“Again,” Megan says.
Sophia stops and wipes sweat from her forehead, giving Megan a sideways glance of resentment. It’s late afternoon and I’ve been forced to watch Sophia and Claria train for a little over an hour now. Megan oversees them like a supervisor, she stands close, but too close, with her arms folded and her eyes sharp.
“Come on,” Sophia whines. “We have much more important things to be doing than-”
“Again,” Megan orders. “If you want to spend the whole morning drinking, then you can spend the whole afternoon sweating it out. What if there was an attack while you were drunk, huh? Do you think yourself capable of protecting anyone in that state?”
Sophia grunts and places her fists to her face, stepping back into the circle drawn by Megan with a rock. As the two begin circling each other, I back out of the training chamber slowly, heading for the window in the near distance.
I stand there, watching the sky turn a beautiful, light orange. I start thinking about Samara and everything she sacrificed for our kind to exist. She gave up her immortality, she gave up her place with the gods, she gave up everything and cursed them for it; until she had her daughter. I felt that first connection with her, I felt the love that burst right out of her chest, a feeling that no god or demigod has ever felt. It made it worthwhile, all of it.
The first coven was born from angels, and the Elder, from the demigod Samara. That is why they are more powerful, that is why they always have been. So, what formed us? The Harmons? How did we once kill an Elder and save our people? Why are we different from the other covens? It’s as though we were born to challenge them, as though we are insurance in case the Elder becomes too powerful. Some of it makes sense, but at the same time, nothing does at all.
All that this information gives me is more doubt about being able to defeat her. If Amara is descended from a demigod, then there may be no hope for any of us. The answer lies in that room, I know it does, I’ve just got to convince Curtis to allow me back in.
“What are you doing?”
I flinch and look up to the staircase to my right. Sam stands at the top of it, peering down at me with his eyes low and cautious.
“Looking out of a window. Is that not allowed either?”
“Training. In there.” I point my head to the door and I turn back to the window. “I guess you could say that I’m not in the mood to watch her get her ass kicked.”
“Ass kicked?” he says, starting to walk down the steps. “Sophia is one of my best fighters. She’d only be losing if she’s training with Megan.”
“No, she’s training with Claria. Megan is coaching, harshly.”
“Then maybe you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I know exactly what I’m talking about,” I say, turning to glare at him. “I might be new around here and to your world, but it’s pretty obvious that everyone’s exhausted. You’re stretching Sophia too thin, she’s at breaking point, they all are.”
“I think I know Sophia and my unit a lot better than you do,” he hisses. “In case you missed it, we’re at war here.”
“I didn’t miss it, Sam, I’m very aware of what’s happening,” I say. “But it’s not your war to fight.”
“My. . . kind, we weren’t meant to fight and kill slayers. You were the inconvenience, the distraction.” I glance back to the window. “Their fight is with something else, something bigger. Amara knows it and now I know it too. You have to let me fight with you, to train, to practise, please.”
“We’ve been over this,” he says. “You can stay here, but there’s no chance in hell you’re practising witchcraft.”
“Even if it will get your entire unit killed?” I whisper. “You’ll take that risk?”
“Yes, because I don’t trust you. And until you give me a reason to, you’re as good as mortal. Understood?”
I take a deep breath and I hold my head higher. “What did you do to Milasia?”
“I said is that understood?”
I turn to meet his serious, intimidating golden eyes. As we look at each other, they soften, almost changing completely. It’s the first time he’s ever looked at me like that, as though he could smile at any second.
“Good,” he says.
“Great,” I say.
He leaves in haste. He never stays around long enough for me to ask any real questions, not that I’d get any real answers anyway. I think back to the first time I saw him in that herb shop, when he was impersonating a warlock, and the moment I saw him, he took my breath away. I don’t think I’ve gotten it back yet.
“There you are,” Sophia says, knocking me out of my daydream as she peers panting through the training chamber doorway. “I know it’s pretty boring but I’ll be done soon and we can-”
“Sophia, I think I’m just going to go to bed,” I say. “It’s been a long day and I just need to be on my own.”
“Alright,” she says. “Well hang on a second and I’ll walk you.”
“No, it’s fine, I’m fine,” I say. “I need to start doing this by myself. I remember the way. I’ll see you in the morning, okay?”
“Yeah, good night.”
I turn and climb the staircase that Sam just used. I remember the way well, even if Sophia thinks I don’t. I’m starting to get used to the passageways. Just as I turn the corner and arrive at the hallway to Sam’s bedroom chamber, Milasia walks out of a door. I think about turning back but there’s no chance as she’s already seen me.
We grow closer and closer, until I see her face clearly. She looks alright, no visible injuries apart from a bruising around her eye which could have been caused from the fight. She looks right at me for a second and then passes me. No comment, no threat, nothing, it’s as if this morning never even happened.
I hear her whistle her way around the bend behind me, and I start quickening my pace until I reach the right door. I go inside and I rest my back against the door as I take deep breaths. My anxiety levels are high and I don’t know how to calm myself down. I’ve never felt like this. I go out onto the balcony and I sit and watch the sun begin to set. Somehow, that starts to make me feel better, even though I’m no closer to safety than yesterday. I take out the green pendant and I stare at it, memorizing every detail of the crystal. I shouldn't have taken it, but it doesn't belong to Curtis and neither does it belong to Amara. Until it claims its home, it falls on me to keep it safe.
I close my eyes and I find peace in the darkness.