The Summit, Arizona
I always hated crowds. There’s just something spooky about them; like everyone is sharing the same thought. This place, this time, right now. Where else have I got to be but here? What else could be more important than this, right now? And all the eyes that you accidentally meet when you linger on a space too long, those glaring and obnoxious eyes, as though they despise it too, that’s what it feels like. Questions. Endless questions.
I stand beside my mother at the Summit. The Summit is a stadium, a stadium built from ancient magic and protection charms that only those of magical blood can enter. We are at the very bottom, the front, along with the other most powerful covens. The rest, the thousands and thousands of others, are all around us; waiting.
They are too far away to see clearly, just merely shadows in the distance. But I feel their presence. The magic in my bones stirs at the magnitude of power in this stadium. All of us together. Every witch and warlock in the world. It is dangerous.
“How much longer will she keep us waiting?” my aunt Clarissa growls to my mother. “It’s been almost an hour.”
“She always liked to be dramatic,” my mother responds. “I suppose she is waiting for everyone to arrive.”
“That is what worries me,” Clarissa says quietly. “Why the need for every coven? Even the damn Spanish covens are here, and she can’t stand them.”
I try to see what they see when they look out at the blurred faces of the people above us, but I just see that, blurred faces.
“It will be a big announcement,” my mother says.
“The Slayers? You don’t think-”
“Let’s not speculate. Theresa?”
“Yes, momma,” I say, smiling up at her.
“Are you alright?”
I nod my head, and she smiles back.
“It won’t be much longer now.”
An eerie silence befalls the entire stadium as the host finally arrives. Amara appears through a thin gust of wind. She is our Elder, our master, our leader. Every witch is raised to worship her, to respect her, to follow her. My mother never taught me such things. What I know, and what I respect, are separate things.
Amara smiles to her audience. She is a tall woman with broad shoulders, pale skin and short blonde hair. She wears a red cloak with the medallion of the ancient ones around her throat. Some of the covens believe that the medallion is what gives her ultimate power, that without it she would be just like us; ordinary.
“Well isn’t this just a sight!” Amara exclaims. “All of my children, all of my family, here together. How wonderful.”
Her gaze ends with us, the long line of Harmons. It’s no secret that our coven is the strongest of all, that my ancestors alone defeated Amara’s great-grandmother when she turned evil and threatened to burn them all alive. Amara is descended from the greatest power, but we are descended from the second greatest, so she’s always viewed us as a threat. Maybe she always will.
“Mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, brothers and sisters,” she shouts, her voice magically projecting to all. “I have gathered you all here tonight for a special announcement. As of today, the world is ours.”
I hear my coven begin to mutter quickly, in confusion. I keep my attention on Amara, on her smile, on her proudness.
“Yes, you heard that right,” she continues. “No more will we hide our magic in the corners of the world, afraid of consequences and attacks. No more will we obey the laws of the mortal; no more will we see our people slaughtered by the evil demon-leaches because we’re too scared of exposure to fight back. It is time we did fight back! It’s time we took back this world from the mortals. We are descended from gods. We once roamed this world freely, using magic freely with no fear of punishment. Today we get that back. Today we exposure ourselves for who we are, and all those that block our path will pay with their lives!”
“I cannot believe the covens are feeding from this,” my mother mutters, her eyes scrolling around the crowds in anger. “She has lost it.”
“When did she ever have it?” Clarissa sneers. “If this is true, you know what we have to do.”
In the corner of my eye, I see my mother nod.
“After tonight, I want you to go home and cause chaos,” Amara instructs. “I want you to show the mortals, and the Slayers, that we are in charge now. They will retaliate with their weapons and their numbers, of course, but leave that to me. I’d like to see a mortal army realise their odds against me.”
“What about a Slayer army?” my mother shouts.
I hold my breath as Amara stares at her. My aunts are telling her to be quiet, but my mother isn’t interested.
“Slayers will meet the same fate,” Amara says.
“If you corrupt the world, the Slayers will revolt,” my mother shouts. “Against the mortals, easy. But against them? How can you be sure you will win that fight?”
“The Slayers are terrified of me.” Amara’s grin widens. “Even of you.”
My mother laughs in protest. “The Slayers do not fear anything.” She peers down to me. “Well, in time perhaps one thing. But they do not fear you. The covens fear you, and that is why they will follow you. Are you even giving them a choice in this?”
Amara bites on her lip, her eyes hastily glancing around the stadium.
“You cannot control every species, Amara, you cannot just kill them because they don’t bend to your will. Mortals are-”
“That is exactly what I’ll do!” Amara screams in anger. “The mortals took everything from us. They killed off our ancestors just for being different, just for being something they couldn’t control. Do you know what they’d do to you if they discovered what you are? Do you think they’d let you just walk free? No. They’d chain you to a bed and they’d dissect your brain and your blood until they wipe away everything. Until you die, for their benefit. Do you think that’s fair, Caroline?”
“No,” my mother says. “But this isn’t fair either. Keeping magic a secret has always been the top priority, for both sides. The Slayers understand that. They’re not a threat unless you make them a threat.”
“They are the spawns of hell! Of course they are a threat. They have always been a threat. I must think about the protection of my people, of my species. I have become the first Elder in a thousand years powerful enough to do that. I am your leader, and you will obey me.”
My mother takes my hand, squeezing it tight. She hasn’t taken my hand like that since my father’s funeral. It unnerves me because I associate it with a bad thing.
“I will not obey you,” my mother says. “The Harmons will not obey you. You cannot remake the world; you will destroy it.”
“Unless we destroy you,” Clarissa says, eyeing her brothers and sisters along the line.
“Very well,” Amara says. “Have it your way.”
The last memory I have of my mother is her eyes forwards, alert and focused, her hand in mine, protective and warm. The next one doesn’t count, because it is the memory of my mother’s body burning brightly like the sharpest ray of sunlight, until there is only ash in my palm.
I scream so loud that I lose my voice. Falling to my knees, I call out her name like a never-ending summoning. Along the Harmon line, there are children and teenagers crying for their parents. There’s so much ash. It blows everywhere. It slips through my fingertips as I try to cling on to the last fragment of her being.
No one else intervenes. No one else mutters a word. There are thousands of covens here, and not one of them dares do anything. Nothing.
“I have spared you children in the hopes that the next generation of Harmons will be a little more understanding and respectful,” Amara says, grinning down at us. “A threat against me, is a threat against all of us. Anyone that conspires to diminish what I am trying very hard to create, will meet the same fate. I hope that is made clear.”
I listen to her words, but all I can see is her eyes turning blood red as I claw my hands around her throat and drain the life from her vessel. I’ve never in my whole life wanted to kill someone, anyone, but the urge is as strong to me now than it will ever be again. In my face she sees that, she knows that, but it gives her nothing short of joy.
“Today the world changes,” Amara says. “So, let’s make it happen.”