Subtle Year

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Chapter 4: The Missing Person

It was colder in Troller’s Gill than Isla Mount had expected. She hated the cold. Granted she was English and she was used to a certain level of coldness but it was on another level in the North. It made her miss the warmth of London. Plus, the rain was terrible for her hair. But she hadn’t come to the North to top up her tan. She came for the Barghest. That nasty monster had been helping itself to some walkers over the last few weeks and people were starting to panic. Never mind the fact that those who escaped were left with a wound that never healed. That didn’t help.

She walked slowly along the dusty, gravel road, trees flanking her either side as her eyes surveyed the trees around her. Her sword didn’t stray far from her hand, the pale moonlight glinting against the shining blade. She cleared her throat and began whistle for the big black dog. A sound came from the forest to her left, like rattling chains and she gradually turned to face it.

“Hello boy,” she cooed, gesturing with her finger for the creature to come closer.

A pair of flaming eyes and a set of sharp yellow teeth stood out against the dark of the forest. The Barghest and Isla had something in common, they could become invisible at will. As it happened, at this moment in time, they both chose to be visible.

“I bet you’re hungry, boy, aren’t you?” she smiled.

Isla’s wavy hair rolled with the movements of her body, coiling up her back before springing back down. She unsheathed her legendary sword and moved in for a swift chop of the head. Unfortunately, the Barghest knew what she was going to do. It leapt angrily out of the way of the sword and jumped at her. She performed a graceful flip out of the way and swung her sword again. It didn’t quite get the dog-like creature. It sliced through its ear and the monster howled in both pain and anger. Never had anyone pierced the flesh of the Barghest, let alone cut off anything like an ear. Isla smiled and moved out of the way of the deranged beast that was no longer able to fight back.

“Bad dog,” she swiftly sliced her sword down.

The sword glinted brightly in the moonlight before carving smoothly through the creature’s neck like butter. It slumped to the floor and the head rolled across the road. A man’s foot stopped it from rolling any further away, the head of a monster would be a surprising find for the neighbourhood scout troop.

“Impressive,” he spoke with confidence.

Isla looked at him suspiciously as she sheathed her sword, her blond hair settling back into place down her back.

“Who are you?” she folded her arms.

“I work for the English Freedom House,” the man replied coolly. “You’re a remarkable fighter Miss…”

“Mount,” she told him. “Isla Mount.”

“Well, Miss Mount, you were obviously trained by the best.”

“I was. What does it matter to you?”

“I have a request. A dark sorcerer is about to launch an attempt to take over the world. I want you to be onside.”

“I would be honoured.”

“Good, head to the Freedom House and surrounding gathering spots, look out for a girl. She’s not a sorcerer but she is noticeable. Purple hair, dark eyes and a sharp tongue, if not a slight lack of wit. Help her in any way you can. There’s something important about her.”

“But you don’t know what? What if she’s not important?”

He shook his head, folding his arms. The thought hadn’t crossed his mind once and he was certain that it shouldn’t cross hers again either.

“She is very important, Miss Mount. One look at her proves it. I wouldn’t look for someone like you to protect her if I wasn’t sure.”

“Abalone permits this?”

“You came strongly recommended by him.”

“Oh, so you knew my name already?”

“Your reputation precedes you, Miss Mount, but fighters like you are in high-demand. We have never been introduced, I had to make sure I was dealing with the right person. Abalone speaks fondly of you. He respects you.”

“I’ll do it.”

The man stooped to pick up the Barghest’s head and threw it to her. Isla caught it and dropped the head beside the body. She pulled out a shabby looking old lighter and lit the body on fire. The man’s dark brown eyes glowed, reflecting the flames. He nodded a vague valediction to her and walked away. Isla glanced to the burning monster again, then walked in the other direction.


The next morning, I woke up in pain. It was entirely unique, I had never felt anything like it. It was like fire was pulsing through my veins and every single one of my joints ached. I pushed myself out of bed and stumbled into the wall, pressing my forehead against the cool paint. Oh, god… this is hell! I pulled myself up onto my feet and tugged off my clothes. I them in the washing basked and scowled at all the blood. I stepped into the shower and washed my hair. The blood that had gathered against my skin and scalp washed out and turned the water red as it swirled down the drain. Luckily, having dyed my hair for so long, I was used to it. I slowly got out of the shower and began to dry my hair with the hairdryer. The warmth from the shower had been replaced by warmth from the air and it was entirely pleasant. I liked my hair; I pondered how much I liked my hair in an attempt to distract myself from the pain. I had nice hair, it was a nice colour. Although, it may need a boost soon. Purple needed maintaining after all. Not as much as red. Red was a nightmare colour.

I dug through my drawers to find something to wear, trying another distraction technique to get my mind off the pain. I pulled on yet another pair of black skinny jeans and tucked in my black, long-sleeved top with the lace up front. While a lace up front was a nice look, it was one you had to be careful with. Respect the lace-up front, or it will betray you. I pulled on a pair of wedge heeled ankle boots, lacing them up and tucking in the stray laces. I knew my look. I’d trip over my own laces if I wasn’t careful.

“Onyx,” mum called up to me. “Connie’s on the phone for you!”

So much for not moving… I had no lessons at school today so I’ll bet Connie wants to go out and wreak havoc for the day. In a videogame of course, but still.

“Coming!” I threw myself off the bed and rushed down the stairs.

“Are you okay?” she looked concerned.

“I’m fine,” I assured. “I’ve just been running too much…”

“You? Running? Darling, you don’t run unless something has been chasing you,” she paused and frowned. “Has something been chasing you?”

“Very funny mum,” I rolled my eyes.

I answered the call and Connie asked me if I wanted to come out, I said yes and left, waving to mum as I did so. I uttered the words to make my clone appear and I told her to go to Connie’s house. While she went one way, I went the other and I flicked through my contacts on my phone before calling Flash.

“Hey,” I spoke when he answered. “I’m where the Mercedes crashed yesterday. Can you come pick me up?”

“I’ll be ten minutes,” he paused to check the time. “Don’t leave your necklace unguarded.”

“What do you take me for?” I smiled slightly. “I’ll see you then.”

My veins were still on fire. My head felt light and I swear I was going to faint. This was like what I felt yesterday when I was hiding from Serpent. Did he do something to me? Maybe Flash knows what’s going on with me. I’ll ask him when he gets here… I think I need help.


Where was he? It’d been over half an hour since I’d called him and there’d been no appearance. I was leaning against the wall, waiting for him to show up. I dialled his number again and it went to answer phone.

“Flash, what are you playing at?” I groaned. “Call me when you get this.”

Another ten minutes passed and I called him again. Once again it went to answer phone. Now I was starting to worry.

“Flash, if this is a joke I will kill you! Not figuratively. I mean it, I will actually kill you.”

That’s it, I’m sick of waiting. I started walking to the bus stop while calling him again. I was getting anxious now… Flash didn’t seem like the kind of person that would just let his phone go to answer phone on so many occasions. I know he wouldn’t do that when something so big is happening, so where is he? I called him again while I sat at the bus stop.

“Flash, I’m on my way to the Freedom House now,” I tapped my nails compulsively. “Please, can you meet me there? I need to talk to you.”

The bus pulled up to the stop and I sat on my own, near the back. The pain was close to unbearable now. Maybe the Professor could help me while I waited for Flash. He’d seemed nice after all and I didn’t exactly want to try and make new friends at the Freedom House. I leaned my aching head against the cool window and sighed, the grinding of the bus hardly helped but the cold did. I held my phone to my ear and waited for the answer phone beep.

“Please Flash, I’m worried sick now, can you just call me?” I begged.

My phone suddenly rang and I almost jumped out of my skin before answering it without checking to see who it was.

“Hello?” I answered.

“We’re in trouble,” Maven’s voice was grave.

“What do you mean? Where’s Flash?” I frowned.

“He’s been kidnapped.”

“What, who did that?”

“Who do you think?” he sighed.

“Sorry, of course… what are we going to do?”

“Abalone is convinced that Flash can find his way out and that we should just focus on keeping the key safe,” he replied, obviously not agreeing. “However, he doesn’t realise that Flash is the only thing protecting them from ruin.”

“So, that’s why he won’t answer my calls…”

“When did you last talk to him?” he pressed.

“About an hour ago,” I thought about it.

“Serpent must have sprung an attack on him,” he mused. “We have to get him before Serpent kills him and believe me, Serpent wants him dead.”

“I’m well aware,” I sighed. “But, how can we without the Freedom House helping us?”

“Well… there is one person who has contacts,” he sounded reluctant.

“Who is it?” I dreaded the answer.

“Calypso Reef.”

“What’s the problem with her?”

“We don’t exactly get on, she only complies with Flash and even then…” he trailed off. “Unless, you go talk to her while I go and find Serpent’s castle.”

“I don’t know, Maven,” I chewed my lip. “She was a bit freaky.”

“It gets worse after a few years,” he assured me. “But Onyx, we need her if we want to get to Flash Calypso knows everyone, she’s got contacts from the war days. Both sides, that’s the positive to he.”

“Alright,” I gave in. “I’ll go talk to her.”

“Be careful with her. She’s trouble for sorcerers, mortals like you don’t often stand a chance. I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt.”

“Gee, thanks,” I muttered as he hung up.

I got off the bus at Calypso’s and the driver looked at me strangely. I smiled politely and left before he asked questions. I bet he was thinking I was some deranged drug user or something. Excuse me, that is in fact my brother, thank you very much. I kid. My brother isn’t deranged.

The pain I was in was becoming excruciating but I knew I needed to find Flash more than I needed to find painkillers. Now that he was gone, I felt uneasy. He was more confident than me and if he was in my shoes, he wouldn’t be freaked out by Calypso’s strange personality. He’d probably break her wrist for attacking him with a knife. I wished I was like Flash. I opened the door to her Safe House and stepped inside, figuring I didn’t need to knock. I received a text from Maven as I entered, telling me to meet him at a location he gave me in around two hours.

The Safe House was essentially a library. It was a long expanse that was filled with winding bookshelves and a series of tables and chairs. I stepped further inside, concerned by the various people that were dotted about amongst the books. I had absolutely zero confidence in the best of situations. This was far from the best of situations. Can I come back in ten years or something? When I’m a responsible adult, preferably.

“So, am I still calling you Onyx?”

I turned to face Calypso who was smiling at me, her oceanic blue eyes studying me as if taking in new features that had appeared since we’d last met. She was so beautiful that I was stupefied to silence and I almost didn’t notice what she’d said.

“Wait, how did you know my name?” I managed to find my words.

“I knew who you were from the moment I met you, dear,” she sighed. “I knew Callum too; I’d heard the stories of when you made grown men cry like little girls. It was obvious Flash would take a shine to you. Am I still calling you Onyx then?”

I was stunned. She was smart as well as beautiful. She’d certainly outsmarted Flash at any rate, that was impressive. I can see why people are so intimidated by her.

“You are,” I nodded slowly.

“Ah, well then, how disappointing… may I ask what you’re here for?”

“Flash has been kidnapped.”

Her reaction was nothing like I expected. Her jaw didn’t drop, her eyes didn’t widen and she didn’t speak for a brief moment. While I hardly expected the woman, who attacked him with a knife to leap into action, I had imagined there’d be a flicker of surprise on her face. There was no twitch of her lips and her expression didn’t change from the indifference she regarded me with.

“You have come to the wrong person,” she spoke after a few moments. “I can’t help you.”

“But Flash is your friend!”

“I’m afraid that makes no difference. I don’t get involved with Freedom House problems, especially not when the Generals are involved. This may surprise you, but you rather like life,” she shook her head. “Even so, you are welcome to stay for as long as you want and I wish you luck on your rescue quest. I hope you find what you’re looking for.”

I wasn’t sure if she was mocking me when she said that but I let her get on with her business. I sat in one of the comfy armchairs and sighed sadly. Maven was counting on me to get Calypso to help and I’d failed. I noticed the hundreds of bookshelves that were filled to the brim. Were these books on magic? There were more books in here then there were in the room in the Freedom House. Flash had said Calypso was a collector. Was this what hundreds of years of hoarding had gotten her? I wasn’t even sure how old she was. I’d say she was around Flash’s age maybe.

I stood up and looked at some of the titles. One of them was called magic for beginners… maybe I should have a look at that. If I had magic, then maybe I wouldn’t be such deadweight to Maven and Flash. I didn’t want Flash to have to look out for me all the time. I opened the book and started reading, it sounded so simple but still so complex. With my eyes glued to the book, I turned to sit back down but I instead crashed into someone.

“Oh, gosh, I’m so sorry!” I exclaimed.

The person I’d crashed into was a young woman, she didn’t appear too much older than me but that obviously meant nothing in magic terms. She was tall, slim and toned, clearly used to working out. She wore a pair of skin-tight leather leggings that clung to her sculpted legs and a pair of leather boots that ran to her mid-calves and hugged to her figure too. Tucked neatly into her leggings was an army green, casual t-shirt and over that was a fitted leather jacket. I never had the confidence for leather, you had to have a certain type of confidence to wear it. This woman definitely had that confidence. She had porcelain pale skin that was blemish free and her bright blond hair rolled down her back in gently coiled, natural waves. Her eyes were a bright blue, like a robin’s egg and the irises were surrounded by a ring of sapphire. There were a lot of beautiful sorcerers. Some people get all the luck. She studied me for a moment, as if trying to place me before she spoke.

“It’s fine, no harm done” she adjusted her jacket before sticking out her hand with a cheery smile, the friendliest one I’d seen since I met Flash. “I’m Isla Mount.”

“I’m Onyx Brooks.”

“You know Onyx, a girl your age shouldn’t be looking at books like this,” she gestured with her head to the bookshelves.

“Oh, I’m not here for books,” I shook my head as I slowly put the book away.

“Please don’t say you’re in hiding,” she looked alarmed.

“No, no I’m not hiding from anyone,” I laughed slightly before pausing. “I’m just looking for help.”

“And you came to Calypso?” she raised an eyebrow.

“Yeah, I know, not the best plan but you do what you have to do when you’re desperate, I suppose.”

She seemed to notice that I was worried about Flash and she smiled reassuringly at me. Isla seemed pretty nice. Finally. I knew not all sorcerers could be sullen all the time. Well, aside from Flash who just seemed not to care.

“Why do you need help?”

“A friend of mine was kidnapped,” I explained, not considering that I should keep it quiet.

“Oh? Who was kidnapped?”

“You really want to know?” I was surprised.

“Yes, I think I could even help, if you want,” she didn’t miss a beat. “It’s my job, you know? Finding things. Usually it’s great, big, hulking monsters, but I’ve found a few sorcerers in my time too. Usually ex’s who owe me money, but that’s beside the point.”

“You’d do that for someone you just met?”

“I’m nice like that. Anyway, you seem like a nice girl who needs some help and a friend. There aren’t a lot of sorcerers out there that realise how much better things could be if they simply helped each other out a little more.”

“Yeah, I’ve noticed that, to be honest.”

“So, who are we rescuing?” she asked, walking down the aisle with me.

“Flash Blackguard,” I wasn’t sure if she’d know the name.

“Flash Blackguard, Flash Blackguard…” she rolled the words around her mouth.

She kept mumbling Flash’s name under her breath for a bit. She looked a bit weird. Although, I think Isla might just be the kind of person who didn’t give a damn if she looked strange. I think I like her.

“Hey, I’ve heard of him!” she gasped after another few moments. “And I also know someone who might help.”

“Someone would help Flash? Who on earth would do that?” I pulled a face.

“His name is Rio Darkwood,” she seemed slightly reluctant. “He’s a… well, he’s an old friend of mine, I suppose.”

“Why would he help?” I didn’t like her tone.

“If I remember correctly, he owes Flash a favour and I think this is one of the easier things.”

“Why does he owe Flash a favour?” now I was really confused.

“Nobody really knows,” she admitted. “He’s not very talkative.”

Well, that was certainly possible. Flash seemed to have had a lot go on in the past that he wasn’t all that willing to talk about. Magic and mystery go hand in hand after all.

“But,” she started, plucking me from my thoughts.

“But?” I prompted.

“Rio won’t necessarily believe me when I tell him I need his help.”

“Ah…”

“But, if you go then he’d probably help.”

Never mind the fact that I seem to be the person who’s getting sent, running around and doing all the difficult work. Convince Calypso, convince Rio, and so on and so forth.

“I can’t,” I sighed. “I’ll have to meet Maven soon, he’s eager to get to Serpent’s castle and get Flash.”

“Well, what if I go meet him?” she suggested. “I can drop you off at Rio’s and then I can come pick you up later.”

“I guess I could but,” I twisted a lock of hair around my finger. “I don’t know him; why would he believe me more than you?”

“Because he doesn’t know you,” she rolled her eyes. “He knows how to protect himself and he learns about people before he attacks. It’s also how he trusts people.”

“So… think of him as an unruly dog?” I asked.

“You got it,” she grinned. “I consider him to have rabies anyway so…”

“You’re really brimming me with confidence here, Isla.”

“Sorry. Do you have magic?”

“No,” I sighed.

“Watch out for Rio’s. It has bite,” she warned.

“Good to know…”

“You know, if you want to quickly see if you have magic, it’s easier to see how your body reacts to a magic spell. If you have magic it’ll fight the other person’s power.”

“Really? That sounds great!”

“Yeah, but it can be dangerous,” she suddenly seemed to remember. “If the magic your magic is fighting is very strong, your magic will have to match that strength and it isn’t good for you. You could faint, fall into a coma or even die.”

“Yeah, I think I’ll just wait it out.”

“Probably for the best,” she admitted. “So where am I meeting your friend?”

I told her and she nodded, obviously pleased. We headed out of the large building and we both noticed the rain that was pelting down on us. Neither of us had a hood and grimaced as the rain promptly soaked up.

“This is going to be a fun trip,” Isla concluded.


So, Isla didn’t own a car. Cars are no fun apparently. Isla had a motorbike. My father would freak out if he found out I had ridden through the city on the back of a motorbike. I don’t know how he’d feel to find out that it wasn’t due to a roguish young man.

Eventually, we turned into a dark cul-de-sac of houses, just outside a small town to the East of the Freedom House and she pointed to the house that this Rio guy lived in, figuring it’d be best if she remained out of sight.

“Is there anything I need to know about him?” I asked her warily.

“He’s strong, powerful and strangely charming,” she replied as if she was confused by it.

“You sound like you know it well.”

“I do,” she nodded with a sigh.

She went off in her own little world for a second and I had to click my fingers in front of her face to get her attention again.

“Damn, I did it again,” she shook her head, laughing slightly. “I have the concentration span of a four-year-old at times, sorry about that.”

I looked at her and laughed. I genuinely couldn’t help myself. Despite the situation we were in, I found Isla amusing. She was the only person I’d met in the world that wasn’t so serious. Even Flash had moments of being overly serious. Although, when Serpent was involved, it seemed Flash had good reason. I just had no idea what it was.

“God, Onyx, stop laughing and take this seriously!” Isla rolled her eyes, laughing too. “Anyway, when I get to Maven I’ll bring him straight here. Rio doesn’t trust people easily, so be careful. If we’re lucky, I’ll imagine Maven will at least know of Rio anyway. He was quite prolific during the war.”

“Rio or Maven?” I frowned.

“Both,” she shrugged. “I mean it. Be careful, Onyx.”

“Don’t worry, Isla, I’m stronger than I look.”

“I hope you are. He’s an extremely strong individual.”

I smiled uncertainly but tried to keep a brave face and waved as she zoomed off on her bike. When I was certain she was gone, I turned and faced the door. I felt the overwhelming urge to bolt. I almost lost my nerve and obeyed the instinct but I managed to remember why the hell I was here. After taking in a long, shaky breath, I raised my hand and knocked on the door.

Slowly, the door opened. But, rather than a person, I was greeted by a great flash of light that sent me staggering back in surprise. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end as I felt the crackle of electricity in the air. A man now stood in the doorway, glaring at me.

“What the hell was that for?” I groaned. “Do you do that when the Jehovah’s Witnesses come knocking too?”

“Who are you?” he asked, completely ignoring my statement.

“Blinded now, thanks!”

“Consider it a warning. Who are you?” he repeated.

“I’m Onyx Brooks,” I gradually got my sight back. “And you’re Rio Darkwood, aren’t you?”

“That’s me,” he studied me dubiously. “Are you a Freedom House agent?”

“No… well, technically no,” I was unsure of how to respond.

“Then why are you here?”

“A friend of mine told me you could help me.”

“Isla was wrong,” he shook his head.

“How did you know it was Isla?” I raised my eyebrow.

“She’s the only one who knows where I live… unfortunately… anyway, there’s only one person I’d consider helping and that’s because I owe him a favour.”

He moved to shut the door and I suddenly grew desperate, I’d already been turned down by Calypso. I can’t be so useless that I can’t get somebody to help.

“I need you to help me help Flash Blackguard!”

He suddenly stopped and studied me with an unreadable face. Oh, Christ, please don’t chuck me out.

“It’s him who you owe the favour, isn’t it?” I spoke again.

“What do you need me for?” he reluctantly gave in.

I fought the sigh of relief that pushed itself up my throat and tried to maintain some sort of confidant composure.

“How do you feel about breaking into a castle?” I asked.

“It depends on who owns it,” he shrugged.

“Lorian Serpent.”

A strange look crossed his face, I’d assume he knew Serpent. Interesting. He shook his head after a moment and looked back at me.

“I knew Flash would get kidnapped by him sooner or later. I hate Serpent… I’m in.”

“Brilliant,” I couldn’t hold by my grin.

Surely, we’ll be able to formulate some method to save Flash now. I mean, Maven had asked for Calypso and I’d gotten two more willing, slightly at least, participants.

“But if Isla gets on my nerves, I can’t say I’m not going to punch her.”

Punching a girl… how gentlemanly.

“I’ll remember that.”

Rio grudgingly invited me inside and let me sit in the living room, instructing me not to touch anything. Now that I had a proper look at him without him trying to kill me, I realised he was actually quite attractive. His thick black hair was untamed but he really pulled it off. His eyes were electric blue and sharp, they had some sort of movement in them. Like there was electricity crackling in them. That would make sense, it seemed like his power was the ability to control electricity. His skin was quite pale, like he didn’t often go out on the sun, and I noticed what looked like the end of a scar on his collar bone. Being handsome wasn’t an excuse for being so harsh and mean.

“Do you have any magic?” he asked me after a silence.

“Well… no,” I admitted.

He raised his eyebrow and looked a bit annoyed as well as surprised. Had he genuinely thought I had magic? Huh… I was quite flattered actually.

“Great,” he muttered.

I was sat in the armchair with my legs tucked up underneath me. I was freezing but I didn’t say anything because Rio scared me. I was a stranger who had essentially invaded his home and nobody knew where I was. Hardly comforting. My phone rang in my pocket and I slipped it out, relieved to have someone to speak to.

“Hey Isla,” I answered it.

“Hey,” Isla had a smile in her voice. “I found Maven, he seems nice, and I just wanted to tell you that we’re on our way up.”

“Right.”

“Do you hate Rio yet?”

“A little bit,” I admitted.

“It happens.”

“Oh, good,” I muttered sarcastically.

“Maven wants to talk to you,” she spoke after there was some muttering in the background.

“Alright.”

There was silence for a second as she handed over the phone to Maven and I glanced warily to Rio who seemed to be listening.

“Nice one, Onyx,” Maven sounded impressed. “You got better than Calypso.”

“Well, it’s not like Calypso would want to help.”

“Oh, let me guess, I don’t get involved in Freedom House cases,” he made his voice go way higher than I imagined a big guy like Maven could do.

I couldn’t stop myself from laughing and in the background, I heard Isla cackling with laughter without any restraint.

“She’s like a two-year-old,” I couldn’t help my smile.

“Isla’s always like that,” Rio muttered.

“We’ll be there in about three-quarters of an hour,” Maven manged to keep composed.

“Alright.”

“And, Onyx,” he added. “Well done.”

They arrived around half an hour later. Rio gave Isla an icy glare and she blushed slightly. I wonder what the story behind them was. Maven smiled at me and I smiled happily back. I had thought he didn’t like me but it seemed I might be growing on him. I sat on the stairs with Isla while the other two stood. I doubt Rio liked so many people being in his house but he would just have to live with it.

“So, how do we get into the castle?” I spoke up eventually.

“Kick the door down?” Rio suggested.

“I’m not even sure that castle has a door,” Maven shook his head.

“How does he get in there then?” Isla frowned.

“Eh, he’s a weirdo, he has his ways,” he shrugged.

“So, maybe a window instead?” I thought about it.

“That could work,” he admitted.

“Serpent stopped pumping money into the place recently,” Rio mused. “It’s starting to fall apart. We might just get lucky.”

With that confirmation of a plan, there was a silence that fell for a few moments but it was broken when Isla spoke.

“Why wouldn’t a castle have a door?”

We’re going to get along so well…

“What would it matter?” Rio snapped.

I looked at him and then at Isla. They clearly had a lot of history, they knew each other well but disliked each other. There must be a story there.

“I was just wondering,” she responded stiffly.

Maven raised his eyebrow at me and I shrugged my shoulders. Neither of us had any idea what was going on and we weren’t going to get involved.

“You’re always just wondering,” Rio retorted angrily. “That’s what got you in trouble during the war.”

“Oh, you’re really going to bring that up?”

“Well, I just did, didn’t I?”

“Then are we going to mention whose side won?” Isla was now very serious. “Because no matter how high up you became during that war, no matter how many people you killed and no matter how brutal those murders were, you still lost! That’s why you live out in the middle of nowhere, in hiding, because you have no protection and if somebody wanted revenge on you and your master, you’d be the easiest target.”

“Sensitive, aren’t we?”

Maven looked at me again and smiled. I grinned and stifled a laugh. Isla was going to snap something angrily back at him, but then Maven’s phone rang.

“Finally,” he sighed. “Can I take this privately?”

Rio looked slightly confused before he pointed down the hallway. Isla and Rio glared at each other but before one of them could speak I stopped them.

“Seriously, if you two start that again, I will scream.”

Neither of them spoke and the icy silence soon settled. It eased my head ache but sparked my interest. What happened during the war?

“Did he say what that call was about?” Rio asked after a few moments.

“Oh, yeah, I’m always wondering,” Isla snapped.

A feeling of electricity in the air crackled slightly and Isla gasped in pain beside me but I didn’t feel any pain. Rio was clearly skilled with his power. Comforting.

“Alright, alright, alright, he didn’t mention it actually,” she spoke quickly.

“Secretive,” I muttered. “I hate it.”

I rested my elbow on my knee and placed my chin in my hand. I was exhausted and that was making me feel bitter and angry. Rio was watching me curiously. Isla had mentioned Rio like assessing people before he attacked. Not comforting.

Eventually, Maven came back into the hall with a broad and proud smile on his face. He’d been up to something.

“Serpent isn’t home.”

“Who was that?” I asked.

“The Freedom House have got a guy who’s working off a sentence by being a double agent,” he explained. “He’s got Serpent out of his castle.”

“That one works,” Isla grinned.

“Annoyingly so,” Rio grumbled.

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