We finish the journey to Dalmerton relatively quickly with no further incident. I can’t help but to wonder whether Bartholomew is okay as we enter the city. We won’t know for quite some time, so all I can do is hope for the best.
“Where does Georgia live anyway?” Noah asks, following Tessa down the street. I worry that we’re sticking out like sore thumbs. Valek and his worshippers will likely follow us here and they will not hesitate to ask around for information about us. If they even suspect we came here, they’ll most likely torture people for information. Valek is merciless. I know that he will do anything to get the key from us and use it to get the book.
“She lives just down this road,” Tessa says, leading us down one. “Before we get there, I want to make one thing crystal clear,” Tessa tells us, sounding scarily serious. “We are staying for as little time as possible, and she is not to know what we’re doing. I don’t want Georgia harmed… She’s a good friend.”
I nod, hoping I can reassure Tessa and that we can keep Georgia out of this. “We’ll stay long enough to rest and find out where the book is, and then we’re gone,” I tell her. “We won’t let her get hurt.”
Tessa smiles faintly. “Thanks Damien.”
After a few more houses very nice houses, she stops outside of one and looks around the street. There aren’t many people on the street but it doesn’t hurt to be cautious. Anybody here could be willing to give us away. She knocks on the door, still looking around the street.
“I think we’re safe here,” Noah comments. Tessa glares as the door opens.
On the other side is somebody that looks a lot like Tessa. I assume its Georgia. She has long blonde hair like Tessa does, but where Tessa’s is wavy Georgia’s is completely straight. She’s very pretty, tall too.
Noah steps forward, smiling and offering a hand. “You must be Georgia.” She gives him her hand and like a fucking gentleman he kisses it. I can’t help but to roll my eyes.
“Noah,” Tessa snaps, pulling him away by his ear. I’m glad she did or I might have. “Down boy!”
Georgia smiles, hugging Tessa. “It’s been a while,” she says gently. “Is everything okay?”
Tessa sighs, shaking her head. “Not really. I hate to ask, but can we come in? I’ll explain everything inside.”
Georgia looks suddenly concerned as she moves from the doorway, allowing us in. I’m the last in so I close the door behind me and follow the others into what I assume is the living room. There are a few couches and chairs as well as a coffee table and some book cases.
Georgia sits on one of the couches and Noah rushes to sit beside her. A pang of jealousy runs through me, but like most emotions I ignore it. Tessa and Jack sit on a couch across from them and I sit on one of the chairs.
“So,” Georgia begins. “What’s happening? Is there any news about Aaron?”
Tessa gives her a strange look. “No, but let’s not talk about that. Actually… Let’s just not talk about this.” Georgia looks confused. “The more you know, the more danger you’re in,” Tessa explains. “All I’m saying is that these people are dangerous and I want them kept away from you.”
“I understand,” Georgia says with a gentle smile. “You can stay here as long as you need. No questions asked.”
“You’re such a good person,” Noah tells her, smiling. I have to stop myself from telling him to shut up. Is now really the time to be flirting?
Georgia looks at Noah, batting her eyelids. “I’d do anything for my friends.”
Tessa sighs, standing. “We’ll make ourselves at home in the basement.”
I stand to, as does Jack. As Noah attempts to, Georgia grabs his arm and pulls him back down. “Why don’t you keep me company Noah? I get awful lonely…”
Before I can object to this, Tessa is dragging me out of the room. “Don’t be too hard on him,” she says over her shoulder as we approach a door. Tessa opens the door, conjuring a light as she does so. It illuminates stone stairs, going down. She walks straight down. Despite not wanting to leave Noah and Georgia alone, I follow her. It’s not my place to feel protective of him. Who he sleeps with is none of my concern.
Jack follows us in, shutting the door after him as if he’s done this before.
“This is cosy,” I comment dryly. The basement has numerous sleeping bags sprawled on the floor and a few chairs, but that’s about it. I wonder how often Georgia hosts people in her basement…
“We should probably nap,” Tessa says, picking up a sleeping bag and shaking dust off it. I follow her lead, choosing a corner to sleep in. “We’re setting off tonight.”
Frowning, I ask; “So soon?”
She nods. “Like I said, I don’t want Georgina getting hurt. She’s a good friend.”
“She’s screwing Noah right now,” I snap. That’s no reason why she would be a bad friend but I felt like commenting on it.
“She does that.”
Rolling my eyes, I place the bag on the floor and lay down on it. It isn’t at all comfortable.
Turning to face to wall, I think about Tessa’s urgency to leave. She’s right to not want her friends involved. If I still had friends, I wouldn’t want them involved in this. Valek is coming for us and he will not stop to consider any collateral damage. If Georgia, or anybody, gets in his way, they will die.
“We didn’t even stand a chance,” Daniel sighed, looking out of the window with a sad look on his face. “Jojen seems so much different now.”
I walked over to him, hugging him from behind. “Well his sister did die. That changes people Daniel.”
He pushed me off him, walking towards the door. “Now is not the time for sarcasm Damien,” he snapped, opening the door and walking out. I followed him through the inn. “We’re at war and the first of us have fallen.”
I couldn’t help but to roll my eyes. “You’re being a bit dramatic,” I told him. “Yes, we’re at war, but isn’t that even more reason to keep a sense of humour?” I asked him as we walked from the inn. It was obvious we were going to see Jojen where he was still at the doctor’s office on bed rest.
“There’s a big difference between humour and sarcasm,” Daniel told me. “And neither one of them is wanted now, not when Thalia has just died and Jojen is still weak.”
The street was considerably less busy than normal. It was strange but understandable. Dalmerton was the headquarters for the mages during the war and the people were growing to be frightened. Four powerful mages going to assassinate the enemy leader gave hope to the people. Only three returning, one horribly injured, scared the people to the point of hiding in their homes.
We reached the doctor’s office and walked straight in. We had been there a few times so we knew where Jojen was being kept. I followed Daniel up the stairs, smiling at the girl behind the front desk.
“Think he’s any better?” I asked Daniel as we approached the door.
He shook his head. “Physically, maybe. Mentally, no.”
Daniel opened the door, showing the depressing sight that was Jojen’s room. The curtains were closed, leaving the room in a creepy light. Jojen was laying in the bed staring at the ceiling. Daniel pulled a chair next to the bed. “Feeling any better?” He asked, sitting down. I stood behind Daniel.
Jojen turned to us, looking at us with sad eyes. I did my best not to feel happy when I saw the man who ruined my life of travelling with Daniel so depressed. “I’ll be up and fighting again in a few days,” Jojen said dryly.
“That’s the spirit,” I said with a fake smile.
He looked away from us and back at the ceiling. “Why are you two here anyway? Shouldn’t you be off fighting the war?”
Daniel laughed lightly. “You’re our leader, we can’t do much without you. Nobody knows what our next move should be.”
“Obviously we can’t win this war by just killing their leaders,” Jojen began, talking slowly. “We have to win it by taking the cities they run and taking back any they took from us. Once I’m well again we’re starting immediately. We need to raise morale or soon enough people will kneel to the worshippers.”
I frowned at that, wondering if I should take it a little more seriously. Being dragged into the war meant that my travels and time alone with Daniel were over, but what was the alternative? Living in a country run by Daemons and their ridiculous, delusional worshippers? No thank you.
“It shouldn’t be too hard,” I said. “People still love mages; nobody likes the worshippers.”
Daniel nodded. “You have a point. We could send some of the weaker mages to do shows in cities that are recovering from any attacks. We need to keep the people on our sides. If they turn on us our chances of winning are gone.”
“Did you two do any shows?” Jojen asked us, looking at us again and smiling weakly. “On your travels together.”
I shook my head. A lot of mages showcased their magic to the public for attention and money. It was a good way of getting people to like mages. It reminded bored people that there was a magical world outside of their mundane city lives. “No, we never did,” I said. “If we ever get out of this fighting we should though. Fire and ice together will be marvellous.”
Jojen nodded gently. “I agree. What made you two travel together anyway?”
Daniel looks up at me, smiling ever so slightly with a nostalgic look in his eye. “Well, I grew up with a family that hated magic,” Daniel began. “Once I realised I had fire magic, I tried to hide it. Obviously I was not successful. Fire magic is too wild to control at first. Even now it’s difficult. Anyway, when I was eleven, two years after I realised my power, my uncle came to visit. He was a mage too. It was always tense when he visited because he didn’t care that they hated magic. They never kicked him out because he was family.”
He sighed before continuing. “While he was visiting my parents told him I had powers. It was obvious they wanted rid of me so they could have another baby, one that wasn’t cursed with magic, so my uncle let me travel with him. He taught me a lot during the five years we spent together, like good ways to die to a greater Daemon.” I laughed suddenly at that. Normally it was me who made the sarcastic and insensitive comments. “As I was saying… He died to a greater Daemon when I was sixteen. I managed to kill it after it killed him and continued traveling alone. After a few months I met Damien.”
I took that as my que to pick up the story. “He came to Ravenrock; the shitty little town I had lived my whole life. You’ve probably heard of it. It’s right on the coast and well known for its hatred of magic. The town hated magic so much that some parents would disown their children as soon as they showed any signs of possessing magical powers. I was lucky however,” I said, not exactly feeling like it was lucky. “My parents let me stay, but they… Punished me whenever I used magic, even by accident.”
“That’s horrible,” Jojen commented.
I nodded and continued. “When I was sixteen Daniel came to town for whatever crazy reason. We ran into each other in the town square, and as stupid as it sounds, it was love at first sight.” It was impossible not to smile when thinking about it. My parents had sent me to run errands and I stopped for a rest at the fountain. Daniel was sitting there, watching the people of Ravenrock with an amused look on his face. Somehow I knew he was a mage, I felt myself drawn to him. “Unfortunately, it was basically a forbidden love. My parents would never let me date another mage, so we met in secret for a few weeks. But thankfully, we didn’t have to sneak around for long.”
Jojen frowned. “Why not?”
Keeping a straight face, I told him. “My parents both died very mysteriously. It was… A real tragedy.” Jojen looked horrified. “After they died I left Ravenrock with Daniel and I’ve never looked back.”
He saved me. Daniel saved me from a life of repressing magic in a town that would never accept me and he took me to magnificent places. I realise now that need him back no matter the cost. If it takes summoning and fighting a Daemonic God to bring him back, and if it takes ignoring any ridiculous feelings towards Noah, then I will do it. I will do it all for him.
After what feels like only a few minutes of sleep, I’m woken by footsteps. I turn around and see Noah walking down the stairs with a giant grin on his face.
“Did you have a nice time with Georgia?” Tessa asks, smiling coyly.
Sighing, I sit up and lean my back against the wall. That little nap was not even slightly comfortable but I still feel bitter that it is over.
“We had a great time,” he laughs, sitting in the centre of the room. Jack and Tessa get closer him and I follow suit, hoping we’ll get off the topic of his sex life soon. “I hope we come back here soon.”
Tessa glares at him. “Until this is all over, we’re not coming back.”
“Speaking of getting this over with,” I sigh, “should we scan with the key? That way we can get out of here quickly.”
Noah nods, grabbing his bag and pulling the map out. He lays it out over the floor in the middle of us. Praying that this finds the book, I get the key from my neck and hold it over the map.
“Should I be saying something?” I frown. The map answers my question for me, lighting up a little. I squint my eyes, getting closer to the map. A town has lit up, one near the coast. My heart practically freezes when I see it. Asherton. “We cannot go there,” I say straight away.
Tessa leans closer to the map, looking at the city. Noah speaks up before I can. “Asherton was the headquarters for the worshippers during the war, like Dalmerton was for the mages. There are still worshippers there now, but not very many.”
“Unless they’re hiding out,” I put in. “I’m sure it’s where Valek has been hiding this past year for whatever damn reason.” It doesn’t make any sense. Valek is the most powerful person I’ve ever fought. Why would he hide? He could probably overthrow the government singlehandedly. The chances are he needs the book and key for something. Since he has the book in Asherton, we’re the only things standing between him and whatever madness he has planned. “We can’t let him get the key from us. Not when he has the book in Asherton.”
“So,” Jack says quietly. “Walking into Asherton to get the book isn’t the best idea.”
“Obviously,” I sigh. “But the fact that they have the book is unnerving. I think we should get it from them.”
Noah nods, but Tessa looks sceptical. “It’s basically suicide,” she sighs.
“Not doing it is also suicide,” Noah says. “They could be planning anything with a book that powerful. Anyway, how long do you think we can keep the key from them? It would be better to just go get the book because there’s no way they’ll see that coming.”
“I completely agree,” I say. I know this is what we need to do but I can’t help but to feel terrified. This could very easily backfire, leaving us dead and leaving them with the key and book. Though then again, if we die it won’t be our problem anymore. “We can’t run from them, so let’s run to them without them even realising we’re doing so.”
Tessa rolls her eyes. “Please make sense Damien, this is all too confusing for my little mind.”
Sighing, I try again. “They don’t know we know where the book is. They’re following us because they want the key. They don’t know we’re going to Asherton so once we get there we can easily get the book and get out without dying.” I realise how ridiculous that sounds. “Okay it won’t be at all easy, but it’s not impossible either.”
Noah smiles. “I think we’re at an advantage, and I think we should set off tonight.”
Tessa nods. “Agreed. I think you two should go into town for supplies,” she says to Noah and I. “Me and Jack will stay here and plan the journey to Asherton.”
“Sounds like a plan,” I say, standing.
Noah stands too, going straight to the stairs. “I think I’ll say hello to Georgia again before we go…”
I glare at him. “You most certainly will not.”
“This is a waste of time,” Noah sighs, playing with his hair as I examine the daggers. They’re lined up very nicely across a table and over a few shelves. Dozens of beautifully made daggers and even some throwing knives.
“Shopping for new weapons is not a waste of time Noah,” I tell him. “Getting the right daggers is vital in keeping me alive. With Valek on our tail, we really need to be prepared. You should invest in some new weapons.”
Noah scowls at me. “Are you going to keep lecturing me or are you just going to pick some damn daggers?”
I shrug, spotting two that I like. They’re long and wickedly sharp with a nice blue coloured handle. I pick one up, spinning it in my hand. Comfortable to hold, and perfect for cutting deep into Valek!
“What are you thinking about?” Noah asks. “Murder?”
“Yes,” I say sharply, picking up the daggers and walking to the counter.
A cheerful looking lady stands behind it, smiling at me. “How can I help you today?” She asks, tilting her head to the side. I hate people like this. What possible reason do they have to be this cheerful?
“Just these,” I say, putting the daggers down and faking a smile. I hand her the money, taking the daggers and putting them on my belt. I leave my old ones on the counter. Maybe she can make use of them.
“Murder responsibly!” She shouts as I turn my back and walk from the store with Noah by my side.
The sun is beginning to set now, meaning that soon enough we’ll be out of Dalmerton and on the way to Asherton. “Do we have everything we need?” I ask Noah as we approach Georgia’s house.
He nods. “Plenty of food and clothes for the road in our bags. Also some nice new daggers for you and a magical crystal for me.” From his pocket he pulls a small, shining stone.
“Why do you need that?” I ask. “And when did you get it? I’ve been with you the whole time…”
Smiling, he pulls a fancy looking sky blue bracelet from his pocket and puts it on. He places the crystal against the bracelet and the crystal vanishes. “My magical bracelet ran out of magic,” he says with a smile. Before I can ask what the bracelet does, he taps it lightly. From it comes a beautiful blue long bow that he catches in his hand. As he pulls gently back on the bowstring an arrow appears. Smiling again, he relaxes the string and the arrow disappears. He throws the bow in the air and it disappears again.
“That’s amazing,” I comment. “You have a sword like that too, right?”
He nods as we reach Georgia’s house and walk right in. “Yeah, my sword is also magical. It can capture different types of magic in it and wield it for short periods of time.”
Georgia doesn’t seem to be nearby, so we go straight to the basement. “You did that when we fought that greater Daemon. It saved my life.”
Opening the door, he begins walking down the steps. “I know,” he says as I follow him down, shutting the door behind me. “I was such a badass.”
Tessa stands, smiling. “Did you two get everything?” She asks quietly.
I nod, noticing Jack sleeping in a corner. “Yeah. But where’s Georgia? We didn’t see her when we were up there.”
Tessa shrugs, walking past us to the stairs. “I’ll go check on her. Maybe she’s just napping.”
Once the basement door shuts, I speak quietly to Noah. “I think we should leave Jack here with Georgia,” I begin. “He’s just going to get himself killed if he comes with us and I do not want his blood on my hands!”
Noah nods in agreement, frowning. Before he can speak a scream pierces the air. “Tessa!” Noah gasps, running to the stairs. I quickly follow him, praying it’s not Valek.
We reach the living room, and what we see sickens and enrages me; Georgia lays on the floor in a puddle of her own blood at Valek’s feet. He stands, smiling at me, holding Tessa by her hair at arm’s length. How had we not noticed this when we came in?
“Cloaking spells are just glorious; wouldn’t you agree Damien?” Valek asks with a grin. “Effective too. You walked right past as I murdered her… You didn’t even hear her screaming.”
Noah runs forward, too quickly for me to grab him. As Noah charges, Valek throws Tessa onto Georgia’s dead body, causing her to scream in horror. Noah jumps over them, diving onto Valek. I’m surprised when Noah drags Valek to the floor.
“Tessa,” I say, running forward and helping her up. She has her friends blood oh her as well as fresh tears. “Go get Jack and wait for us at the exit to town. We’ll deal with Valek...”
Tessa stands, looking somewhat defeated. “Can you handle him?” She asks.
I nod, not entirely convinced that we can. “Just go.”
“Don’t die Damien,” she tells me, running past me and to the basement.
Turning my attention back to Noah and Valek, I pull out a dagger and let my magic flow wildly through my hands. There is no time for mercy here.
Noah punches Valek in the face before jumping off, allowing me to blast him with cold air and ice shards. Valek splays his arm, causing the attack to deflect at Noah. Noah’s sword is suddenly in his hand, absorbing the magic as Valek stands up.
“Moved on from Daniel so soon?” Valek asks me with a coy smile.
“Don’t you dare speak about him,” I snarl. Noah is standing poised, ready to attack at any moment.
Valek just laughs lightly. “Then let us speak of the key instead,” he says. “What are you going to do with it anyway? Do you even know where the book is?”
Noah speaks thankfully, stopping me from giving us away. “Not yet,” he lies convincingly. “But we will find it.”
“Well,” Valek sighs. “I have a friend who hopes that you do find it. She looks forward to seeing whether you can handle the power.”
What the hell does he mean by that? It doesn’t matter. Most of what Valek says is lies.
Noah rushes at Valek, swinging his sword with a strange gusto. Valek easily sidesteps, knocking Noah over as he does so. “Your old allies were better Damien,” he tells me. “Shame they all died…” Before I can charge as well, he speaks again. “Save your effort. The two of you can’t kill me.”
“Is that a challenge?” Noah snaps, standing back up.
“Don’t be such a child,” Valek laughs. “Nobody else needs to die. Not yet. Just know that next time we meet, if you don’t give me the key, blood will spill.”
With that, he vanishes suddenly, leaving us with dread in our hearts and Georgia’s dead body.
Noah’s sword disappears. “He was… Quite a character,” he sighs, looking sadly at the body. I nod, unsure what to do. “Now what?” He asks, looking to me for guidance. I wish he wouldn’t. I don’t know what to do. “We can’t give him the key…”
I shake my head. “Obviously not,” I sigh. “We still need to get the book, but for now we should take it one step at a time.”
Noah sighs deeply, kneeling beside Georgia and closing her eyes gently. “We should bury the body before we go,” he says. “It’s our fault she died. She deserves to be buried…”
I couldn’t agree more. It is our fault she died. Now, more than ever, the real purpose of our mission is apparent. We have to get the book not for our own sakes, but for the sake of our entire country. Georgia will not be the last to die.