Sam ties a thick piece of material around my eyes and presses my hands together behind my back as he marches me towards my death. This situation is odd, and I can’t afford to be stupid. Sam is highly trained in recognizing chanting, and I don’t think it’d be possible to cast a spell before he breaks my neck or slams my head into a wall. I still don’t know enough about Slayers to feel comfortable with attacking them, yet with my own kind it would be easy. I know I must at least try to come up with something to save myself, but that mysterious power I accessed in Amara’s dungeon hasn’t returned, and without it, it’s hopeless.
I still don’t know how I did that. I used magic from my will, from tapping into something that separates me from my ancestors. It’s a power scarily like Amara’s. Did that power come to me because I was one of two Harmons left? Does being the last now change everything about me? The only way I could try to access it is to focus, and Sam and the other Slayers would see through it within seconds.
I feel as though everything is out of my control now. The fate of the witches, the fate of the mortals, the fate of the world, it’s all withering away. I’m not experienced enough or strong enough to stop what’s coming, and accepting that is painful.
Maybe I’ve done all I can. Maybe instead of wallowing in pity I should try to find a peaceful place inside of me that releases me from all of these burdens. Just like my mother did. She never showed fear, she never backed down and she never allowed herself to be controlled. She died knowing she did all she could and knowing that she was free. Can I say the same?
After walking for a few minutes across cold hallways and up many steep stairwells, I hear the roars of the Slayers. Their voices are loud and boisterous in the near distance, becoming closer and louder.
“Scared, witch?” Sam whispers. “You should be.”
There is a sudden thunder roll as I enter the place I cannot see, the Slayers are excitedly announcing my arrival, as though they cannot wait to kill me. Sam pushes me through the noise, holding tightly to my hands and my shoulder as if to protect me. I begin to pant heavily, showing no fear is becoming more difficult by the sweat mark.
He turns me sharply, and I feel a step hit my foot. I walk up the steps carefully, knowing I’m about to stand on another stage. I walk for a few feet until Sam pushes down on my shoulders and forces me to sit on a small, wooden chair.
I hear snarls, hisses and types of vicious growls from all around me. I have no idea how close I am to them, or how easy a target I am, but that doesn’t make much difference. Just being in the room makes me an easy target, just being this close to Sam means I could die any second.
“You can take your blindfold off now,” Sam says.
My hands tremble as I reach up to my eyes. I slowly untie the bind and I pull it away from my face. The room is bright, brighter than the dungeon cell, and it’s hazy for a few moments. When my sight returns fully, I notice the pillars first. They are scattered around the room, holding parts of the ceiling up like an ancient cathedral. Everything is made of stone; the walls, the floor, the dozens of rows of benches. I find the open archway at the back, the only entrance and exit, before I finally pay attention to the many eyes staring at me.
Each face is different, but they all look the same to me. Just figures of black leather and intimidating scowls. Some are sat, twisting blades in their hands or muttering to the air, while others, like the blonde girl I am closest to, are leaning over a banister tapping their fingers against it.
“Speak, witch,” someone yells.
I try to pinpoint the speaker, but their faces are all blank. The blonde at the front row is smirking at me so smugly that I want to punch her.
“About what?” I say.
“Whatever you want your final last words to be,” the blonde says. “Before I end your life with one strike.”
Suddenly, my view of her is blocked as Sam positions himself in front of me. His tall, broad body covers me completely and I’m confused by his act of protection.
“Did you listen to anything I said?” Sam demands. “This isn’t an execution.”
“Well obviously we should bleed her dry of information first,” the blonde says. “I picked up a new torture technique from China that I’ve been dying to try out.”
“Torture won’t be necessary, Milasia,” Sam says. “The witch has been compliant.”
“So, what is this?” someone demands. “What are you asking from us?”
“Yeah,” someone else shouts. “If we’re not going to torture her or kill her then why are we looking at her?”
“Because the witch can be helpful to us.” I glance to my right, feeling relief as Sophia walks along the stage. “She is a Harmon witch. She is the last Harmon witch.”
“Is that supposed to mean something to us?” Milasia growls. “It’s a witch, it’s our enemy, it’s in our home. Obviously, it’s got to die.”
“Did you say the last Harmon witch?” a voice asks timidly. I glance to the corner of the chamber, glimpsing a young Slayer, probably no older than sixteen, standing to his feet in shock. “What happened to the others?”
“Dead,” Sophia says. “Amara killed them, because she knew they were a threat to her.” Sophia turns and stares at Sam. “Didn’t you tell them anything?”
“It was hard to get a word in after the words ‘witch in the castle’ were said,” Sam mutters.
“If this is true then this witch needs to be protected,” the young Slayer says, eyeing his fellow species with courage. “I understand that most of you don’t give a damn about where a witch is from, but the Harmons have always been withdrawn from attacking us. Their loyalties do not lie with their Elder like other covens, their priority has always been protecting innocents, all innocents, from danger. If this girl is the last of that legacy, then killing her is a very bad omen.”
The boy speaks fairly, and wisely, which makes him seem much older than he is. The others seem to listen to him, as though he is their source of all things witchcraft. When Sam finally moves away, I observe the boy more closely. He has black, frizzy hair that sticks into the air, and wears a black blazer, white shirt and jeans. Is this kid even one of them?
“So, she’s powerful,” Milasia says, more to herself, as she glances me up and down as though I’m her meal. “How powerful?”
“Do you want to find out?” I say through my teeth.
At my threat, every Slayer is on their feet, causing a disturbance of guardship. Milasia grins, unphased, her hand slowly tapping at the blade wedged into her pants.
“You heard Curtis,” Sophia says to the murderous blonde. “The witch must be protected. Put your toys away, Milasia.”
“Well of course you would defend it,” Milasia snarls. “If a puppy walked in here we wouldn’t see you for a week.”
“I’m just smarter than you.” Sophia narrows her eyes for a moment and then looks around the room. “For centuries, our kind has been hunted based on the perception that we are evil and murderous. I know that isn’t true. And you know that isn’t true. The moment we start executing unarmed witches that have no desire to fight us is the day that becomes true.” In the corner of my eye, I see something fly past my face. It is so fast that I think I imagined it, but a second later, there is a blade lodged inside the stone wall above Sophia’s head. Sophia rolls her eyes up and then steps away from the wall. Milasia grins to herself, taking quiet credit. “The only thing this witch is guilty of is being born. She hasn’t attacked a Slayer before, she hasn’t fought our kind on the battle field, and both myself and Sam witnessed her attempt at attacking Amara.”
“A trick,” someone yells. “How do you know Amara didn’t plan this? How do you know she isn’t exactly where the witches want her to be?”
“Really?” I mutter under my breath. I turn my head to see Sam staring at me from the edge of the stage. He has his arms crossed as he observes everything around him, deciding to stay out of this.
“I don’t,” Sophia admits. “But Theresa saw the bodies of her coven around her. Was that a trick also? Amara didn’t know we were there. The moment we took her, Amara and every wiccan that saw would have presumed we’d kill her. Plan or not, that’s the reality. Amara is our common enemy, which makes Theresa an ally.”
“Trust Sophia to make best friends with the prisoner after barely a day,” Milasia protests, turning around. “Are you all really buying this? Considering this? This witch will kill us all in our sleep. She’ll wipe us all out by the end of the week. Not to mention the wars it will start when other units learn of it. Are you willing to die for this witch? Are you willing to start a war with your own kind to protect it?”
The room is silent. Milasia might be outspoken, but she’s right. Even I know she’s right. I can’t be the cause of a war, I won’t be. They need to be uniting against Amara, not dividing, and I’m the only thing causing that division. But what other choice do I have?
“Megan,” Sam calls a name softly, his eyes pointed at the back, towards a dark-haired woman that strikes a scary resemblance to Sophia. The woman has her arms crossed also as she leans against a pillar. “You’ve heard enough of both sides, what do you think?”
Megan looks between myself, Sophia and Milasia. Her eyes are low and observant, they are thoughtful eyes. “I trust Sophia’s judgement,” she says. “And I trust Curtis’ facts. It comes with danger, but I think the time for trying something different is now.”
“You can’t be serious!” Milasia screams. “Have you lost your minds! It’s a witch. How many times do I have to say that until you get it through your thick heads? If it was one of us taken alive by them, do you think they’d be having this discussion? They wouldn’t even hesitate!”
“Maybe we should be better then,” Sophia says. “Maybe we should start using our heads instead of our weapons. Amara isn’t going to go down quietly, and she won’t stop until our entire species is extinct. The covens are the strongest they’ve ever been and we are out of options! With a witch on our side we have the biggest advantage that we’ve had in centuries. It’s something Amara won’t see coming.”
“I hit Amara with the strongest bolt I had and she still got up,” Sam says, walking away from the wall. “She has acquired extra power from the wiccans she has killed and she’s on the verge of becoming immortal. If that happens, we might as well go running towards hell. I’m as against letting the witch live as all of you, but Sophia is right, we must be smarter and we must be better. I am not asking that you trust the witch or even speak to it, I am merely asking, no I am ordering, that you do nothing to harm it.”
“Are you officially declaring the witch as under your protection?” Megan asks.
Sam looks at me while he speaks. “Yes.”
I let out my breath that I had no idea I was holding in. My limbs and heart finally relax. Looking around the room, it’s clear that almost everyone is in disagreement with Sam’s decision, but unlike Milasia they do not question it.
“You’re condemning us to death,” Milasia says. “And when this all comes crumbling down around us, I will be there to tell you I told you so.”
“I’ll deal with that when it comes,” Sam says. “This is a new experience for us all, and we will learn to adapt together. In the meantime, the forcefield will be amended to stop any Slayers bar this unit from entering. If anyone out there starts asking questions then you report back to me. Thousands of wiccans saw me take the witch and it won’t be long before they start spreading rumours.”
“Rumours that are true,” Milasia snorts. “Rumours that will turn every Slayer against us!”
“As far as everyone outside this castle is aware, the witch died moments after the transportation. Only we know the truth, and I am trusting you with it.”
“She survived transportation?” Curtis asks, his face lighting up with surprise.
Sophia and Sam share a look.
“She survived two,” Sophia says quietly, her eyes on the floor.
The room erupts into shocked conversations.
“Impossible,” someone shouts.
“Did she cast a spell on herself?”
“I’ve never heard of that.”
I’m confused by why they’re only asking this now. How did they think I got here? Maybe the anger and repulse made them overlook the details. This seems to be a big thing for them, a witch surviving something they’ve always used against us. They’ve probably killed dozens of my kind this way. I have to put that out of my mind.
“We’re not sure how this happened exactly,” Sam says. “But it does appear that the witch is immune to our energy shields. Not all of them, just. . . some, like. . .”
“Like Amara,” Sophia finishes for him, her back straightening. “Theresa is not your average witch. If her bloodline has the power to kill an Elder then that makes her different. She will have magic similar to an Elder’s. I’d rather you know this now so it doesn’t cause panic if you witness it.”
I have magic similar to an Elder? I raise an eyebrow at Sophia, because that’s the first I’ve ever heard of it. Elders have manifestation magic. It’s a thousand powers blended into one. Whatever they want to do, they can. Telekinesis, telepathy, set fires, freeze, hex, change the weather, even fly I suppose. Their magic is limitless, except for two things. They cannot bring someone back from the dead, and they cannot reverse time. Though many Elders in the past have tried, those powers seem to be forever out of bounds. I have nothing similar to manifestation in the slightest. I am a witch, I cast spells, except. . . when I was in Amara’s dungeon. That’s the only instance when I felt something new happening, something like an Elder’s magic.
“Fascinating,” Curtis mutters, blinking at me in disbelief. “I can’t wait to dissect your blood.”
“You aren’t coming near my blood,” I say.
“Let’s leave the blood talk for a later date,” Sam says. “Amara is out there right now and every minute we waste is a minute closer to our deaths. You all know your tasks so I don’t want to see any one of you until you bring me results. Get on it!”
They grumble to each other, their teeth snapping in Sam’s direction as an act of protest. One-by-one, they start to disappear from their seats; literally disappear. Milasia is the most reluctant to leave, she doesn’t take her eyes off of me for a moment. Eventually, she gives in and rubs an object in her palm, her body exploding into the air. Only Megan remains in the room, she still has her arms crossed as she walks towards the stage.
“I hope you know what you’re doing, Sam,” she says. “Because this is going to be tough to explain.”
“Help Sophia with getting the witch settled somewhere,” Sam orders. “If you need me, I’ll be in Arizona.”
Sam disappears before giving a further explanation on that. It frustrates me because I need to know what’s going on there just as much as him. Does Amara think I’m dead? Does the forcefield on this castle protect me from being sensed by her? How long will I have to stay here for? Until it’s all over? Then what?
“Come, Theresa,” Sophia says, pulling me out of my panicked thoughts. “Let us show you what the sanctuary has to offer.”