Out of the Frying Pan
“Joel…no,” I struggled to get the words out. I tried to get up and managed to push myself up on two wobbly arms before I fell again. It took all of my strength to not pass out as the dark lines kept on spreading.
“Stay down Josh,” Joel said, his eyes never once leaving Arno’s face. “Whatever magic he put into you…I can sense it from here.”
“Get Calliope and the kids and get out of here now!” I screamed weakly. My entire vision tumbled into near darkness as I tried yet again to stand up.
“Try all you like dog,” Arno said, his eyes on Joel. “Those small children can leave. I just wanted a snack before heading back to my master. You can die here for all I care and you will. That yellow haired bitch however has no choice but to come back with me.”
I finally stood up and the edges of my vision grew dark. I almost fell before I felt my entire body restrained in a familiar feeling. I looked at Joel in surprise, and I knew it was his magic at work keeping my body up.
“A name at least my good sir,” Arno said in an oily voice. “For instance, I am Arno, servant of the great Camazotz. I single handedly defeated the Boston Pack of werewolves, and I slayed it’s Alpha. And you are?”
I expected Joel to refuse to answer, to keep his stoic appearance intact. I was wrong.
“I am Joel Michael Basurto, servant of no one. You have harmed my student and a young girl who is as dear to me as my own flesh and blood. You say that you have killed the Boston Alpha, yet here he is, standing with his own power. And as I have said before, I am going to turn your sorry ass into dust.”
With those words, Joel cast an incantation, one that I had never heard before. A blade made of pure light extended from the sword hilt, and at first glance I thought that it was lightning. It wasn’t until I heard the faint arias emitting from the blade that I knew that this was no normal illusion.
Arno must have heard them too, because he stepped back hissing in disgust.
“Charlemagne’s sword,” he said, trepidation filling his eyes. As he stared at the blade it changed color, turning from a bright white into the deepest blue I had ever seen. The arias continued, not skipping a beat as the sword changed color.
“How do you have that sword? It is supposed to be in the Imperial Treasury in Vienna! Answer me mortal!”
“Simple,” Joel said as he brought the sword down once, getting a feel for its weight. “The one in Vienna is fake.”
I watched this with awe all over my face. I had been Joel’s student for almost eleven years and I knew the forms his magic could take. I knew how to tell his illusions apart. Yet this sword felt different. I hadn’t tried casting any magic since Arno had placed the pendant over my head. I cast my aura spell, groaning in frustration when nothing happened. I tried again, and screwed my eyes shut, gathered all of my energy and cast the spell. I kept my eyes shut for one more second and opened them
I yelped with pain as light flooded my eyes. I squinted, and dialed the spell down. I had forced too much power into the spell and it had overloaded, blinding me for a few seconds. I blinked my eyes rapidly, trying to readjust my eyes. I stared at Joel, and gasped in surprise. His aura, normally a calm blue, was awry in color, as was the sword. Arno was glowing a dark red, the same red that had surrounded Benjy when he had gotten staked. The sword kept on drawing my attention. I tried to look away, keep my attention on Joel’s aura, but something kept on drawing my eye. I stared at it and a dawning realization washed over me. This sword wasn’t an illusion. It was real. Joel had conjured an actual blade.
Conjuration magic was a hard magic to master. It takes years of practice to tune your magic to the world, to be able to summon what you need at any given time. Even then, it wasn’t the best magic in a fight. Conjurers couldn’t just summon something they had seen in a book or seen on television. They had to have held the object, let their magic wash over the object, and finally learn how to make it appear at any time.
“How do you have Charlemagne’s blade? The last person to have even seen the blade was Albero Luca and he died in the early 14th century!” Arno asked, staring in amazement at the blade. “Luca was the last great spellcaster of Italy and even he could not wield the blade!”
“I’ve had time to practice,” Joel said, as he raised the blade in a defense position.
No. He didn’t mean… he couldn’t have.
Arno must have reached the same conclusion. “NO!” he said. “I know that he died! I drained his damn blood when he failed in procuring that damned sword for me!”
Albero Luca. Joel Michael Basurto. If you dropped some of the letters and rearranged the ones left over…
“Who are you?” I asked, not noticing that Joel’s or Albero’s or whoever the hell he was restraint spell had broken. I was standing on my own.
“I’ll explain it all to you when we get out of here,” he said, throwing a smile my way.
“I killed you. I know that I did,” Arno was mumbling to himself. He shook himself, snapping out of his confusion. “It doesn’t matter who you are, whether you are Luca or this Joel, because you will die here tonight.”
He bared his fangs and leapt at Joel, trying to surprise him with his speed. I saw Joel raise an eyebrow as he jumped back, holding the sword between himself and Arno.
“Really? A sneak attack? Is that the best you can do?” Joel said, as he swung the sword at the vampire, scoring a cut across Arno’s silk shirt. Blood welled for one second, and Arno’s face transformed into one of pure agony as the cut healed itself, leaving behind a puffy pink scar.
“You cut me,” Arno said, panting from the pain, his silver hair plastered to his forehead from exertion. “That’s more than any mortal can say.” He touched the scar, frowning when it didn’t heal. His body shook from rage, and he stared at Joel, his eyes promising my teacher a painful death.
He launched himself at Joel again, parrying Joel’s blade with his nails, grinning as the blade, which had now turned a spring green, stopped. He grabbed the blade with his bare hands, tugging on it, and blood began coursing down the blade, dissipating into steam in little puffs.
I watched as Joel and Arno were trapped in a macabre tug-o-war, as Arno tried to wrest the blade from Joel’s grip. Arno’s sclera expanded once more, and I looked away, my warning dying in my throat, knowing that it was too late to tell Joel to avert his gaze. Joel’s eyes expanded in surprise, but even though he was caught in Arno’s illusion, his grip on the blade didn’t slacken. I knew, however, that the longer Arno kept up his illusion, the harder it would be for Joel to hold onto the blade.
I concentrated once more, and a fireball the size of an apple bloomed in my hand. Sweat dripped down my face. Whatever this necklace was, it was hampering my magic. Unlike my wolf however, who I scanned for desperately in the woods and the shadows, hoping that he would come back, my magic was still accessible to me. I threw the fireball directly at Arno’s face, an easy target since Joel was on one knee, trying to stave off Arno’s influence.
Arno screamed in pain once again as he dropped Joel. The fire spread quickly, gobbling up his silver hair as if it were dry kindling. Joel stared in mute fascination as the fire engulfed Arno. The vampire fell to the floor, rolling trying to quench the flames.
“Joel! Open a path to your house!” I yelled as he rushed over to me.
“Are you okay? Are you hurt?” he asked as he gripped my shoulders, staring into my eyes. The blade had disappeared the moment Arno had fallen, a pink blade the last thing I saw of the sword.
“It doesn’t matter,” I said, finding it difficult to form the words. Whatever burst of strength that I had been standing on was fading fast, and I needed to get the kids and Calliope to safety.
“Are you hurt?” he asked again, ignoring my glare.
“Joel…please,” I whispered, my voice sounding awfully loud in my head. A tear slipped out, making a track through my dirty face.
He nodded, and stared at the campfire. A spark popped, and the roaring purple flame appeared again.
“Hurry,” I said. Arno stirred, the flames on his body having finally died out. “The fire didn’t kill him. Dazed him probably. Get them through the portal.” I nodded towards the kids tents, and Joel raced over there.
“C’mon kids,” I heard him say as he coaxed them out of the tents. I heard snifflings and whimpers as all ten of the children walked towards the flames. Jason saw me standing by the fire and he raced over to me.
“Josh!” he cried, his face pressed against my body.
The weight of his body almost caused me to tip over, and I knew that if the kids saw me fall, they would panic. I breathed in deep, and the world stopped spinning.
“Jason, kid, I need you and the others to go with Mr. Joel through the portal. It’ll be safe,” I said, a wave of nausea passing over me.
“Clean pajamas?” he asked, hope filling his eyes.
“I’ll get you some as soon as I can buddy,” I said as I pushed him into the flames. A loud whoosh and he disappeared. The rest of the kids walked into the portal until finally only Calliope, Joel, and I remained.
“Calliope,” I said shaking her.
She stirred, and I saw her fighting to wake up only to go still once again.
“We need to get her and Talia through,” I told Joel. He nodded, and picked Calliope up and walked through the flames. Talia and I were the last ones. I walked towards the flame, stopping when I heard a voice.
“You think you can escape us? You’ll be dead by tomorrow night,” Arno said, struggling to rise. His skin was slowly healing itself, the charred bits flaking away to reveal new pink skin. “The blond girl…she will be ours. Your mate… is ours. I will drain those children myself. The Boston Pack will die.”
“No. I made you a promise. I will kill you. Then I will save my Pack. After, I can die. Not before.”
Arno leapt to his feet and had his fingers wrapped around my throat before I could even react.
“I will drain your miserable blood right now!” Arno screeched, his fangs closing in on my neck. His fingers were crushing my windpipe, and the edges of my vision grew red. I struggled to breath, my mind going blank as his fangs touched my neck.
A blade as yellow as the sun hewed through Arno’s arm. I tumbled backwards into the portal, Arno’s fingers still choking me. I felt Talia slip through my suddenly weak fingers. Arno’s howl of shock and misery mingled with the arias produced by the blade as his elbow stump flailed about, sluggish blood leaking out of his arm hole.
“Joel!” I said. “Grab Talia!”
The purple flames engulfed me, Arno’s stump the last thing I saw of my beloved forest. As I slammed into Joel’s living room, I saw the children huddled in a corner, staring at me with saucer sized eyes. The portal flashed once more, and Joel fell through.
“Joel!” I cried, trying to get up.
He stood up slowly, as if in pain. His arms were empty. I looked at the floor around him. Empty.
“Josh, I-I’m so sorry,” he said, tears pooling in the corners of his eyes. “A bunch of them crashed into the clearing as soon as you went through. I couldn’t grab her. I'm so sorry.”
I felt my heart break as my entire world turned into darkness, with nothing but nightmares and the cries of a lost child to keep me company.