After meeting with Victoria, I decide to take a long walk through the remains of the city. Some parts are still liveable, still resemble what was here five years ago, while other parts have been reduced to rubble and glass. Amara created a brand-new city using magic, but she couldn’t be bothered to clean up the bad parts, she said they should remind the mortals of what happened here.
On the streets of Phoenix, there are still hundreds of mortals. Going about their daily lives, afraid to speak up about the drastic change they endured. It turns my stomach that they are being forced to live this way. They aren’t allowed to leave without permission from Amara, which can take months because she doesn’t care.
I’m one of them. I’m not allowed to leave either. Not that I’d want to, because this is my home, it has always been my home. No matter how much it changes, that can never change. Witches and warlocks patrol the streets in their certified uniforms. They do not need weapons, which makes them more terrifying. Our species can now be identified by mandatory tattoos on the inner side of our wrists. The tattoo is our witching symbol, three triangular shaped ovals which interlock to form our pathway into the next world. Almost like a rune, but it holds no power. It is just a marking to make every mortal around us scream in terror. And so far, it has worked, which is why I prefer to keep it hidden. Especially because my tattoo is a little different to every other.
I enter the herb shop on a street now renamed as Blood Avenue. Only wiccans are allowed inside the herb shop and I am forced to show my tattoo upon opening the door. The woman takes my arm without warning, and I snarl through my teeth as she drops it.
“Satisfied?” I hiss.
“Why does your tattoo have a dot in the symbol?”
I ignore her and I wander around the store, pausing at the potion section. A man is already there, his hand caressing a bottle of lemongrass, which is only used in potions involving pest control.
“What’s wrong? You got too many bugs in your garden?” I say with a smirk.
In the corner of my eye, I see the warlock turn, but I do not look at him. I focus on the bottle I am searching for.
“Bats, actually,” the warlock replies. “There are dozens of them in my home.”
“I know the feeling. If it’s bigger than a spider, you can’t use lemongrass, it’ll make them more violent than sleepy.”
“Right, thanks. So, what would you suggest I use?”
The warlock laughs, just as I find my bottle. I rip it from the shelf and I start to turn the corner.
“My name’s Joe, what’s-”
I approach the front desk, where a hard-faced, unhappy and seemingly annoyed witch is eyeing me from behind her till. When I place the bottle on the counter, she attempts to force herself a smile.
“Hello, what can I help you with?” she says, disinterested.
“I would like to buy this.” I turn the bottle so that can she can read the label. Her eyes instantly widen. “Is that a problem?”
“I’m sorry, but this ingredient is restricted for category A coven members only. How old are you?”
“Old enough to use it.”
“I’ll need to see identification. Only experienced wiccans are permitted to use this ingredient.”
“I just told you I’m old enough. And experienced enough.”
The woman’s eyes blink. “I don’t believe you.”
“Would you like me to demonstrate my power to you?” I threaten, leaning closer. In a second, the security witch from the door is marching over. I stick my arm in the air, halting the witch. “There’s a dot in my symbol. Do you know what that means?”
The blonde woman behind the counter nods. “You’re a Harmon witch. My apologies, I thought you were all gone.”
I grin. “We are. I work directly for Amara and she requested that I pick this up, if that’s going to be a problem I can go and get her to settle this.”
“No, no, no,” the woman says in a panic. “Here, take this please. It’s on the house, free for the inconvenience.”
“Thanks.” I grab the bottle and I turn, coming face-to-face with the warlock from the potion isle. In an instant, he takes my breath away. I’ve never much been mesmerised by men, but he is something that I can’t deny. With tanned skin, dark blonde hair, beautifully proportioned green eyes and a smell so divine that it reminds me of freedom, he is almost the best of life in one sighting.
Still, I keep my scowl and I push into him to get to the door. Once outside, I let the cool air greet me for a moment before I begin my walk down the infamous street of death. Blood Avenue lives up to its name, this street had the highest body count of mortals four years ago. Amara called it a victorious street.
“Hey,” someone shouts. “Wait up.”
I look over my shoulder to see the eager warlock Joe jogging towards me from the shop. I try to ignore him, but he catches up to me rather quickly.
“You work for Amara?” he asks.
“What’s it to you?” I say.
“You’re not going to stop? Okay, I can walk. Let’s walk. Where are you walking to? How about we go to-”
I stop walking, turning to face him furiously as we reach a quiet strip of the street. “Okay, seriously, what is your problem?”
He doesn’t answer me, he just stares down at my wrist, turning it over in his hand as he observes it. “You’re not her, so you must be related to her.”
“Who?” I demand, trying to pull my wrist back. He’s strong, too strong, but he eventually gives it back to me.
Joe grabs me and pulls me into a side street, away from cars, people and patrol wiccans. He covers my mouth and leans in close as I try to escape.
“Shut up,” he hisses, suddenly his accent changes, from southern American to a strong British. “Do not make a sound, do you understand?”
I nod against his hand; his skin is sliding across my teeth and it’s making me feel sick. I don’t know what is happening but I know a thousand ways to defend myself. Once he releases himself, I decide I’ll use the fire spell, it won’t be fatal but it will buy me time to run.
“Now,” he says, removing his hand. “I don’t know what this Harmon stuff means, but I know that the dot in the symbol is significant to you. Who else has it?”
“Just me,” I lie.
“Wrong. Someone else does. A girl that looks like you, with very strong magic. Whether she’s your sister or your damn mother, I don’t care, I just want you to deliver a message to her. Tell her to stop looking for us, to stop hunting us, to stop summoning us. If I see her sniffing around things she shouldn’t be sniffing around in again, I will kill her. We will never work with your kind, do you understand?”
I gasp. And the gasp is loud. He reads my eyes like a book, reacting to my realization.
Caught off guard, I give away my cousin’s name. “Victoria,” I whisper. “She found you. Y-you’re one of them. A Slayer.”
“I’m the Slayer. I’m the leader. And no, she didn’t find me. She’d know if she had. Tell her to leave my units alone. If Amara wants to trick us into resurfacing, she can do it herself.”
“Victoria isn’t working for her. I’m not working for her. We are trying to stop Amara, but we can’t do it alone.”
The man looks between my eyes, searching for a hint of a lie. “I don’t believe you. I’d never believe anything a witch says. My purpose is to protect mortals against your precious Elder, and I failed. How I make up for that is something I do alone.”
“You aren’t the only one that failed,” I say sadly. “We all did. Amara wiped out half of my family in one second. The most powerful coven to ever exist, gone in one second. Do you want to see her do that to yours? Because that’s what she’s planning.”
“I know what she’s planning,” he says. “I haven’t been impersonating one of your bastard kind and hiding in herb shops for the fun of it. The truth is, when it all goes down, it’s gonna be us against you. No matter who you want to fight against, you won’t be able to let your kind get slaughtered. We are enemies.”
“I am Amara’s enemy.”
“No, you’re not. You’re her puppet. And you’ll run along and tell her everything I’ve just told you, because that’s who you are. She’ll know that the Slayers are here in Arizona.” He begins sharpening a blade right in front of my face and moves towards me. “You’ll tell her that we know what she’s planning. You’ll tell her everything, because you’re too scared not to. I know that because Slayers are the same, they tell me everything.”
I breathe against the wall, my eyes high. “Killing me won’t do your kind any good.”
“What is it with you wiccans and assuming we’re going to kill you?” he laughs to himself, scraping the blade against the wall above my head. “Although, you’re right to fear us. We are trained in the defence against witchcraft since we’re able to walk. The moment you start chanting is the moment I do not play nice. Tell your sister to back off, or the next thing above your head, will be hers, when I throw it at you.”
I swallow, keeping my eyes on his as he slowly backs away. He disappears around the wall, and I fall to the ground, breathless.
My first ever encounter with a Slayer is over, and I survived it. No wiccan has ever lived to tell that tale. Is this a diplomatic move? Is he banking on me telling Amara everything that he told me? I wouldn’t, but he doesn’t know that, he doesn’t trust me. Should I tell her because he secretly wants me to? If that helps them in anyway, then I should. But what if he spared my life just because he couldn’t go through with killing me? The doubt of me being against Amara could have been too much for him.
It’s all very confusing. And to top it off, Victoria has been investing her time in tracking Slayers down and didn’t tell me about it. I’m mad at her for that, but I’m madder at myself. Because the Slayer is right. Even if I am fighting against Amara, I can’t bring myself to harm my kind, my kind that will do anything to protect her. I can’t harm her without harming them. How do I live with myself after that?
I stare down at the bottle still tight in my grip. I only have one chance at this. To make everything right again. To make the world right again. I must be brave enough to do what no other witch has ever done before, kill an Elder without a coven.