“May I be excused?” Clark asked. He ate faster than normal, but I didn’t think much of it. It could have been nerves, or it could have been that the food was just better.
“Come back quickly. I’m sure Milo won’t want you to miss anything,” Newton said.
He wanted Clark to watch as he dug through my mind. I gripped my knife tighter, wishing I could plunge it into Newton’s heart. He’d definitely stop me before I could manage it since it was a butter knife. He forced me to hand over my actual weapons, and any magic I might try to sharpen the butter knife would draw attention to me before I could make use of it. Ruby left the penthouse when she finished eating. Newton didn’t ask where she was going, so he’d already approved of whatever she planned to do with her day. Sal and Hoyt started clearing the table, and Tina pulled out a deck of tarot cards. I’d started to think that the clairvoyant we’d heard about was a lie to cover Ruby’s deceit.
Tina gasped. An alarm started going off, and every light in the penthouse flashed in time to the noise. Hoyt and Sal came running back from the kitchen. They took up positions guarding Newton. Tina stood from the table and did the same. I hurried to stand beside Tina. I didn’t know what was happening, but I didn’t want Newton to compel me to help him. If I acted like I’d willingly defend him, I’d hopefully maintain my freedom to turn on him at the first opportunity I saw. The others were looking at entry points for a threat, but I watched the hall to the bedrooms, desperate to see Clark and know he was safe.
He didn’t come back, though. Instead, Coven battle witches came streaming into the room two by two. Eight of them came in and spread out, blocking spells. Sal, Hoyt, and Tina threw an unending stream of offensive magic. The Coven witches outnumbered them and wouldn’t hesitate to kill them to get to Newton. Before they could strike back, I stretched my shadow until it reached under all three of my fellow captives. I shadow-stepped us to the garage. They were all still casting spells, and a row of cars suffered for it. One car went up in flames, another split straight down the middle, and two others smashed together, pressing until they were both crushed beyond recognition.
“What did you do?” Sal asked. “Take us back.”
“So you can die defending someone who enslaved you?” I asked.
“He needs our help!”
“He’s already dead. They won’t take someone as dangerous as him prisoner,” I said before Sal could argue further. I couldn’t worry about whatever compulsion was fueling this devotion to Newton. It would fade once Newton was dead. I needed to get to Clark. He must have let the Coven in, but that didn’t mean that he’d be off the hook for going rogue with me.
I stepped through the shadows and landed in the bedroom Clark and I shared the night before. The flashing lights and alarm still alerted us to intruders. Clark stood perfectly still near the portal he’d opened to the Coven compound. He was holding a Coven seal. It couldn’t be his. We’d ditched that so they couldn’t track him. I did the most general dispelling I knew, and he relaxed from the rigid pose. The Coven seal fell from his hand. I caught him as well as I could before he followed it to the ground. They’d hit him with a petrification spell. It was easier to deal with than a compulsion, but it would take a few minutes before he’d have control of his muscles again. I shuffled to the bed and laid him down as gently as I could.
I snatched the Coven seal off the ground and closed the portal. We didn’t need anyone else coming through while Clark got back on his feet. A wave of magic shook the penthouse, and the alarm cut off. I’d been wrong about Newton being dead already. That didn’t bode well for the Coven witches. If he’d had a chance to put them under his compulsion, that would only make him more powerful. With the knowledge, he’d pulled from my head and a battalion of Coven trained battle witches at his disposal, he wouldn’t wait for another Coven team to come to him. Powerful magic sent more tremors through the building. I wanted so badly to take Clark and shadow-step out of there, leaving the Coven to deal with the mess. Instead, I forced myself to walk towards the source of the clashing magic.
More than anything, I needed to see Newton die. I didn’t want to see what would happen to the world if Newton won whatever struggle they locked him in. Deeper than that, I needed to know that he couldn’t come after Clark or me ever again. The next shock wave nearly knocked me off my feet. I stumbled into the hallway wall. The tremors weren’t coming in consistent intervals, so I walked the rest of the hall with my hands out, ready to brace myself should another one come. When I got to the end of the hall, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The eight Coven battle witches stood in front of two necromancers and the Coven leader herself. Newton’s will froze Temperance Alessandra and all of her backup in place.
Another wave of magic shook the building. Once I was steady on my feet again, I looked at Newton. He held as still as all the other witches. To someone without magic, it would have looked like a strange game where the first player to move lost. But I felt the struggle playing out in the cerebremancers’ minds. Newton was trying to pull me into the mindscape as well. If he succeeded, I’d be as helpless as the rest of them. Things weren’t stacked in his favor this time, though. I focused on my magic and raised a wall of shadows between my mind and his. It might not have worked if he wasn’t already stretched so thin but, his presence immediately left my mind.
I crossed the room to the box where Newton put my weapons. Another tremor rocked the room, and I knocked the box to the ground. Thankfully, I’d already gotten what was mine from it. I left the rest on the ground. The room shook again. Things were getting more intense in their psychic battle. I wanted to believe that Temperance was winning. If she was, I could slip away with Clark and trust that the Coven would keep order as they always had. Newton was holding back eleven witches, though. Including one thought to be the most powerful cerebremancer in the country. I guess he might deserve that title, given the circumstance. I walked the distance to stand in front of him, managing not to fall as another tremor ran through the room.
Fear filled his eyes. He was finally experiencing the suffering that he put others through. I couldn’t feel sympathy for him, but I didn’t feel the same rage I had when I killed Vincent. This fear wasn’t because he thought he would lose to Temperance. Even now, while I looked into his eyes, he was holding her back and splitting his focus on me. His magic pushed at me, trying to find a way into my mind. He failed and knew it was over. Desperation and anger warred in his eyes. He couldn’t stop me. How much could he have done for the world if he’d chosen a different path? How much could he do to the world if someone didn’t stop him from going down this path? I pushed the thought from my mind and ran my knife across his throat.