TJ frowned. “Do you know this guy, Anna?” She slowly straightened to point her wand. “Mummy-man… if you ain’t lookin’ to die… you’d better let my friend go!”
The man grabbed Sarah by the hair and yanked her head back hard. Sarah yelped and her friends watched in horror as the cursed man’s wand moved the tip of his wand up to her left temple. The man smiled evilly through this bandages, as he twisted the tip of his want into Sarah’s head.
“NO WAIT!” Anna pleaded, moving her wand away. She looked at her friends. “Please guys… lower your wands.”
“The hell you say!” TJ fired back.
“DO IT!” the cursed man shoute back. He pushed his wand into Sarah’s head again and she yelled out in pain. “Or I will kill your little friend!” TJ and Gwen looked at each other and reluctantly lowered their wands.
Anna was appalled. “If you would dare to use the killing curse… then you wouldn’t have hesitated to use the spell of enslavement a few months ago. It was you who used the Imperious Curse on Sarah to spy on me… why?”
“Of course it was me, you stupid girl. I needed to know if your mother had ever tried make contact with you.”
“My… mother? What’s my mother have to do with this? You said you were with Victoria Grayson when she helped you to escape Voldemort.”
Gwen groaned at the name, which made the cursed man smile.
“You were so easily manipulated, Anna Grayson, but you are very brave to call the Dark Lord by his choosen name.” He pulled Sarah’s hair hard again and she began to cry. “But fewer still would call him by his real name… a name I was free to use when we were last together… Tom Riddle.”
TJ frowned and then looked over. “Anna… who is this guy? What’s goin’ on?”
Anna looked at her friend and then to Gwen on her other side. “I’ve been such a fool,” she admitted to them. “This is the man who killed Michael Wendell.”
Gwen gasped. “What? Him? But… why?”
Anna looked at the man again who was still smiling back at her. “You warned me about Swooper being in danger because you knew I would run into the stalls to protect him. You wanted me found with Wendell’s body.”
The cursed man nodded. “And you had a very good reason to kill him, didn’t you? I mean… who could blame you, after all? He did try to kill you on the Vollucross field last year. Still… I needed to strengthen the case against you more.”
“Anna… what the hell is he talking about?” Gwen whispered.
Gwen looked over and could see the wrath in Anna’s eyes, burning like a stoked fire. Anna stepped forward angrily and the man yanked Sarah back again.
“Stop… or I’ll break her neck!”
Anna halted once more, but her entire body looked like it was shaking uncontrollably. “You threaten my friend… and you stabbed my mount!” Deep inside the Sithmaith’s skull there came a ringing intention: Blood for blood!
“So easily controlled,” the man sneered. “I’ll admit… I was somewhat ashamed of myself for hurting such a beautiful magical creature, but I needed to give you another reason to kill the man who tried to kill you on the Vollucross field.”
He smiled evilly again. “It was soon after that bit of fun that I decided to make your roommate here my slave. I needed her to take something valuable from you. Something personal, so that I might plant it as evidence against you later. And it was through my interrogation of her that I found out about your blasted kaleidoscope. Just imagine my horror at finding you had the means at your disposal to find me out.”
Anna seethed with rage. “So you had Sarah destroy my scope and take some of the gems to use later to incriminate me again.”
“Very good, Grayson… yes… that was my plan, but the girl’s will was much stronger than I could have ever imagined.” She tightened his grip around Sarah’s neck. “I was especially offended when I saw her trying to fight off my Imperious Curse on the drawbridge and then throw herself into the moat rather than to obey me.” He wrenched Sarah head back to whisper into her ear. “You’ve been a very naughty, little girl!”
“Why did you try to frame me?” Anna yelled out. “I’ve never done anything to you. I never even knew you existed until you revealed yourself to me our first day back in September.”
“I just told you why… I had to find a way to make contact with your mother.”
“Because… as you well know already… she is a Death Eater!”
Sarah and Gwen gasped in surprise and Anna dropped her head in sudden despair. She remembered their trip home almost one year ago when she told her friends what had happened in the dungeons of Drogo, about finding her mother mentally broken by Voldemort’s torture, a vampire starving for blood, starving enough to feed on her own daughter. Anna remembered telling them everything… even what Thordarson had described as her mother’s ‘dissociative identity’, but she never told them her mother was willingly branded a Death Eater.
“How dare you say such a thing?” TJ roared back. She pointed her wand at the man again. “I’ve stewed skunks fer less!”
The man’s eyes flashed. “And why wouldn’t I say it? It is after all… the truth.” Sarah screamed again as he twisted her head back. “Besides,” he continued, “I’ve always thought her being a Death Eater was Victoria Grayson’s best quality.”
“And if’a lie were the truth… that would make you a Death Eater too!” TJ hollered back, trying to take aim at any opening she could find.
“Oh no… I’ve never been granted that privilege,” the bandaged man replied. “You see, my time with Tom Riddle was long, long ago… well before what he’s become today. Oh… but what days we did share were incredibly vicious: Killing Muggles was only half the fun, because Tom always let me drain their blood. The two of us understood each other’s needs that way, you see.” He glared at Anna. “Your mother would have understood it too.”
TJ looked at Anna and Gwen and shook her head. “A frothin’ dog is better put down.” She took careful aim again. “And I’m thinkin’ Sarah wouldn’t mind if’in I took the shot!”
“No… I wouldn’t mind,” Sarah hissed back hoarsely. The man yanked Sarah’s body between himself and TJ.
“You seem to know a lot about my mother,” Anna replied, trying desperately to remain calm. “Why would you go through all this trouble to bring her back to the Spellsburg?” She could see the man’s eyes smiling through his bandages.
“You’re correct to assume I know Victoria Grayson all too well. In fact, I would wager that I’ve spent more time with her than any other wizard alive. Even… your father.”
Anna frowned and then thought. He was lying, of course, trying to buy more time before more of his smuggling friends arrived.
“Honestly, I do miss Victoria’s company, but I needed her back here for other reasons as well. So I killed that boy in a way to make the city believe it was you who murdered him.
“I believed that by putting her daughter in danger, Victoria would be forced to return to the plateau to save you. And when that didn’t work… I was forced to try again.”
“So you killed Sidney Heidelbach too.” Anna sneered angrily.
The man smiled evilly again and this time Anna saw something in his ugly grin that surprised her. It sent her mind whirling backward in time, to her mother’s dungeon cell, and then suddenly, completely unexpectedly… everything made sense to her. Anna stared at the man, concentrating hard enough to hear his heart beating in the depths of her mind, and then she began to feel something more. There was something about him that was very familiar. It was in his voice and his being, and the sensations delivered confirmed her suspicions. Anna finally knew who the man was… and she was sure of something else as well: she knew what was driving him.
“Yes… I killed the Muggle, but not before I forced him to write that letter implicating you again,” the man replied. “Muggles are lesser creatures in every way as compared to wizards, and I usually get what I want from them quickly enough. But in his case… your Sidney was decidedly against being a part of any plan that put you in harm’s way. His will was incredibly strong for one of a weaker race. It took a lot of torture on top of the Imperius Curse to finally break him, and it must be said… draining him afterward was invigorating.”
Anna could feel the tears burning her eyes. She had always known Sidney Heidelbach was very brave and wonderfully courageous. She knew that when she first found him in the Shadowed Forest alone and fighting the strongest spells and creatures used to protect Spellsburg from any outside intrusion. He fought on for several days, seeking the truth about her mother and her family. Anna looked again at the thing holding Sarah and growled.
“Sidney was stronger than you think, you murdering fiend, and despite everything you did to him, he was still able to prove his words were forced to those who really knew him.”
“I suspected this was true after his death failed again to gather your mother in,” the man replied with an uncaring shrug. “My good fortune was that I had already put another plan in motion last summer just in case I failed to bring your mother back, or in the unlikely event my friend Tom Riddle decided to kill her after returning to him.”
“You’re talking about the Dragon’s Lair,” Anna said, knowingly.
Gwen shot a significant look at TJ who looked just as confused as she felt.
“Oh, very good, Anna. So you were able to figure that out as well? I’m impressed,” the man replied. “Tell me how you put it all together and what you think you know.”
Anna slowly stowed her wand in the pocket of her robes. For some strange reason she really didn’t understand, the Guardian felt the knowledge she had just gained was more powerful than any spell she could muster to save her friend as she finally looked up to explain.
“During the fight with the smugglers tonight, I heard one of them calling you - ‘The Collector’. That wasn’t the first time I had heard that name. I also heard two smugglers in the dungeons of Castlewood talking about the collector as well. It was you who sent these men into the Shadowed Forest to steal the dragon eggs. You paid them to take enormous the risks in the Forest and to have them smuggled off the plateau with galleons you stole from your victims like Michael Wendell. I’m guessing you also used the Imperius Curse on many other residents of Spellsburg to get the gold you needed. I remember reading about several runs on the bank after Mr. Scroggs’ murder. I presume you killed him as well?”
“Yes… my third victim.” the man replied. “I didn’t think you would mind, considering all those nasty things he was writing about you in the newspapers. Oh… I really thought he created the perfect excuse for you to kill him, but even that failed to bring your mother back to me.” The man smiled as he ran the tip of his wand across Sarah’s cheek. “Please… continue; beguile me with your insight.”
“You were buying the eggs to get the attention of another Death Eater or maybe Voldemort himself,” Anna continued. She looked over to Gwen. “Trog told me the same thing was happening fourteen years ago before Voldemort disappeared. He was having his Death Eaters buy the eggs so they could use the dragons in the war to take over the Ministry.” She looked at the man again. “You didn’t need or even want the eggs. None of this was ever about the Lair or the dragons nesting there. Your intention was to simply get the Death Eaters’ attention. Once Voldemort found out somebody was buying the eggs again and realize it wasn’t one of his Death Eaters doing it, he would surely send somebody to find out who you were. It was all about making contact with him.”
“But why didn’t he just leave the plateau and find somebody he knew was a Death Eater in the past,” Gwen asked curiously. “Why was it necessary for one of them to come here?”
“Because he wouldn’t dare get close to the docks, or near another ship with all of those wrappings covering his face, and he knew all the owls in and out of Spellsburg were being monitored.” She looked over at Gwen. “Remember… the Crimson guards have been looking for an escaped prisoner from Drogo all year long. In fact, I know now… this is the man they’ve been looking for.”
Gwen eyes widened in shock as she looked at the smiling man again and gripped her wand tight. “You mean this guy… he’s the whacko who escaped from Drogo last year?”
“It’s impossible,” TJ shot back. “How could he be’da one they’s lookin’ fer? Drogo ain’t anywhere near here.”
Anna looked at her and smirked. “Drogo is closer than you think, TJ. In fact, it’s just over those mountains to the north.”
TJ looked back over her shoulder. It was as if she suddenly expected hundreds of the insane wizards to come barreling down the mountain upon them. She looked back at Anna again. “You sure ‘bout that, Anna?”
Anna took a step toward the man holding Sarah again. “Absolutely sure; I’ve been there!”
TJ’s mouth dropped. “Well don’t dat’ beat all,” TJ whispered, looking over her shoulder worriedly again.
Anna continued. “This man escaped from Drogo and killed another prisoner on the way out. Nobody understood why at the time, but I do. I understand why he did it now.”
“Oh I like this game,” the man replied, flippantly. “You’re almost there … now let’s see if you can get the rest.”
Anna was still glaring at the man holding Sarah, but she spoke to her friends. “He did it for the same reasons he’s wearing those bandages tonight. It was his backup plan in the event he was seen or questioned in the city. You see, everybody is looking for a younger man, Reginald Carter, but Carter was the one killed in the prison the night my mother escaped. I’m sure of it now.”
TJ was suddenly horrified. “Yer… mother… escaped from Drogo?”
“Are you sure, Anna?” Gwen said, looking puzzled. “Well… then who the heck is this guy?”
“Yeah… I’m sure. He said it himself, didn’t he? Didn’t he just tell us about the time he spent with Tom Riddle when they were younger? We’ve all seen pictures of Carter in the newspapers and on all those wanted posters all over the city. Carter was much too young to have known Voldemort in his youth. In fact, this man has been in Drogo longer than anybody else… more than forty years.”
“Oh excellent! So you do have me after all.” The man pointed his wand at the wrappings upon his head. “Well then… I can dispense with these.
Instantly the bandages began to unwrap themselves into a spinning ball over the man’s head and when they were off he cast them aside with a simple flick of his wand. To their surprise, the man hiding beneath the wrappings was very unassuming even after all his threats to kill Sarah Bell. He was clean shaven and his hair was shoulder length and gray, but it was his eyes gave him away for the murderer he had always been in life. They were cold and steely-gray. They were the eyes of a madman, someone who had been a witness to so much suffering done by his own hands and enjoyed every moment of it.
“Who the hell is this, now?” TJ asked them.
“Oh my God,” Gwen said, gulping hard again and Anna could see her wand beginning to tremble in her hand. They had seen the man’s face once before in a newspaper article about the escaped prisoner from Drogo and again in several of her nightmares since that day.
“His name is… Arief Sugianto,” Anna growled under her breath.
TJ looked at the man again in shocked surprise. “Sweet Jesus!”
Despite the fact that Sarah’s life had always been on the tipping edge of life and death, the young Guardian suddenly looked terrorized at being in Sugianto’s clutches.
“Very good, Grayson; a remarkable display of sound reasoning and deduction. You are to be applauded on your intellect. Yes… it was I who escaped from Drogo that night, but it must be said I have you to thank for it.
“After you blasted your mother’s dungeon door off its hinges, the backlash and resulting fires from the explosion quickly spread to all the other doors in the hallway opposite. All of the spells immediately dropped away and within seconds a hole was burnt through my door large enough to escape. After Victoria made her exodus, the first guard showed up and was easily subdued. I took his wand and then used it to enter the adjoining cell next to mine.
“Poor Reggie; he had been my companion for many years and the fount of so many unenlightened conversations. He was a boring and intellectually stunted wizard, but he finally did provide a degree of usefulness over the last two minutes of his life when I killed him and then burned his body to hide his identity.”
He looked at Anna again, his smile never faltering even after all his confessions of murder. “With a simple bit of transfiguration, I took what was left and turned it into something that might have looked like me, and in the seconds that followed, I quickly moved him to my cell and then made my way out before the Crimson Guards showed up in mass to find both Reggie and your mother had escaped.”
“They assumed the mutilated body in your cell meant you had been murdered,” Anna finished.
“The irony and success of the rouse astounds me even today,” the man answered back.
“But you still haven’t told us everything yet, have you?” Anna asked him.
The man looked uncharacteristically confused. She could tell it wasn’t something that happened to him very often.
“We all know why you were sent to Drogo, but you’ve haven’t told us why you’ve been locked up in the lowest dungeons, or why it was necessary to apply all those special enchantments upon your door. Why it was you were caught in the act of drinking the mixed blood of so many Muggle victims and why you continued to drain the bodies of the three men you killed the year in the city.”
The man’s eyes widened with impending delight. “No… I suppose I didn’t.” he answered back. “Well… you’ve been so delightfully intriguing thus far, why don’t you tell your friends why these things were done.”
Anna looked to her left at Gwen and then to her right at TJ. She could still sense Sugianto’s familiarity across the space between them. “At first I thought it was my mother who was killing these men to protect me, but it was you who put that idea in my head the very first day I met you. It also gave Lieutenant Dunning a reason to suspect me, because he mistook my guilt about my mother as something that implicated me.”
Sugianto leaned down to whisper into Sarah’s ear, “So easily manipulated.”
“There was only one reason it was necessary to lock you down in the deepest pits of hell with my mother and why you’ve had a taste for blood all your life.” She stared at him knowingly. “It’s because, like my mother, you too are a vampire.”
Sugianto stared back at her. There was no smile, no hint at being amused any longer. His stare deepened and Anna could feel a recognizable power trying to dig its way through her mental defenses and deeper still into her soul. But the Sithmaith was prepared for this the moment she realized what the man really was and when she saw the weapons of the creature embedded in his ugly grin, his blackened tongue and graying teeth.
Anna smiled back at him and then abruptly slammed the doors of her mind closed with such ferocity that the returning wave of energy was almost visible between them. The man’s head snapped back and then he opened his mouth fully to roar back at them. His face changed in an instant to show several protruding bones in his face and deadly fangs.
“Oh my God!” Gwen screamed, and TJ was knocked off her feet by the power of his howl.
The vampire yanked Sarah’s head to the side to expose her white neck. He roared again and Sarah screamed in terror.
“WAIT!” Anna yelled, and the creature holding her friend suddenly froze.
His eyes moved up to glare back at her from under a darkened brow and he grinned evilly. He opened his mouth and a black, rasp-like tongue poured out to slowly scrape across Sarah’s neck. He suddenly straightened and then smiled.
“Just kidding!” he said, amusedly.
Anna never flinched, never showed one second of terror or fear for her friend. She walked forward until Sugianto’s smile fell away.
“Be very careful,” Anna said, knowingly. “Sarah is your only protection right now and I promise you this: if you put your fangs on her, you’ll be dead before you draw even once to swallow.
Sugianto curled another smile and Anna snarled back to show her own fangs.
“Be very… careful, my kind,” Anna growled, threateningly.
The man’s eyes widened in surprise.
“You are so much more than one might expect,” the vampire said, “I knew this the moment you entered the dungeons of Drogo without raising the alarms, of course, but my suspicions were confirmed when you found a way to enter your mother’s cell. I’m still not exactly sure how you did that, but no matter. It only proved to me that you were something… very special, and in fact very valuable.”
The two stared at each other for what seemed an eternity before the man finally broke the silence with the obvious. “So it would seem we find ourselves in something of a standoff.”
“No… not really,” Anna replied calmly. She looked into the dark canopy above them. “It’s going to be light soon, and at sunrise you can be assured the dragons of the lair will discover our presence here. The smugglers you sent into the Shadowed Forest already know this, of course, but you’ll find the Vipertooth don’t take kindly to intruders getting this close to their nests.”
“Aren’t you afraid too?” the man answered back. “You and yours would make just as tasty a meal as me.”
Anna looked around at Gwen and TJ. “But we are Guardians. TJ and I both have been close enough to the dragons to have been killed, but they didn’t hurt us. I think they know we’re here to protect the nests where as you and yours…” Anna shrugged uncaringly.
“Hmmm, I see your point.” The man smiled again. “Well then… given this reality… I guess we had better put an end to this before the dawn.”
“Whatever you say, my kind,” Anna answered him. “Sunrise on the Cliffs of Knowtor is a truly spectacular thing to witness. You might even enjoy it… right up to the time the dragons begin feeding you to their young.”
The Sithmaith frowned. “While we wait for them to arrive, could I ask you something else?”
“Make it quick. After all… death, it would seem, do cometh with the dawn.”
Anna flinched a quick smile. “You murdered four people and tried to kill my mount, you framed me for your crimes and you hired these wizards to steal from the Cliffs of Knowtor. You used an unforgiveable curse on Sarah Bell to spy on me and again on the citizens of Spellsburg to steal their gold; you then attacked my friends.” She frowned. “You did all of this just to get my mother’s attention, or some other Death Eater who would eventually tell Voldemort of your escape? I take it this means you intend to join him?”
“Join with, partner with… it’s all semantics, really. The important thing is that I escape from this retched plateau.”
“I can understand your wanting to leave this place, but are you sure you want to go back to Voldemort? I know you’ve been away for a very long time… so maybe you haven’t heard that he’s become something of a murdering lunatic.”
“Haven’t we all?”
“But… what makes you think he’ll want you back?”
“Of course he’ll want me back. In fact, I know when he finally sees me, it’ll be a homecoming written for the ages. After all, I was the one who helped him with his very first murder. I was the one who taught him the killing curse, which he first used enthusiastically at the age of twelve on his own Muggle father.”
Anna was stunned. Voldemort’s father was a Muggle?
Sugianto continued. “You know… you never asked me the one question I expected you would more than any other.”
Anna turned to face him again. “Oh really? I’m sorry… I thought we covered everything. What did I miss?”
He shrugged and then licked Sarah’s neck again. Anna could hear Sarah whimpering as the disgusting act scraped across her skin to create tiny beads of blood.
Anna took two quick steps forward before he looked up to say, “You never asked me if I ever successfully made contact with another Death Eater.”
The thought of that made Anna’s heart sink. Was he just trying to scare them? Was this another delaying tactic meant to bring more smugglers to his rescue? She tried to remain calm.
“If you’re trying to tell us your rescue party is on the way, I’ve never had any doubts about that, but if you’re asking me to believe those coming would include a few Death Eaters… then yes… I find that extremely hard to believe. If the Death Eaters were here already… they would be with you now, and no other ships have arrived at the docks today. We checked.” Anna looked over to Gwen who nodded in agreement.
“Oh, you are so thorough… and you’re absolutely right, of course. However, I finally did find a Death Eater who was willing to buy my dragon eggs for his master. A man you and your friends call… the limping man.
Gwen was shocked. “The limping man is a Death Eater?” She looked at Anna. “Did you know?”
Anna was surprised too. She shook her head. “No… but I know he works in the Ministry of Magic.”
“A Death Eater is workin’ in the Ministry?” TJ said, disbelievingly.
Anna nodded. “When I rescued Taurus, I overheard the limping man say he works somewhere in the Ministry.”
TJ was anxious, but Anna was suddenly fearful for her friends. Why would Sugianto tell us about a Death Eater rooted within the Ministry unless he was certain we would never be able to warn the authorities?
“It did, however, take much more than a few dragon eggs to get him to agree to help me escape the plateau,” Sugianto continued, smiling at Anna. “You see, the mistake you and your Guardian friends have made tonight is assuming the reason we’re all here is to raid the nests again, but that was never the plan at all.” He looked into the night sky. “I’m not sure who is supposed to be here, or when they intend to arrive,” he looked down at Anna again, “but my real mission was to deliver you here in this exact spot right now.”
Anna’s expression fell. Suddenly, there was an unexpected whooshing sound somewhere over their heads above the trees. They crossed north to south and then one more crossed east to west. She looked at her friends who seemed just as startled.
“Uh-oh,” Gwen moaned worriedly.
The three whooshing sounds crossed overhead once more before landing in a cloud of blackened ash next to Sugianto. Three men in black robes suddenly appeared from out of the ash wearing silver marks with caged mouths.
“Are you Sugianto?” asked one of the men.
“Ah! My dear friends — I am indeed, he. I’m so glad you were able to make it through the plateau’s barriers so easily. I’m impressed. ”
“We had help,” answered the second man. “Our mission is the collect the girl and then head for the castle.”
Anna’s mind was screaming, the castle?
The men looked at the three girls in purple robes who were now pointing their wands at them. The third man in black laughed out loud.
“Which one is Anna Grayson?”
“That would be the redhead in the middle,” the old man replied, pointing at Anna.
“Well let’s get this done… we’re on a tight schedule tonight.” He suddenly raised his wand at Anna and yelled, “Stupefy!”
“Protego!”Anna blocked the spell easily.
Sugianto smiled. “Oh you’ll have to do much better than that, gentlemen. Despite their youthful appearance, these three are not without skill.”
The first man smiled. “Good… I was hoping for a little action tonight. Still I would have thought…”
A spell from TJ’s wand hit the man square in the chest and sent him flying backward into the woods.
“I… told… you,” Sugianto sang.
“Son of a…” yelled another man who pointed his wand to fire back only to realize too late the three girls had already disappeared. “Do it now!” the man yelled. “She can’t be allowed to escape!”
The other man raised his wand skyward. “Rutilus Capturus!”
A brass colored light shot from the end of his wand into the air and exploded over the trees. Shards of golden light began to travel slowly down to the ground to form a golden cage all around them.
“Oh very good,” Sugianto said happily. “They won’t be able to go far now.”
“Who said we were going anywhere, you maniac!” The man looked around to find Anna already pointing her wand into Sugianto’s mid-section.
Sugianto was blasted off his feet and landed with a heavy thud and sprawled on his back. Anna grabbed Sarah by the arm. “Let’s go!”
They ran into the woods together as Anna continued to fire back over her shoulder. Several killing curses began to smash into the trees around them.
“Stop that, you fool!” yelled one of the masked men. “The Dark Lord wants her alive!”
Anna and Sarah headed deeper into the forest, but stopped as the golden cage moved forward to block their path.
“Anna, wh… wh… what should we do? I do… don’t have m… m… my wand!” Sarah stuttered.
“Shhh… stay calm. We’ll find a way out of this, I promise.”
“But we’re tr… tr… trapped inside this thing with them.”
Anna looked around and smiled at her roommate. “Or… you could say they’re trapped inside this thing with us, right?”
Sarah smiled back.
“And besides… I think you’ve forgotten something really important here.”
Sarah looked confused.
Anna looked around again and smiled. “It suddenly looks like the Fourth of July out here right now.” She looked up into the trees. “How many dragons do you think will notice a great big dome of bright light so close to the cliffs?”
Sarah looked around. She could see every tree surrounding them in silhouette by the light of the dome. The girl smiled back gleefully.
Anna nodded and then dropped as another hex smashed into the tree in front of them. “Yep… the cavalry is on the way, I’m sure of it.” She ducked and squinted again as another hex just missed them. “We just need to find a way to survive until they get here. Come on… we gotta keep moving!”
Anna took Sarah by the hand and in an instant their bodies were engulfed in a bending color of light.
“Did you see that?” one Death Eater said to the other. “Damn — the girl is fast!”
“Move! Follow her trail. We have to get this situation under control before he gets here. We’re already supposed to be heading for the castle by now!”
Sarah was having trouble breathing as the swirl of color and wind moved about them. She held tight to Anna’s hand until they stopped running and the light of the dome moved again to block their path.
“Rats!” She looked back at Sarah. “The dome is shrinking. We don’t have as much time as I thought.”
“Wh… wh… what just happened?” Sarah said, trying to catch her breath. “Did we Ap… Ap… Apparate?”
“No… already tried that; can’t do it while we’re inside the dome. We’re just running really fast.” Anna looked back at Sarah and smiled again. “I think I learned it from Glors the last time I was at the cliffs.”
“Trog’s wife ta… ta… taught you to run like that?” Sarah looked doubtful. “You’ll have t…t…to teach me t... t… that.”
Anna looked over to the wall of light closing in on them. She reached out and touched it and, “OUCH!”
Sparks of pain shot through her body and a river of red light rose up from where she had touched the wall to the center of the dome high above them.
“Oops… I think I just gave away out position.” She looked up at the dome again and saw two more red bands moving up to the center from the other side. Anna smiled. “The good news is I think I know where Gwen and TJ are now. Let’s head over there.”
Anna took Sarah’s hand again and in a blur of color they were moving once more. Sarah kept her eyes closed as they zigged and zagged, left and right, avoiding and actually outrunning several hexes that began to chase after them.
Suddenly a spell of unbelievable power hit them and they flew into the wall of the dome. Sparks of pain slammed into their bodies and then Anna could only see blackness. A few seconds later, Anna awoke to find Sarah Bell still unconscious next to her.
“Sarah?” Are you alright? The girl didn’t move. Anna leaned over her friend to feel for a pulse and let out a sigh of relief. “Come on, girl,” she said, lifting Sarah onto her feet again. “We gotta go!”
A spell suddenly smashed into her back again and Anna toppled to the ground with Sarah on top of her. A Death Eater appeared from out of the forest.
“I got them!” he yelled.
“Petrificus Totalus!”Anna yelled, and the man instantly froze where he stood and then fell on top of her.
Anna began struggling to roll the body off. “Sarah! Wake up! You have to help me.” She pushed and tried to roll. “Come on!”
There was a flash of red light again, an enormous amount of pain, the feeling of hope slipping away, and then there was only darkness.