"Marina, what's wrong?" Eight asks, probably noticing the blank look in my eyes. He doesn't know… of course he wouldn't know, because he doesn't know that no matter this 'Wicked One', the most wicked person in Oz was standing a few metres away from us on that balcony.
I finally regain my senses. We have to get out of here… now. "This place isn't safe," I mumble, tightening my grip on Eight's hand and tugging him towards the exit.
"What did you say?" He sounds confused, but he lets me pull him along.
"This place isn't safe!" I say a little bit louder. "We have to find Nine and John and get out of here!" I weave my way between clapping guests as the 'wizard' shows off his powers on the next floor. I can see flashes of light in my peripherals.
"But we came all this way to meet him!" Eight argues as we cross the threshold into the hallway, which is now empty. How were we supposed to find Nine and John with the disaster going on in the other room?
"Trust me," we stop walking and I turn to look at him. "I know that guy. He would never help us." Behind Eight I see the doors partitioning the ballroom to the hallway silently swing shut. Eight gasps, his eyes flying to something behind me, and I tentatively turn around to see him.
His hands light up with electric blue energy. "Run!" I yell, darting to my left—but I'm not fast enough, and I feel myself getting struck with the powerful beam. I suddenly feel drained… and I know my legacies are gone. I fall forward, landing on my hands and rolling onto my back.
Eight looks frozen in place, perched on the balls of his feet as he waits for Setrakus Ra to do something. His eyes flicker to me, and I'm sure he's formulating a plan.
There's an inaudible flash of light from behind Eight, and this time, with her face illuminated by the ghostly green light, I have no trouble placing the witch's face. Agent Walker, from our raid on Dulce. I remember John putting her in the rafters of the military base… and I never sent another thought her way since.
She smiles sneakily, and Eight makes the mistake of glancing ever so slightly over his shoulder to see where the green light had come from. I scream a warning, but it's already too late, and he's struck with the same blue energy that took away my legacies. He collapses on his side and I scream.
I'm suddenly jerked upwards as a pair of strong arms grab mine, hooking themselves underneath to keep me immobile. I'm forced to get on my feet, although I'm still in a bit of a crouch. But unlike the last time, I knew it wasn't Eight who had grabbed me. I lull my head back and recognize Sam's face as he hoists me up.
"What…?" I whisper, completely confused as to what he was doing. Sam was supposed to be on our side, wasn't he?
"Just shutup," He says quietly, jerking my shoulders. But after that I'm held still again… and I know that the chances of getting his help were zero. Sam was working for the wizard.
I don't know what to do. I shrug my shoulders, trying to struggle free, but he won't have it. I'm not strong enough without my Legacies.
"I thought you were a good guy?" Eight finally asks as another guard comes to grab him like the way Sam was holding me. But in his case, a third was holding a blaster to his shoulder.
Instead of a response Setrakus Ra stays motionless, probably deciding whether or not he should answer, or maybe which one of us he would like to kill first… or maybe both. Slowly, he walks up to Eight, inspecting him as close as he could from his massive height. Eight wrinkles his nose as he gets a whiff of the Mogadorian leader, but he keeps his eyes firmly aimed at his.
"Years of lying to the outlands," Setrakus Ra sneers. "And it's all finally paid off."
He smiles with his dagger teeth, turning to look at me. "I was just never expecting so many at once. Thank you, Marina. I should send the witch of Paradise a thank you as well. Years of her gullibility has brought me many treasures, but maybe none as great as this one."
"I hope you rot in hell!" I scream at him, but his smile doesn't falter. In fact, I'm probably feeding his ego. Instead he pulls out the three medallions from beneath his cloak.
"Ah, yes." He touches them lightly. "That makes seven for my collection."
Seven… that could only mean that he had John and Nine, too. But he didn't have the medallions on, so that must mean that they were still alive.
"Sam," I whisper, trying to twist my head to look at him. "You have to let me go… please. He'll kill us." I feel his grip tighten on my arms, but besides that there is no response.
I hear the familiar shing of a sword being unsheathed, and I turn my head back to see Setrakus Ra holding out a massive sword, the blade poised a few inches in front of Eight's neck. No…
I start screaming again, anything that comes to mind, really. Profanity, death threats, anything to keep my mouth occupied.
After a moment Eight looks up, directly staring in the villain's eyes. "Go ahead, I have nothing to fear."
"You'd be surprised," Setrakus Ra laughs again, but he's cut short by a bone-shattering crunch—one that was not coming from the business end of his sword.
There's suddenly a gaping hole in a ballroom door. With one more blow I see John smash right through the thick wood with his shoulder and stumble out into the hall. I can see where his suit is torn and there's an already-healing red cut across his cheek. His hands are bound with a pair of hand-cuff looking things made of a green, pulsating crystal. John immediately rolls out of the way and Nine jumps through the door, his pipe staff fully extended, his crystal cuffs dark and broken in two.
"Next time, train your guards to check for weapons, dumb-ass." Nine says, twirling his staff and sending the guard holding Eight flying with across the room with a purple welt on his head. Eight staggers and teleports away.
Setrakus Ra swings his massive sword but Nine is too fast, using his super speed dodge the attack with plenty of time to spare. Ra spins around to look for his smaller opponent, a glimmer of fear in his eyes. Interesting.
Then John kicks his foot in the hole in the door and pulls it open by hopping to the side, yelling: "FIRE!"
It's instant pandemonium. Guests start to pour out of the ballroom by the hundreds, screaming and pushing at each other to get to the door. Setrakus Ra, despite his hulk, is overwhelmed by the sheer force of a thousand-or-so bodies pounding towards him at once. I feel a sudden spark in my gut. My Legacies are back.
Sam's hand's let me go and I'm free. I'm bumped to the side by the hundreds of people, and I lose my balance and teeter towards the ground as I'm hit in all directions. I feel someone wrap their arms around my waist followed by the nauseating sensation of teleporting, although this time the sickness is not as gripping as the first.
Eight drops me down on the bridge, where it still seems untouched. The main doors must have been locked. We begin to sprint down the bridge single file—although my head is a little muddled and the dress is way too constricting, I manage well enough.
Nine runs past us all to the doors of the city, heaving it open with both hands and holding it clear for the rest of us to pass through, he waves his hand in a 'go' motion.
From behind me I hear screaming and the sound of shattering glass—or should I say crystal. I look behind us for just a second, thinking that we were making a clean getaway. But I see a couple dozen guards running after us. And these aren't the normal guards that opened the doors to the city for us, no, these were full-fledged Mogs that looked like they'd been hastily stuffed inside the guard costumes. The witch is not far behind, flying after us on… a broomstick. Okay.
"Seize them!" She screams, pointing in our direction.
As soon as I've passed through Nine follows out and pushes the door closed behind him, although I doubt that'll stop them for very long. We have to move.
"John, let's go, burn the field!" Nine yells as he holds his back against the door. He jolts slightly as something hits it from the other side.
"I can't get the cuffs off!" John yells back, trying to rip them apart but with little success.
"Put your hands on the ground," I say, and John complies quickly. I smash at the crystal with the heel of my flat, cracking it slightly with the first kick, chipping it with the second. By the third he's able to rip them apart himself and the green goes dark.
John's hands spark, and after a moment of uncertainty they catch ablaze. He focuses the fire towards the flowers.
Nine jolts again, having a bit of a struggle keeping the door closed.
The fire begins to spread—but unless we had John's protective fire coating, there was no way the rest of us would be able to get through. I was starting to panic.
"Eight, can you take Marina to the other side?" Nine growls as the door is slammed at again. I see a sliver of a guard's face before Nine pushes it shut again.
"No way! I'm not leaving you guys!" I yell over the increasing noise of the guards on the other side of the door. "I can fight!"
The wicked witch rises over the wall of the castle on her broomstick, her free hand glowing with green energy.
"It's the only way!" Eight says, and without even giving me a response he grabs me again and we're suddenly on the other side of the poppy field.
"No!" I yell after him, but he's already gone back.
From this distance all I can see is the growing fire. I yell out in frustration when I see her again—the witch on her broomstick, climbing above the smoke of the fire. She flies right past where I assumed the boys were, and straight towards me.
Upon landing she slams the end of her broom on the ground, her knuckles turning white around the handle. "Do you think you can just come in here and start messing things up?" She screams at me, her eyes beginning to glow green, pupils shrinking to almost nonexistence. "You're ruining my plans!"
"What?" I can't help but be confused, what plans? But I'm distracted as she launches a ball of fluttering red energy at me. I'm able to jump out of the way in time.
"I'll kill you!" She continues to yell. "But I'll save you for last, yes. I'll have you watch your friends die first!"
I can hear an almost animalist growl beginning to form in my throat, something I didn't even think I was capable of. My hands are suddenly frozen, and I look down ever so slightly to see frosted designs dance their way across my skin. My legacy… it was back.
A red beam of electricity shoots towards me again, but instead of dodging it a wall of milky ice breaks up from within the ground, forming a barricade and sending the light bouncing off in another direction.
Without missing a beat I lean around my new shield and, without really knowing what I was doing, toss my arm in a throwing motion, sending a blast of cool ice from my hand. It hit's her chest, freezing on where it touched her skin.
She lets loose a pitchy howl and I throw again, and my throw finds its way to her hand, encasing it in a frozen glove. She drops her broomstick, freeing up her other hand to launch another attack in my direction. But her aim is off, her left side now sagging down with the weight of the ice, and it easily deflects off my shield.
"I'll kill you!" She yells again—but this time it transforms into a scream as I see Nine barrel forward at super speeds, knocking the witch off the side of the cliff with his elbow in one easy motion.
"No!" I yell, running to the edge, but she's already disappeared in the darkness. Her scream slowly fades away into nothing.
Nine picks up her broomstick and snaps it over his knee. "There. That's one problem solved."
"Ugh," I moan, placing my face in my hand, the coolness beginning to leach away from my fingers. My legacy was fading away again, but I was prepared to let it this time.
Eight appears alone, breathing heavily. He has a large gash on his arm, one that goes right through the fabric of his suit. The silk surrounding the cut looks like it's brown rather than green.
He notices me staring and smiles faintly. "It turns out, those spears that the guards are given are more lethal than they look."
Nine snorts. "Where's John?"
"He's already at the bottom of the Beyond, we have to cross now before they catch up."
"How can we cross? It's night time." I say frowning down into the darkness as I try to forget the person that just fell to their death down there.
"John's light will be enough." Eight says, putting a hand on my shoulder. I nod, swallowing. He looks over at the wall of ice sticking out of the ground. "Did you…?"
"Yea," I breath, still a little shocked that I even made that happen. I never thought I would be able to use it again.
He smiles at me, wrapping his arms around my shoulders and the next thing I know we're at the bottom of the pit. I can see perfectly fine, but I can tell that the rocks are no longer glowing. They must get their glow from the sun's power. "I'll be back," He whispers, and I'm alone with John.
As soon as he's gone I bend over and tear away at my beautiful dress, ripping it off at the knees so that I wouldn't fall on the fabric and potentially send myself hurtling into the black nothingness below.
John's Lumen turns towards me. "What are you doing?"
"The dress has to go," I sigh.
"Hm, makes sense." The light from his palms flickers a bit as her takes off his coat, dropping it into the abyss along with the scrap of my dress.
A moment later, Nine and Eight are on the platform with us.
"Look out!" I yelp, pulling Nine out of the way just as I see a spear fall through the air where he'd been standing a moment ago.
"What was that?" John asks, his Lumen flickering back to its full power. It's barely enough to see, but it'll have to do.
"They're throwing things! Come on, we have to go." I say, taking the first step to the next rock.
Eventually, the projectiles stop coming, as I'm sure whatever was left of the guards figured it was a fruitless endeavour. Thankfully, there was no way for them to get down to us, and I don't think any would like to have tried, especially if there was no visible bottom for them to land on. We were safe.
When we finally reached the other side, I was reaching the top of my personal limit. We all felt a little drained, and even with the help of John's Lumen there were a few times were I would see someone about to step into the darkness and I would yell to stop them. Eight seemed even more drained that the rest of us, but one by one he was eventually able to transport us back to the surface.
Nine takes off his jacket and, like John, casually throws it into the Beyond as if it were a coat rack. After a while of since he says: "So it turns out it wasn't the witch who wants us dead—well, she did, but so does the wizard." He shrugs. "Irony much?"
Eight sits down on the dusty ground where, this same morning he'd told us about how the wizard was supposed to counteract the evil of the witch. "So what now?"
We're all silent for another second, no one having a real response. What should we do now? Without a good force to turn to, Oz's Numbers were basically out of luck. And without a good wizard to send me home… I was stuck here for good.
I feel the need to sit down as well.
"Hey, what happened to that witch anyway?" John asks, breaking the silence that felt like it was slowly suffocating me.
I don't say anything, but then I feel Eight turn to me. "She threatened you guys," I say quietly, looking down at the cracked dirt, tracing the lines with my finger. "And I guess I have this one power that seems to just come and go when I get angry." And it was true. The first time it was when Eight had… well… and this time it was because the witch threatened my friends. Was that what sparked my new legacy? Anger?
"Well, I pushed her down." Nine says, crossing his arms. "But I will admit the weight of that ice didn't hurt. Do you think you could do it again?"
I rub my arm. "I don't know… I could try…" I hold my hands in front of my face, trying to summon the feelings that had been rolling inside of me when I'd fought the wicked witch on the cliff. I curl my fingers in and out, and surprisingly enough, I begin to see that same frost decoration spread across my palms. My eyes widen in surprise. I try and summon those ice balls again, but nothing seems to happen. I curl my fingers again and this time something explodes from my hands, flying up into the air and out of sight. I struggle to keep the frost but the surprise throws me off balance and it quickly fades from my hands.
"What was that?" Eight asks, looking up into the darkness of the sky.
"I don't know…" I squint into black sky. But a second later I begin to see tiny while flakes start to fall from the sky. Snow. I just made snow.
"Snow?" Nine asks, holding out a hand and catching a few flakes before they quickly melted away. "Not very good in a fight…"
"Wow," I breath, looking up at the glittery rain. I'd never seen snow in my life… and now it was coming from my hands. I stick out my tongue, trying to snag a flake and do the thing that every kid seems to do upon first snowfall.
"What are you doing?" Eight asks, his curly hair already peppered with the while flakes.
"You're supposed to catch it on your tongue," I laugh, showing him again my jutting my tongue out into the air. I suddenly feel the sweet coolness as a snowflake hits my tongue—my very first taste of real winter.
John laughs too. "I've got to try this," He says, mirroring my actions.
I close my eyes and twirl around once, holding out my arms and feeling the coldness pricking my face. There were so many other problems right now to think about… but I felt like I just really needed to enjoy this.
I open my eyes again to see Eight standing in front of me, his arm outstretched, palm up. "You know," He smiles at me. "we never got to finish our dance."
I laugh again, covering a hand with my mouth, but I take his hand and it's just like we're back in the ballroom as we jauntily spin around the small cliff, the snow nestling itself in our clothes and hair.
This time, 'camp' went a lot better. With our new know-how of using the forest to our advantage, the wood burns easily, and with John's Legacy we're quickly able to get a fire going.
It's completely dark now and the stars are out by the billions—just the way they used to back home. When we were living in Chicago, the stars always seemed to absent from the sky, torn away by the massive amounts of light pollution.
I rest my head on Eight's shoulder as we sit there in contented silence.
At least, I was contented. Sortof. But I didn't want to think about that just yet. Nine looked like he had ants in his pants. "I'm going to get some more firewood." He gets up from the ground and walks towards the forest without a backing glance.
John bites his lip. "Yea, me too." He starts to follow Nine away.
"I don't think we need anymore," I say, motioning my head towards the small pile we had stocked up.
"We're trying to be considerate, Marina!" Nine yells over his shoulder. "Just accept that I can be thoughtful when I want to be!"
Me and Eight laugh at his response, but before soon the two of them are out of sight and we're alone again.
Eight clears his throat. "I was going to give this to you during the ball, but, well, those plans kind of got derailed." I look over and he puts a hand in the pocket of his jacket, pulling out a tangled silver chain with a simple looking aqua-blue stone at the end.
"When we were getting changed out of our old clothes, I found this in my pocket. I didn't even know I had it, but…" He holds out necklace to me. "It feels like it belongs to you."
I take the chain my hand, gripping the smooth, warm stone. "It's beautiful." I look up at him. "Thank you. Can you help me put it on?"
He nods and I lift my hair, which seemed, for the most part to have fallen out of its fancy 'do. Style obviously wasn't meant for battle.
I feel his hands brush the back of my neck as he opens the clasp. Eventually his hands fall away and I let my hair drop again.
"Things were looking so different this morning." I finally whisper. "Nothing really turned out the way we had planned."
He shrugs, turning to look out at the Beyond. "Since I met you guys nothing has seemed to go as planned for me."
I feel my face heating up. I don't know whether or not to be flattered or embarrassed. "Sorry," I mumble ducking my head down and letting stray locks of hair fall into my face to cover me up.
He suddenly twists back around to face me, eyebrows melded together. "You don't need to apologize for anything, Marina. I felt like I've had more purpose in the last day than my entire life. And…" He touches my hand gently. "I love being around you."
I had become growingly aware of how close his face was to mine. I don't move and he leans his head to the side so that our noses are touching. He's closed his eyes, but I can tell from the calm demeanor on his face that he wasn't looking to go any farther, at least, not without my okay. He's still, simply basking in our closeness.
I close my eyes to join him, and we stay there for a while. Just being there, my hand still firmly pressed between his.
I eventually shift my head a little, ready, if not a little nervous for what came next.
That was, until I feel Eight drop my hand and urgently presses my shoulder. The warmth of his face next to mine is replaced with the cold night air and I jerk back, my eyes fluttering open to look at him.
But he's not looking at me. He's staring down the barrel of a blaster pointed directly at his face. I quickly notice the duplicate blaster aimed at me. And behind the weapons were none other than Sam and the creepy Mogadorian that had been following us around Oz. Of course they would be working together.
"You four are a lot more trouble than your worth, you know that?" Sam grumbles. The Mogadorian says nothing, blowing his hair away from his face just for it to fall back in its original position.
"The witch'll want a word with you." Sam continues.
In my peripherals I see other shadowy figures pointing blasters in our direction. We were surrounded.
"That's impossible, she fell off the cliff." Eight says bluntly, although I can detect just a hint of worry in his voice.
"Not this witch." The Mogadorian finally speaks up in a shaky voice. He sounds a lot younger than he looks. Then again, I had no idea how Mogadorians developed. "This witch doesn't die that easily."
Just as he speaks I see John and Nine enter the clearing, casually being followed by another pair of indistinct figures with blasters. Nine has his arms crossed and his eyes are mid-roll, as if he feels like he could get out of this mess any time he wanted to. John doesn't look so nonchalant, his hands thoroughly wringing out his wrists.
"Second time in one day," He mumbles, shaking his head.
Silence fills the clearing once more, and I feel Eight's hand snake up to tightly grip mine again. Sam cocks his blaster. The Mog looks stoic, but I can see a little bit of sweat on his pale neck. What on earth would he have to be worried about?
"Now jump." Sam commands, a hesitant tone lacing his voice.
I look over and John and Nine, who look equally as confused by his instructions. "Jump?" Eight asks.
"Get up," There's a boost of venom in his tone. "and jump into The Beyond."
Nothing happens and no one moves.
"Jump in or I will goddamn shoot you myself and throw your body down!" The Mogadorian yells. After another second of non-compliance he shoots at the ground once, right by Eight's feet, making us both cringe back. "Get up and jump." He says grittily, and Sam glances over at him with a look of confusion.
Eight gets to his feet and pulls me up with him. He gives me a nervous but reassuring smile. I try and use my telekinesis to knock the blaster away, but someone is fighting my force. One of them—Eight, Nine or John—is cancelling out my attempts at manipulation. Meaning they're fighting for them.
I can tell Eight is coming to the same conclusion by the look in his eyes.
"You try and teleport and the first thing I'll do is shoot her," The Mog sneers, redirecting his blaster towards me. "That goes for you other two as well," He nods towards Nine and John, who are slowly being walked towards the cliff side. "I'll shoot whoever I have to."
Me and Eight are standing at the side of the cliff, but this time I don't feel the confidence of knowing he would catch me if I fell in. Now I'm scared… heck, terrified. Why would Setrakus Ra want us to jump in the canyon?
I look over my shoulder at Sam, who glares in response. "Why are you doing this, Sam?"
He shakes his head and says nothing, motioning with his weapon for me to jump. I peer over the edge into the blackness. The bottom of that pit would surely be my end. No amount of healing Legacies could save me from a fall that probably lasted forever.
"It's okay, Marina…" Eight places a hand on my upper back.
Suddenly John is yelling something indecipherable, there's a flash of light, a howl of pain, the sound of something shattering and now I'm falling, twisting and turning in open air as my dress catches the wind and I descend into blackness, my screams stuck in my throat.