Just as Jude reaches the edge of the clearing, I hear a blood-curdling scream. Different from the previous screams. This one chills me to the bone, and I stop abruptly. I feel Maria, her terror, her sadness, her pain… then it fades. I choke as I realize what just happened. Letting out a sob, I fall to my knees. Toby must have seen her aura fade because he stops, too. He stands stiffly, breathing shallow, fast breaths.
Everything is quiet. Then I hear Jude’s outraged scream. I feel his pain, and try to block it out, but it’s all too much. I curl into a ball on the ground, reverting to who I was before I learned to control my ability. I can’t tell if it’s my pain, or Jude’s, or Toby’s. I just know that it’s raw, emotional pain.
I’m vaguely aware that Toby is running toward the clearing, shouting Jude’s name. Amy whispers something in my ear and my head clears somewhat.
“Your friends need you. Don’t give up now,” Amy says. I can hear the sadness in her voice, but I don’t feel anything coming from her. She must have masked her emotions like Haylee did. She helps me to my feet, and we catch up to Toby.
Toby is stopped at the edge of the clearing, hiding behind a few trees. The amulets must be helping to conceal us, because under normal circumstances, we would have been easily caught.
I crouch down next to him and observe what is happening. All of the witches seem shocked to see Jude, and stare at him in awe as he cradles Maria’s limp body in his arms. Blood spreads across the front of her white shirt. Her eyes are still slightly open, but I know that she’s gone.
Jude looks around at the group with red-rimmed eyes. His eyes land on someone and turn hard. “You! How could you do this to me! I loved her…” He says the last part tenderly and breaks down in sobs again. I shift around so I can see who he was looking at and see Haylee. She looks shocked and like she actually might regret it, but it’s too late now.
“I… I didn’t…” she starts, but the man, who I assume is their leader, cuts her off.
“Do not respond! You have done nothing wrong in the eyes of Inus! That is all that matters!” He turns to Jude. “And who might you be, young man?”
“Fuck you!” Jude responds.
“That is an odd name…”
A woman steps forward. “He is a gift! I know who this young man is!” The man turns to her for explanation. “This young man is my son,” she purrs. “He has great spiritual power. His body may even be strong enough to contain Inus himself!”
The man turns back to Jude, a look of awe on his face. “This young man… is Jude? Are you positive?”
“I think I would recognize my own son. Plus, look at his wrists. He still has the scars.”
He glances at his wrists and grins. “Incredible! What are the odds!”
During this exchange, Jude has been giving his apparent mom a death glare and gently lowers Maria to the ground. As the man turns away from him, Jude pulls a knife from his back pocket and starts toward her. I had no idea he even owned a knife.
As the crowd realizes what he’s trying to do, they all start shouting things at once. It’s like an invisible force rips the knife from his hand and sends it flying into the trees, stops him in his tracks, then throws him to the ground. The man turns back casually, as though everything that just happened is completely normal. He looks at Jude, amused.
“Careful everyone. We can’t have our vessel damaged when Inus comes.” He chuckles. “Are you sure he’s as strong as you say? He didn’t stand a chance against even the weakest of us.”
As if taking it as a challenge, Jude jumps to his feet and lunges for the man, who easily steps to the side. Infuriated, Jude roars and swings his fist. I know it won’t connect. He’s way too far away. But somehow, the man flies back anyways. I know that his fist didn’t connect. He was several feet away still!
Jude looks at his fist in shock, as does the man. Then the man smiles wickedly. “There it is. You didn’t even know you had it in you, did you? I bet you have no idea how to control your powers.” He laughs again as he wipes blood from his mouth. “I’d say I could teach you, but you won’t be around much longer. Restrain him.” Working together, the witches start chanting something that forces Jude back to the ground. He yells and struggles against the invisible restraints, but they’re too strong.
I turn to Amy. “What do we do?”
She looks at the scene helplessly. “I don’t know. I didn’t think… There’s too many of them. I’m not that powerful!”
“We can’t just sit here and do nothing!” Toby says. He starts to stand up, but Amy holds up her hand. When he tries to move into the clearing, something stops him. He pushes against the invisible barrier and turns back to Amy. “Stop it! Let me through!”
Amy shakes her head. “I can’t let all of you die here. I should have never helped. I didn’t know they would try to use his body as a vessel. Once Inus enters his body, there’s no stopping him. You would be killed instantly.”
“But Jude will be killed!” I shout in protest. I no longer care if they hear me, but I don’t think they can hear me through Amy’s barrier. I help Toby in his attempt to break through but it’s like pushing against a brick wall. “Let us through!” I shriek desperately. I can’t lose both of them in one night. It’s not fair!
Toby shoves her, trying to get the barrier to break, but it doesn’t budge. “Even if you knocked me out, this barrier won’t fall until all of my energy is drained. I can’t let all of you die. I’m sorry,” Amy says. She must have let down her emotional guards to put up the barrier, because I can feel her emotions now. She’s not lying. She really is sorry. It’s not enough.