astounded and a little confused.
“Mittens?” Emira ventured. “Are you… alright? You zoned out there for a moment.”
“I’m fine.” Amity tried to steady her breathing.
“I understand if you’re sad,” Edric’s tone was surprisingly sensitive. “We won’t make fun of you.”
“We’re sad too,” replied Em. Ed elbowed her sharply in the ribs. “Oh my stars, stop that.”
“I just need a moment alone,” Amity said. She swept her gaze over the four people in the room. Even Lilith looked far more sympathetic than normal.
“We understand, kiddo,” Eda said softly. “Luz meant a lot to you and you’ll miss her. We all will.”
Amity was unsure how to respond, so she just gave Eda a curt nod.
Without even controlling them, she found her feet leading her towards the staircase.
When she arrived upstairs and passed through the door to Luz’s room, she noticed that the bedroom had been completely emptied out. The hardwood floors were bare, the chest in the corner shut, no otter onesie to be seen poking out from underneath the lid. A blast of cold air hit her and she realized that the window had been left open. She approached it to shut it, but her gaze caught a small shape resting on the windowsill. She gathered it up in her arms. It was soft to the touch.
It caught the moonlight and Amity realized that it was a familiar purple-and-white hoodie.
Taped to the top was a small paper tag that read:
I can’t wait to see you again!
Love, your favorite human
Amity hugged the hoodie to her chest and gazed out the window at the star-speckled sky.
Thank you, Luz.
End of Act II