“We have a problem,” I told Ruby and Eli in the kitchen. Clark was in the Coven witch’s dreams, verifying our suspicions.
“What’s wrong?” Eli asked.
“We were being watched. I don’t know if the witch signaled anyone about our arrival yet, but he had the Coven seal on him. Clark is finding out what he can from his dreamspace. No matter what he finds out, we’ll need to move quickly,” I said.
“If the Coven is on their way here, could we aim them at Newton?” Eli asked. I liked the idea of letting the Coven handle this while we escaped in the chaos, but I had a feeling we would not get that lucky.
“I don’t know. There’s no guarantee that they’ll send someone who can handle Newton,” I said.
“He’s under Newton’s compulsion,” Clark said, coming into the room. He looked devastated. Clark had abandoned the Coven for me, but that didn’t mean he’d lost faith in them completely. I could see it in the way he still used their training. I’d spent my time on the run teaching myself not to rely on the spells they taught us. Clark hadn’t resolved to give up their lessons as I had.
“We should run,” Eli said. “Before he gets here.”
“No,” Ruby said, surprising all of us.
“What do you mean, no?” Eli asked.
“You dragged me back to this hellhole. We need to see this through if it’s still possible. Do we know for sure that he reported our arrival?” she asked. I looked at Clark.
“I’m not sure. I couldn’t get very deep into his mind. The cerebremancy is stronger than my magic,” he said.
“So we wake him up and question him,” I said. “Ruby, can you check in on Newton without him knowing?”
“I think so.”
“Do it. If we need to run, start yelling,” I said. “Eli, come with us.”
Umbra, can you clear his mind? I asked.
No. He isn’t shadow-blessed. I can not touch his mind as I do yours, Umbra said.
“Let’s hope we can work around the compulsions,” I said.
The witch looked troubled. I wondered how much influence Newton’s compulsion had over his prisoners’ dreams. I couldn’t imagine being so thoroughly trapped that even sleep wasn’t a release. Umbra resumed his position, restraining the witch. Eli and Clark stood at the end of the bed, waiting for instruction from me. I took a breath and rid my face of any emotion. Even the best-case scenario I could imagine from here on worried me, but I couldn’t let that show. I lifted the sleeping enchantment, and the witch woke violently. He would have attacked if he weren’t being held down. I waited for him to absorb his surroundings. He closed his eyes and took a moment to get control of his expression. If I didn’t know better, I’d have believed he’d just pushed away a nightmare and was himself again.
“What happened?” he asked.
“I put you to sleep,” I said.
“My companion misled you earlier. We are Coven trained, but we’re not with them anymore. But if we’re being honest, neither are you,” I said.
“What are you talking about?”
“You’re in the pocket of a local Cerebremancer. Mr. Newton. We’ve got some questions about him that you’re going to answer,” I said.
“Why would I do that?”
“Do you remember Vincent Tanner? He used to be called Hades. The strongest Necromancer of his generation. I’m the one who killed him,” I said. Fear flashed across his face before he got control back. “I don’t want to hurt you. But I will if you don’t answer my questions.”
“What do you want to know?”
“Did you tell him about us?” I asked.
“When are you expected to check in?” Clark asked.
“Hourly. My last contact at 1:30,” he said.
“He’s five minutes late,” Clark said.
“I need you to report that you haven’t seen anything,” I said.
“Eli,” I said. Eli rolled the witch’s pant leg up just enough to expose some skin and then pressed one finger to the flesh. The electric shock made the witch strain against Umbra’s hold. I signaled for Eli to stop almost immediately.
“What did you just do?” the witch asked.
“Just a little electric current. Trust me. It can get a lot worse,” Eli said. The Coven witch was smiling. I hadn’t expected that and wondered for a moment if it was an involuntary muscle spasm.
“I’m free,” he whispered. Umbra hadn’t let him go, but his smile grew larger. “I’m free!”
“Did I scramble his brain or something?” Eli asked. His tone was sarcastic, but I thought he had it right.
“I think so,” I said.
“Like a crude version of shock therapy,” Clark said. “You hit the reset button.”
“If you want to stay free, I need you to make that call. We’re here to deal with Newton, but we need the element of surprise,” I said. The witch made eye contact with me and held it. I stared at him without blinking. I don’t know what he hoped to gain from this, but I recognized it as some sort of test. He nodded.
“My phone’s in my right pocket,” he said, indicating with his chin for emphases. I pulled the phone out and held it up to his face. “The password is 4378. Text Jeremy ‘all clear’ and Newton won’t know you’re here.”
I followed his instructions. Jeremy responded, ‘don’t be late again.’ I locked the phone again but didn’t put it back in the witch’s pocket. Ruby might make good use of it. Now that we knew Newton was still ignorant of our presence, we had enough time to make a proper plan. The Coven witch was a complication. Even if we’d freed him of the compulsion and told him we were here to kill Newton, he wouldn’t trust us. His fear of me was intense. That wouldn’t scare him into inaction, though. As a Coven witch, it was more likely to do the opposite. Maybe he’d call in enough backup to take Newton down, but they’d be after Clark and me, too. I didn’t trust any help he had to offer. I put him to sleep again, and we went out to make a plan with Ruby.