They set off as soon as they were all awake; just like she said they would. When she had awoken and descended the staircase into the living room to wait for the other four mages, she found that the group was already there waiting for her. They hunched over the coffee table, where she knew they had left the map, and were speaking in soft voices as if they were afraid to wake her up from her sleep.
Silently, she picked up her pistols and placed them in their holsters, having left them out because they had once told her that her pistols probably belonged to their leaders and she wanted to let them make sure. It looked as if they hadn't been touched, so she assumed the group was too busy figuring out how they were to get to the next mage to inspect her weaponry.
Finally, she made her way over to the table and carefully got in between Mika and Darius, alerting them for a moment at her presence, while she was focusing on the map. According to the map, in order to get to the frozen lake, they had to go through one of the few remaining towns. She hadn't heard anything about an invasion of the town they had to go through, but she knew it would be dangerous. If they got into their town, then it was only a matter of time before the rest of the towns also would reach the same fate.
"Charlotte," that was Mark calling, and she looked up to see him looking back at her with an apology written on his expression, "Are you set to go?"
She nodded, but she was still hesitant. She knew these boys had powers, but would they be enough against them? She had never seen these boys in combat, so she wouldn't know for sure, but considering the fact that they couldn't use their powers against each others', would they even stand a chance?
"Is something wrong?" Mika seemed worried and leaned over the map once more to see what she'd been so hesitant about, "What's wrong with the map?"
"Oh? It’s nothing.” She shook her head quickly and grabbed her backpack on the way to the door, "Let's go so we can come back before the sun sets this time."
"She's just worried she won't be able to get enough beauty sleep later." Darius's voice was light and teasing, and she laughed along with them, because that was a better explanation than that she was worried they'd die on the way to finding the new mage.
"Are you kidding?" Kaspar snorted lightly and then jogged forward so that they were walking side-by-side, "She's already beautiful."
She almost choked at the compliment because one, it was Kaspar. Also, it was the first time anyone had ever complimented her in such a way and she wasn't sure of what to make it. She turned and narrowed her eyes at him because it was him, but she could see Mika and Mark a few feet behind them, sending death glares over to Kaspar.
"I'd suggest showing him some of your beauty secrets," Darius walked forward as well and shoved Kaspar to the side, "but Kaspar is beyond help."
Did Darius just call Kaspar ugly? What? Did she miss something, or did the two of them started to bicker again like children?
"At least I don't look like a girl.” She didn't know why Kaspar had to mutter that, because to her it just seemed like he wanted to pick a fight; and it was working.
"Shut it, both of you." That was Mark speaking as he jogged forward to keep the two bickering mages away from her, "If you keep this up, she's going to think we're all as annoying as you."
She heard Mika snicker at that, and she admittedly had to hide her smile so Kaspar and Darius wouldn't think she was also ganging up against them. Thankfully, they spared her from an argument directed towards her, but that led the four mages to argue among themselves. She wanted to hush them in order to think, of course, but she doubted they would listen to her at that point. But you know what? Even though hearing the four of them argue was annoying, her heart swelled in joy. They were alive and certainly well, and that's what mattered to her.
They continued like that until noon, which is when they caught glimpse of the town they'd have to pass. Fear and doubt filled her heart, because she was afraid of what they'd meet inside of that town. Charlotte allowed the four to move ahead of her, her fingers grazing over her holsters as they neared the border, and once they stopped, she almost gasped in fear.
She could see them even from outside the border. There were people like her who trained to fight them in there, though she already knew their efforts were futile; those things were much stronger than any human was.
"Let's find another way around." Her voice was wavering, and she didn't look away from what she could see, but she knew she had already caught Mika's worried gaze.
"This is the only way." Darius shook his head and let out a sigh of resignation before turning back to her and widening his eyes.
Mark was the first to reach her side, pulling her into his chest and covering her sight of them. She winced as she held onto Mark, because she didn't know why she was so frightened of those things. Deep down, however, she did know why she was frightened of them; because something about them was off- the fact that they saw the group and didn't leave the borders to get them, or the fact that the mages with her didn't seem to be worried.
"Charlotte, we have to go in there." Kaspar walked over to Mark and her and slowly pulled her away from Mark so he could look at her, "We'll be able to fight through them, but you need to stay with one of us. We must separate in order to use our powers."
"The other way would take us at least a week to get to the lake." Mika muttered to her, though his full attention was on the town and the impending dangers it would bring them.
"She'll stay with me." Darius quickly got between the others and put an arm around her shoulder to squeeze it protectively, "If anything, I can teleport her to somewhere safe."
She looked over at Mark, since he was the only one she'd ever been out with when in a battle. Mark looked down at her before glancing back at Darius and giving him an unsure nod.
"Keep her safe.”
Darius gave him a stern nod before holding his hand out to her. She knew she had been able to teleport on her own before, but she knew why he was holding his hand out for her now; he was going to protect her. Taking a deep breath, she latched onto his hand, and then they were running into the border. When she glanced behind them, Mark, Mika, and Kaspar were simply standing there and watching.
"Don't turn back. They'll be fine." When she looked over at Darius, a smirk graced his lips, and it felt like he was pulling her even faster, "I don't have a combat skill like Mika's or Kaspar's, but I'm a force to be reckoned with."
He was right.
She pulled one of her pistols out with and fired as quickly as she can at them, but it was as if Darius was invincible. He just ran through those things and broke them apart as if they were made of paper. She might have gotten whiplash, as well, since he teleported so often, but he didn't even seem to notice he was holding onto her. It was almost as if he was overjoyed to be fighting again.
Charlotte was a little more frightened of Darius than she was of them.
"I was a street-fighter before they turned me into a mage." It seemed he felt her gaze on him and turned to give her a reassuring grin before returning his full focus to defeating them.
"Before they turned you into a mage?” She felt confused by that knowledge, but she didn't get an answer. Perhaps Darius hadn't meant to let her know that, but she knew, and she wanted to know more about the mages she was trying to free.
"Ten o'clock." Darius said simply, and then his focus was again on the creatures he was fighting. She shot in the direction Darius had pointed to her, but her aim was off and she wished she had more power to help instead of being useless.
Suddenly, after wishing for herself to be able to defend the two of them better, her pistols started to glow and after a brief period of shock, she fired. She was surprised to find that it wasn’t an average bullet, but a little ball of what seemed to be energy flew out, as if it were a small ball of wind. It hit the creature she was aiming at perfectly, but the impact affected that creature and all the creatures around it.
Charlotte felt taken aback; when did her pistols start using the mages' powers? She turned to Darius to tell him what happened, but Darius was preoccupied with the creatures he was fighting, and she aimed her pistol at the creatures he was fighting off on his own. When she fired the pistol, the pistols fired energy balls in the small shape of... something that looked like hourglasses flew out. It froze all of the creatures in front of Darius. Darius looked back at her for a moment before ripping through the rest of the creatures. She didn't even know where the two of them were, since they just continually blasted through creatures and running straight to find the next border.
Just as they got to the border, she and Darius found themselves surrounded by them, and when she shot at them, more just popped up, and she stood back in horror as Darius kept fighting. Darius was more than happy to be pummeling them despite their numbers, but she could see his body shake in exhaustion and knew she wasn't too far behind. They were going to be in trouble if they stayed there, she realized, so she started inching towards the border and pulled Darius along. Like earlier, it seemed that less of the creatures grouped near the border.
"Darius, let's go!"
Darius looked at her with a small grin and nodded, and then the two of them broke into a sprint, their feet pounding towards the border with Darius looking over his shoulder several times. Charlotte don't know how it happened, but suddenly, an arm reached out for her and pulled her away from Darius, and the next thing she knew was that her vision was starting to fade.
"Charlotte!" It wasn't Darius calling her, but Mika. She tried to look up to see where the voice was coming from, but she knew it wouldn't be wise to move on her own. The rings on her fingers were glowing again, and though she was worried, she couldn't do anything about it but wait in case one of them saved her.
Which they did.
"I got you." It was Mika's voice, gentle and full of worry. Charlotte knew he had lifted her off the ground, but she couldn't check to make sure since her eyes were heavy, "You'll be alright."
His voice was starting to sound thick and slow, and she guess she finally lost consciousness after that. She didn't know how long she was out for, but she knew that eventually, she had started to dream again. Charlotte felt alerted by the dream because they still hadn't found the fifth mage, but it was the dream she had for the fifth mage.
She was falling backwards; she remembered this part of the dream very clearly. She had just gotten the velvet box out of the iced prison it was in, but had lost her breath as she did so, and was currently falling backward into the water. She held the box tightly in her grip, and couldn't help but feel devastated; she couldn't even let this mage see the light because she was going to die. She wanted to let him go and see the sky again; and who knew? Maybe he'd be able to save the both of them. So, she fumbled around with the box as her vision started to fade and eventually opened it.
She didn't stop to look at the symbol or the difference the ring had in comparison to the others that she found. Instead, she jammed it on her left hand's thumb and hoped that it would work. There was no white that time; nothing to blind her temporarily, but she found herself staring at someone's blurry face. She figured he was speaking or something, because he looked completely fine underwater, unlike her. The next moment, she had felt her vision clear. She was going to look at her savior's face, but he had grabbed her hand and they were swimming deeper under water.
Where was he taking her? She tugged on his hand, since shore was up and shore was where the other mages were waiting for us, but he just kept diving deeper into the water and she had no choice but to try to figure out what he was trying to show her.
Apparently, it was a large oyster that he was trying to show her, and though she tried to look at him, he had pointed to the oyster and then to the box in her hand. She knew what that meant immediately; there was a box in that oyster. She was amazed at how well preserved the oyster was, thinking it certainly had to have been years for the box to have been put inside it.
A part of her was frightened, because two of them in one place didn't smell like a good thing, but it was too late, and she was already opening the oyster's shell to claim the box. As the mystery mage pointed out, she had found the sixth mage's ring inside of the oyster, its silver lettering shimmering under the water.
She gasped as she sat up, now awake and surprised about having that dream. The fact that in that lake was not one ring box but two hit her. Why were two of them in there? It felt like going after the fifth ring was a trap of some sort, though she didn't know why anyone would by trying to trap her.
"Charlotte?” She turned her head to the side to see Kaspar sitting just a couple of feet away from her. It looked as if he had been sleeping too, and she felt a little guilty for waking him up, "You're awake."
"She's awake?" Mika's voice came from elsewhere, and then suddenly, he was sitting down next to her and pulling her into his chest, "Idiot. You worried me."
She looked around Mika to see both Mark and Darius standing there silently, and though she wanted to ask them what was going on to make them so somber, the dream she had was still vividly moving through her head.
"Let's get going.” She slowly pushed Mika off her and got up, grabbing her backpack, "The sooner we leave, the sooner we can find them."
It had slipped out of her lips and she was left biting her tongue as she scolded herself for making such a slip up. Darius didn't say anything but grabbed the backpack from her and continued to walk ahead of her, but Mark had asked the question she was dreading.
"Them? Is there more than one ring?"
Her lips never uttered a response, because the answer was already obvious.