As we rounded the corner to walk up to the house that had served as our home for the last three years, my stomach dropped. The entire house was in flames. Eleanor’s sentence got cut off as she gasped in horror, and I instantly passed the bag of food into her hands, thinking quickly to get her out of the light. House fires in this area were not common. Most people had magical wards on their homes to protect from disasters like this, and even though Knox was a shifter and not a mage, I knew he had paid one to put protections on the home. So that left only one other option. Someone had purposefully broken his wards and set the house on fire. And that someone could still be here. Shoving Eleanor back around the corner I noticed a small alley nearby.
“Go hide in that alley. Don’t come out for anyone until I come get you.” I told her quickly, pushing her in that direction.
“Why? I need to go see what’s wrong! You can’t just leave me!” She replied stubbornly, turning around and crossing her arms.
“Elle, the person who did this may still be here, and there’s nothing stopping him from coming after us. I have to go make sure Knox is okay, and I can’t be worrying about you too. Please, for me. I’ll come back I promise.” I begged, hoping she would see my side and concede. She might not be as old or as good a fighter as I was, but she was definitely just as stubborn.
“Fine,” she sighed, “but you better come back in one piece.”
“Promise,” I told her, before rushing back towards the house. Stealing a glance back, I checked to make sure she was headed towards the alley. As soon as she hid, I rushed full speed back to the house.
I knew I was probably running faster than humanly possible, but at this point, I couldn’t care about getting caught. If people knew I was part shifter they would be all over me, and I couldn’t afford that, especially with all the secrets I had to hide. Neither I nor my sister were registered with the council, which meant we had to keep away from the authorities and live our lives like normal humans. If the council caught us they would instantly asses our powers, and I couldn’t afford for them to figure out about Elle and I.
What we were was supposed to be impossible. No one had ever heard of a mix between a mage and a shifter, especially not one with the added powers my runes gave me, and there was no telling what they would do to us if they found us. For all we knew, they would lock us up to figure out where we came from and why we existed. Because of this we always had to be careful
However, right now I couldn’t care less about getting caught by the council. The only thing that mattered was getting to Knox. I rushed up to the porch and reached my hands out, sending a birght burst of energy into the door to knock it off its hinges. My eyes instantly began watering as thick smoke poured out of the opening, and I brought my shirt up to cover my nose as I ran inside.
The house had a pretty modest feel to it, but it was by no means small. There were 5 bedrooms, three of which were upstairs, along with a family room and two bathrooms. The downstairs consisted of the other two bedrooms, two more bathrooms, a kitchen, a living room, and a hidden stairwell to a basement equipped with exercise equipment, fighting tools, weapons, and more.
I assumed Knox had gone to his bedroom before the fire started, so I turned left as soon as I got through the door to take the stairs to the second floor. Running through the family room, I veered into the hallway to the left of the TV. Knox’s room was the first one on the right, so I turned to quickly open his door. Looking inside, I didn’t see Knox anywhere, and my panic went up a notch. Deciding I didn’t have time to grab anything, I ran out of the room.
“Knox!” I yelled loudly into the smoke, but no one answered. After checking the other two rooms, I rushed back downstairs. Not bothering to check the two bedrooms downstairs since no one ever used those, I headed into the passageway to the basement at the end of the hallway. The passageway was hidden by a large bookshelf, making the entryway look like a normal wall. I quickly mumbled the word to unlock the wards that kept the shelf in place, pushing it aside with my shifter strength. Realizing the smoke and fire hadn’t infiltrated this room, I took a deep breath and rushed down the stairs. Unfortunately, Knox was still nowhere to be found.
The room was a fairly large size but had nothing but mats in the center. All of the dummies, weapons, and other practice materials were organized along the walls to give as much room as possible for when we were training. I walked over to the workbench on the far wall, finding a small sticky note written in Knox’s messy handwriting.
I’m very sorry for leaving you, but I had no choice. I love you and Elle with every piece of my heart and will protect you no matter the cost. Do not worry about me, for I have known this time will come since the moment I met you. The Ravens have discovered my betrayal and demand that I turn you and Elle into them, but I never will. They are coming for you. Grab whatever weapons you can and run. Never look back and never return. Trust only each other and never doubt yourself. The light will prevail if you stick together and stay true to yourself. Trust your instincts and remember your strength. I will never stop believing in you.
What on Earth was that about? With no time to question it, I quickly grabbed the note and tucked it into my pocket, turning to look at the wall of weapons. I was skilled in all of them, but my favorites were the daggers and the bow, so I grabbed a few small daggers, a bow, and a quiver of arrows. Eleanor favored the sword, so I grabbed two for her, tucking them in two cross-body holsters. Within seconds, I was ready to leave. After a quick stop by the safe at the back of the room to grab some cash, I ran back up the stairs, and rushed back to the front door, sealing the room on my way out.
As I reached the front door, the first thing I noticed was the large crowd of people gathered outside and the obnoxious flashing lights signaling the authorities. No way was I running out into that. Knox had said to get Elle and run, so that was exactly what I was going to do. But how was I supposed to get to the alley with all those people? Running back through the kitchen and into the living room, I headed to the back door, only to find that it was blocked by a wall of fire. The building was mere moments from collapsing, and I had to get out quick, so before I even had time to think of the repercussions I used what little magic I had to break the pipes of the sink in the kitchen and sent water flooding over the fire. The water doused enough of the fire for me to be able to control the rest of it with my elemental magic, so I reached out my hands, separating them in an effort to part the flames. It worked and I quickly rushed out the back door.
Sneaking around into the neighbor’s yard, I crept back onto the street and headed for the alley, only to find more chaos when I turned the corner. Elle had been seized by three large men in black and was currently being held by two of them while the third one attempted to tie her hands behind her back. Her mouth had been duct-taped shut, and although she could have used magic to get it off, I was glad she hadn’t. For all I knew, these could be the Ravens Knox mentioned, and we couldn’t afford to give them any more reason to take us.
Seeing Elle being manhandled had my blood boiling, and instantly I reached for a dagger. “Hey boys…” I said in a dark voice, slowly approaching them. “Why don’t you let my sister go and we can discuss this like adults. Trust me, you won’t like the alternative.”
The man in the back that had been trying to tie Elle’s hands stopped what he was doing to look me straight in the eye. Upon seeing me he laughed out loud, the other two men joining in with him.
“And what would a pretty little thing like you be able to do?” He asked mockingly, dropping the rope to walk around Elle and face me.
“You might be surprised. Why don’t you let my sister go and I’ll show you?” I replied in a voice dripping with rage.
“I don’t think that’s an option princess. You and your sister are both coming with me. We have been looking for you two for a very long time.” He said, walking slowly towards me.
“Wow. Yeah, you’re definitely in for a surprise then” I said in a slightly lighter tone. I was really looking forward to putting this guy in his place. Placing one hand on one of Eleanor’s swords and tightening my grip on my dagger with the other hand, I readied myself for a fight. Locking eyes with Elle, I said one word before all hell broke loose.
“Catch!” I yelled, before hurling a knife into the chest of one of the men holding Elle, giving her a chance to wrench free of the other man before tossing her a sword and reaching around for two more daggers out of my holster. Elle caught the sword and instantly began fighting the guy left standing. She knew some basic moves, but she didn’t have the same experience I did, so I had to be quick with my guy so I could help her.
Turning back around to the man that I had been talking to a few seconds ago, I had just enough time to dodge a knife swing before I countered with a strike of my own. Sweeping low, I swiped my dagger along his thigh, drawing a loud bellow out of him.
“You might want to quiet down a bit if you don’t want to attract any more attention to you,” I said mockingly before hurling the knife in my right hand, aiming for the center of his chest.
Normally I would have aimed for the neck to finish him quickly, but this guy was quicker than some of my other opponents, and I wanted to be sure I hit him. I didn’t know what this guy was, but he was no ordinary shifter or mage.
He had enough time to dodge slightly, and instead of sinking into his heart, the knife hit his right shoulder. Another guttural scream was wrenched from him and he staggered back a step before regaining his composure and coming at me again. Dodging another swing from his knife aimed at my midsection, I spun around towards his left side, using the hilt of my dagger to hit him hard in the temple. With a little added strength from the rune in my shoulder, the hit knocked him out cold. I grabbed my dagger from his shoulder and slit his throat for good measure, then turned back to face the man who was fighting Elle.
She had been holding her own alright, but she had a couple cuts and the burly man I had thrown a dagger at in the beginning had gotten back up and was getting ready to join the fight. Rushing in to help her, I threw a dagger into the already injured guy’s arm before hitting him with a well placed punch to the face, relying on one of my shoulder runes to give me some added strength again.
With only two daggers left, I had to be wise with where I threw them. I could always use my runes to manifest more, but I only did that when absolutely necessary in case anyone saw me doing it.
I could pull pretty much any weapon out of thin air and make them disappear fairly easily with the help of my runes, but that was not a skill that most mages had. In fact, I didn’t know of anyone with that skill ever having existed. That I knew of, no mages had ever been known to have runes at all. So, I always wore long-sleeves and full length pants and I only used my runes when absolutely necessary. There was no reason to draw unnecessary attention to myself.
Turning back to the man attacking Elle, I saw her quickly dodge a strike, whipping around behind the man to deliver a swipe of her sword to the back of his knees, severing his tendons. He yelled out and dropped to the ground, where she was able to quickly knock him unconscious.
“Nicely done!” I complimented, handing her the other sword and the empty holster to put around her back.
“Thanks for coming. I don’t know what I would have done had you not shown up. Where’s Knox?” she asked, placing the holsters over her body and putting her coat over them.
I walked over to the two unconscious men to finish them off as well, before replying to her in a rushed tone. “He’s gone. We have to run now! I’ll explain once we’re out of here. You have to trust me.” I quickly cleaned the blood off my daggers and placed them back in the holsters. After a year of surviving on the streets together, Elle knew when to follow my lead, nodding to signal that she understood.
“Let’s go,” she said, and we took off into the woods, leaving our entire life as we knew it behind us.