“Isn’t this, like, going against your blood pact to Sam or something?” I say as I follow behind Sophia and Curtis on the rooftop.
The wind is heavy and I cling to the sides of my jacket as I peer around at the miles of cornfield over the walls of the castle.
“Something like that,” Sophia shouts. “He’d have our heads if he knew.”
“Which he won’t,” Curtis assures me. “He’s distracted a lot these days.”
“Yeah he won’t be back until tonight,” Sophia says as she walks back over. “Come on, you’re sticking to that doorway like glue.”
I reluctantly walk out onto the roof. The space is big enough-and isolated enough-to practice, but it still feels wrong. This is the highest I’ve been in a long time, and the air tastes good. Fresh. Free.
“What am I supposed to do?” I say.
“Take your time,” Sophia says.
“Close your eyes, Theresa,” Curtis suggests. I close them. “Let it all go.”
“There’s no anger or negative feelings up here,” Sophia says. “This place is special. When we lose focus and we need balance, we come here. It fixes us. It gives us a better perspective of the world and the air.”
“Dozens of Slayers have reported that having left here they’ve felt physically stronger than anywhere else in the castle. Probably because the forcefield is the strongest around this perimeter and-”
Sophia coughs. “It’s the air. Nothing supernatural about it. It’s been proven to have helped millions of humans.”
I grin to myself.
“Well, that’s your opinion, but the forcefield definitely contributes.”
“Theresa? Do you feel it?”
“Feel what?” I say, opening my eyes. “All I feel is cold.”
Curtis laughs. “See? I told you.”
Sophia sticks her tongue out while Curtis gently takes my wrist and guides me over to the edge of the wall. I stand there for merely a moment before my body pulsates with ripples of energy. My senses heighten, my mind clears of all negativity and my limbs almost float, as though I’ve been dosed with heroin.
“Woah, I feel that.”
“The forcefield is feeding you strength,” Curtis says. “Incredible.”
“Curious is the word I would use,” Sophia says. “I knew she was immune to our forcefields but that’s extreme.”
“It’s incredible. Here.” Curtis lifts my hand over the edge and my fingers graze against a brick wall of shields. As I touch them, lines of blue and green dazzle my eyes. I’ve never felt so empowered before, so confident and energized.
“You feel that too?” I ask him quietly.
Curtis nods. “Yes, but, because we’re Slayers, we always feel it. I can’t feel it like you do.”
“I didn’t have this when I blasted the wall in the garden,” I whisper.
“That’s because you blasted through it,” Curtis chuckles. “If you hadn’t, this is what would have greeted you if you tried to walk through it. To be on the other side is a different story. As long as you stay this side of the shield, it has no desire to hurt. Only give.”
I remove my hand from the shimmer and I hold it close to me. “I’m afraid I don’t think I can show you anything better than what you’ve just showed me.”
“I think you can.”
“I guess I feel. . . inspired.” I swallow and turn to look at Sophia. She smiles at me. “I’m ready.”
“Like I said, it’s the air.”
Curtis and I laugh. I walk over to the middle of the platform, waiting as they take their seats on wooden chairs. I take a deep breath, wondering where to even begin. Even though I’m grateful that they’re allowing me to do this, I wish I could train alone. Having them stare at me gives me a strange kind of stage fright.
“What are you trying first?” Sophia says.
“The fire spell that I performed in the library,” I say. I hold out my palm and I speak the spell, conjuring a flame that hovers an inch above my skin before it vanishes, put out by the wind. “Experienced witches can make a flame last through any weather. Rain, snow, and wind.”
They fall silent and I concentrate. I conjure the flame over and over again, attempting to make it strong enough to withstand the heavy wind. I fail, over and over again. After the tenth try, I become frustrated. I know I can’t be negative. The forcefield gave me the opposite to that, it fed me hope. I mastered this years ago and I remember the expression of my mother’s face igniting with pride when I finally did it. Since that one time, I have never been able to do it again. It’s a focus technique, and I no longer have the whispers of the ancestors to guide me. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe that’s what I’m missing. The magic I’ve performed recently has had nothing to do with spells. Although I can still cast them, it’s different now.
I’m different now.
I close my eyes to search my mind for that pathway to the mysterious power. It is the power that freed me in Amara’s dungeon, that fought off Milasia, that broke through a forcefield that had never been breached and collided with an amulet that almost killed me. It usually surfaces when I’m helpless so it’s new to me to directly look for it. When I do find it, I’m not disappointed. It presents itself like the energy of the forcefield; warm, fuzzy and light.
I open my eyes as the flame appears again. This time I will for it to stay. It flickers frantically because of the wind but it stays burning. It changes. I twist it and turn it until it’s a bright ball of fire warming my skin. The power is fighting now. It wants out. My hands raise to the sky without my control and the fire lights it up.
“Damn, Theresa!” Sophia squeals.
“Make it stop.”
“I can’t make it stop!” I shout. “I literally can’t.”
Curtis and Sophia’s heads are twisted upwards in awe of the fire raging towards the clouds. When I realise that they aren’t afraid, I also realise that I’m doing something incredible and I don’t want to stop. The fire changes colour, from a bright orange to a mesmerising green.
“That was not a spell,” Curtis says.
Sophia thumps his arm. “I told you! She’s got Elder power.”
I laugh nervously. I drop my hands, along with the upward fire, and I find my entire body sparkling in green smoke. For the first time in my life, I don’t think, I just run. I run towards the edge of the rooftop, towards the shimmer of the forcefield and I dive right into it.
I fall downwards with gravity, watching the ground get closer and closer, until, it stops. It stops moving. I stop moving. I am frozen in mid-air, between the sky and the earth, bathing in the most amazing blanket of euphoria.
I squeal in amazement as my body moves through the air like a bird. I glide over the cornfields, touching the overgrown plants and lightly grazing the soft, wet grass. I think of a direction and my body takes me there, twisting me and turning me until I’m hypnotised by the thrill.
I glance up to the castle, catching a glimpse of Sophia and Curtis at the edge, their hands above their eyes, I can only imagine their faces. Wait, the castle. I can see the castle. I take myself higher so I can get a better look. It’s magnificent. From the high and well-fortified towers to the ivory-covered grey balconies, the castle resembles an ancient, invulnerable mysterious artifact of time. I am transfixed to it, especially to its size, it is so much bigger than I imagined. It takes up almost half the land. I see the hundreds of windows, small and square. I see the wall that surrounds the garden and the creature they keep inside of it, locked away at the back. I see everything. I see the thousands of trees between the castle and the town of humans that never come here. I see grass and land everywhere, there’s hardly any roads anymore with no one to maintain them. In every direction I see raw country, which I never got to experience in the city. It takes my breath away.
I decide to head back to tell Sophia and Curtis of my discovery. I glide across the air easily, almost as if it was meant for me. As I near the edge of the rooftop, I notice their arms waving frantically.
“No! Theresa, no! Stop!”
Before I can understand or interpret their warning, I collide with an electric current around the ledge that makes my whole body shut down. This time I am falling. My mind drifts away and everything goes dark.