A War to Win

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Chapter Ten

The two of us sit in silence for about half an hour, just looking at the wall of flames in the distance. They’re slowly dying out, so we might still be able to find the others and get out of this forest before sunset. I dread to think what will happen if we get stuck here overnight. Even now as the wall of fire dies down, it looks terrifying in the day. It’ll be so much worst if we’re here over night.

“Who exactly is Deucalion?” Noah asks suddenly, his eyes fixed on the fire. He looks like a piece of art like that. His face is shadowy as the sunlight doesn’t properly reach us through the thick leaves, but his dark blue eyes have fire reflected in them.

“He’s a Daemonic-King,” I answer simply. “That’s all you need to know.”

He nods, and we continue to sit in silence. He seems a lot less talkative since I told him my intentions with the book. I feel like he’ll hold it against me. I’m equally to blame for what has happened between us, putting all the guilt on Noah is just wrong of me.

Sighing, I decide it’s time to make amends. It’s wrong of me to let us go on in this tension. “Noah, I’m sorry,” I begin, swallowing my pride. “I gave you false hope and it was wrong of me.”

He smiles, looking at me now instead of the distant fire. “It’s fine,” he says tiredly. “You lost the love of your life and I tried to fill the hole in your heart. I took advantage of you when you were vulnerable.”

“No you didn’t Noah,” I say, laughing slightly. I didn’t realise he actually felt guilty about it. “Let’s just forget about it, okay? Let’s just be friends.”

“Friends who fight Daemonic-God together? I’d love that.”

I frown. What’s he saying? “I don’t think you should come with me, once we have the book. What I’m doing is basically suicide…”

Noah laughs, standing up and stretching. “It’s suicide if you do it alone,” he tells me. “And I want to see how it ends for you, because either way you’ll end up with Daniel. Dead or alive.”

That’s one way to put it. Why had I not thought about it like that before? It’s a horrifically reassuring way to think about my mission. Win or lose, live or die, I’ll be with Daniel. “I’ll help you too,” I say finally. “With whatever you need the book for.” I don’t ask what he needs it for. I’ll do whatever it takes to help him.

He offers me a hand, and I take it, pulling myself up. The fire is basically dead now. Just a few thick pillars of smoke emerge into the cloudy sky. “We should head back to where we were separated,” Noah says. “That’s where they’ll probably go once the fire dies down.”

I nod and begin walking in that direction. It feels a lot less tense now as he walks beside me. There may still be some feelings still here, because let’s face it; feelings never truly die, but that doesn’t matter. We’re allies. Friends. It feels healthy.

“I hope they’re okay,” I sigh as we walk. “Deucalion won’t spare anybody if it’s Diana he’s after. If we get in the way, we’ll be turned to dust.” Noah giggles, causing me to be very confused. “What’s funny?” I ask.

“I just find it really funny that a Daemonic-King is trying to kill a little girl,” he says. “Surely he must have better things to do.”

It does strike me as strange. Diana mentioned that her mother angered him, but what could she possibly have done to anger Deucalion? She did also mention that she has powerful parents… She did make a bridge out of pebbles and mud. That was very powerful magic right there.

I sigh. “There’s something seriously wrong with that girl,” I say. Noah nods in agreement. “What could her mother have done to piss off Deucalion so much that he would try to kill a child? It seems so strange.”

“It seems so inconvenient,” Noah comments dryly. “We could probably be out of this forest by now if not for that little bitch.”

“She did create a bridge for us,” I point out. “We probably would have had to walk around the river if she didn’t.”

The fire is completely gone now and the burned earth lies shortly ahead of us. Just a few embers remain but no trees. Anything in the line of fire has been burned to the ground, basically leaving a thick line of dead trees across the forest.

“That must have been really strong fire,” Noah says, laughing nervously. Strong enough to burn through a forest? Evidently. Strong enough to kill our allies? Probably. “You should really have used your magic to kill the fire,” Noah tells me.

I can’t help but to glare. “Ice is useless against fire, and my wind magic isn’t strong enough to take on fire created by a Daemonic-God.”

Looking around for any signs of them, I notice faint footprints in the burned ground. “Look,” I say, pointing, “They’re heading back to the lake.”

Noah frowns. “How do you know those are their footprints?” He asks sceptically. “It could be a trick to lead us to our inevitable deaths.”

Laughing, I begin walking back to the lake. He follows despite his concerns. “If Deucalion wanted us dead he would just kill us,” I tell Noah. It does strike me as weird that Deucalion isn’t killing me while he’s here, but maybe he forgot what I did during the war. Alternatively, I could just not be worth his time. Or any Daemon’s time for that matter… I assumed once the Daemonic world learned I was alive they would hunt me, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Surely they must know I’m alive by now.

“Good point,” Noah sighs.

It doesn’t take us long to get to the lake but by the time we do it has begun to rain. Not heavily, just a slight drizzle. It’s quite convenient as it will weaken Deucalion. Hopefully.

Tessa, Jack and Diana sit beside the lake. Tessa has a cloth over her left arm, Jack seems to be tending to it while Diana just stares at the lake with vacant eyes.

“Oh good, you guys are okay,” Noah says as we approach. “What happened to your arm?”

Tessa pushes Jack off and wraps it up herself. “The fire burned me,” she tells us sulkily. “Thankfully none of us were killed. Once it died down we came straight here.”

Sighing, I sit beside her. Noah follows my lead. “Where’s Deucalion?” I ask. “It seems weird that he just let the fire die.”

Tessa lays down, looking up at the sky and letting the light rain wash over her. I’m tempted to advise against it as she’ll get grass and mud in her hair, but I decide against it. I feel like Tessa does what she wants, when she wants and nothing I say will stop that. “I cast another cloaking spell, we have maybe an hour before he’ll realise we’re still alive.”

“You really shouldn’t cast so many cloaking spells,” Noah tells her with a concerned frown. “They really drain you.” It strikes me as weird that Noah is worried about her.

“You’re telling me,” she mumbles, closing her eyes. “If it keeps us safe it’s worth it though.”

It’s hard not to smile at that comment and it’s even harder to not feel a twinge of affection. She said us, not just her. Maybe she’s starting to care about us all. Maybe I am too. Caring about allies can be dangerous but also lifesaving. That’s a lesson I learned the hard way.

A week passed after I almost killed Jojen before I spoke to him again. As night drew in one night Daniel and I heard a knock on the door. We were laying on the bed together at the time. Just lying there, talking about the good days, before the war. I hadn’t told him what had happened between Jojen and I. It was safe to assume Jojen hadn’t either as Daniel hadn’t confronted me.

Daniel stood up, leaving me on the bed. I sat up against the wall and looked as he opened the door.

Jojen walked in without an invitation. He looked ready to travel, with a pack over his shoulder and a sword in a sheath on his belt. He was wearing travel clothes; obviously fit for combat. “Get ready,” he said. “We need to go now.”

I stood, frowning. “Go where? It’s a bit late,” I told him, looking out the window. The sun had almost set and the stars were starting to shine.

“The worshippers took over a nearby town yesterday; Rishoven,” Jojen explained. “If we go now the four of us can take it back quite quickly. There are only a couple of worshippers and Daemons.”

“Four of us?” Daniel asked, looking around as if expecting somebody. A small, naïve part of me hoped that Talia would appear and tell us that her death was nothing but a sick joke. There was no such luck.

Jojen nodded. “I have a friend coming with us, he’ll be useful,” he informed us. “Hurry up and meet us downstairs.” With that he left the room and closed the door.

I felt a strange sense of obligation which drove me to change into clothes more suited to battle. Daniel gave me a perplexed look. “I expected objections from you,” he laughed, following my lead.

“I’m feeling more motivated to fight this war,” I told him as I attached my daggers to my belt. “It’s what’s right. We can save lives here. So, so many lives.” That wasn’t exactly the truth. I just felt like I owed it to Jojen, and maybe Daniel. There comes a time in life when what you want stops mattering.

Daniel smiled before walking over and hugging me tightly. “I’m so glad you’re seeing it this way now,” he told me, letting go. “We’re going to change this country.”

I walked to the door, wondering who Jojen was bringing with us. Hopefully they wouldn’t die. I didn’t think I could handle another death of a good person. Daniel followed me to the door and then downstairs. Jojen was sat at a table in the lobby with a tall guy. They both stood as we approached.

The man was the same height as me. He had a cute, tanned face with a crown of short golden hair that fell into a fringe over his forehead. He had strange eyes that were a gorgeous mix of blue and green with a few specks of yellow. He radiated a magical presence unlike one I had felt before.

“Hey,” he said with a smile, extending a hand towards me. “I’m Isaac Hawke.”

I took his hand, thankful that there was somebody who talked to me before Daniel. Everybody always thought he was more approachable than me. “I’m Damien Harpen,” I told him, smiling. “This is my boyfriend Daniel.”

Isaac shook Daniel’s hand too. “I’m going to be helping you take back Rishoven, if you’re okay with that?”

“It’ll be nice having a new ally,” I said. I didn’t say it aloud, but I couldn’t help but to think about how it would be nice having somebody not already invested in the war helping us. Isaac gave me a good feeling. Maybe it was just his magical aura and peculiar eyes, or maybe he was actually going to be a valuable asset. “Do you have any magic?” I asked, noticing a weapon on his back. It looked a little bit like a golden dagger on the end of an equally golden metal rod. It looked expensive, and deadly!

He nodded. “I have illusion magic and I can use a few weapons too.”

Jojen interrupted us suddenly. “We should get on the road. Rishoven is only an hour or so away.” He led the three of us onto the street and then through Dalmerton. It was a nice time of day. There were next to no people around and the moon had just risen. “Apparently survivors are being kept at the town jail. I doubt there are many but they still need saving.”

I wondered where Jojen got his information from. He probably had scouts all over Wychelm, most of which probably weren’t even mages.

“Every life is worth something,” Isaac comments. “It’s important to cherish everything.”

As we left the town Daniel and Jojen began walking ahead, leaving me with Isaac.

“Every life?” I questioned. “There must be some exceptions to that.”

He laughed. “Even the lives of Daemons and worshippers carry value,” he said. “Without them, people like us would have very little purpose in life.”

Isaac had weird views that I couldn’t help but to question. “What do you mean by ‘people like us’?”

“People who travel, looking for things to do with their lives,” he explained calmly. “I’ve been traveling for about three years now and I have to admit, a lot of it would have been very boring without Daemons and worshippers to vanquish. They’ve made it even more interesting now that there’s a war. All of us mages and warrior types, we have a greater purpose than serving our piece-of-shit king.”

“Which are you?” I asked. “Warrior or mage?”

He smiled. “I’m both.”

“The spell is wearing off,” Tessa sighs, dragging herself up. “We need to get moving if we don’t want to be burned alive.”

I stand, sighing and stretching. Diana, Jack and Noah do the same. “We can just walk through the path of burned shit that Deucalion made,” Noah says. “He basically made us an escape route.”

“Or he set up a trap,” Diana says quietly.

Noah scowls at her. “And here I was thinking Damien was pessimistic…”

“Guys shut up,” Tessa snaps, making her way towards the path forged by fire. We follow her, watching her brushing dirt from her hair with her hands. “I think there’s a village on the other side of the forest. We can reach it soon.”

Diana smiles, catching up to Tessa. “That village is my home,” she says. “I doubt my mother will be there, or my father, but oh well…”

If her family aren’t there, then will we be stuck with this little girl? I don’t think we can handle that. Keeping Jack alive will be difficult enough. Admittedly, Diana does have powers, very strong ones, but I’d rather those stay away from me. They wouldn’t just strike down our enemies; they would destroy everything in their path. It just doesn’t make sense that she’s so strong… Diana is only about twelve but she created a bridge like it was nothing.

“Where are your parents?” I ask, hoping not to pry too much.

She shrugs. “My father is dead, he died long, long ago. That’s certain. Mother travels a lot. Around the world.”

That seems a little far-fetched. Her mother must be powerful since Diana is as strong as she is, but strong enough to travel the world? That’s ridiculous.

“That’s nice,” Tessa says, smiling awkwardly. “Sorry about your father.”

Diana doesn’t seem at all bothered. “All mortal men die.”

Noah sighs. “Oh good. She knows what mortal means.”

Before anybody can reply to yet another sarcastic comment from him, the ground shakes beneath us. I’m not all too shocked by this. Deucalion is here.

On the path above us ashes begin kicking up from the ground, stopping us in our tracks.

“Stay behind us,” I say, standing in front of Diana and Jack while pulling out a dagger. Tessa stands on one side of me, her rapier in hand. Noah stands on my other side holding his sword with both hands.

The ashes fly up into the air, fluttering around like a miniature tornado as a terrifying battle cry pierces the air! The ashes push away and fly at us. Instinctively, I put my arms over my face until they clear. When the ashes do clear, I see him; Deucalion… He stands terrifyingly tall; almost three times the size of any of us. Everything about him is humanoid. He has horrifying bulging muscles and dark red skin with strange black markings. He wears only torn rags around his middle.

Deucalion carries a wicked dagger in one hand and a spear in the other. The dagger is like mine, the only difference being his is ridiculously large.

None of that is the scariest part however. The worst part about him is his three heads; six unblinking black eyes and three pairs of pointed teeth, all wanting to rip our throats out.

“Holy fuck,” Noah whispers, gulping. I would probably curse too had I not seen him before.

He speaks. All three mouths move in unison. “Give me the girl and I may spare you,” he says, stepping forward. As he does so the ground shakes and ash kicks up.

“What do you want with her?” Tessa asks. She raises her rapier, somehow finding bravery despite the situation. Her bravery is admirable beyond measure.

Deucalion raises his weapons too, as if challenging her. “What I want with that Daemonic bitch is none of your concern, mortal swine.” He has a deep, booming voice.

Tessa gasps, glancing at Diana. What does he mean ‘Daemonic bitch’? Surely she’s human… “Don’t try to trick us,” Tessa snaps. “What do you want with her?”

“I want to hurt her,” he answers. His mouths grin horribly. “I want to hurt her like her mother hurt my realm.”

This is crazy! “What could her mother possibly have done to you?” I ask. “Who is she?”

Diana laughs behind us. “My mother is she they call Violet.”

Jack makes a noise of terror, moving away from Diana who continues to giggle.

I look from her to Deucalion. Who’s the real enemy here; the three headed Daemonic King or whatever the fuck Diana is?

“Who’s Violet?” Tessa asks, looking weary of Diana now more than ever.

“You’ll find out soon enough,” Diana tells her. She moves suddenly, raising her arm. Jack screams and lifts ever so slightly from the ground. He floats towards Diana, seemingly unable to move.

“Stop!” Tessa yells, rushing forward.

Diana raises her other arm and Tessa runs into a wall that isn’t there. She bangs on it, hitting it with her sword but it’s no good.

Deucalion steps forward, his attention on me and Noah. I turn from Diana, Tessa and Jack. Hopefully Tessa can deal with that while we deal with Deucalion.

“Enough of this,” he booms, raising his spear. He pushes it forward towards Noah.

Noah dodges it, thankfully, jumping closer to me. “How do we kill him?” He asks me quickly, sounding weary.

I don’t know… I don’t know what to do right now. What do I do about Diana? What is she doing to Jack while we’re busy? This is too much.

Tessa shrieks suddenly, causing me to turn. The invisible wall is gone and she runs forward, catching Jack as he falls to the floor. Is he unconscious or dead?

“Deucalion, they are not yours to kill,” Diana says calmly, walking forward, past Tessa and Jack.

Noah and I part to let her walk in between us to stand in front of Deucalion. The two of us share a confused look. A small part of me hopes that Deucalion will just kill Diana and then leave us alone. That’s the only way I see us surviving this…

Deucalion laughs, but this time only with his middle head. The side two are gritting their teeth, teeth that begin breaking and cracking, causing blood to begin pouring from his mouths… That’s just grim. “Everybody is mine to kill, little girl,” he says. “I am a Daemonic King. Who are you to try and stop me?”

Diana’s feet are taken off the ground, causing her to float up until she is eye level with Deucalion. “You know who I am,” she snarls. Her voice different now. It’s deeper, more demanding. “I am your worst nightmare! I am the daughter of Violet!” She raises her hands above her head and a sword appears above her. And then another. And then a dagger. Then a spear. They keep appearing, weapons of all sorts, all around her.

Noah and I run back to Tessa and Jack, watching the scene in horror. Jack is still unconscious but his chest is still moving slightly. He isn’t dead. Not yet.

Shockingly, Deucalion steps back a few paces. What a strange sight that is; a three headed Daemonic King backing away from a little girl, if that’s what she actually is.

All the weapons fly forward suddenly, all at Deucalion. He screams as they pierce him at all angles, stabbing through every body part with ease… He crumples to the floor onto his hands and knees. His head is bowed in defeat. “Mercy,” he begs. “Let me live…”

Diana laughs, a short, wicked laugh. “No.”

All the weapons fly suddenly out, sending blood spurting everywhere; over the trees, over us and Diana. The weapons disappear as Deucalion drops to the floor with a bang.

As he begins disintegrating, Diana turns to us. She has blood on her face and a menacing grin. “My mother looks forward to meeting you,” she says quietly. “And I look forward to seeing you again.”

She isn’t going to kill us?

Her eyes flash black and the ashes kick up around her, engulfing her. When they drop to the floor she’s gone. Just like that. All in one day she comes into our lives, kills a Daemonic-King like it’s nothing and then disappears.

Shivering, I sheath my dagger before picking up Jack who’s still unconscious. “Let’s get out of this forest,” I say quietly, beginning to walk. Tessa and Noah follow me without hesitation.

“This is my first mission that’s in aid of the war,” Isaac told me as we neared Rishoven. “Not quite sure what to expect.”

I assumed that Jojen hadn’t told him what happened when we infiltrated Asherton. It probably wasn’t my place to tell him. “Expect to kill quite a few Daemons and worshippers,” I told him simply. “And don’t assume we’ll all make it out alive.”

Isaac nodded. “I’m ready to embrace death whenever, and killing people won’t be too hard.”

Jojen and Daniel were walking ahead of us, probably talking about the other allies back in Dalmerton. Thankfully I stopped being jealous when I saw the two of them together. Maybe it was because I almost killed Jojen, or maybe I was able to stop being so pathetic.

“That’s a good attitude to have now that you’re fighting in a war,” I laughed. “Worshippers versus mages… It’s really fucked up.”

“It seemed inevitable to be fair,” he said. “We’ve kind of been in a shadow war for so long. The only difference is that now everybody knows.”

Jojen and Daniel stopped suddenly and we became a four. “We’ll be there within ten minutes,” Jojen told us. “There won’t be many enemies so we can just storm in. The plan is to head straight for the jail. We’re saving as many survivors as we can.”

Isaac sighed, pulling his weapon from his back. I had seen people fight with staffs before but never one like this. “I doubt there will be many. The worshippers have no use for prisoners.”

Daniel grimaced and we continued the journey in silence. It didn’t take us long to reach the main gate which was surprisingly open. Unlike Asherton, this town didn’t have a fence all around it. All it had was one that went a few meters and then stopped. What possible reason did the worshippers have for taking Rishoven?

“It’s very dark,” Isaac commented quietly as we walked onto the first street. “Can we come back tomorrow?”

Jojen glared, looking around. There was no sign of anybody… “Maybe they left. Maybe everybody left,” Jojen whispered. “Damien, Isaac, go check the jail for anybody. Me and Daniel will stay here and cast a spell searching the rest of the buildings.”

Isaac nodded, walking towards a street. I assumed he knew where he was going so I followed him.

“Be careful Damien,” Daniel said behind me.

I cast a small light above Isaac and myself, illuminating the street. “Look,” I whispered, looking up to the sky. What I saw felt like a sick, twisted message from the worshippers to us.

All up the street people hovered in the arms, bodies limp and arms up by their sides. They were obviously dead. Their lives were reduced to nothing more than a warning.

“Don’t look,” Isaac said, keeping his eyes forward. I couldn’t help but to look. How many of those people were innocent? How many had nothing to do with the war? How many lives were cut short?

The reality of the war was truly tragic and it was painfully apparent in the moment. So many innocent people were dying and there was nothing any of us could do. What made it so much worst was that they had to die, because the alternative was letting the worshippers win. More people would probably live that way but no life in Wychelm would be one worth living.

We reached the jail quickly and Isaac pushed his way in, holding his weapon in front of him. I illuminated the inside with another light. It wasn’t what I expected. There wasn’t exactly an entrance, it just went straight into cells, all of which were empty…

“I guess there are no survivors,” I said with a sinking heart.

Isaac shushed me suddenly, pointing at the corner. “There’s a trap door,” he whispered. “I’ll check it out, you stay guard.” I nodded as he approached the trapdoor. “Did you hear that?” He asked suddenly, looking to the door we came through. He had really good hearing…

“I’ll check it out.”

Stepping back out onto the street, I saw a man standing on the street, facing me. He began walking forward with sluggish movements. “Are you okay?” I asked, reflectively grabbing a dagger from my belt.

One of the bodies floating in the air drifted down and landed beside the man. They both began walking towards me and more bodies began joining them. “Isaac,” I shouted, holding my dagger out. “Isaac hurry up!”

As the first got close I blasted him with a strong gust of wind. He was knocked back into a few others. They were so weak and yet I didn’t want to hurt them. Whatever they were.

Another one got close. This one held a dagger in each hand and swung clumsily at me. Instinctively, I ducked until the attack and stabbed it. With a groan it dropped to the ground. “Isaac! We have a situation!”

He walks out suddenly, carrying a woman in his arms. “Run!” He gasped. He had blood on his face and was being followed!

I blasted them back, giving us room to run. He was being followed by another woman who, unlike the people attacking us, seemed very much alive. She had bright ginger hair and a pretty face.

The four of us didn’t get very far down the street. Our path was being blocked by a worshipper. He had his hood down but still wore a black robe. “You’re not getting out of this town alive,” he told us with a grin. He was young but gave me a bad feeling.

“I’ll deal with the worshipper,” I told Isaac. “Cover me.”

He nodded, gently placing the unconscious girl on the floor and pulling his staff from his back. The girl who was still standing balled her fists with a determined look on her face and charged at what I assumed were the undead.

“Why did you take this town?” I asked the worshipper, pointing my dagger towards him.

A black sword appeared in his hand and a thick black mist floated around his other. “This attack was a warning,” he told me. “This is the power that the worshippers hold. We can kill so many and then bring them back to do our bidding.”

Anger flared within me. “Killing innocent people is not a display of power!”

Unable to talk to the tyrant any longer, I charged. As I did so he swung his sword at me, splaying his hand while he did so. Black mist hit my face as his sword sliced my stomach. I screamed, dropping my dagger and falling to the floor. My vision cleared quickly and I looked up, seeing him about to stab down on me. I felt helpless and weak doing nothing but clutching at my wound.

As he stabbed down, Isaac ran at him, hitting him with the side of his staff. The worshipper was knocked to the side but recovered quickly, facing Isaac. They charged at each other, going to stab as they did so. The worshipper jerked to the side, dodging the dagger at the end of Isaac’s staff and stabbing him in the gut.

“No!” I gasped, trying to get up. It was useless, the pain of getting cut with a sword was too much. I was bleeding and useless to my allies.

Isaac grinned suddenly, disappearing and reappearing behind the worshipper. He brought his staff down, slamming it down on the worshipper’s skull. He crumped to the ground with a moan.

“Are you okay?” Isaac asked, examining my wound. His seemed to be gone. The Isaac that got stabbed was probably just an illusion… “You’re losing a lot of blood.” I couldn’t muster a response so instead I just nodded.

The girl walked over, wiping sweat from her forehead. “Get my sister,” she said to Isaac, kneeling beside me. “I’ll patch him up.” Isaac nodded and walked away. The girl smiled at me with warm eyes, pulling a bandage from her pocket. What a weird thing to carry… “I’m Allyssa,” she told me, sitting me up. I grimaced, my vision going blurry. She wrapped the bandage around my waist tightly, stopping the blood. “You’re wounded, but you won’t die,” she told me. “We’ll fix you up properly soon.”

Her words gave me comfort, and I nodded. “What happened to the dead people?” I whispered, my throat feeling strangely dry.

“They’re… Gone,” she sighed, helping me stand. She let me wrap an arm around her and supported a lot of my weight.

Isaac joined us, carrying the other girl, and the four of us slowly made our way back to Jojen and Daniel.

“What happened?” Daniel asked, rushing forward and taking me from Allyssa.

I wrapped my arm around him, feeling stronger near him. “Undead, I think… I’m not sure.”

“Are you injured?” He asked, looking at my stomach.

Allyssa looks around. “A worshipper sliced him,” she says. “It didn’t cut too deeply but it bled a lot. He should be fine though.”

“We need to leave,” Jojen said, ignoring our little conversation. “There aren’t any other survivors.”

I shivered, thinking of all the dead hovering and walking towards me. “Why did they leave only two?”

“They didn’t mean to,” Allyssa says. “They… They tied me up after cutting Adrianna. They wanted me to watch her die before I would starve to death.”

“She’s not going to die,” Isaac told her. “We’re going to get back to Dalmerton and she’s going to be fine. You both are.”

Allyssa sighed and wiped away a single tear. “They killed everybody. It was a slaughter. Even us mages were useless.”

“Don’t think like that,” Jojen told us. “The worshippers will pay for what they did.”

She smiled weakly and began walking from the town. The rest of us followed her, leaving the blood bath behind us.

Hours pass before anybody talks again. Tessa builds a fire once we’re away from the forest and the rain has stopped. I put Jack down on the ground gently, wondering how long he’s going to be unconscious.

“We should talk about what happened today,” Tessa sighs as she sits down. The fire is cracking now as the sun sets.

I nod, grimacing at the thought of that little girl with that horrific grin and blood on her face. “We should figure out who Diana was. And who Violet is…”

Noah glances at Jack. “I think he knows. When Diana said her mother is Violet, Jack backed away.”

We all look at him. How is he the only one who’s heard of her? Maybe Jack is useful after all.

He opens his eyes slowly, blinking at each of us. “What happened?”

“Diana happened, and Deucalion,” Tessa sighs. “To be honest, we’re not entirely sure. We were hoping you could shed some light on the situation.” Jack looks ridiculously confused. “When Diana told us her mother was Violet, you seemed shocked. Do you know who Violet is?”

Jack sits up, rubbing his head. “I feel like I did know, but not anymore,” he says.

“That’s what Diana did to him,” I realise. “She removed some things from his memory… How can she be so strong?”

“I guess the answer lies with who Violet is,” Noah says, laying down. “We can find out once we’re back in Dalmerton.”

If we get back to Dalmerton. At this rate we won’t even make it to Asherton, yet alone get in and out of it. “Yeah, when we get back,” I mumble. I lay down too, using my pack as a pillow. “Didn’t you say there’s a village nearby Tessa?” I ask, longing for a bed.

She nods, staring into the fire. “Yeah, we can rest there,” she says distractedly. “From now on we’re taking shifts keeping guard when we sleep. I get the feeling Diana will be back…”

“Good idea,” Noah says, yawning.

“I’ll take first watch,” Jack says. “I was unconscious for ages so I feel wide awake right now.”

Tessa sighs, laying down. “Just scream if we’re about to get murdered…”

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