The door opened in the middle of the night. All the hall’s sounds died down hours before, and our prison suite converted into a bedroom moments before the lights went out. I couldn’t sleep, so when I heard the lock disengage, I readied my knife under the blanket. Just because I couldn’t work magic in this room didn’t make me defenseless. Clark tensed as two figures stepped into the room. One of them stayed by the door holding it open; the other stole across the room to our bed. Whoever they were, they weren’t here on official Coven business. They could be witches, loyal to Vincent’s memory, seeking revenge. I tightened my grip, ready to strike if this person tried to hurt either of us. I hoped that the room’s nullifying spell would also take our intruder’s powers away, but I couldn’t count on it.
“You guys awake?” Eli asked. How did he get here?
“Eli?” I asked, not wholly willing to believe it was him. The Coven had plenty of illusionists.
“You two ready to go?” he asked.
“How did you get in here?” Clark asked.
“Can we move while we talk?” Eli asked.
“We can’t leave this room,” I told him. “Cerebremancer magic.”
“Ah, okay, hold on.” Eli stepped forward and sent an electric shock through my body. My eyes shut, and my back arched off the bed as the shock traveled through me. As the pain subsided, I felt the intention behind Eli’s magic burning the compulsion out of me. “Better?”
“One way to find out,” Clark said.
We got up and walked to the door without magic holding us back. Ruby didn’t meet my eyes at first. We didn’t have time for the entire conversation, so I put my hand on her shoulder and squeezed gently. She looked up with questioning eyes, and I nodded that we were okay. My magic rushed back to me as soon as I stepped out of the room. Alarms went off at the exact moment. I shadow-stepped us to the same spot I’d used to escape the last time. The deja vu ended there, though. A force field knocked me back when I tried to walk off Coven property. Clark and Eli caught me; they wobbled a bit from how hard the shield threw me but stayed upright. I heard shouts coming towards us. We didn’t have time to try punching a hole in the barrier, even if we had the strength.
“Clark, do you know another way out?” I asked.
“How did you two get in?” he asked Ruby and Eli.
“Found this in Newton’s apartment after they cleared out,” Eli said, holding up a Coven seal.
“Can you get us back to the portal room?” Ruby asked.
“I think so.” I’d never tried breaking back into the Coven, but if I could get out, I should be able to get back in. A spell flew over our heads and ricocheted off the shield spell. Clark redirected it before it could hit any of us. I didn’t wait for our pursuers to fire another. The shadows swallowed us and deposited us in one of the hallways just off the portal room. Orange light warned us that someone was arriving. The witch froze when they stepped into the hall we stood in. I shadow-stepped him before they could collect himself. “Let’s go!”
Eli held up the Coven seal as we walked into a hexagonal room with bricked-up archways on each wall. Nothing happened. He shook it and held it up again with the same results. The Coven was blocking portals out. I didn’t know any other way we could leave. It wouldn’t be long before witches closed in on us here. The portal room was at the center of the compound. They’d be coming at us from every direction if we didn’t move soon. I pulled Umbra’s cage from my pocket. I should have freed them sooner, but I’d waited because it was too hard to predict what would happen while we were in the nullifying room. I didn’t want to chance that someone would detect my familiar and harm them. I was out of options, though. All I could do was hope they could help us find a way out.
Umbra slid back into my shadow, and calm swept over me. I wasn’t suddenly invincible, but Umbra reassured me we could figure this out. Our combined powers rushed down each hallway and touched every shadow along the way. The Coven witches were coming. We wouldn’t be here when they arrived. We shadow-stepped back outside. No one saw us as they ran back towards the building. Clark, Ruby, and Eli kept pace with me on our way back to the barrier that stopped us moments ago. They must have felt Umbra’s power join mine because they didn’t question why I now thought I could get us through.
We stopped at the force field spell. I focused on the shadows on the other side and started pulling them towards us. The barrier lit up with a shining silver dome encompassing the entire compound. The new light sharpened the lines of our shadows. They all defied the light as they reached for the shadows on the other side of the barrier. The strongest witches in the country cast this barrier. I smiled as I felt it the first bit of shadows connect. Umbra’s magic didn’t have to follow the same rules as theirs. We couldn’t bring the spell down, but we didn’t need to. We just needed a bridge from one side to the other.
A barrage of spells hit the barrier. I didn’t turn to look. Eli and Clark would do everything they could to keep us safe. I wanted to help but, if Umbra and I stopped to defend us, they’d overwhelm us. More and more points of shadows touched. As soon as a piece of each of our shadows met a shadow on the other side of the barrier, a surge of power jumped us to the other side. I watched as a group of young witches rushed toward us, flinging spells, only to have the barrier fling them off in random directions. The group broke apart to avoid the blowback.
“Are you guys okay?” I asked.
“We’ll recover,” Clark said. All three of them looked exhausted. Eli had a deep gash on his shoulder. One of Clark’s pant legs was almost completely gone. Burns covered his leg. He wouldn’t make it far walking on that leg. Blood ran down from Ruby’s left ear, covering her neck and shoulder. I shadow-stepped us deeper into the woods. I hoped our pursuers would think we’d gone further and wouldn’t search the surrounding forest for us. Getting us through the barrier had almost been as bad as shadow-stepping Billie’s tent. I didn’t have it in me to get us much further by magical means.