Mage's Fire

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Twenty-Nine: Riley

My head was pounding by the time I woke up. I groaned, blinking slowly to clear the blurriness away. For a moment, I feared that I had been dreaming, that I had imagined the past few months and that I was waking up on my first day of school, the same weak, powerless asthmatic who wore glasses.

Then my vision started to clear, and I could hear the sounds of wolves snarling and pacing back and forth outside.

I blinked and peeled my eyes open, peering into the darkness. I was in human form, dressed in loose men’s clothing. I had no shoes on, and my arms were tied behind the back of the chair I was sitting in. My shoulders ached from being pulled back and I determined that I had been out for several hours, at least.

I glanced around the room, taking in as much as I could. It looked like I was in an old, abandoned cabin, much like the one that the Bryans’ had held me in. except this room had no windows, and there was only one door, straight in front of me. I heard voices outside the room, speaking softly. There was nothing in the room, nothing except for me and the chair.

I tugged against the ropes, screaming in pain when the skin on my wrists suddenly burned. The scent of wolfsbane filled my nostrils, and I felt my chest tighten in response.

Outside the door, the voices stopped, and then the door creaked open.

Jeremiah and Ariana stepped into the room, their eyes glowing fiercely. They were dirty and malnourished, and when they walked, they seemed to move like wild animals, stalking along the edges of the room as they came closer to me. They stared at me hungrily, bloodlust and a thirst for revenge in their eyes.

My heart started pounding faster as Ariana approached, eyes glowing and her fangs bared. She seemed to hiss softly as she came closer, her teeth coming for my neck. I growled and tried to back away, but I only had so far to go before the chair stopped me. The ropes rubbed against my wrists again, and I snarled in pain.

“Ariana,” Jeremiah growled. “That’s enough.”

She growled in frustration and snapped her head around to stare at him. “Why?” She snarled. She swung her head back around to smile at me, her fangs still bared. “She deserves to suffer…”

“She will,” he said. “Trust me. But I will be the first to take a pound of flesh. Understand?”

Ariana hissed again, but she obeyed. She withdrew, pacing back and forth along the wall to my right. A lump of fear caught in my throat, making it difficult to breathe.

Jeremiah stalked towards me, his brown and gold eyes glowing fiercely. His hair was longer than what I had seen in the picture, streaked in dirt and blood. He crouched in front of me, his clawed fingers gripping into the wood on the arms of the chairs.

“What happened?” I asked, trying to make myself sound unafraid. I couldn’t miss how scared and weak I sounded, and I suddenly felt a sharp spike of self-loathing over the fact.

He laughed. “I had a… a friend help us out. We had some explosive balls that shine brightly when detonated. It’s very disorienting to wolves, so I had some of my pack members hide out and shield their eyes while others—well, those who can still manage their human form—detonated the light bombs. While you were all blinded, we took you.” he chuckled darkly and said, “And now…”

He held one hand between us, studying it like it was an interesting science specimen. He smiled wickedly as his nails grew longer, turning into sharp wolf claws. He grinned up at me, pulling the edge of the shirt I wore away from my skin, revealing the top of my chest. He dragged his claws along my skin, drawing blood. I reared my head back and screamed as bright, fiery pain flashed through me.

I grunted and gasped for breath, glaring up at him. “How’d you… get through… the wolfsbane?” I asked. Hopefully, I could distract him long enough to break free.

He chuckled. “With protective gear and gas masks,” he said. “And we were very, very careful…”

As he spoke, I tried to pull against the ropes again, but they were too tight. I screamed as they rubbed against my wrists, preventing me from breaking free.

He laughed and trailed a claw down my cheek. I screamed again, pulling against the wolfsbane soaked ropes as they burned my skin. I tried to get away, but the chair must have been nailed into the floor because it wouldn’t budge.

Ariana laughed maniacally as Jeremiah tortured me, his claws digging into every inch of skin he could find. I screamed and sobbed, pulling feebly against the ropes around my wrists. I had lost feeling in my hands by then, but I still tried to break free.

Hours later—or maybe even days later, I couldn’t tell anymore at this point—Jeremiah finally stopped. I hung my head, gasping for breath. I was covered in my own blood and sweat, and my vision swam wildly in front of me.

Jeremiah grabbed my chin roughly in his hand, jerking my face up to look at him. He grinned darkly, but there was fire and hatred burning in his eyes. “I’ll be back later,” he promised. “I don’t want you dying on me just yet, so get your rest while you can.” he pulled away and straightened, slicing one claw into my cheek one more time.

“Come, Ariana,” he said. “Next time, you’ll have your turn.”

She cackled and danced over to me, grabbing my shoulders. She leaned in close, inhaling my scent into her nostrils. She moaned and said, “I can’t wait to taste your blood on my tongue…” She nipped my neck, licking her way up to my ear before I turned on her, my fangs aimed for her throat.

She yelped and jumped back, her eyes wide in surprise. She snarled and backhanded me across the face, the force of her blow making my head snap around. I groaned, my ears ringing. The door slammed shut, and when I faced forward again, they were gone.

I was breathing heavily, my fear, panic, and anger churning deep inside my gut. I clenched my hands behind my back, snarling at the pain in my wrists. My chest heaved as I glared at the door, wishing that I could tear their throats out.

Off in the distance, I heard the soft howling of wolves. I turned my head to the sound, my heart aching as I recognized Kai’s anguished voice. I gasped in several quick, short breaths before I managed to suck in enough air through the wolfsbane to tilt my head back and howl. I willed my voice to cut through the walls, over the forest, and through to Kai and the others. I didn’t stop until Ariana barged into the room, screamed at me to shut up, then slammed her fist into my skull, sending me spiraling into a dark oblivion.

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