Stolen (The Evalanty series, #1)

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4.1 - Damien

The shootings’ echoes follow me as I run, hidden in the shadows. Neither the Guardians nor Caleston’s followers have seen me yet, but sooner or later, I will be discovered.

We were all immediately sent away when the news of the Guardians’ attack on a magic camp reached us. Alex and Nyla are a few blocks away, together with Lesley, but I work best alone and take the first best chance to slip away.

This is not the first time I have been in a war zone, although it is not something that happens every day. But I have honestly never before seen such brutality.

The Guardians’ attacks are almost similar to those from Caleston’s followers. Whatever the reason for this, it’s clear that the Guardians will do anything to achieve what they are looking for. No magician, not even small children or the elderly, is spared their cruelty. The screams that travel with the wind are mixed with gunshots, and the asphalt is painted with smeared blood. The sight is sickening.

I start making my way to the alley before me but am forced to back away again as soon as I round the brick wall. One of Caleston’s closest and most loyal followers, Cecilia, is further ahead. She holds tight to a red-haired girl who twists and turns, trying to make Cecilia lose her grip. Although I’m here to help those in need, I don’t intend to get involved, and I’m not stupid enough to go against one of Caleston’s most important followers without at least one of my own as reinforcement. But it turns out that the petite redhead is doing great on her own, and I can’t hold back a wide grin when she kicks the air out of Cecilia.

The way back is clear of enemies, but I can barely take two steps until something flares up in the corner of my eye at the end of the alley. When I look, something strange is going on between Cecilia and the girl: ropes of fire are slithering up Cecilia’s arm, causing her to lose her grip on the girl with a scream. The girl manages to tear herself free but quickly loses her balance. Something slides across the asphalt towards the edge of the street. The girl runs after it, but before she can get a hold of the object, several Guardians grab her. I take it as the signal that I have lingered too long and set off in the opposite direction. I can do nothing but regret the girl’s fate, but this is not a fight I can afford to take. It doesn’t benefit anyone if I am captured as well.

What I do not understand is where the fire came from. It almost seemed ... directed. Natural flames don’t move like that. There are some that can control elements, such as fire. But the element must already be present. That the girl would succeed in lighting a fire in the distressing situation she found herself in seems, to say the least, unlikely. To control an element, yes. But create it from nothing?

A few steps out on the next street, I stop to get my thoughts in order. This attack was different from the beginning due to the Guardians’ lack of mercy, and that one of Caleston’s closest agents is here at the same time is nothing short of bizarre. If more people from Caleston are here, it would be downright stupid to continue on my own.

Just as the thought of finding the others pops up, a movement in the corner of my eye steals my attention. Further down the street, a man moves away. Even if I only see him from behind, I immediately recognize him as Rylen, another of Caleston’s faithful followers. He, like Cecilia, is part of the inner circle. But unlike her, he does not scare me in the slightest. The best thing about having former friends as enemies are the knowledge of their Achilles heels.

Rylen seems to know he’s been discovered. His steps become faster, and I follow. He slows down and stops on a side street as if he intends to confront me, but before I have time to say anything, he sprints away.

“So that’s how it’s gonna be?” I mumble and run after.

More shooting is heard nearby, mixed with new cries of anguish. We were called here because of the Guardians, but if two of Caleston’s top agents are here simultaneously, there’s probably something bigger going on, and they may even be here for the same reason.

Rylen’s cendré- colored hair disappears between the houses and across the street. I’m doing my best to catch up. The cathedral bell sounds in the distance as a promise of safety for those whom the Guardians have not yet gotten their hands on. Magicians of all ages run past me in the direction of the church. Further up the street stands a girl, screaming and crying for her mother. For a brief moment, I’m about to change direction to help her but instead, continue to chase Rylen. If we are to end this idiocy, none of us must be distracted from stopping Caleston.

Rylen’s figure moves smoothly between the buildings and is close to being out of sight more than once. But my chance comes when he turns into a road that leads directly to the street on the other side. I disappear in a whirlwind of gray fog to teleport to the other side and catch up. The street is still empty when I get there, but Rylen’s echoing steps are approaching. I’m waiting out of sight, ready as soon as he’s close enough. The steps are just around the corner when I push my hand forward, grab his clothes and throw him against the wall. His head hits the brick and bounces back with a nasty crack from the neck. He staggers for a brief moment before I close my hand around his neck and lift him off the ground. He fights, kicks with his legs, and claws at my hand, but to no avail. He starts coughing and swallowing. The movements of the larynx are strained under my hand. It would be so easy to squeeze in and end his life. Think how easy it is to break your neck. But no matter how tempting it is, I have a mission to complete.

“What a coincidence,” I say happily. “I was thinking about you the other day.”

The sarcasm of my voice arouses the anger in his.

“I was hoping someone had ended you by now.”

“Funny,” I still counter just as cheerfully. “I feel the same for you.”

Rylen snorts at my words but stops himself when my grip tightens harder around his neck. My patience is wearing thin, and the desire to squeeze the soul out of this pathetic waste of life is increasing. But not until I have something to gain from it.

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