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When We Last Met Johnny and Alison . . .

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After outcasts Alison and Johnny barely survived a run-in with a gang of bullies, Alison encountered a pale woman in black who offered a book that promised her revenge. She convinced Johnny to help her, and they cast a haywire spell, causing an earthquake in their hometown, and making the Marduk Institute—a secret organization that claimed to train wizards—aware of their existence. The Institute kidnapped Alison and Johnny, whisking them away to a walled-in facility in the Ozarks. The Institute's head scientist, Melchior, explained that Alison and Johnny's power allowed them to manifest psychic phenomena in inexplicable forms. Melchior also told them that their old lives had been erased. The Institute was no magic school—it was a prison.

Inside, they met fellow prisoners Blake and Linh. Blake told them wizard society was divided into two castes: wizards born into long-running magical bloodlines, called Lineages; and those who weren't, non-Lineages. Legacies, magical fraternities that conferred great privilege and power to their inductees, helped Lineage children maintain their family's generational wealth and power. But the Legacies also allowed some non-Lineage wizards to join their ranks in exchange for loyalty—for helping to protect wizard society's old hierarchal power structures.

When Johnny started classes, he met fellow non-Lineage wizard Hunter, and their fates became inextricably entwined. Over the coming months, a vicious monster Johnny called the Sandman plagued his dreams. Johnny and Alison delved into uncovering the Institute's secrets and came across a mysterious man in white who led them to a clockwork manual. Johnny initially dismissed the manual as useless. After Johnny discovered a Defector conspiracy within the Institute, the mysterious man in white manipulated Johnny into escaping, convincing the boy that only he could help Johnny defeat the Sandman. Linh helped Johnny and his friends break out, but Johnny didn't follow the Defectors to Sanctuary. Instead, he chose to find the elusive man in white, Gaspar, a long-defected former Institute scientist.

At Gaspar's hideout, Johnny and Alison came across the woman who gave them the earthquake spell book. Gaspar and the woman, a black cat Mara, deceived Johnny and Alison to conjure a cintamani—a legendary wishing stone. Summoning the stone also unleashed the Sandman, a powerful being sworn to annihilate any who sought the cintamani. Gaspar revealed that the Institute cursed all non-Lineage wizards to death, and he intended to use the cintamani to destroy the Institute and liberate wizardkind. The black cat Mara, however, solely desired to send herself back to the Void.

Johnny and Hunter ventured into Everywhen to retrieve the stone, but when they finally found it, it merged with Hunter's soul and he became the cintamani. The black cat Mara, the only one who knew how to activate the cintamani, used its power to return to the Void. Before Gaspar could use the rest of the stone's power to destroy the Institute, Hunter used it to banish himself and the Sandman to the Void, saving Johnny from the undefeatable creature.

The Institute felled Gaspar and recaptured Johnny and his friends. Melchior scanned their thoughts and gathered everything they knew about the Defectors. Later, Johnny discovered the clockwork manual he'd earlier dismissed and realized that it belonged to Gaspar. In the book, Johnny found a spell called unwinding, that allowed him to retrieve things from the Void. Using the spell, Johnny reached into the Void and pulled Hunter back out, rescuing him.

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by V.S. Santoni
@VSSantoni
WATTPAD BOOKS EDITION None of them expected the nightmare to continue...
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