The first few days of summer passed without incident. Riley continued to rest and heal, while Sierra went job hunting. Drew and Eddie had left town after graduation, off to visit family out of state. Kai was with Riley, and the other Guardians were still gone. So, I called Jack early one morning, and we decided to go on a hike.
A light rain fell gently on us as we hiked, and a light fog traveled slowly through the trees. I tipped my face up to the sky, smiling gently as I enjoyed the sensation of rain on my face.
“So…” Jack started when we were a good three miles in. “You want to tell me about that guy who attacked us in the woods that night? Colin, was it?”
I frowned. “No,” I said.
He sighed. “Nadia,” he murmured. “I won’t tell the others, okay? Not unless you want me to. But, as a hunter, I’d like to know what I’m up against.”
I sighed. He made a valid point. I didn’t want to tell him because I didn’t want him, or anyone else, to get hurt. Then I thought about how Colin gave Jack a nasty concussion that night, and I decided that in this particular case, knowing couldn’t hurt.
“He’s a mage,” I started.
Jack snorted. “Yeah, I kind of gathered that,” he said.
I gave him a nasty look, but I continued. “He wants to build an army, and then go to war against the mage’s court and expose the world of the supernatural to mortals.”
His eyes widened. “Oh…”
I nodded. “Yeah,” I scoffed. “He thinks that the world will be a better place if the mortals knew who we were. He thinks we’ll be able to live harmoniously with them.”
Jack was shaking his head before I finished my statement. “That won’t happen,” he said. “I’ve seen towns get torn apart from things like that before.”
I nodded. “Imagine if the entire world was like that,” I said.
Jack frowned. “You said he’s building an army,” he said. “Does he…?”
I nodded again. “Yeah, he wants me to be a part of it.”
I shrugged. “Because I’m strong, apparently?” I didn’t like it. I may be a strong mage, but I hadn’t even learned all of what I could do yet. How could I be of any use to him?
We hiked in silence for another mile before the hairs on the back of my neck suddenly stood on end. I felt the distant tremors shaking in the earth, and I barely had time to brace myself before the earth shook violently.
Jack and I ran across the roiling earth, stepping quickly to avoid being sucked down. When we reached solid ground, we both spun around. Jack drew two of his hunting knives, while I summoned fire to my hands.
Colin stood on the other end of the turned-up earth, breathing heavily. He was covered in dirt, and he had a murderous gleam in his eye. Standing next to him, fur sticking up in every direction, was the werewolf that accompanied him. Daniel.
The wolf snarled, pacing back and forth. Colin seethed and spat out, “I told you I’d get out!” He crouched and slammed his fists into the ground, sending a wave of earth coming straight at us.
This wasn’t the best time to test my still-growing abilities, but I couldn’t see any other options. I stepped forward, stomping my foot into the ground as I willed the earth to stop. It listened, the wave stopping just before it reached us. Colin shrieked in anger and began firing blasts of magefire at us.
I dodged the blasts, ducking behind a tree. I spun around, firing blasts of fire at him. I caught him in the face and he screamed in pain, falling to the forest floor.
I was about to run at him, but another sound caught my attention: Jack’s scream of pain. I spun my head around, frozen in shock and horror as I watched Daniel clamp his jaws onto Jack’s shoulder.
I turned my attention to the werewolf, firing a rapid succession of fireballs at him. The wolf howled and snarled in pain before turning and racing off into the forest. Colin laughed and I spun my head around to look at him.
“I told you I was coming for you,” he said, still laughing. He pushed himself to his feet, grinning as he said, “I’m going to hurt everyone you care about, and then I’m going to kill you slowly.”
I shrieked and threw everything I had at him. The earth twisted and roiled underneath his feet, while I shot blasts of fire and magefire at him. The air seemed to listen to me as well, because he was suddenly buffeted on all sides by fierce, high winds.
He laughed, actually laughed, through all of this. Through the chaos, he grinned one more time before snapping his fingers and disappearing. I screamed in frustration, sending blasts of fire to where he was standing. It wasn’t until I heard Jack’s moan of pain that I forced myself to focus on the present.
I raced over to Jack’s side, throwing myself to my knees beside him. “No, no, no…” I murmured, pressing my hands to the wound on his shoulder. At my touch he screamed, trying to pull away.
“I’m so sorry,” I sobbed, hardly able to see through my tears. “I’m so, so, so sorry, Jack…”
His hand lashed out, catching my wrist. He tried to smile at me, but it was more of a grimace because of the pain he was in. Gasping for breath, I reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone. At the moment, I didn’t know who was calling, but when I heard my dad’s voice on the other end, I started sobbing uncontrollably.
Through the gasps and sobs, I managed to say, “Daddy, it’s Jack… he’s been bitten.”