Sam’s strategy is to fight them one-by-one. I’d call it foolish, if he wasn’t the most incredible fighter I’d ever seen. The swift swipe of his long blade takes more lives than I can count, they’re dropping to the floor on his side like flies.
My strategy is to allow the power to possess me once more. I release it like a tornado, swallowing them up into an abyss that spits them out miles down the bridge. My power confuses them, just as it did the warlock. I send a trail of fire towards their cars, they explode on impact, sending anyone in a ten feet radius soaring into the railing of the bridge or over the banks.
More, my mind screams. I need more.
The power is addictive like a shot of heroin. It makes me feel good, too good, and with the crystal around my throat, I am immune to their spells. I am immune to everything. I clock eyes with Vee who is standing at the fallen bodies of his injured coven. Most of them are still alive and are crawling to get to safety, but the power overrides my relief of that.
“What are you?” Vee says.
His question startles me, but his expression startles me more. It makes me hesitate, and hesitation is dangerous. Someone runs at me from the side, tackling me to the ground. The red-haired witch sits astride my waist and starts punching me, over and over again. She sticks her elbow into my collarbone and starts choking me. I pull at her hair, trying to weaken her in any way I can, but she allows me to rip a chunk of it out rather than let go. She punches me again, but I don’t fall unconscious. She starts to choke me again, her eyes red with a darkness that consumes her. I radiate heat in my fingertips, willing fire from them, and I touch her face. This time, she screams. As her hands drop from my throat, I punch her. When the witch rolls off of me, another witch comes charging at me with a potion in her hand. She throws it, but I intercept it, blowing it up in the air. The explosion is bright and I cover my eyes for a second, turning back to the red-head.
The red-head crawls over for round two. I kick her in the face, then the stomach, but it’s like she’s trained for this. She grabs my legs and pulls my body along the ground, then she unearths a carving knife and hovers it over my heart. I stop her, using all of my strength to hold against hers. I grit my teeth as the knife pierces against the skin of my chest, I’m losing, she’s strong. Too strong.
“Say hello to your coven for me,” she says.
“Say it to your own, bitch.” The redhead looks up, and is greeted with the blunt force of a boot smacking into her face. I watch her hit the pavement next to me, her eyes forced closed. I sit up to see the smiling face of a proud and smug Sophia. “You good?”
“I think so,” I say, taking her hand. She pulls me to my feet and I take a moment to observe the other slayers as they throw themselves into battle on the other side of the bridge. Sam’s side. I haven’t seen him since we parted, I don’t even know if he’s still alive.
“There’s more coming,” Sophia says. “Dozens more. Did you do all of this?” She glances around at the small fires, high destruction and fleeing wiccans that are dragging their bodies towards the bank. “I can’t believe Sam brought you along to an ambush. What was he thinking! If it wasn’t for Megan coming to warn us then you’d be dead right now. I am going to be having serious words with-”
“Sophia,” I say, harshly. “Not now.”
“Fine,” she says. “I’m under orders to get you back to the castle, so you’re coming with me.”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
“You really want to be out there in battle with the unit?” she demands. “They won’t work with you, they’ll sacrifice you the first moment they get. They’re too stubborn to walk away from this! It’s our-”
“Your way, I know. But maybe I’m stubborn too.”
“I’m under orders, you don’t have a choice.” Her hand grabs mine, and as I resentfully call out her name my voice becomes lost in the abyss that takes me away.
As I transport, the crystal burns its deepest, angriest refusal into my chest. All I can feel is the pain of burning, as though I’m ablaze with hell’s fire. If I could scream, I would, but I’m in a million pieces, scattered through the air like smoke.
Something changes. Our particles clash against something, like hitting a wall. Instead of going straight, something forces us down. Our particles reattach in mid-air, leaving Sophia squealing as we bump into each other on the downward spiral to the dark ground. I land flat on my face, rubbing my head as I sit up.
“What the hell was that?” I demand.
“I have no idea,” Sophia says as she looks around. We’re in the clearing of the cornfield, at least a mile from where the castle is. “It’s never happened to me before. It’s like we bounced right off the force field. Oh my god. Theresa, Theresa, get up. Get up!”
Sophia is thumping her hands against my leg as she stands in a panic. It’s dark and my vision is blurry but I can just make out the outline of a shadow, no a person, walking into the clearing. I blink at the shadow, until that shadow’s face becomes Amara. I stand so quickly that I almost fall back down.
“Sophia, get us out of here.”
Sophia’s hand lifts slightly, but her transportation star is pulled from it, landing in Amara’s. Amara tuts, shaking her finger at us.
“There will be no leaving this time,” she says, admiring her new conquest from various angles as she twists it around. “Every witch or warlock that has plucked one of these from a dead slayer’s hand and attempted to use it has died in the process. But not you. What makes you different?”
“Sophia, get out of here,” I hiss. “Run.”
“No way,” she says. “I’m not leaving you. We go together.”
“I might not be able to breach your force field, yet, but I can stop you from entering it too. Tell me, Slayer, if you had to choose between Theresa and your unit, which would you save?”
“Your mind tricks don’t work on us,” Sophia says. “I’m not afraid of you.”
“Should I regard you as brave?” Amara says. “You are children, all of you. You wouldn’t know what fear was if it crawled up your bed and yanked you into hell. I almost feel sorry for you, for thinking that you ever stood a chance. I guess none of that matters now.” Amara’s hand raises up, but Sophia is faster, an electrifying blue light sparks from her hand towards Amara, which doesn’t do much harm but buys us time.
“Go!” Sophia orders, pushing me into a run.
We take to the cornfield, running the fastest our bodies will allow. The corn is high and I can’t see anything for miles. I try to conjure light, but I can’t focus enough to get anywhere. I’m too afraid, and I hate to admit that to myself. It’s one thing to stand in front of a hundred wiccans and fight, it’s another completely to be chased by Amara.
“This way!” Sophia shouts.
I hear her voice, but I don’t know where she is. One moment she was right beside me, and the next she’s gone. I just keep running, hoping somehow I end up at the end of this field. There has to be an end, right? It makes no sense. I’ve ran for miles, I’ve changed directions, I’ve seen this cornfield from the balcony, it isn’t this big. I’m trapped. It’s an illusion. I slow to a stop, holding my stomach as I spit onto the ground.
Amara’s laughter is all around me. I twist round and round, eventually losing my footing and meeting the ground. Amara’s laughter grows closer, until her shadow can be seen through the corn.
I push myself backwards to my feet, turning and running through more corn. I’m frantic and helpless, willing for an exit that my power can’t grant me. It’s as though it’s abandoned me the moment I need it most. Wherever I run, wherever I turn, she’s there, blocking my way.
“There’s no way out, Theresa,” her voice projects. “You’re making this harder than it has to be.”
I stop. I close my eyes. I take a deep, staggered breath.
“I wasn’t always like this you know,” she says. I hear the clink of her boots crush down onto leaves as she walks over to me. “Obsessed with the rise of the demons. But our ancestors called for it. Destiny called for it. To better the world, sacrifices must be made. I know you must think that I’m corrupted or evil but I am just very clear on what I must do to ensure the safety of this planet. This isn’t the actions of a madwoman or a crazed Elder hungry for power, these are the actions of someone that knows what’s coming. And I know you know it too.”
I open my eyes.
“Deep inside, you know that the myths are true,” she says. “The stories we were told since we could understand them, they’re real. In a year’s time, this world will be nothing but fire. They keep it burning for effect, like a sun. That’s how close they are. One year.”
“If the demons exist, then why would they kill the slayers? They created them, right? It doesn’t make sense.”
“I still haven’t figured that part out,” she says. “But it doesn’t change anything. The vision is clear, the warning is clear. To fight them, I need every ounce of power I can get.”
“The way you take it isn’t very polite,” I say through clenched teeth. “And you’re not getting mine. This world deserves to have someone better than you fighting for it.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way. Because I-”
Amara cuts herself off, glancing down to her chest, to where the end of a long blade stabs through it. She twists her head around as blood seeps from her lips.
“Y-you,” she whispers. “You’re becoming a nuisance.”
Sophia yanks her blade back and punches her in the side of the face. Amara hits the ground, and everything changes. Piece by piece, the corn vanishes, leaving us standing in a wide-open clearing at the edge of the real cornfield. In the far distance, I see the hundred sparks of light from the windows of the castle. The castle is glorious. It stands so high that is blocks the sky. From the magnificent walls, to the highest peek of the towers, to the two dozen steps leading up to a red-coloured, steel door. I see what they see.
“Sam!” Sophia screams. “Megan!”
“Sophia, look out-”
I can’t get to her in time. She’s too far away. My heart stops beating for a moment as Amara conjures a blade and directs it at Sophia’s stomach.
“No!” I scream, lunging forwards.
Amara doesn’t stop, she stabs her over and over again, until there’s nothing left of her to take. Sophia looks at me, trying to speak, but she chokes on her own blood. As she slumps to her knees, the power returns, setting my entire body on fire. I am out of control, and for the first time in my life, I’m not afraid of it.
Amara conjures her attacks first; bursts of energy balls that contain explosive properties. I push each one away, not even flinching as they explode against the trees of the forest. Amara conjures her biggest hit of all, a strike close to that of a slayer’s lightning which hits me straight in the chest. I cough, clenching on my teeth.
“What in the name of the gods are you?” Amara says, beginning to back away.
“I really wish people would stop asking me that.”
Knowing her magic is useless, I charge at her. She straightens, her hand balling into a fist as she realises how powerless she has become. I grab her shoulders and I toss her to the ground, her fingernails dig into the skin of my collarbone, squeezing blood out of me like a pump. I hit her face and she hits me back. Our strength is equal. We struggle to contain the other and we begin rolling. It’s only then, when I’m on my back, that I notice her pause. She leans over me, her short blonde hair curving around her stunned face as her hands claw at my chest.
“It can’t be,” she says, holding the crystal in her hand. “How did you get this? This belongs to me.” She attempts to pull it from my throat, to snap the chain, but the chain doesn’t budge. Instead, it burns her.
“You have no Elder magic,” she hisses, wincing at the sudden burn. “It cannot work for you. It’s impossible.”
“Want to bet?”
I pull my leg to my chest and I kick her once in the stomach. She falls backwards, retreating slightly as I stand up. I clamp my hand around the crystal.
“La taik beang, omasamo all comost,” I say.
The crystal gets brighter, shining like a sun among a sunless universe. The explosion happens a second after, it’s so bright that I can’t see anything more. I don’t have to do anything, it’s like the crystal knows, as though it’s one with my mind. There is no sound but my own heart beating, no direction or reaction or sanity. I am stranded in that light, in that glorious warmth, wrapped in a thousand blankets, bulletproof and withstanding. I can feel the snow as I dance in it; the rain as I skip in it, the water as I swim in it, and the sky as I graze it. It’s only when the light fades that reality hits me.
Amara is gone. Sophia is lifeless. And I am falling.