I run through the ruins of the yard until I reach the outhouse. The door is open and the weapons are hanging from hooks in the most inviting way. I pick up several odd-looking daggers, dropping the smallest one into my boot and the biggest into the rim of my pants. I see an axe hanging from the door to the toilet and I pick that up last, along with a shovel, leaving the outhouse more confident than I should be.
I don’t know much about forcefields, but if I can’t spell one, then I’ll have to hope that they only work one way. I can see the shimmer just above the top of the wall, warding off any humans or otherwise from discovering it’s there.
As I circle the outhouse to look for a weak spot in the wall, I am suddenly met with the whinny grunt of an enormous, black gelding. The horse is spooked by me, as I am by him, but he lowers his head to chew on a stack of hay.
I’m not afraid of horses, I’ve ridden many in my life, but knowing where he is and who he’s owned by makes me cautious. Sophia never mentioned that there’d be a horse in the yard, and I realise why when I see the shimmer around his paddock.
“I’m not supposed to be able to see you am I, boy?” I jump up onto the fence, stroking the horse’s face when he approaches me. He seems calm enough, but that could all change in an instant. “You never saw me, okay?”
I leave the horse to his dinner while I venture further around the perimeter. I find a small hole in the wall, big enough to weaken the structure. I bash the axe against it several times, but the stone holds. I throw the axe down and I use the shovel to start digging underneath; if I have to crawl in the dirt to get out of here, I will.
After barely ten attempts, I hear Sophia’s voice screaming my name from the other side of the yard. I’m running out of time and this is my only chance.
I drop the shovel and I step back.
“Okay, Theresa,” I say to myself. “You’re a Harmon, you’re stronger than a forcefield, you can do this.”
“Theresa! There’s no escape! You can’t get out of here!”
I walk towards the wall and I lay my hand flat against it. I close my eyes. It’s the first time I’ve tapped into my magic in a while, and it feels misplaced, almost lost. The connection to my ancestors once against lessens and I can’t control it. Just like yesterday in the dungeon, I am once again floating among the stars along a pathway lit up by planets of light. The feeling is incredible, it brings me so much joy and comfort that I almost forget I’m being rushed. The power flows through my bones, making me crave things that I’ve never craved before. It’s like a book of choices, and the pages keep on flipping. It’s my will. It’s a power of will, the long-lost power that wiccans have tried summoning for centuries. How do I have it? How do I have it naturally? It makes no sense, but I can’t deny it.
With one powerful thought the wall explodes into dust, creating a hole so big that it’s practically a doorway.
Sophia catches up to me at the wall, flanked by Megan.
“What are you doing?” Sophia yells. “You’re going to get yourself killed.”
“Are you really surprised?” I say. “You might be a mind reader, Sophia but you suck at everything else.”
“I’m not a mind reader. I’m a telepath that can create gateways, I am not a mind reader. And I am not letting you leave.”
“Sophia, look at the wall,” Megan whispers, her eyes flinching at my handiwork. “That wall has withstood everything. Every blast a wiccan ever had. For centuries. You’re right, she’s not an ordinary witch.”
“Which is why you’re going to let me walk out of here,” I say. “I don’t want to hurt either of you, but I don’t belong here and we’re wasting time.”
“No,” Megan says. “I’ve faced worse witches than you in my time. If you step out of that hole, I’ll put a blade in your spine.”
Ignoring her threat, I take a step towards the wall, hoping they might just give up and let me go. The moment I see Megan’s hand flinch towards her holster, I panic. Sophia screams, trying to stop her, but I’m already reacting. I don’t want to hurt Sophia, there’s a stupid part of me that actually likes her, but I can’t control this magic yet and Sophia is standing too close.
The wind knocks them both off their feet. They hit the ground several metres down the yard, their bodies spinning against the soil.
“I’m sorry,” I say.
I jump through the hole and I take off through a cornfield. I don’t stop running, I keep running until I reach the trees which is a mile later. I stop to catch my breath, glimpsing the cornfield behind me, but there is no sign of the castle or the Slayers on my trail.
I can’t afford to be comfortable, so I run again, with no desirable direction but freedom. The trees are on a loop, they all look the same, and there’s no clearing soon. The leaves crunch under my boots like the breaking of bones, I jump over fallen branches and I roll down painful hillsides as I refuse to slow down.
Finally, I stop, holding on to the stump of a tree for balance. I pant uncontrollably, craving water and rest. I’m in the enemy’s territory, so to speak, I have no idea where I am or where I’m going, but they’ll know these woods like the back of their hand. I see the outline of a bird taking off from a treetop and I roll my head as I follow its flight into the sky, and I almost fall over as I come face-to-face with a man.
The man is tall with thinning, silver hair and wears a long coat that hides his whole body. He is middle-aged, and has kind, blue eyes that make me trust him in an instant.
“Hey there,” the man says, balancing me by my shoulders. “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” I say, wiping sweat from my face. “Just a little lost.”
“Lost? Why would you come into the woods in the first place? It’s dangerous out here, especially for young girls like yourself.”
“I can handle myself,” I say. “I was running from. . . a dog, or something.” I almost said wolf, forgetting where I was for a moment, wolves would probably have been more likely.
“Dog, huh? Well luckily you gave it the slip.”
“Yeah. Do you know where I can get out of here?”
“There’s a road just down that way that leads to the nearest town,” the man says, pointing behind his shoulder. “But here, you look like you need a drink.”
The man extends a bottle of water from under his coat and I gratefully reach out to take it.
“Thank you,” I say. I take a few sips and I pass it back to him. “Bye.”
I reach the road a few minutes later, which has cars driving in both directions. It’s unusual to see mortals driving here, in Arizona only the wiccans use cars. It's not illegal by any means, but it's rare back in the city. I remain vigilant, knowing they might not all be mortals.
I see the town come into view at the bottom of a small hill. The town is isolated and doesn’t look very big, but it’s my only chance to hide long enough to figure out a way to get out of here.
I run down the hill, highly aware that Sophia and Megan might have already informed Sam and the others of my escape. They’ll all be looking for me. Everyone is looking for me. Around mortals is the only place I feel safe.
The town is quite remote, like towns in Arizona, and I’m familiar with the dynamics. Local bar, everyone knows each other, they can sniff out a stranger to their town from first glance. I may as well walk around with a ‘be suspicious of me’ billboard.
The first building I pass is a bar, which is a relief. I try to keep my head down as people walk right by me on the street, they don’t seem to pick up on anything strange even though I’m giving them every reason to. It’s different here. The people are different here. They aren’t paranoid or scared, it’s almost as if this town was unaffected by the wiccans. Given that the castle is so close by, it wouldn’t surprise me if wiccans left it alone.
I enter the bar. It’s not quiet, but it’s not busy either, it’s a good balance. Everyone stares at me, but the key is to act like I belong here. I approach the counter, eyeing the boy behind it with a smile.
“What can I get you?” the boy asks, his dimples stretching across his cheeks.
“I don’t have any money,” I say. “Is there anything so disgusting it’s free?”
“Tap water, sure,” the boy says. “But you’d have to buy something to stay in here.”
“I’ll get it.” I glance to my left to see a man in a fedora holding out a note in his hand as he squeezes closer to me. “You look like you need a drink.”
“I wish people would stop saying that to me,” I sigh. “Yeah, that’d be great, thanks. I’ll have a. . .” I look at the fridges behind the boy, having no idea what any of them are. I choose one that sounds the most interesting. “Kopparberg.”
The boy nods and turns around, prompting the man next to me to get even closer.
“American, huh?” he whispers. “You’re far from home.”
“Yeah, it shocked me too.”
“I don’t blame you for running. With everything that’s going down over there.”
“I didn’t run, and I’m trying to get back there.”
“Why?” he demands. “You’re more likely to get killed there. If you stay here, you’ll be safe.”
I meet his eyes. “Why is that?”
“We have protectors here. A group of these. . . vigilantes that ward off the nature freaks. They don’t dare come to this town.”
“You have no idea how close they might be,” I whisper. The boy passes me the bottle and I take it quickly. “Thanks for the drink.”
“Hold up.” Suddenly, the man grips my arm, twisting it around frantically. I’m stronger than him, and I manage to pull it back, but not before he glimpses my brand. “Witch. Witch!”
I’m now a target to every human in touching distance. The word ‘witch’ is being yelled around endlessly and so many fingers are pointing at me. I make a run for the door, bursting out onto a street full of dozens. The people from the bar come rushing out, screaming it over and over until crowds are running at me.
This is a witch hunt. There are people with weapons, people with anger in their eyes, people that will kill me the moment they catch me. I take out one of the daggers from my pants, but it’s harder to run with it. I can’t run anymore. There’s nowhere to run to. The entire town is circling me, I hear men loading their shotguns, I hear children laughing as though this is entertainment.
“You made a mistake coming to this town,” the man from the bar says as he walks towards me with his gun. “We don’t go anywhere unarmed. I’ve waited five years to catch one of you.”
I look behind me to see more of them approaching, they’ve got me surrounded. Men of all sizes, all builds, and all look merciless.
“I’m not like the rest,” I shout. “I’m more like you than I have ever been like them. I am on the run from Amara because I stood against her. I stand with mortals and I have always stood with mortals.”
“Lies!” the man screams. “The last witch that gave me a line like that murdered my wife after I fell for it!”
“I’m sorry about what happened to your wife, I am, but I had nothing to do with that. I’m trying to stop Amara; I’m trying to stop my kind from taking over. I’m trying to give you your freedom back.”
“We already have our freedom.” The man walks towards me confidently, and it’d be too easy to defend myself. I would never harm a mortal. I can’t. “You don’t deserve death, you deserve hell.”
“I promise you, there’s a better way, there is-”
The butt of the man’s gun collides with the side of my head, and as the entire world spins around me, I fall into the clutches of darkness.