sorry for the crazy wait! i might suggest going back and rereading the last chapter if you havent read it recently!

I tried to make this a little longer than usual, but tell me what you think! I promise to try and update sooner next time!

enough blabbing from me, here's the chapter! packed with action, I promise!


CHAPTER 9

I barely have time to get a word out as Selene takes me by the hand and starts dragging me out the door, speaking so fast and incoherently that I have to physically stop her.

"What's wrong?" Sam asks. "Where's Mal?"

Selene sobs, her eyes brimming with fresh tears. "One of the… the guards." She wails. "One of the guards caught me, and Mal came to save me, but they got in a fight!" Selene takes my hand again and tries to pull me out again. "We have to go help!"

I look back toward Sam, and she bites her lip, thinking.

"Okay, go find him, I'll be right behind you, okay? Just play along, and pretend you have no idea who I am." Sam says finally, shooing us off as she shuffles around her room. She gets rid of any trace of our being there as Selene rushes me out the door.

We run as fast as we can down several hallways, the clanking of metal on metal getting louder and louder until we reach the place Selene had left her older brother.

Several guards lay on the ground, though only one appears to be beyond help.

Three more guards crowded around, each wanting a piece of the person they fought.

"Mal!" I shout.

I see him twisting and turning to avoid the several blades coming his way, but he's already bloodied and he looks slower than normal.

Without even thinking, my pen is in my hand, and I'm on my knees scribbling out a spell I don't remember learning.

"Red Ink," I say, feeling as if the words were somehow familiar, "I cast the Spell of Fire."

The ink flares from green to bright red, glowing for a moment before the letters burst in to flames, and trail along the ground in a jagged line right toward the elites attacking Malachi.

The guards who ignored us before, now look back, and let out yells of horror as the fire.

One runs, but the flames are faster and it races to him and engulfs him before he can escape. The other two also drop their swords and run for it, and the magic fire follows them down the hall.

Malachi stands alone in a ring of flames, untouched by them at my will. He stares down at them, looking slightly amused and more than slightly beaten.

"Where'd you learn that one?" He asks tiredly.

I let the magic go, and the flames around him sputter and die out.

"I don't know," I answer honestly.

As he walks to join Selene and I we hear some loud crashing and banging, as if someone had just barreled through a kitchen and knocked down every single pot and pan.

"There they are!" The woman with a ladle screeches. Her pudgy face is red and her expression caught between one of extreme exhaustion and one of anger. Two more elites follow after her, and upon seeing our sorry looking group they run our way.

Mal sighs loudly and steps forward, ready to fight them.

But then I see Sam out of the corner of my eye. I turn to face her, but she winks, and jumps like a cat onto to her older brother, pretending to attack him.

Malachi yelps, at first not knowing who it is, but then grimacing and fighting back with half as much force he normally would.

She whispers something to him under her breath, and I barely have time to turn back to the guys rushing us and avoid a blade.

Sharp metal sings as it cuts through the air, and I jump back with a surprised squeak.

"Thunder!" Selene yells, her small voice followed by a low, deafening rumble.

Their weapons vibrate with the unheard frequency, and shatter like glass hit with a hammer. The elite's yelp and the one drops the useless handle, but the other takes his anger out by throwing the jagged and broken sword by the pommel.

It whizzes past me, nicking my shoulder lightly, enough to make it bleed, but not enough to make it a serious wound.

Selene is wheezing from the effort that one powerful spell cost her, but Mal apparently has a plan.

He makes a show of throwing Sam off his back, and using his key he slashes a doorway into the open air, and whips it open, standing off to the side.

Water pours through the open door, instantly flooding the corridor. It washes away the one guard, but the other wades through the rushing waters and pulls Mal into another fight. He ducks beneath a swift swipe of the man's dagger, but can't move fast enough to do more than block the second attempt with his key.

Malachi offers a grin as the guard looks at the key with a stupid expression, and he takes the man by the arm and twists.

I gather Selene up and hold her out of the water, which is now up to our knees, held in by invisible walls that surround us. The woman with the ladle screams and gargles, seeming to be afraid for her life.

As the water rises uncontrollably fast, I see a fish swim around my ankles, and I wonder if the ladle-woman knows how to swim.

The guard still doesn't let go of the green tinted dagger, but grunts. The water is starting to make them lose traction and slip, and when Mal stumbles slightly to regain balance, he thrusts away from the mage and slices through the air again as he falls back, giving Malachi a jagged cut on his left arm.

Both men fall into the water, but Mal kicks away from his attacker and to Selene and I drawing yet another door. He opens it for us and without a word pushes us through, closing it again without jumping after us.

And we're falling through open air.

After a long two seconds we hit water, and go down deep with the gathered force of our free fall. It's all I can do to keep a hold on Selene and kick my way to the surface.

We both take in a huge gasp of air when we reach the air, Selene sobbing out, "Where's brother?"

I gasp back, "I don't know… Selene we have to get to shore."

Her bangs are plastered to her face, and her long hair is a tangled mess. I can't imagine I look any better.

She bites back her cries and buries her head in my shoulder, shuddering.

The shore is in sight, less than twenty yards away, and we start swimming. The water is calm, and we meet little resistance as we make our way slowly but surely to land.

*(*)*

The girls had made it through, and currently that's all that matters to him. Making the two Free Form Doors had taken far more energy than he thought it would, but he had no other choice in both cases.

Mal has to tread through the water to reach Sam, but she just shakes her head at him, pointing to the door the girls had jumped through.

"I won't leave you!" He gasps out weakly.

Sam shakes her head furiously, and mouths, go.

Unbelievably torn, the relic mage finds his way back to the second door, dispelling the first that emptied lake water into the castle, and opens it again, giving half a second to look back at his once lost and now found sister. Malachi didn't want to lose her again.

But he had no choice.

He throws himself through the door.

*(*)*

We had just made it to land when I turned back to see what looks like a waterfall coming for mid-air, and then someone falling.

"Mal!" I shout.

He crashes into the water with a splash, and a few seconds later he surfaces again, and he swims our way.

When he reaches us, we rush to him, and he just collapses, breathing hard.

"Are okay?" I ask quickly. Even as I speak I can see several different wounds that scream for attention.

"Bag," He says between deep gulps of air. "Find the metal cross."

Selene pulls the enchanted bag away from her injured brother, and digs in it, going so deep I'm almost worried it might swallow her up.

"It's his healing Relic," Selene explains, fumbling to hand me the iron cross.

"I'm not bonded with it," I protest.

"I know…" He says, taking it from me with trembling fingers. "There was poison… on the dagger… I have enough strength… for that much." He clutches the cross close to his heart and closes his eyes. After a moment, the Relic glows, and he lets out a sigh of relief.

All three of us just sit there and eventually I break the silence.

"So now what?" I ask hoarsely.

"Now…" Mal replies, "Now we just try not to die…"

"You let them escape?" The emperor roars. "Two children running through the castle. Mere Children. And you let them escape!"

Water drips continuously from the elite's armor, and he quivers. Partly from the cold, and partly out of pure terror.

"There were three, sir… The boy, the younger sister… and another girl, with powerful magic." This guard's armor is scorched and blackened in most places, and he trembles as well.

"Where is Tevarius?" Leo demands in a harsh hissing tone. "Why has he not yet taken care of you insolent fools?"

The three bow their heads.

"He was slain," says one. "…With the same execution spell we used to…"

The emperor instantly understands, and his eyes burn with hatred for the Locke family. "IT WAS THEM!" He screams at the top of his lungs. "This is the highest treason, by letting them escape, you have endangered my very throne!"

Expensive china and silver goes flying, mixed with angry and uncontrolled spells.

"Bring me their heads, bring me their Essence! No one defies the ruler of all magic. NO ONE DEFIES THE EMPEROR OF LACRYE!"

The king falls back onto his throne, holding his head in his hands. He seemed utterly beaten.

"Who was the third child? The second sister?" He asks wearily, not looking up.

It takes a long moment for any of them to gain courage to speak again. All three fear his wrath above all else.

"We believe it was… the Cross girl."

Leo jerks his head up, and his eyes bore into the man that spoke. "What was her magic? Did she have a Relic?" He stands again, filled with a new energy.

"It was… a pen of some sort," One stammers.

Laughter bubbles from the emperor as he once again returns to his throne. It grows and grows until he laughs almost maniacally.

The Elite Imperial Guard worry he has gone very much insane.

"Two of three…" He giggles crazily. "I have Cross and Locke just out of reach… and they'll search out their third… when they find the third… I will have all of them…"

"I WILL HAVE ALL MAGIC!"

"You need to just sit there, and shut up," I tell Malachi firmly. "You may have cured that poison, but you are far from all right."

Mal jerks away from me, letting out a curse worthy of a sailor who had his arms chopped off. "I would be just fine sitting here, if you didn't handle that needle like a blind, disgruntled ogre!"

I yank the thread tight, and he lets out a very manly squeak.

"If you were more careful, I wouldn't have to stitch you up!" I argue. I had already bandaged his right arm again. The wound my pen had caused is still an angry and bloody red, not even starting to scab over in the slightest. The newer wounds had still needed attending to, and that included the partially healed cut on his shoulder, and several other smaller and less serious wounds.

"Sadistic woman… I thought you didn't even know how to use that damn pen," He growls, barely disguising a flinch.

I stop what I'm doing and frown. "I don't."

He stares at me with clear blue eyes. "Then what was that flame spell you used?"

I shake my head and continue with his stitches. "I think I remember it. From my mom."

"You know about the different Ink colors… Sam uses a Relic similar to yours, and she just learned about it before everything went to hell." His gaze is inquisitive and for some reason I can't meet his eyes.

"I don't know much of anything about my Relic," I say rigidly. "It was just a coincidence, I probably heard my mum use the spell when I was a baby and something triggered my memory to make me remember it."

"I don't believe in coincidence. No mage does."

I can feel my cheeks heat up as blood rushes to them. I finish working on this particular stitch job and cut the thread, tying it off. I try not to notice how amazingly rugged and gorgeous he looks without a shirt, even after the incredible beating his body has taken today.

"I don't know. Instinct maybe? I just don't know," I say with a sigh. "Okay, I'm done, now you can squirm all you want."

Mal rolls his shoulder carefully, and stands slowly. Picking his discarded shirt up and wringing excess water out of it. "Are you sticking with us then?" He asks.

I admit that I'm surprised. "I have a choice?"

"Well you can go if you'd like." He says sarcastically, "If you'd like to be caught and killed that is."

I can't stop the grin that lights my expression. "My, my… is this you saying you want me to stay around?"

His back is turned and he doesn't bother with an answer but I know he's grimacing.

"We're going to Carodyre. It's a small city a few leagues north of here. To visit a good friend of mine." He changes the subject easily.

"Who is it? A family friend?"

"You can say that," He offers mysteriously.

After only a day of knowing him I've come to accept his cryptic ways. "What's his name?"

"Her name," Mal corrects, glancing over to Selene to make sure she's still asleep. "Her name is Isabele Crowe."

I nod. "We head out in the morning?" I ask, poking at the dwindling fire with a long twig.

Malachi sighs tiredly. "As soon as the sun comes up, we're gone."


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