Darkness. Weightlessness. Drifting.
Was this death?
Or was I in a dreamless sleep?
The tones and lilts of someone else’s voice started to echo around me.
“…you don’t want to do this.”
“Of course I do. I told you long ago what I wanted. For you. For us. For our kind.”
Lillian? But how—
“But it would destroy the balance!”
“It’s a lie, Amali. Join me and you’ll see. Don’t you trust me?”
Amali? Wait, where am I?
“I…I know you think you’re right.”
Why couldn’t I see? Why couldn’t I feel my limbs? I took a couple deep breaths, and tried to calm myself down.
Simple deduction told me that I wasn’t dead, but I was trapped somewhere.
In my mind?
My vision slowly began to clear, and I was back in the woods on my back. Sensation rushed back into my limbs as I became aware of my own body again. Lillian still had her knee on my chest. I tried to move my arms and legs, but couldn’t.
Hey! Get off!
My words weren’t coming out of my mouth either.
“That’s not an answer, my dear. Do you trust me?” Lillian was looking down at me, her gaze intense.
“I…don’t know what to say.”
I was speaking, but it didn’t sound like me. Amali was in control of my body now. Fear coursed through me as I tried to recall what had happened. My palm. The dagger. Lillian did something to me. To us.
“Then don’t say anything. Just come with me, and I’ll take care of you.” Lillian said, stroking my cheek.
For a moment, I felt myself wanting to say yes.
No. No, no no this wasn’t right.
Amali! Amali, stop! Stop!
My voice reverberated in the darkness around me.
“I…” Amali began.
I pushed through with all of the power I could muster to make myself move. I could feel something welling up in my chest. I had to do something, or else —
“What—” Lillian’s head shot up, and suddenly a tangle of arms and legs flew at her, and she tumbled backward.
I tried again to move, but still nothing. I listened to Liam and Lillian wrestle at my feet as I lay there.
Amali. Get up.
I could feel her twitch my muscles, as if she were considering it, but she stayed still.
What are you doing?! We have to get up! We have to fight back!
“I…I can’t”, Amali said.
I pushed harder, feeling the energy continue to build in my chest. It was starting to burn.
I can’t let her hurt Liam, Amali. Please.
I pushed even harder. I couldn’t let her stop me.
The energy was beginning to feel like too much, as if my heart might burst.
“No! What are you doing?!” Amali’s voice faded into the background as I felt one of my fingers lift. Soon enough, I could move my upper body and sat up. Liam and Lillian paused when they saw me sitting up, and Liam took the opportunity to grab a stick from the fire and shove it toward her face. As she screamed, he ran over to me to help me to my feet.
“Krystal?” I fought to keep control of my body, and I could still feel the energy sitting within my chest. This was power, and for some reason, Amali was trying to keep it from coming out.
As we tried to back away our limbs stopped working. We were frozen, and Lillian held a hand over her eye as she walked toward us.
“An unexpected turn of events, pawn.” She said through gritted teeth. I urged the energy in my chest to free itself of whatever Lillian was doing. It pressed against her opposing force, and my rib cage felt like it was surrounded by bricks.
Lillian closed the gap between us. Her free hand gripped my throat, raising me into the air. Her other hand dropped to reveal the melted flesh over her eye. Blistered red skin covered the left side of her face.
“Do. Not. Anger. Me. Human.” She growled, squeezing tighter.
I struggled to breathe. I couldn’t reach for her hands, because my limbs were still unable to move.
But I could feel the energy building up even more within me.
“You wouldn’t kill her. What about Amali?” Liam asked, struggling to free himself next to me. I closed my eyes, using my remaining consciousness to channel strength back into my body. It was as if I could see the energy swirling inside of me, a blue coil of light, pulsing and growing. I just needed it to break through Lillian’s magic.
“Shut your mouth, sidekick.” Lillian spit at Liam. Her grip tightened even more around my throat.
I was starting to fade, but I kept my focus. Suddenly, the coil stopped pulsing, and the blue light I could sense filled my entire body in an instant. An intense burning sensation ran through my nerves and I thought I might catch fire from the inside. I screamed, and on instinct, directed all of the energy that was filling me toward Lillian. I felt her hand release from my neck, and I dropped to the ground. When I looked up, I saw her flying backwards into a tree. Her body forcefully folded around it before falling to the ground in a crumpled heap.
I felt Liam’s arms around my shoulder lifting me up and pulling me back.
“Let’s go. Let’s go NOW,” he said. I tried to stand, but my legs were too weak.
“I…I can’t—“ I rasped, but I was too exhausted, and every inch of my body throbbed in pain. Everything quickly faded to black.
When I opened my eyes, I was surrounded by Liam, Farrah and Berniece.
“Oh, thank goodness you’re awake. We were looking everywhere for you!” Farrah said.
“Where’s Lillian?” I said, sitting up, scanning the space. We were back in the temple. I was on the ground near the altar. Without a second thought, I sent my energy beyond the building to see if I could feel for Lillian’s presence. Farrah placed a finger to my forehead.
“It’s all right, the temple is well-guarded. No need to worry about her showing up.” I sighed, allowing her calming ability to wash over me. The pain in my body had dulled, but I could still feel it all over.
I closed my eyes, trying to make sense of what happened in the woods. I had been tricked. And Lillian was trying to control Amali in order to… what was she trying to do?
“She called me a pawn…” I muttered. Just because I was a vessel? It made me feel like there was something larger at play than what I knew.
“Lillian did? What else did she say? Liam said Amali had control of your body, but you took it back. That’s never—“ I heard Farrah rattle on, but as she spoke, I felt myself grow more irritated. So much had been kept from me…my conversation with Julie proved that. And my run-in with Lillian only spawned more questions. Finally I held up a hand to stop her.
“Farrah. What is Lillian?”
The blood drained from Farrah’s face.
“Well, I…she was a former Sister, and she served your great—“
“That’s not what I’m asking, Farrah. I need you to cut the shit right now and tell me what the fuck I’m dealing with.”
She flinched at my colorful language, but I was certain it was warranted after what I had just encountered.
“I told you. I told you we should just be honest with her from the start,” Berniece said, crossing her arms and pacing down the aisle of the temple.
“I was only trying to protect—“ Farrah began, but I slammed my hand down on the ground, and it shook the entire building. The lights flickered for a moment. I jumped, and realized how much power was currently coursing through me. If I got angry enough, that could be destructive.
I took a deep breath.
“As you can see, things have changed. It’s time to tell me everything,” I said.