My body regenerates at the steps of a bright, white cathedral. Light smoke that resembles pieces of clouds covers the ground, gently grazing through my ankles. The sky is white also, and the sun, if it is even there, is hidden from sight. I don’t know where I am, but I feel as though I am meant to be here. They are waiting for me. I can sense them.
One step at a time, I climb up to the door. My hand hovers reluctantly over the door knob, but before I touch it, the grand, white door opens. I am greeted with even more light that blinds me instantly. I cover my eyes, waiting for several seconds until the light dissipates.
The cathedral is so clean, as though it’s made of glass. I walk along the shiny, marble floor, staring up at the high, open rooftop. There is no ceiling to the cathedral, the sky is the only thing above, and the light wind feels amazing against my skin.
Up ahead, there is a black circle drawn in the centre of a stone platform. I swallow as I approach it, I stand just outside of it, not willing to move any further.
“Stand in the circle,” a voice commands.
My mind and my voice synchronize the word ‘no’ but my feet move into the circle anyway, as though I have no choice. When I am inside it, they become visible, forming an arch around the whole room. I see faces that I have never met before. Some old, some young, some female, some male, some that look kind, others that look murderous. Their outfits vary from cloaks, to rags, to modern dresses. They all wear the clothes I assume they died in, and then that registers. Died in.
“Am I dead?” I say aloud.
“Not yet,” a voice says.
Before me, the voice, and their leader, shows her face. I’ve only ever seen pictures of her, but I grew up with the stories of Amara’s cold and obnoxious mother. In the stories, Amara’s mother, the previous Elder, tried to start a revolt against Sam alone, knowing he was to be the future Malachi. She was only thirty when she died, and according to what Joey told me, she met a gruesome death by him. If this is true, then Sam must be older than he looks, or he was a very skilled child. I try to remember her name, but I can’t think of it clearly. Was it Elena? Helena?
“Theresa Harmon, you have been called to stand in the presence of your ancestral Elders after willingly engaging an attack on the current Elder. This offense has catastrophic consequences if proven true. How do you plea?”
I glance around at all of the still and patient faces, my eyebrows narrowing. “How do I plea?” I repeat. “You’re all dead.”
“Magic has no bounds, especially not Elder magic,” she says. “Our fate is of no importance; you are the one standing trial for a crime.”
“One of many,” another voice hisses.
“Yes,” the leader says. “You also stand accused of assisting Slayers in killing your own kind. An offense that also has catastrophic consequences.”
Anger bursts through my veins. My hands begin shaking as I look her in the eye. “Do not stand there and lecture me on crimes against our own when your daughter murdered my entire coven! Or is murder allowed when it’s the Elder committing it?”
Whispers erupt around the cathedral. I gaze around, many are looking shocked and confused. Do they have no idea what’s going on in the world? How could they anyway? They’re dead.
“Silence!” the leader demands. “Elders have the right to remove a coven if they pose a threat to our system. They do so as a last resort and it is always in the best interest of our kind.”
“Best interest?” I snort. “Amara has murdered hundreds of us and millions of humans. But you already knew that, didn’t you?”
“You are the one on trial, Theresa.”
“Then judge me when I’m dead,” I say. “But until then, you have no right to interfere with the living.”
She half-smiles, half-grimaces. She pulls back her hood so I can see her more clearly. Her blonde hair is tucked into the back of her cloak, but her eyes, as green as an emerald, shine brighter than anything else in the room. I remember her name now. I don’t know how I ever forgot it.
“I can do things you can’t even imagine,” she says. “Even from this side. I can torment you until you’re begging for your life to end. I can turn you against everyone you trust and I can crush your spirit until there’s nothing left but a shell. As long as there is angel blood running through your veins, you belong to me.”
I lift my eyes. “I don’t belong to anyone, Vienna. The Slayers helped me, they saved me, and I see a side to them that no Elder has ever wanted to understand.”
“The Slayers are your enemy,” Vienna says. “And you will honour that by killing their leader. Only then will you be redeemed for your crimes.”
“No,” I say.
“With the Malachi destroyed, the Slayers will have no foothold with the demons. The demons will be blind and in their desperation, we will seek our chance to destroy them.”
“Using Amara to do that?” I demand.
“And yourself,” she says. “When the time comes, you and Amara must work together to stop what’s coming. Though we’re not sure how, you are equally matched. Your task is to get close enough to kill the Malachi, once that is complete, Amara will be waiting for you.”
“I think you misunderstand the word no, which is understandable for an Elder. Obedience is in a witch’s blood, isn’t it? Well it isn’t in mine.”
“We’re talking about a Slayer that has murdered dozens of your brothers and sisters,” Vienna says, her voice hardening. “A Slayer that has no compassion or regrets for the unspeakable things he has done. And I’m sure he didn’t greet you with open arms, how many times has he played with your life already? That’s what he does. He plays with us, toys with us, like a cat with a mouse. You have the power to kill him, use it.”
I bite on my lip. If it was any other Slayer that I believed completely to be evil then I wouldn’t even be considering it. But this is Sam. This is the person that I saw save Sophia’s life. The man that would put his unit before anyone and anything, that would die to protect them. And everything else he’s done? How do I know the wiccans didn’t leave him no choice?
When I first met him, when he revealed himself to me, he told me that wiccans always assumed he’d kill them. Maybe in his own way, he was telling me that he’s always had to defend himself, without ever having the chance to walk away. Until he met me. Until he met the one witch that didn’t attack him and didn’t leave him with no choice but to fight. The one witch he remembered enough to save from being killed by Amara. That is the version I trust, the version that sways me into shaking my head.
“Do you care for him?” she demands.
“No,” I say. “But I care for what he stands for. What they all stand for. I won’t do it. I refuse.”
Vienna smirks, her face begins to fade as I begin to fade. “Then good luck, Theresa.”