The white light that came was expected by now, and she had her eyes shut tightly until the light faded and she was able to see again. It was a good thing, too, because it was just in time for her to watch Darius wrap his arms around the tenth mage, who was obviously an Asian male with black hair that fell across his forehead and narrow eyes, and hug him tightly with choked sobs escaping his lips. The new mage seemed to know who it was immediately, for his arms wrapped around Darius just as tightly and he was smiling gently.
"Ion," his voice was gentle like Nico's, but there was something distinct about the way this mage talked to Darius that had her interested, "Don't cry. I'm here, Ion."
That didn't seem to calm Darius down, as the mage of teleportation just sobbed louder and his knees started failing him as he leaned onto the other mage for support, "I thought I’d never see you again."
Feeling like she was intruding in their moment, she backed away from them and searched for another way to get back on top of the cliff before she noticed something. The mages that had been up there earlier were all gone, and it took her a few minutes of staring in disbelief before she heard sounds in the distance and turned in that direction. Charlotte don't know how they managed to do it, but the eight other mages had gotten to the ground and were walking to the new mage and Darius.
Well, all except for Mika, who had an unimpressed expression on his face and his lips pressed into a firm line as he stood before her with his hands out. She knew what was coming immediately, and her eyes shut again as the wind blew through her and dried her clothes.
"Do I need to put a leash on you?" He was joking but she knew he had been worried, so she launched herself forward and hugged him as tightly as she could. As he was the one who usually initiated such contact, Mika's arms lay limp at his sides before he realized what had happened and wrapped his arms around her in return.
"I’ve never met anyone crazier than her." That was Kaspar's voice speaking, and she pulled back slightly in order to see that the rest of the mages had slowly gathered around her and Mika. The mage of death had his arms crossed over his chest but the grin on his face told her he wasn't upset.
"What were you thinking?" Nico obviously was upset, and she had quickly ducked behind Mika so she wouldn't be scolded anymore.
Mika was a sneaky little thing and pulled her away from his back with a little smirk on his face, "No, you need to hear this."
Joined with Nico's unimpressed scowl was Nero's scrutinizing gaze and Angelo's raised eyebrow. She didn't want to look at Mark because she had a feeling he was also part of the scolding party, but her eyes landed on Percy, who was still smiling as if all of this was regular and didn't affect him.
"Give her some space." Dale let out a deep sigh and walked over to her. For a moment, she thought he had come to save her from the angry elders and Angelo, but he flicked her forehead and then put his hands on his hips, "Do you know how lucky you are? I’ve treated dead bodies of people who fell off cliffs like this."
Finally, her eyes landed on Darius. He was rubbing at his eyes with one hand while the other was clasped firmly within the hand of the tenth mage, who stared at the rest of them in obvious confusion. Charlotte wanted to greet the newest addition of their group, of course, but she was aware that the elders were still staring her down and she cleared her throat.
"What else was I supposed to do?” She asked them, though she was looking at the ground as she spoke. She heard a quiet murmur pass between the mages before Nero spoke up.
"Let it go, it's not like she knows what can happen."
Know what? What can happen? Her eyes snapped over to Nero as he spoke, but he had already turned to Nico and Dale, and the three were discussing the shortest route back home. Angelo, Percy, and Kaspar had already ganged up on the two youngest mages. That left her with Darius and the new mage. The tenth mage had shifted his gaze from the rest of the mages and their conversations before fixing his gaze on hers.
"Who are you?” She asked him; and as the other mages stopped their conversations to hear them, the mage beside Darius let go of his hand and got down onto one knee, though his head tilted back.
"They call me Erik, master." his voice was still gentle, but he locked away the emotions he’d used when talking to Darius, and she smiled just slightly at the new mage.
She slowly crouched down in front of him, and even though he didn't flinch as she got closer, his eyes watched her with caution, "I'm Charlotte, Erik I'm glad we've found you."
"Master, you are speaking to me informally." His eyebrows furrowed at this and he stood up so quickly that she almost fall back. She stared up at him as he stood and he waved his hand around in disbelief, "They scolded you and touched your body, yet you're speaking to us with such kindness."
"Erik, don't-" Darius's words were cut off by Erik once more.
"And what's this nonsense that Darius's been telling me about you freeing us?" his eyes narrowed into a glare as he continued, his hands shaking and his feet getting closer to her. Charlotte stood up so she wouldn't get trampled, but it was as if the mage didn't even notice and he continued on his rant, "Don't think that I'll let you put a finger on these mages ever again-"
"Erik Watch your words." Nico's voice was firm, but she was petrified and frozen in place. While Angelo had seemed to have complete trust in her, Erik was the complete opposite.
With that, Erik turned and stomped off with a sputtering Darius on his tail. To make sure the two of them would be okay, Dale ran after them, and the others slowly moved to catch up.
"Don't worry about it." Percy's voice wasn't excited like it usually was, but he stood beside her and leaned down slowly, ruffling her hair as they stood there together with Kaspar and Angelo on his other side, "He's the mother of our group. He means no harm; he's just worried, is all."
"Just give him some time to come around." After Kaspar spoke, the two of them ran off to catch up as well and left Angelo with her.
"Angelo! Charlotte!" Nero's voice called us from the distance, but Angelo remained by her side.
When he realized she wasn't going to move on her own, Angelo took her hand in his and pulled her along so they could catch up to the group. Angelo had been silent the entire way to the group, but when they had caught up, Angelo let go of her and stopped walking all together with all traces of amusement void from his expression.
The tenth mage slowly turned around, and when he saw her with Angelo, his face contorted into rage once more and she took a step back in fear. Many people disliked her since she was a child, but she never thought one of the mages would hate her so blatantly.
"What are you doing with her, Ang?" Erik grumbled, and the rest of the mages looked uncomfortable to see the mages angered at each other.
Darius pulled on Erik's arm so they could continue, though his eyes remained on her and the smallest flash of guilt took over his gaze, "Erik, that's Charlotte-"
"That's exactly my point!" Erik turned on Darius faster than she had seen Mika turn on someone, and the tenth mage threw his hands up in the air in frustration, "She's the master! And if none of you remember, the masters we had in the past turned us into what we are now!"
"She's different, Erik." Mika walked over to where she and Angelo stood, wrapping an arm around her shoulder because he probably knew how terrified she had become of the newest mage, "She cares for us-"
"Cares for our powers, you mean!" Erik spat back, pulling himself away from Darius's grip as he walked back towards her.
"I already warned you once, Erik" Nico walked forward as well to meet the tenth mage halfway with his arm out to stop the mage from getting any closer to her.
"She wouldn't have promised to free us only to have friendship in return if she didn't care for us." Mark's gentle voice was now full of disappointment and he joined Charlotte, Angelo and Mika.
Kaspar let out a whistle and when she turned to him, the twinkle of mischief in his eyes was temporarily calmed down and replaced with a stern expression she could rarely expect from him, "She wouldn't have run through a catacomb that was falling apart to find men if she just wanted the power. That place has scared hundreds of power hungry men before."
"I'll admit she's an idiot, but she's braver than we give her credit for." Angelo spoke up, and though she should have probably been offended because he called her an idiot, his words made her smile, "No one else would climb up the side of a building for me... except Percy, but he's an even bigger idiot."
"Yeah- hey!" Percy, who had been standing by Kaspar with a smile on his face, again turned to her with the softest smile that she had ever seen from him in the past, "Charlotte forgave me even though I left her on the side of an erupting volcano. Even the others were ignoring me on the way to find Dale."
Finally, Darius had enough of it all and pulled Erik away from Nico, a small smile sent her way before he turned around to continue on the way he had originally been going with Erik, "She's the first to think of me as fragile."
After hearing Darius's words, Erik visibly softened and looked back at her for a moment before his gaze hardened once more and he turned back to the front, "Say what you want. All of you. But we all know that all of the masters we've ever had were the same."
"Like Mika said, Erik, she's different." Nero kept walking as he spoke and soon passed Erik as well, though he never turned back to any of us as he spoke, "If she wanted our powers, she would have kept just one of us. What's the use of taking more than one of us if our powers don't work against each other?"
She hated that they were arguing because of her, and she hated that she had nothing to say or do to change it. Charlotte was still scared of Erik because he was bringing up the same point that most of the others did at one point or another, the what-if. What if she changed her mind? What if she was just out for their power? What if she was just like the masters they had before her?
"That's not the point, Nero." Erik's voice was now sounding exhausted and the mage ran a hand through his hair, "This girl is going to get us all killed one way or another. Either she'll decide she wants their powers and not us, or she'll do something as stupid as jumping off a cliff."
"What do you mean?" It was the first time she had spoken since Erik first got angry, and the rest of the mages froze in their spots and they looked away from her as if they were hiding something that she needed to know.
"Alright, I guess it's time for you to know, Charlotte." Nico sighed as he turned back to her, and the group of them stopped walking again as she waited for him to continue speaking.
"If you die, the mages that belong to the rings on your fingers die with you."