The next day, Talia emerged from her room as bright as the early morning sun that was rising lazily over Rome. She had already called her sleepy friend, Kristy, and arranged for them to meet at their secret spot at 7:00. She had hesitantly agreed, but she was only staying to see what Talia had to show her, she warned. Talia left a note on the kitchen bench explaining her early absence and hurried along the dirt brick road that trailed from her house to their meeting spot.
She had found that place when she was about six years old. She had been exploring the worn tracks with her mum, eventually become bored, and ran into the bush. There, with her frantic mother stumbling behind her, she had found what she had thought back then to be a magic glen. There were trees, shrubs and ferns covering the fertile ground all around it, but in between them, was a kind of ring. It was complete with a hollow trunk of an old oak and a miniature cave that went surprisingly far and deep. She had walked back to her fretting mother in a sort of trance, still captured by the glens beauty. Now, only her and Kristy knew about it.
Or so she had thought.
It was nearing 7:15 when she arrived at the ring, with an impatient Kristy sitting on the sturdy trunk. “So,” Kristy asked, trying to anticipate what she had to show her. “What is it?”
Talia fell onto the space next to her friend and started with her story. “Well, yesterday when I came home, my parents were waiting for me, ‘coz they wanted to show me something…” She trailed off, realising something she hadn’t in the heat of excitement. She didn’t want to tell Kristy. Kristy; her best, most trusted friend. For how long had they known each other, and told the other one their deepest, darkest secrets? But she couldn’t even tell her about the power, the rush from last night? Or gush about the dagger that was concealed in the side pocket of her red hoddie?
No, it wasn’t that she wanted to keep the news to herself, but because she wanted to protect Kristy. What if magic was real? What then? Would she rush into it, dragging everyone she knew and loved in with her? No, she couldn’t bring herself to do that. If one of them even got hurt, she’d never be able to forgive herself…
“Um…yes? What did they show you, Talia?” She realised Kristy was waiting for her to go on, with a quizzical look on her face. She searched for something to say.
“And, um…oh yeah! They wanted to show me an idea of theirs. Like, a list that I could write on to tell them what I wanted for my birthday.”
For a while Kristy just stared at her. Then, she jumped and almost knocked Talia down in a hug. “Oh of course! Talia, your birthday! How could I have forgot?” She squealed, like the bubbly, ignorant, innocent Kristy she was. For a while Talia was locked in a hug while Kristy gushed about her birthday, presents and parties. She wasn’t really listening anymore. Those things would have probably have mattered to her back then, but now? Now she had unlocked a new power, a new life. A new world.
Finally, they started walking away from their secret glen, unaware of the pair of eyes that were following them.
They were on the highway, on the path to Kristy’s house when the car slammed into Talia and zoomed back down the highway, leaving an unhinged Kristy by the side of a fatally injured Talia. She heard Kristy sobbing by her side, the sirens wailing, drawing closer and then she blacked out.
“Uh…hello?” Rosella was shaking Nyx uneasily. “…Person? We’re here.”
“Mmm?” Nyx mumbled as she sat up. She realised she must have rested her head on the window and fallen asleep. Probably not a good move in front of another assassin she hardly knew.
“Let’s go, sleepyhead!” Rosella grinned, pushing Nyx towards the door. She grabbed her belongings and stumbled out the door, Rosella following swiftly behind.
“So,” Nyx said casually as they walked towards a frost-sprinkled park. “Where are you taking me captive?”
Rosella glanced at her and shook her head. “I’m not taking you captive. You’re free to come and go as you wish.”
“So how did you know I was there when I was?” Nyx challenged her, elbowing her playfully.
“I didn’t,” Rosella replied, jabbing her back. “I saw a person at the side of a road and asked the taxi to stop, so I could check it out. When I saw you…well, I just knew you were one of us.”
“Us?” Nyx asked, prodding her again.
“Assassins,” Rosella waved her hand around the air, gesturing to the early morning sky, before jabbing her finger into Nyx’s side, making her giggle hysterically. “Ninjas, whatever. You saw it too in me, didn’t you?”
“Yeah,” Nyx admitted, as they came to a stop. They had come to a rusted garage door with a chain and lock wrapped firmly around it. But that wasn’t the only protection: Nyx could sense the binding spell wrapped even more firmly around the door than the padlock. Rosella leaned and muttered something, before taking a key out of her jeans pocket and unlocking the lock.
She turned and grinned to Nyx. “Welcome to my grand estate garage-hotel-thingy!” She cried grandly, sweeping her hand around the room as Nyx stepped inside and dropped her bags down.
“We have one bathroom complete with a shower, toilet and a cracked mirror, this lovely room with an AMAZING view of the tin walls and…uh…this door that is sealed, locked and barred in every way you can imagine for maximum security!”
“I’m loving it already,” Nyx muttered as she surveyed the room, checking if there was any room for a trap or another person to fit through and wait for her. Seeing only a few scattered mattresses, a dimly lit light, and a door that must lead to the bathroom, she drew her attention back to her over excited companion.
“So…what do you want to do now?” Rosella asked awkwardly. She looked at her. Nyx stared right back. Then they both cut through the silence in unison.
“Poking war!” They exclaimed and started poking, prodding and jabbing one another until they both on the floor, trying to catch a breath between their giggles. Eventually, Nyx hauled herself up and Rosella was quick to follow.
“So will you tell me your name NOW?” She asked, her grin so big that it looked like it was about to devour her face.
“Nope,” Nyx replied brightly, and swept past a frowning Rosella to the door.
“Where are you going? You just got here!” Rosella exclaimed curiously.
“I know, but there is some, uh, unfinished business I have left to do…”
“You mean killing,” Nyx turned around slowly to see a solemn look on Rosella’s face: something she had not seen yet.
“Yeah,” she said, her voice softening. “I’ll be back soon…hopefully.”
She turned back and left the garage, swinging the door behind her. She couldn’t let herself become attached to anyone, she scolded herself. What had happened to all the others she had cared for? Her mum…father…Kristy…Tesseract…
She wouldn’t stay for long. It was just another room for her to stop and revive at. Like any other hotel room. She shook her head and continued on her way. She arrived a few minutes later at the old roof top café, and flipped out her phone that was still working, despite being with her when she swam for a full hour. She knew the number off by heart.
“Nyx?” Dusk’s voice answered at the end.
“We might have a bit of a problem,” Nyx jumped straight into the news. “Meet me at the roof top café place now. See you then.” She hung up without waiting for a response.
Five minutes later, Dusk joined her on the balcony.
“Are they dead?” He asked. “All of them?”
“Not exactly,” Nyx replied, and jumped to her story. He nodded at the end.
“So, you couldn’t see any features behind the coat and hat?” He asked.
She shook her head. “I only know that he was BIG. Really big.”
He nodded again. “We will see to that. For now, think of Aquila as a side case, it’s too risky to take action now. There are two cases that I need you to concentrate on now. I think that these two demand more immediate action. They all work together. Do not underestimate them. They are all dangerous in their own way…” He handed her two files and left as swiftly as he had come. It used to frighten her that he could sneak up on her without her knowing but now it was…well, just as terrifying as before. Maybe even more. She looked down at the files. Two new names that burned into her head. Two more faces to join the rest that were haunting her.
March Pathway and Israel Elysium…
She stepped down onto the road, hating how she wasn’t able to hide in the shadows, like at night. A car passed by. Two more, and then a yellow taxi. She glanced in the mirror, and caught a glimpse of a tiny girl with amazing hair that was a burnt red to a charcoal black. She couldn’t see her eyes clearly, but she was willing to bet that they were a perfect crystal blue. She followed the cab intently, pulling her sunglasses closer to her eyes, and her hoddie further down. If she could catch this one alone, she’d have a better chance then going solo against two, or even four. That’s what she missed most about the days before. Never being alone, always with someone close by… But now she was older and stronger. She had chosen magic over a normal life. No, she corrected herself; magic had chosen her out of everyone else. The taxi swerved to the side of a tall, dark building. Nyx had just jumped behind a near-by oak when March stepped delicately out of the vehicle. Nyx watched as she ascended the front steps and banged obnoxiously loud with the gold knocker. A minute later, muffled voice came out from the other side.
“What’s the password?”
“Ha ha. Hilarious, now let me in!” Came March’s reply.
The door cracked open to reveal…
“Ah hell,” Nyx whispered.
Kallista Pendragon, Dragona Pine and Aquila Felis all stood crowded in the doorway, shifting out of the way to let March through. Nyx could bet that Bridget was somewhere inside, as well, and maybe even this Israel person… She crept along the side of the house, stopping just below a window as she heard voices.
“So, did you make it here ok?” That was Kallista’s voice.
March replied; quick and short. “Yep, no one attacked on the way,”
“Where do you think Dusk has sent the assassins?” That was a new voice, lighter and softer than the others. Nyx decided it was Aquila speaking.
“Straight after us. He only sends the best after people who he knows are threats to him,” The deeper, booming voice of Dragona cut through Aquila’s soft voice, and Nyx remembered the despair in his eyes…
“And we’re a threat. A huge threat.” Kallista finished for Dragona.
Nyx frowned. Sure, they must know how they would be chased after, but how did they know it was Dusk? And who was the bad guy here?
Nyx didn’t trust Dusk, but then, she didn’t trust anyone anymore. She had always believed that she had been doing the right thing for her. For her family.
“So now what?” That was March again.
“We go to Elysium Asylum, meet Israel and Bridget, and figure out what to do next,”
Nyx turned to leave. She had a lot of names, and more information than Dusk probably had. Israel and Bridget were somewhere where the others were going. Some place called Elysium Asylum. All she had to do was follow them, corner the victims one by one, and get the job done.
Except it never is that easy…