I didn’t get as much time with Ice as I wanted. He had to go back to his fellow Coven recruiters so they wouldn’t get suspicious. He took off with the excuse of getting coffee for the group. Insane lines caused by the conventioneers would excuse his absence for a decent amount of time. It wouldn’t excuse him never coming back. If I could have my way, I’d have him join Ruby and me. It wasn’t fair to expect him to run from the Coven like I had. He’d fit in with our classmates easily enough; it was hard to think he wouldn’t have connections worth holding onto despite the passion in his kiss. He promised to come back after he’d finished his shift at the power testing booth. I started thinking about all the questions I’d ask him when he came back. I alternated between fantasies of him coming with us and dreading that he’d decide to turn me in. My more practical side won out. Ruby and I stayed in the room ordering room service and watching videos of the conference panels that had attracted the most attention.
“Do you think that he’d turn you in?” Ruby asked me while we were waiting for a new group of actors to filter onto the stage.
“I’d rather be wrong, but I won’t take that chance,” I said. The room was dark except for the light of the television and Ruby’s computer. Our bags sat packed and waiting an arm’s length away. If the worst happened, all we would need to do was grab our bags and sink into the shadows.
“It was a pretty hot kiss. I think you’re wrong,” she said. Her words were undercut by her glancing at her computer. She was keeping an eye on Ice and the rest of the Coven’s people.
“That would be nice.”
“What would happen if he did?” she asked.
“They’d try to incapacitate me. If somehow they managed to keep me from shadow stepping away from them,” I said.
“Can they do that?”
“Almost all things are possible with the right application of magic. It isn’t likely, though,” I said. It might have sounded cocky, but it was true. It would take some extremely powerful spellwork to keep me from using shadow-based magic.
“What would happen to me?” she asked. I tried not to let my nervousness show. I didn’t want to lie to her, but I didn’t want to risk losing her either. If Ice came back with a squad of Coven witches and they managed to capture me, Ruby could get a plea bargain by agreeing to work for them. She was very skilled in her affinity, and the Coven doesn’t like to waste talent. It was risky as hell to tell her that, though. We’d been traveling together for less than a week. Who wouldn’t turn their fugitive partner in for that kind of protection?
“If they manage to take me down, you tell them I kidnapped you,” I said. As much as I didn’t want to say it, this was as good a leap of faith as I could ask for to test our partnership.
“What?” she asked.
“I kidnapped you because of your reputation for making new identities. You tell them that, and they let you go. If you tell them about your friends in Vegas, the Coven will probably even find a way to protect you from them.” I couldn’t guarantee that, but it made sense. If the Coven wasn’t already aware of the cerebremancer in Vegas, they’d appreciate the tip.
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Not at all. If you wanted their protection instead of mine, you could go to those booths downstairs. You’re a strong practitioner; they can always find a use for strong witches,” I said.
“We’ll just have to make sure that they don’t get a chance to knock you out then.”
I didn’t say anything. It was one thing for her to promise solidarity; it was another thing to live up to that promise. We went back to watching the panels. They were more entertaining than I thought they’d be. Ruby had been to a convention like this before, and apparently, the questions were going entirely off from what was typical for these events. She told me that the casts answered questions about their acting process most of the time, which scenes were their favorites, and what spoilers they could give out without getting in trouble. Not to mention, they got an abundance of praise from all the fans. But as the day progressed, there were more questions about if any of the actors had visited the “Test Your Magic” booth, who on set they think could be a secret supernatural, and if there were any plans to incorporate real magic into the film industry. I hadn’t given much thought to how supernaturals could change things for tv and movies.
Some of the actors were either more prepared for this new line of questioning, or their improv classes were really paying off. There were a lot of guesses in their answers that showed that they didn’t know enough about magic to talk about it in this capacity. Magic absolutely has the potential to be very flashy, but there was no way that magic could replace CGI altogether. I made a note of which of them gave any accurate specifics about the magical world. By the time the last televised panel of the day was starting, I had a list of five people who I felt reasonably sure were supernaturals. I couldn’t say what exactly they were, but their answers were on point. I wondered how much more influence the supernatural groups on the Coven’s level had at this convention. Was there more to the convention than their little recruitment stunt in the vendor’s hall?
The last panel didn’t look like it had quite the crowd that earlier ones drew. I imagined that many of the conventioneers needed time to prepare for the festivities that followed the day’s panels. There were limitless parties available to the attendees between the official parties on the schedule and the events that were going on off-site. Anyone who was in that hall or watching the panel like us witnessed history. Three actors walked onto the stage to polite applause. The third let off a flurry of magic as he stepped into the audience’s view. He wasn’t even using proper spells. It was just an attention-grabbing light show. That was all it needed to be. The crowd went crazy. The actor’s fellow cast members looked shocked. I guess they weren’t in on his plan. I wondered if he’d thought it through. Whether he had or not, he became the first-ever out magical actor.
The room filled more and more as social media blew up with the news. The other actors settled into being irrelevant to the crowd. Every question was for Storm Ryder. Ruby had to confirm for me that that was the actor’s name rather than that of the character he played. I wonder if he’d changed it to make himself more memorable. He was about to become a household name that no one would forget, at least not until someone more famous announced their status as a supernatural. If it were me, I’d wait to see how things went for Storm before joining him in the spotlight. Maybe I’d spent too long on the run, but I didn’t envy him what was coming his way. At the very least, he was going back with some angry coworkers. At the end of the panel, the camera facing the crowd showed how packed the hall had become. Whatever show Storm starred in was going to get a considerable boost to their viewership. There was a knock on the door before the television cut the view of the convention hall.