Holy cow I can’t believe I am almost done! This chapter is the second to last chapter in the book. Not much to say, other than I’m really excited to finish! Happy Reading!
Gabe: Gabe (:P)
My watch went off at 5:00 sharp, rousing me, Lithal, and Bracy instantly. We exchanged looks in the predawn light, already wide awake due to our own adrenaline rush as well as quite a bit of the surrounding people’s. It’s actually happening. Lithal said, disbelief quite apparent in her mental tone. Oh my gosh, it’s actually happening.
Bracy and I sent acknowledgements mentally to her. This is amazing, Bracy said. We’ve been training for so long. Now it actually gets put to use!
We got dressed quickly and got our breakfast tickets. I picked up my bow and arrows tipped with sleep magic, courtesy of our healers. The arrows wouldn’t hurt on contact or cause any damage, internal or external, but they would put whoever I’m fighting into a deep sleep that could only be reversed by a healer. Lithal and Bracy picked up their own identical set of archery tools and we all stepped outside in the freezing air. We entered the nearest food tent, handed over our food tickets, and got in return a piping bowl of oatmeal with our choice of tea, coffee, or hot cocoa. We put some fresh fruit, cream, and almonds into our bowls and sat at the table with a few other people. After our meal and an intense mental conversation about today’s battle, which only heightened when the boys joined, the seven of us headed to the assembly field outside the camp. The ten researchers and the thousands of recruits were all starting to get assembled in their ranks. I parted ways with the others and stood next to Vera and Devon, who muttered a half-hearted hello. I could sense their anxiety.
About five minutes later with the practiced speed of a small army assembling, everyone was on the field, waiting for Katherine to give her speech. I shivered and walled out all the emotions that were getting even more intense as the minutes crawled by. Finally, Katherine and Amelia stepped down the central pathway of the camp and stood in front of the whole assembled Resistance. She raised a perfunctory hand for silence, but it was unnecessary. Everyone was already quiet. Her intense gaze swept over all of us, then her voice rang out, carried by the cold wind.
“This is a monumental moment for all. Not just for those of us standing here today, but for those being oppressed, the under trodden, the contained, those being kept against their will. Those who live in the constant fear of being taken by the tyrannical hands of the U.S. Government. This fight today, every move we make, sends a warning to those at the top of all imperious governments: the time for peaceful fighting is over. For too long have you kidnapped those with powers that could overthrow the government while secretly possessing those same powers. For too long have you torn families asunder for the sake of ‘containing possible threats’. For too long have you placed the needs of those higher on the social ladder before the needs of all. Does freedom mean nothing to you? Does democracy not come foremost when writing laws or passing executive orders? No, you put your egocentric interests before all. And that is why the country is unstable.
“This message we will send, comrades in arms, is plain and simple. We shall not put up with this tyranny any longer. It impacts all on this planet. Therefore, all must unite, as our gathering here demonstrates. All of us assembled here came for different reasons, came from different cultures and backgrounds and mindsets. But we all have a common goal. We are willing to reach beyond the stars for the notion that all are created equal, to loosely quote the Declaration of Independence. The happenings of late are going to become memories of the past. Our actions are going to change history. For good or for bad remains to be seen.
“I understand your training was hard. We all need to be hard for what is to come. Today your training will be put to the test for the freedom of all. For freedom!”
“For freedom!” Came the thunderous reply. The emotions in the air were charged, full of energy and passion. I smiled and let the energy fill my being. Today was going to be a day to remember.
“Mind readers, now is the time to take the minds of your regiment and link them to you. Then Eiskel will take everyone’s and bind them to me. Proceed.”
I closed my eyes and slowly opened my mind to everyone present. The five hundred minds I was supposed to collect pressed against mine. I slowly scooped up the minds and bound them to me, then I let Dmitri, Bracy, Lithal, Jermiah, Nathen, Caden, and Jeffrius (who had taken Aleiysa’s unit and Meldon as well as his own) into my head. I swayed and knelt close to the ground as the four thousand five hundred plus minds that were present all clamored in my head and when I got everything somewhat under control, I reached out to the shimmering white form that was Raijin and through him Katherine in the mental landscape and bound all the minds to her. Immediately, it felt as if I had a hundred pound boulder lifted off my shoulders. On the contrary, Katherine staggered and nearly fell as everyone’s thoughts raced through her head. With a direct contact between Dreamstalker and Raijin, Katherine asked me, Is this what it is normally like for you?
Yes, I said truthfully.
She mentally shook herself, then said to everyone, Tell your demons to transport all of you with Raijin as the sort of beacon leading the way. Understood?
I winced in sympathy as the affirmative of everyone lanced through Katherine’s head at precisely the same moment.
Dreamstalker swept me up and pulled me into the Void at Katherine’s signal. Even though in the endless expanse of vacuum it looked like I was alone, in my head teemed the frenzied mental energy of the Resistance that reminded me that I wasn’t alone. I walled myself off partially from everyone so Katherine wouldn’t have to hear my thoughts and contemplated the last few months as I flew through the Void. The training I had received at the hands of Katherine and the mind readers of those barracks had got me a lot farther than my own attempts at getting everything under control in the beginning had. In fact, the bonding with Dreamstalker had made me stronger and given me the confidence I needed to learn how to control my mind. Now I felt confident in the fact that I was now able to act like a normal human being in a conversational sense than I had been in the past, curled up on my bed in the solitude of my bedroom and the protection runes screaming into a pillow hoping to pass out. I was still sensitive, but I felt very proud of what had been accomplished these past few weeks and felt glad that I was using my abilities for something good.
What felt like an eternity later, I felt the crunch of autumn leaves under my feet and the smells of my childhood hit my nostrils. Around me, everyone appeared amongst the brambles and trees of the Maine woods surrounding Mountain Shadow. Katherine appeared last on a granite boulder the size of a small car, Amelia close behind. She looked around and nodded. Sólene, take your squad to that clearing over there and set up your healing crews. I don’t know if we’ll need all of you guys here. If not, then I’ll send some of you out.
Sólene sent a faint mental acknowledgement then gathered her unit around her, shooing those that weren’t her unit out. Once there was sufficient room, they began to set up tents and began pulling their medical supplies from bags. As they worked, those of us remaining formed ranks to the best of our abilities in the dense foliage, our attention on Katherine as she explained the attack. It was straightforward and fairly simple as far as attacks went, but definitely easier said than done. Mountain Shadow was about three thousand acres of buildings, tarmac, and foliage that the earth demons couldn’t manipulate from the inside because of shields that prevented escape unless you happened to be Dreamstalker or Voidwraith. The nine commanders and Meldon would close in on different points, freeing buildings of kids we came across as we went, then saving our main attack for the main building where the more powerful people and the LOST soldier unit would be. Along the way, the earth demon hosts would undo the barriers. If things got bad or if someone was injured, they could demon teleport out, but the strain of their powers being used added to teleportation could bring energy levels dangerously low. But since a lot of us had powerful demons and we all had learned to manage our energy, it shouldn’t be too difficult.
I motioned for my officers and their units to follow me through the tight pack trees in the direction of the detention center after the meeting adjourned. Overhead and behind me, I heard the windstreams of Neriah’s group as they took off and veiled themselves from prying eyes to attack the shields around the detention center from above. I hoped Lithal was with someone who had a strong enough demon to lift two at the same time. When the windstreams faded to silence again, we pushed our way through the brambles and shrubbery as quietly as was permitted in our present circumstances and walked until the earth manipulation that the earth demon hosts were using to clear a path was abruptly halted. Upon contact with the barrier, we all stopped to permit the earth demon hosts a clear shot of attacking the barrier. I sensed through the contact the probes they sent into the earth, testing for any weak spots on the shields. They went deep, deep down past the bedrock layer and the farthest extent of precious metals and oils.I thought for sure they would enter the mantle before the shields stopped (and that probably wouldn’t be a pleasant experience due to the extreme heat), but they eventually stopped and began to move forward, the strength of the many powerful earth demons present eating at the barriers. Slowly but surely our trek continued.
The barriers in the never ending woods seemed to stretch forever. It was not easy going for those destroying the obstacle before us because of the sheer extent of it. For the first quarter mile it was smooth sailing, but then it became apparent several were beginning to tire. I exchanged glances with Vera and Devon then motioned for one of the people who was most tired to step out, which she did gratefully. I gave her some water and some powerfoods that we had brought, then when she was back to normal more or less sent her back in and took another person out. We continued in this pattern for a little over a third of a mile, then stopped for a break. The earth demon hosts, a good fifty out of the five hundred present, promptly collapsed and went into the trans that those of their powers could go into to replenish their power and energy stores. While they rested, Katherine, from her vantage point on Mount Katahdin, contacted us. How far are you in?
A little under three quarter miles in, I replied. The earth demon hosts are resting.
Good. You have another quarter mile or so before you come to your first building. Neriah, Terrus, and Alladonna are already at the main building, shielded both mentally and visibly. I had their heat and light demons shield them. When you get to the main building, have Alia and her unit shield you.
Got it. What do we do when we get to this first building and what is it?
One of the outlying dorms. It’s for the less powerful but no less dangerous people. They’re typically younger, too. If anyone is there, although it’s redundant to say this, be careful. I was told that mostly everyone is in the main building, presumably mobilizing.
I grimaced. Great. What do we do if there are people?
I want you to look into their minds and see if they are being bound to obey commands from either the LOST soldiers or anyone. If not, have someone take them to the medical clearing. If so, try to counter the bindings with a restraining thought pattern. Then have some people stay behind in case they attack.
Sounds good. We’ll hop to it.
I motioned for everyone to get up, which ended up taking a good two minutes because five earth demon hosts were still in their self-induced trance. Once everyone was up and ready to go, I briefly told them what Katherine had told me then we set out once more. The quarter mile seemed to fly by faster, seeing as everyone was full of nervous energy at the realization they were getting close. All their training was about to be put to the test.
We stopped at the tree line and let the barrier be disintegrated up to ten feet past the front porch and had Alia shield the main group while I motioned for one of my officers named Neran and ten of his unit to follow. There were three minds in the building which could hold up to one hundred people. I crept around to the front, mind and senses on alert, then pushed the door open, wincing at the creak the hinges made. For how maintained the grounds were, the building interiors’ were the polar opposite. I stood at the head of the group, following the thought waves to a door on which hung a mirror, for some odd reason. I paused, frowning, and hissed when the mirror spoke my name.
“What are you doing here?”
“The same could be said for you.”
The demon child who was my cousin looked at the group behind me and her mouth formed a small “O”. “Attack?”
I winced at the loudness of her voice. “Quieter, please?”
“Right. Anyway, to answer your perfectly legit question, I’m spying. The three kids in here are a good group. There are two boys who are twin ten year olds, Geron and Gabe, host a nuclear demon and a time demon, and their sister, Eliona, who is eleven, is a shape shifter.”
“Perfect. Thanks a lot,” I said, smiling despite of myself. “Are they bound to anyone?”
“I’m not the mind reader. That’s for you to find out.”
“Had to ask. Thanks, Carrie.”
“No problem,” she said with a smile of her own. “Good luck.”
I turned to Neran and motioned for him to follow, as well as for the others to remain hidden, then I pushed open the door and was greeted to a paw swipe of some cat that would have connected had Dreamstalker not moved me. I hissed in surprise and ducked as it swung again, then sent my mind out and took control, restraining the third swipe. “Enough,” I said.
Eliona, Geron, and Gabe were a lot smaller than their actual ages, but their haunted expressions made them look a lot older. I cautiously let Eliona regain control and looked each of them in the eye. “My name is Eískel,” I said calmly. “Perhaps you’ve heard of me. I’m not here to hurt you. This is Neran. We are all friends here.”
The trio of them stared at me, wide eyed. “You escaped,” Gabe said bluntly, disbelief apparent in his voice. “I heard Carthahj and Atalanta talking, saying Dreamstalker’s host escaped. That was awhile ago!”
“They mentioned Voidwraith, too,” Eliona said, her lion’s face shifting to a girl with flaming red hair. “Is Neran Voidwrath’s host?”
“No,” Neran said, his amusement apparent in his voice and mind. “I host a demon named Phyrria.” He held out a hand and backed up his claim with a small ribbon of fire.
While they were distracted, I searched their minds for any sign of being bound and to my profound relief I found none. “Well, if you come outside with us, we can take you away from here. Would you like that?”
There was an overall sense of excitement, astonishment, and agreement.
“Okay, let’s go!”
They scampered outside and to the woods with the energy only young children had. They weren’t in the least bit surprised or frightened when four hundred ninety people appeared and were led to the medical clearing by one of my most tired earth demon hosts. Once the four of them had been swallowed by the trees, the rest of us pushed forward, the earth demon hosts still undoing the barriers.
Katherine contacted me again. The four arrived at the medical camp for time being. Sólene is having them sleep for the time being. Forty others have come. Where are you? I can’t see you.
I sent an image to her. Where to now?
Just keep going to the center doing the same thing.
We continued to trudge forward, alert for any signs of anything out of the ordinary. Dmitri contacted me at one point, asking about our position. It turned out that he was in position and his group had freed twenty of the fifty kids that were now present at the medical clearing and according to him the number was steadily rising. Although I kept it to myself, I found it concerning that my group had found very few kids. Perhaps it was that the path we were on wasn’t directly in line with many buildings. I shrugged it off and continued to press forward.
Twenty minutes later, we made it to familiar looking territory. I signalled for a stop, checked in with Alia to make sure our shields were still strong, then knelt so I wouldn’t lose my balance and extended my range up and around me. With the broadening, thousands of minds pressed against my own, both from the Resistance, detention center, medical clearing, and several minds on Katahdin. With Dreamstalker’s help, I made my way through the tangle to the central building and went down. About six thousand people were in the building, buzzing with nervous energy. I unconsciously gripped the ground as grinding pain lanced through my skull and then sought out a few select minds including Carthahj, Ardrinae, Grata, Lestrie, Andronik, and Kisha. Kisha seemed calm, Andronik nervous, and the other four full of cold disinterest. Then I moved around the building and noted that mostly everyone was in position, waiting for the signal. I counted head of commanders and swept through the building one more time to look for any other people I recognized when a familiar thought pattern grated against mine.
I jerked back to reality with a gasp and reached out to Katherine. Olga is here.
I know. Dmitri told me. I wonder if she knows that he is here.
That won’t be the best of family reunions.
No, it won’t. Keep an eye on him. I don’t want him to lose it. He’s been feeling a lot of pain about the betrayal lately and something about him is off. I haven’t been able to locate the cause, but I wonder if it’s related. I’ll join you guys shortly with Amelia. Be prepared.
Keeping my actual voice quiet, I told everyone what was about to transpire. Their faces at the reality that we were actually now going to fight people who were trained to fight. I sent a ripple of calm through their minds then stood up from the grass and strung my bow, pulling an arrow from the quiver as Katherine landed next to us with Amelia. She looked at us, then said telepathically to all, I’m here. Let’s get this show on the road.
The earth demon hosts undid the last of the barriers that prevented demon teleportation and then we made our way to the lawn. Although we were practically silent, I sensed Olga’s mind snapping to attention. “They’re coming,” I heard her say from far off.
Footsteps thundered through the building as everyone inside streamed out of the doors and out to the lawn. All of us froze, stock still behind our shields. Then Carthahj stepped forward, waved a hand, and to all of our horror the shields vanished. Alia swayed on her feet and would have fallen had there not been people to catch her. After a millisecond of astonished silence, I pulled myself together, brought the bow up, and shot the arrow on it. The magic in it burst to life, turning into a beacon of silver light, then beginning to shimmer, turning into a mirage of energy that passed through one of the foremost boys then winked out of existence. His mind reeled in shock, then he closed his eyes as the magic took effect. Everyone stood, frozen by astonishment as he collapsed, but it was apparent he was still alive. At my shot, the Resistance took up cries, readied their weapons or magic, then charged.
The battle was a blur, both in the happening and the recollection years later. Everything flew by me in a discombobulated whirl of sound and thought and color as I wove through the ranks, using the arrows of sleep magic as well as my mind to disable people. Magic flew past me in streaks of light and coors, and sometimes in my mind distantly a few Resistance fighters’ minds dimmed considerably as they lost consciousness. Wave upon wave of fighters fluctuated before and around me, but my unit and I danced through the ranks in a hypnotic dance of flying weapons and demon powered spells.
At some point, I do not know when, I came upon Andronik. He was locked in a fierce duel with another magnetic field demon host from Aleiysa’s group and both of them seemed to be having a blast. They complimented each other on clever attacks and mocked teasingly the less clever ones. I smiled at the scene, taking note of the friendship forming, then proceeded to duck as a stone the size and vague shape of chicken flew at my head. I turned to the person who threw it and went to town with several mental maneuvers to disable him.
I do not know when, but caught up in the chaos of the battle, I realized with a start that my chaos magic was coming to life again. Golden light coalesced around my hands and morphed into whatever shape I desired: falcon, ball, lightning bolt, panther, anything. Even though I hadn’t been working with my chaos magic as much, it came as easily as if I had been using it for years. People faltered and backed away as I came surrounded in a nimbus of gold.
As I fought to disable a girl with a shaman demon, blind rage surged through me from a mind not my own. It seemed like everyone, however, mind reader or no, felt it and faltered in their attacks. I turned and saw Dmitri storm through a group of people, rage radiating off of him. Everyone in his vicinity immediately backed away and made a path to his target: Olga.
His mother watched him come, her expression decidedly bored. Dmitri stopped about ten feet away, his face an angry mask. “You,” he hissed.
Olga smiled what could be considered a loving smile, and it was, because they were full of a sort of concern. “Hello, son. I’ve missed you.”
“And I’ve spent the last month hating you and everything that was yours,” he snarled, holding his wrist up as if to show her something. The apparent lack of anything on it made her face drain of color. “Your shields. What happened?”
Dmitri frowned. “Shields? The bracelet? I destroyed them.”
Shock emanated from Olga like a wave. She stared, horrified, at her son. “Do you realized what you have done?”
“I removed what was your memory.”
She shook her head. “Dmitri, those shields were protecting you from the corrosive strain of Anima’s magic. Her magic, because she is so focused, requires the complete focus of every aspect of your body, but human bodies don’t function like that. It will eventually kill you without your shields.”
“What makes you think I’ll trust your word on that statement?”
The agony that radiated from her was genuine. “Please, Dmitri. After your sister died, I did everything to help you. That was why I joined this government. There aren’t any training centers in Russia.
Realization hit me. The U.S. Government recognized Olga’s mind reading powers for what they were and wanted them. They brainwashed her into thinking that the detention centers were training centers when they heard about Dmitri’s condition. Anger surged through me. How dare they exploit someone’s pain for there own ends!
The same thoughts seemed to flash through Dmitri’s mind. “Mother, this place is no training center! Are you blind to what this place really is? Are you a mind reader or not? Are you unable to see the truth?” He extended a hand and placed it on his mother’s head. At the contact, a thick stream of memories went to her head. Olga visibly contorted in agony and I couldn’t blame her. The amount of emotion being transported was enormous, and the energy to move the memories even greater. It was precisely the focus Anima’s magic took, and to my horror I could see the strain on Dmitri. His mind began to race, sweat beaded on his pale forehead, and his whole body struggled to keep everything working properly. Sheer horror emanated from the mind readers present as they realized what was happening.
Olga grew breathless at the realization that the memory strain was killing her son. She struggled to wall her mind, but Anima was too strong. She couldn’t restrain the magic that Dmitri was using, and she began to freak out. “Dmitri, stop!”
The truth of the situation hit me at once. Dmitri was dying! I tried to make myself move, but I was rooted in place. Power built up within me, growing to the point where it began to hurt. It thrummed through my veins, filling me up with sheer joy. A voice floated at me from far within my mind, and pure golden energy erupted from me. The power surge kept me from falling down, the energy of the magic keeping me up. It knocked everything around me down, breaking the connection between Dmitri and Olga. Outward it expanded, even farther than I intended. Panic was an underlying emotion, but the joy was greater. I slowly lost all sense of awareness as my magic expanded far beyond the horizon.