Waking up was more difficult than normal. Kestrel blinked a couple of times before attempting to move. It almost felt like she had a hangover but she knew she hadn’t gone out drinking the night before. All she could remember clearly was going to the library in the neutral area because she needed a book for an assignment and then there was just a fuzzy blank. Slowly she sat up. At first she just wanted to lie back down to get rid of the headache. Then she realised that she was in a room she had never been in before. Breathing deeply she slipped off the bed, her unexpectedly bare feet touching carpet. There was no doubt in her mind that something bad had happened when she was in the neutral area because neutral didn’t mean safe. Nowhere was safe and she was sure she had been careful. Obviously she hadn’t been careful enough.
There was no need to try to be silent because the carpet soaked up all sound. She was sure that someone would be outside the door, even if it was open, but that didn’t stop her from trying the door handle. When she found the door was locked she went over to the window to try that. To her surprise it opened. For a moment she really thought it would be that easy. Then she realised that she was three floors up and the wall looked smooth all the way down. Sighing she stepped away from the window. If she tried to jump it then she knew she would probably break something so she needed a rope or something to help her climb down.
Leaving the window open she started searching the room, ignoring her headache as much as she could. The quilt was uncovered as was the pillow and there was no sheet on the mattress. There was nothing in the wardrobe or in the chest of drawers. If she wanted to make a rope she would have to make it out of her own clothes, which would never be long enough. She went back over to the window, staring out into the darkness, wondering where she was and how long she had been there. It wasn’t long until she knew that she had been there at least a night because she watched the sun rise. When she had left the library it was just before sunset.
She was grateful for the light. It gave her a chance to see where she was. The first thing she saw, because it was impossible to miss something that big, was the wall that surrounded the gardens. Her heart sank because she knew that not only would she need help getting out of the house but she would also need help getting over the walls. Escaping was going to be hard, unless her captors made a mistake. Sighing, she couldn’t help thinking it was unlikely that they would make a mistake because she thought she knew where she was. When she saw someone in the garden she backed away from the window because she didn’t want anyone to see her. It took her a minute to realise quite how illogical that feeling was. Everyone in the house probably already knew she was there as it was an achievement for anyone to capture someone from the Black Hollow.
Instead of feeling any anger, like she had expected, she just felt disappointed with herself. Falcon would be angry enough for both if them. She couldn’t stop herself from shuddering when she thought of him raging around his study and thinking of ways to get her back. The last thing she wanted him to do was come after her because that would just make things a hundred times worse. He needed to stay away. Breathing deeply she sat down on the floor at the end of the bed. It didn’t take her long to enter the meditative state she needed to be in to contact him. Long hours of practice had made it easier than walking.
The only thing she could do was send herself to him because she wasn’t at a high enough level to contact him telepathically. If she was male then she would be but as far as her teacher was concerned green level was more than high enough for a nineteen-year-old female. As her teacher was Falcon there was no getting around the rule. That hadn’t stopped her from trying though. Shaking her head she refocused and found that she couldn’t go anywhere. Opening her eyes she stared at the wall for a moment, hoping that it was her problem rather than the room being magic proof. She focused on Falcon, knowing that she needed desperately to contact him before he found out where she was, and again nothing happened.
“Do you really think that he’s stupid?” a voice asked, startling her. “The last thing that Heliopath would do is let you contact Falcon.”
Leaning back against the bed, trying to seem calm, she looked up at the man who was stood with his back to the closed door. She ran her eyes over him so she could remember him when she escaped. The first thing she noticed was the colour of his eyes. It was the first time she had ever seen someone with bright green eyes. There was no doubt in her mind that she would remember him the next time she saw him, unless he changed the colour of his eyes. The rest of him was startlingly mundane compared to his eyes. He was wearing black, which was normal for a mage, without any symbol on it to tell her what level he was. She hadn’t expected them to make it easy for her so she guessed he was above red level.
“Magic proof rooms are expensive.”
“Heliopath values his life.” He smiled. “Not that you’re any real threat to him.”
A green level mage wasn’t dangerous to anyone. The most that she was able to do, even though she was very good at it, was send herself in spirit form to talk to someone. She could create illusions and she could scry. It wasn’t until she reached a higher level that she would be a threat to anyone using magic. She wouldn’t reach a higher level until she reached her majority at the age of twenty-one as that was when Falcon believed that females were ready to study the higher levels. If it had been entirely up to him she wouldn’t have learnt any magic at all.
“I don’t need magic to be a threat.”
His smile grew. “Do you really think this…” He brandished the dagger that Falcon had given her as a thirteenth birthday present. “…would do anything at all?”
Kestrel laughed coldly. “If I stuck that in Heliopath he’d be dead within seconds.”
Being a green level mage wasn’t enough for her. It never had been. Instead of getting angry at the system she chose to use her time wisely. Magic wasn’t the only way to kill someone but it was the best known. If a black level mage threw a death spell, even from a distance, the person they aimed it at would die instantly but not many people ever managed to reach black. It took too much out of a person to use that much power. She knew that she was unlikely to ever reach black or any of the top levels, so she focused instead on learning about other ways of killing. The man by the door suddenly looked thoughtful.
“What have you used on the blade?”
“Do you think I’m stupid?”
An instant later the blade close to her throat but not quite touching. “You can tell me or I can kill you. It’s as simple as that.”
The only sounds in the room became that of the two of them breathing. She wasn’t sure whether to believe that he would kill her. He sounded deadly serious but she couldn’t see Heliopath being very happy that he had killed someone who could be used a leverage against Falcon.
“You don’t need to be alive,” he whispered into her ear, letting the dagger touch her skin. “You’ll be just as useful dead. Falcon won’t know that we’ve killed you until it’s too late.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier to just kill me then?”
“Heliopath thinks you could be useful, in time.”
“It will take a lot of time.”
“If that’s true then I really should just kill you.”
She didn’t particularly want to die but the thought of death didn’t terrify her enough to make her give in. “Maybe you should.”
There was a moment when she thought he really would just kill her and then he took the knife away from her throat. She couldn’t stop herself from checking to make sure that the blade hadn’t nicked her, even though she knew without a doubt that he was a professional with a knife. When she looked back at him he was smirking at her. The dagger was still in his hand.
“I think I’ll enjoy making you one of ours.”
“Do you really think you’ll be able to?”
“Yes, Kestrel, I do.” He slipped her dagger into a small sheath at his side. “There’s no real reason for you to be loyal to Falcon and the people of the Hollow. If you work with us we can teach you magic that you wouldn’t learn there until you reach twenty-one.”
“Magic isn’t that important.”
“Have you ever spent longer than a day not doing any magic at all?” She shook her head, not understanding what he was getting at. “I’ll be back tomorrow.”
Without saying another word he left the room and Kestral was alone again. She knew that he had some knowledge that she didn’t so a part of her was terrified. It was the part of her that was usually terrified but she refused to acknowledge that it even existed. That day was no different. Pushing her fear to the back of her mind she focused on what she had found out during the short meeting with Heliopath’s messenger.
She knew, like everyone did, that Heliopath collected strong mages. It was what he had done from the moment he had appeared in town from out of nowhere. There was no reason for him to go after her because she wasn’t a strong mage, so it was obvious that someone had just got lucky and he’d decided to use her to get to Falcon. Falcon was a blue level mage, which made him stronger than any other mage in the town apart from Heliopath. Heliopath either wanted Falcon on his side or dead. If anyone knew who she really was then she’d be an even better hostage but as it was she was the only person who knew to what lengths he would go to in order to free her from Heliopath’s clutches.
There was only one thing she could do. It wasn’t a very safe idea but then not a lot of things she did were particularly safe. Feeling better for having come up with a plan she went over to the window. As she looked down at the ground she felt slightly nauseous. The feeling faded after thirty seconds so she climbed out and sat, as well as she could, on the tiny windowsill with her hands clinging on either side of her. Breathing deeply she let herself drift into her meditative state. She had just created her sending, which was much more difficult than normal considering the fact she had to try to keep away from the magic proofing, when she got dragged backwards off the windowsill and into the room. Her eyes met a green pair that were full of anger.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he snarled, glaring at her.
She rolled her eyes. “Contacting Falcon.”
He stepped over her and slammed the window shut. She watched him lock both the windows because there was nothing she could do to stop him. Sighing she sat up, wondering why he was bothered by the idea of her falling off the windowsill. Less than half an hour ago he’d been threatening to kill her with her own dagger.
“Is he really that important to you?” Kestrel just looked at him because she thought it was a really stupid question. “We’ve contacted him already, he knows where you are and he knows that you’re safe. If he joins us then you’ll be sent safely back to the Hollow.”
“Falcon would rather die than join Heliopath.”
“It’s not his life that’s at risk any more. If he doesn’t join us by the equinox then you die.”
“He won’t join to save my life.” She hoped that he wouldn’t at least. “I’m really not that important in the grand scheme of things.” Sometimes she honestly felt like she wasn’t in any way important to Falcon so it wasn’t even a lie. “If you’re lucky he might send someone else to try to get me out but that’s probably the most you’re going to get.”
He stared at her for a long time. “We’ll see, Kestrel. There’s time for things to change. The equinox is some time away yet.”
Without saying anything more he left the room. It wasn’t until then that she realised that she didn’t actually have any idea who he was. Not a lot was known about the inhabitants of the Grey Gardens even before Heliopath had taken over, because there had always been a mage of at least brown level there and Falcon had never been able to get to that high a level. She’d never understood why because she believed that he should have been well past brown but he wouldn’t explain it to her.
Mirrored from K. A. Webb Writing.