I open my eyes that are pressed against a cold, stone floor. My hair falls around my face as I try to roll over to my knees. I am weak and extremely tired, but more than that, I’m still thirsty. My dry throat aches with soreness and makes conjuring noise difficult. I wouldn’t be able to cough, let alone cast a spell.
I fall to my side, landing on my bottom, and that’s when I notice the Slayer girl leaning against the wall across the darkened room. Behind her is a door that is closed, and I pinpoint that door as the only escape route. They’ve locked me up in another dungeon, although at least this one doesn’t have bars, that’s a plus.
“You’re awake,” Sophia says, her body straightens at the wall. “How do you feel?”
I clutch a hand to my throat, eyeing her desperately.
“Thirsty?” she says. I nod. “Yeah, that happens. Here.” She rolls a flask across the ground, like I’m a dog that might bite her. “It’s just water.”
I don’t trust her, but they’ve already knocked me out twice so I know they could again regardless of if they intend to drug me. I open the flask and I tip the ice-cold water down my throat, gurgling it down without a break. When the dryness finally subsides and I take a new breath stronger than before, I wipe my mouth and glare at her.
“Why are you helping me?” I say. “As your enemy you should be keeping me weak, not making me stronger.”
“I acknowledge enemies with my sight, not with stories,” she says softly. “I have heard some truly amazing stories about your coven, stories that Sam refuses to listen to. And if I believed everything I heard; I would not be standing alone in front of you now.”
“I thought Slayers didn’t fear anything?” I mutter.
“We don’t. Usually. There are exceptions. Like being in an unprotected, enclosed space with a Harmon witch. Many wouldn’t dare.”
“Sam would,” I say, swallowing as I remember the events at the Summit. “I saw what he did to Amara. He would have no problem with killing me.”
“He does have a problem with killing you though.” She slides down the wall to the ground, resting her hands above her knees. “You’re a conflict to his conscience. You’d be dead if not, you can believe that much.”
“Where is he?”
Sophia takes a deep breath and glances down to her fingers, feeling comfortable enough alone with me to do so. “He’s. . . in a meeting. With the others. He’s trying to explain the situation in a way that won’t have that door burst open in a matter of minutes.”
I look at the door over her head and I tremble a little.
“If it happens, I’ll protect you the best I can,” she says. “It’s why I’m sitting in front of it.”
“I thought you were sitting in front of it to block me from getting out.”
“Well, that too. But they are a tad bit more unpredictable than you, trust me. You have to understand; this is a first for us. This is a first for history. Even if Sam can get the entire unit on side and somehow they can form an alliance with you, that’s just the beginning. If word gets out that Sam is harbouring a witch, then Slayers from all over the world will come here with the intent to start a war. With us. This is an impossible situation.”
“It shouldn’t have to be this way,” I say. “We all have one enemy in common. And she is out there right now trying to figure out a way to kill me and then kill all of you. I don’t care about the bad blood between wiccans and Slayers, I don’t care about the wars and the petty rivalry, I care about the future of the human race and protecting them against Amara.”
“We care about that too, Theresa. I know it may seem that as a species we care for little, but aside from keeping each other safe, protecting mortals is our absolute priority.”
“Then where were you?” I demand. “When Amara killed off half of their population, where the hell were you?”
Sophia scratches her temple and sighs. “By the time we learned that magic had been exposed it was already too late to do anything. We tried. When the covens descended upon the mortal cities, we did everything we could to save as many as possible. But. . . the covens were strong, Theresa. They were the strongest we’ve ever seen. A few of us barely escaped with our lives, others were not so lucky. This castle was overrun with refugees. Slayers from all over were turning up injured and panicked. Sam was stretched to breaking point, it was a dark year for us also. Even though you couldn’t see us doing something in your city, I promise you the wars were everywhere. For five years we’ve been in hiding, until a voice from your coven finally spoke up and got our attention.”
“Victoria,” I whisper.
Sophia nods. “She was the one that risked everything to warn us about something big going down in Arizona. She harassed any Slayer she could find, working her way up until she finally found one with the ability to contact Sam. Sam was sceptical, but he knew this witch wouldn’t stop. Victoria wanted Sam there, so that he could work it out for himself, and he did.”
“That’s why you were at the Summit,” I say. “You were waiting to see what the power source would be, and then you were going to stop it.”
“Yes. Our plan was to just observe from afar, we were never going to expose ourselves to thousands of covens and especially Amara. But just before Amara was about to kill you, I looked at Sam and I saw his expression change. The look he had, I’ve seen it countless times, it’s the look he wears when he has no intention of observing anymore. He sensed something in you that was worth saving, and he still senses that now.”
I want to believe her, but, how can I? Sam saved my life expecting it to end seconds later when he brought me here. He never intended for me to wake up, not the first time, and maybe not this time, so what does it matter if he made a spontaneous choice to save me? It doesn’t help me now, and it doesn’t change the reality that I’m his prisoner. Right now, there are Slayers out there learning about my existence, learning my name and everything about me, and any moment they could charge inside and kill me. But I don’t know anything about them. I would like to, and that’s the tragic truth.
“How many Slayers are here?” I ask uneasily.
“A few. Including me, thirteen.”
I don’t know whether to be relieved by that or not. It beats something horrifying like a hundred, but twelve Slayers is still a high enough number to be concerned. And by the sounds of it, more could turn up by the second.
“The last of the refugees left a month ago,” she says. “It’s just us now. We’re Sam’s unit, which makes us lucky really. Every unit has a leader, but Sam is what we call the Malachi. He is the leader of all units, and the leader of all the leaders. We trust him with our lives and we follow him into any battle he starts. The Malachi has protected the Slayer species since the dawn of our species.”
“He is to you what the Elder should be to us,” I say. “What they have been in the past, I guess. Is that why Sam was able to attack Amara? To suppress her magic for a few moments?”
“No, I think that’s just Sam.” She sighs, looking away. “I mean, being the Malachi doesn’t grant them extra power or anything, it depends on the Slayer. Sam has just trained, a lot. You see, um. . . how much do you know about us?”
“That doesn’t help,” she mutters. “You know about our powers right? How they work?”
I scratch at my head for a moment. “Something about energy.”
“Yes, energy. So, your species gets their power from natural elements and supernatural anchors, like your ancestors. Slayers use energy sources to create power. There is energy in almost everything around us so we’re hardly ever weakened. We can form heat in the palm our hands, heat which then leads to fire, which in Sam’s case if you train hard enough can become equivalent to lightening. Sam is the only known Slayer in history to achieve a heat above a thousand degrees.”
“He hit her with lightning?” My eyes widen in shock. “And she survived that?”
“It knocked her off her damn feet didn’t it?” Sophia smirks. “Anyway, energy is our anchor. We can bend it around us, bend particles to our will. We can turn invisible, teleport using our transportation stars, some have mastered telekinesis, others haven’t, it’s hard, okay? Some, like myself, have the gift of telepathy.”
I can talk inside your mind.
I squint my eyes and rub my head. Her voice was as real inside my mind as my own thoughts are.
“Don’t worry, I can’t hear your thoughts or anything, I can just create a telepathic gateway. You can choose whether or not to communicate back or block me. So many block me. Frustrating.” She bites on her lip and then looks up at the ceiling. “We are masters of forcefields. There is one surrounding this entire castle, it’s invisible to anyone other than a Slayer. And if a Slayer breaches the forcefield and transports inside, Sam is made aware of it. The forcefield can be remade to warn off whoever he wants.”
I take a deep breath. “Anything else?”
“Yes.” Her eyes dart down from the ceiling and she smiles strangely. “We’re highly skilled assassins. It’s in our blood to train, to fight, to be warriors. These days we’d rather use blades or our own fists than our powers. We like the dark, and we like isolation. We don’t apologise and we rarely show our emotions. Unless it’s anger, of course.”
Her voice becomes softer. “We are the children of demons, Theresa. I am half-demon, half-human. I share my DNA with evil, and I have no trouble with calling them that. But it is the human part that has always saved us, that has always stopped us from becoming completely lost. Without our humanity, we would be monsters, the monsters your kind deem us to be. Tell me, after talking with me just now, would you come to that conclusion?”
“And that is why you are different to every other witch I’ve met,” she says. “You listen, you rationalize. I do not scare you, not because you’re powerful in your own right, but because we are just people, talking. To me, you are merely a young girl that has been yanked from her home and her life, and then thrown into a world of uncertainty and division. We are meant to hate each other but I do not hate you. I am different also.”
She speaks with compassion, but again I find myself wondering what her true motives are. Even if she doesn’t hate me and she’s capable of feeling something other than murdering me, it doesn’t make her an ally. It doesn’t make her trustworthy. I am still battling my own emotions and doubts, let alone taking on hers too.
“If you’re different,” I say. “Then prove it. Use that star thing and get me out of here.”
Her hand twitches against her pocket as she sits up and flattens her legs. “I can’t.”
“Why not? Are you scared of doing the right thing?”
“No. I am loyal to Sam; I would never break that loyalty. Not for anyone or anything. What happens to you is his choice, not mine.”
“I’m not a possession,” I hiss. “He doesn’t own me. I’m a person. And I need to get out of here, right now.”
“Like I said, I can’t help you with that.”
“Sophia, please.” I begin to get desperate, and I hate that. I hate what this place is doing to me, I hate being somewhere I can’t think my way out of. “You seem nice and genuinely concerned for my life which makes you the only person I can trust. You know they’re going to kill me, one way or another, and that will only make things a thousand times worse for the Slayers. If I’m out there, I can be doing something to stop that from happening. I know I can get the power to kill Amara, I just need time to do it.”
“I know you’ll be going against Sam’s orders and betraying your unit, but at least they’ll be alive. I can do this, I know I can, please help me.”
She is considering it; she is really considering it. She takes out the rusty, five-pointed object and eyes me doubtfully. Suddenly, the door bursts open, and Sophia throws the object back inside her pocket, turning to lock gazes with Sam. She jumps to her feet and stands with her back against the wall, her head high, but filled with guilt. I was so close.
“You didn’t start to fall for any of its tricks did you, Sophia?” Sam mutters. “I told you, they’ll say anything to save themselves.”
“No,” Sophia says quietly. “We just talked.”
Sam charges for me and grabs my arm. “Get up,” he demands.
“Get off me,” I hiss, attempting to pull my arm from his grip. He lifts me to my feet and plants me there.
“What’s going on?” Sophia demands. “Where are you taking her?”
“To the others,” Sam says. “They want to meet it.”
I look at Sophia as Sam drags me past her, she hangs her head, unable to meet my eyes. This is it; this is my execution all over again. Only this time, no one is coming to save me.