In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, we saw the beginning of our end. Though we didn’t see it at the time, all the signs were there. The influx of magic to our TV’s happened all at once, but so quietly that we accepted it with ease. Magic became a household form of entertainment. Magicians like Justin Willman, Derren Brown, and Dynamo burst onto the scene performing magic in person and on our screens until we became almost numb to the phenomenon. Assuring ourselves that, although it looked like magic, it had to be something other. There was a logical explanation of how they read our minds, turned water into iced tea, and made it rain hundred-dollar bills. We laughed and shrugged and moved on with our day, using reason and logic to overshadow the reality.
This need to be logical is why we missed it. The unusual events around the globe were explained away with just enough conviction that we accepted it as fact. When a volcano erupted into a lightning storm that lasted more than a week, we looked on in awe at what Mother Nature was capable of. When an entire plane full of people disappeared, we shrugged and cried and questioned how it could have happened…until we didn’t anymore. It took far longer than it should have for the truth to shine through. We were too cynical. We just couldn’t believe what our eyes and hearts were telling us. Until we had no choice.
The second she was through, she snapped her fists shut, closing the portal. It cracked closed so close behind she could smell her burnt hair. It was such a risk to run, but she hadn’t been left with any other options. Being taken from her home and delivered to the Brotherhood was her worst nightmare. Anya had always tried to be careful with her Light, knowing that if the Brotherhood found out what she was capable of, they would use her power to abandon the world to darkness and decay. She was what they had been looking for. She was their ticket out. So when they locked her in that room, she threw caution to the wind and ran.
Opening a portal without preparation was dangerous. Anya used to jump through with such ease, but these days, she really had to focus. She knew she couldn’t completely guarantee where she would end up, which would make getting back even more difficult. But it was worth the risk. Anywhere away from the Brotherhood was safer right now. She knew she would need to lie low for a little while and keep her Light under wraps so as not to draw unwanted attention. But in her frantic state, she couldn’t be sure of when or where she would land. All she could hope was to get away and hide. Then she could focus and make it back to the safety of the Ludus. Mr. Parks would know what to do.
Looking around, she had no idea where she was. She thought she was going somewhere her parents used to take her, yet nothing looked familiar. Surrounded by trees, she could just make out some lights in the distance and decided to run. But she’d taken no more than a dozen steps when she heard a familiar sound piercing the quiet.
Afraid to turn back, she froze in place as the Light burned behind her. Daring a glance, her mouth dropped open at the sight of the orange sparks. It was cutting into the air exactly where her own portal had been. But that wasn’t possible! Nobody could have traced her jump once her Light was out. She’d purposely not jumped far to keep her Glimmer as small as possible, and she was alone in the room! How did they even know she was gone?
With no time to think, she sprinted away from the Light and towards the town. If she could just find a place to hide, maybe they wouldn’t find her. Maybe she could slip away somehow and put some distance between them that they couldn’t trace. Behind her, the orange shimmer burned in the darkness, and a new portal opened in the same spot she'd come through. Brother Anwar stepped out slowly. He looked around and smiled before following her footsteps toward the town in the distance.
As she ran, Anya tried to think of a plan. He was already hot on her heels, and he knew now what she could do. There was no way he would let her get away without a fight, but using her Light would draw too much attention if any Lightborn were close by. They would come running at even the smallest spark, leaving her completely outnumbered. But she was being chased by one of the Three, and her Light was all she had. If she could just catch him off guard, maybe she stood a fighting chance.
The town was getting closer, but Anya knew she wouldn’t make it in time. The trees were too thick, and Anwar was likely to attack at any minute. She was recklessly considering another jump when suddenly the lights in the distance went out, and the earth moved beneath her feet. Anya fell, hitting the ground as everything shift. Her mind seemed to move with it, leaving her dizzy and nauseated. When she looked up, the trees in front were shorter and thicker. As she scrambled to her feet, she looked to the left and right but couldn’t figure out which way to go. She ran anyway, wanting to get as far away as possible.
“Just stop,” his voice breathed from somewhere dangerously close. “You’re not escaping. You’re just wasting my time.”
Anya covered her ears and stopped running. Was he that close or just in her head? She squinted into the darkness and felt a wave of confidence radiate from within. As she lifted her arms, a field of Light emitted from her fingers. The streaks and sparks bounced in the air, illuminating the forest in a blue-purple haze. She watched their progress through the surrounding trees until they hit Anwar. He was standing on the hill behind her, hands on his hips. When her Lightwave passed over, he seemed to stumble back.
“Nice trick. But I can do better.” Before the last word was out of his mouth, a wave of fire flew from where he stood. Anya felt the heat before it got close and had no choice but to protect herself. She threw her hands around her body, feeling water and wind enveloping her like a blanket. The flames hit in a burst of heat, hissing loudly. Crouching low, Anya focussed on nothing but her protective shield. She wanted to look up and see if Anwar had moved, but she was afraid she would lose focus and burn.
“Stop!” She begged into the storm. Her hair was whipping around her face, and she couldn’t see. “Enough!” She yelled again, only this time, she stood and stretched her arms wide. Everything stopped and rushed back from where she stood. The trees and grass around her were left both scorched and wet. Anya looked up, searching for Anwar, but he was gone. She flinched when he spoke again.
“I’m impressed, Anya. The Nightless, indeed. You have more Light than I thought.” His voice was a whisper in her ear, but she couldn’t see him.
“I’m not here to impress you. Just leave me alone.”
“You know that’s not going to happen. Not now. Not after that.” He was at her side before she could react. He put his hands on her arms, pinning them to her side and spinning her to face him. “So much Light. How?”
Anya turned her face and clenched her fist, but before she could do anything, Anwar struck her, hard, across the face. She fell to the ground at his feet, blurry-eyed and defeated.
“It’s over, Anya. Stop fighting.” He crouched down and lifted her chin to see her face. He saw the rage in her eyes and chuckled.
“I won’t help you! Not ever!”
“You will. You will help us do whatever we ask of you. Because if you don’t, you and your family will burn with the rest of them.”