The Shadow

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The Forest

Caeli

As we reached the trees once more we stopped running, we had to reconvene and decide what we would do next. The three of them all turned to look at me once we stopped moving. I was thinking it all over, what we had to do to get out of this alive. The Temple had too many numbers, we had to get to the helicopter before the hoards of assassins would, and they would destroy our only transport home.

“Kid, tell me we can use guns now,” Vince spoke first, and I nodded.

“A gunshot in the forest is a lot less incriminating than an enclosed space. We should be safe to shoot with guns from now on.” I told them all, Syrus seemed to breathe a sigh of relief at my words. He was letting his kill get to him, but then again, when I had killed my first target at such close proximity and in such a personal way, I had let it get to me. I had also been a child at the time, but that didn’t matter. It was still a harrowing experience to go through.

I gently put a hand on Sy’s shoulder, hoping it was a comforting thing to be doing, but he flinched at my touch. I pulled my hand away from his shoulder, but when he turned to look at me with a desperate expression in his eyes, I put my hand back. He couldn’t compartmentalise like I could.

“Together, we keep going and working together… as a family.” All three of them looked at me with different expressions. I meant that word, family, and I guess they could all tell. I trusted them completely. It was the first time I had ever felt that way about more than one person, had trusted people to take care of me. I never had a proper family, so it was nice to have found one.

“A family…” Syrus whispered, for him, it meant that there were people he could trust but also share the burden of worry about his sister with. He had people he could talk to, entrust with his emotions and his life.

“A weird, messed up family.” Vince pointed out, and I took into consideration what a family meant for him. He never thought he would have one, that he would end up alone… and now he had three kids he had to take care of, three kids he knew would take care of him. I smiled, he seemed happy to have us all.

“A family none-the-less,” Nylah stated, the girl was looking around at each of us with caring eyes. We were probably the first family that she remembers. In our family, each of us were role models for her for different aspects of her life. It was as new for Ny as it was for me.

“We don’t leave anyone behind, we fight together and get to the helicopter,” I told them all, and each of them nodded.

“Who’s going to lead?” Nylah asked, probably not wanting the responsibility again just yet.

“Caeli has the best sense of direction, and the GPS,” Vince stated, I shook my head.

“Not the GPS, they took it,” I stated, I had already checked my pockets for the piece of technology, but it was gone. Which meant the Temple had bothered to take the GPS and not the knives I kept in my boots. Maybe they were actually as dumb as I thought they were, which made it worse that I had fallen into their trap.

“Best sense of direction it is then.” Vince pointed out, and the one thing I hated about this entire conversation was how quiet Syrus was. He always had something to say… especially when it came to quips about how I wasn’t as good as I thought.

“Let’s go then,” I said simply, taking my hand away from Sy’s shoulder before I took us west, towards the lakes.

“Where are they all?” Vince asked no one in particular, and I stayed quiet in hopes it would make Syrus speak. It did.

“They probably went out the exit we came through, they’d be almost at the lake by now.” Sy did answer, and we all knew that he was right. Because of it, we picked up our speed, we stumbled upon a few stray assassins, but I dealt with them quickly. We were getting close to the lake, I could feel it.

“Hold,” I stated as I saw a handful of assassins standing together, blocking our path to the helicopter. I took cover behind a tree, and the other three followed suit. We were so close...

I could take the assassins out myself, there was more than enough cover for me to do so.

But I didn’t have to.

“Vince, ones on the left, Sy on the right. I have the other two in the middle. Ny, keep an eye out.” I said, and everyone nodded to show their understanding. I then held a hand up with three fingers extended before I counted down. 3... 2... 1.

Sy shot his targets before Vince and I got ours, I then checked for any other movement in the clearing but found none.

“Clear,” I stated before I walked to the clearing, an uneasy feeling settled into my stomach. That wasn’t enough to be a final stance between us and the lake.

“This ain’t right,” Vince said precisely what was on my mind.

“No, it isn’t.” I agreed, and we cautiously moved forwards through the forest, it was a few minutes later that I saw why there had been so few assassins in the trees. It’s because the rest were scattered around the edge of the lake our helicopter was sitting on.

“Shit,” Ny swore before I got the chance to. We all hid behind trees, I stated into the green void in front of me. What was I supposed to do? The Temple had won.

“What the hell do we do now?” Vince asked, he looked over to me since I usually came up with the ideas, but I was blank. So close, we had been so close. I slid down the tree I was leaning against, not caring about the dirt or the damp. I had failed. They were going to die because of an idiotic choice I had made.

“How do we get to the helicopter?” Nylah asked, her voice was far too quiet as she realised the weight of our position. We were vastly outnumbered, and our enemies were well placed, we didn’t have enough time to wait them out until nightfall... we were screwed. They had outsmarted me, Leopold outsmarted me...

“I don’t know...” I whispered as plans ran through my head, but each shut down as soon as I saw one of my three idiots getting shot. Or stabbed. Or bombed. Killed. It was my fault, it was all my fault.

“Caeli, what about your power?” Sy said, and I looked up at him in confusion. “You drank the water, took out the lamps... what if you could do something else? What if you could take them out?” he suggested, the idea was almost idiotic and based on a loose sense of hope... but it was better than everything else I had come up with so far.

“I don’t think I can...” I trailed off, Sy rushed over to me and knelt behind my tree just in front of me, his hands on my knees. His eyes locked on mine, I could see the desperation he felt.

“You can because you have to, we don’t really have another option.” He told me, but I shook my head.

“I don’t know how. I had to get angrier than I’ve ever felt in my life to channel that darkness... even if I could do that again, I can’t block out the sun.” I explained further, he moved his hands from my knees to my shoulders.

“Then feel and channel something else.” He said like it was easy, I almost wanted to hit him for it, but he made a half-valid point. I had to channel something else to get them to safety.

My panic, worry, anxiety and stress seemed like a good bouncing board for it all.

My blood was rushing, my hands shaking again as I stood up. Sy matched my movements, not taking his hands off of my shoulders. I nodded as I realised what I was about to do and the consequences of what would happen if I didn’t do it. This would be our only chance, I couldn’t let it fail.

“There’s no other option,” I whispered, talking to myself but Sy heard.

“We weren’t given another option.” He responded, and I took in his words.

“They forced our hand.” I continued, and he nodded while squeezing my shoulder.

“We had to fight, we had to kill, we have to do it again, because if we don’t, then our family dies.” I wasn’t entirely sure if he said that to help himself or me, but it didn’t matter. It applied to both of us.

“No one threatens me and gets away with it. No one threatens my family and gets to live.” I said under my breath before I pushed Sy’s hands off of my shoulders and walked around the tree. I let all of my emotions flood forwards, fuelling the power I had.

The crackling energy started in my fingertips but took over my entire body, empowering me. This power was what the Priest had wanted, but now I was the one in control of it. He wanted to take it from me, but there was no way in hell I would let that happen. They tried to use my family against me, and they were about to find out why that wasn’t a good idea.

Yes, I had always let greed consume and drive me on the past, but it was to fill a void I had created in myself. I had always denied my emotions. I had stopped myself from feeling entirely, it meant I would never have emotions impede my work, and I would never end up hurt. I had always craved things and money and attention from whoever would give it to me, but now I had a family, a safe space. I had started to feel again.

Every emotion I had ever blocked, I let them come back to me in a painful rush. This power was tied to emotion, and the reason the Priest had been comfortable giving it to me was that he knew I was numb. He never would have banked on the possibility that I would allow myself to feel, that every feeling I had ever denied myself would rise and create a deadly force that I would have to unleash. My heart was pounding as my body felt like it could explode. It was too late to take everything back now. There was no way to reel it back in if I tried.

I walked forwards until I was between two assassins on the edge of the water, my body shaking as I looked towards our helicopter our ticket out. My chest constricted as tears sat in my eyes. The two assassins didn’t notice I was there until I did what I had to.

I screamed.

I fell to my knees

And the ground shook beneath me.

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