Blood clung to the cut on his cheek, running down his neck and pooling with sticky sweat and the violet patch of bruises blossoming along his collarbone. His breathing was ragged, he keeled over trying to catch his breath, to take in what had just happened. The boys golden down of hair was caked in dried blood, dirt and dust. He looked exhausted and injured but she did not fare much better.
Skye breathed slowly, leaning into the concrete wall and letting it hold her as she tried to lift up her left knee. She gasped at the movement, gritting her to teeth to stop the cry of pain. A shapeshifters claw, a wolf she thought, had caused the long bloody gape above her knee in the fight to get out of the realm and Academy.
“Skye,” The boy spluttered, “Are you okay?”
“Will,” She murmured, “Will, I’m so sorry.”
He stepped towards her, his steely grey eyes focused on the pouring cut and the paling girl in front of him.
“It’s not your fault,” Will said firmly, “We couldn’t have saved them. Our powers… we barely got out in one piece.”
Skye buried her face into her hands, trying to breathe, to calm down, to hide as tears pooled in the corner of her eyes. The faces of Wills family were powerful, painful and playing at the front of her mind. Her fellow students at the Academy, fallen to the floor or wandering around bewitched, trying to kill one another. Everything that had happened in the last four hours was incomprehensible to her. The adrenalin she had been running on was gone. Skye’s abilities as an amateur elemental were shot from the mental and physical exhaustion of the day. They were not safe out here.
“Skye, are you able to walk? We need to find someplace to hide,” Will said softly. The sky was getting dark and they were empty handed, exhausted and exposed, minutes from one of the biggest realm entrances into Earth.
Skye lifted her head up, “Yeah, we need to go,” She said shakily. The gash in her knee was throbbing, the blood loss was making her dizzy. “I’ll be fine.”
Her vision swimmed before her as she tried to push off the wall and stand on her own two feet. “Will,” She gasped, “Will, hel-p…” Her eyes rolled into the back of her head as she fell, collapsing to the ground in a heap, locked into unconsciousness.
The day’s events were playing like a black and white tape in her subconscious as Will scooped her up and lifted her over his shoulder, running into the darkness.
The loudspeaker at the academy blaring, ringing in her ears. The panic. The classroom turning from a scene of Celestials calmy studying to hysteria. Her classmates running and the few that had been bewitched, turning into slaves of the invaders and pinning their hands around Wills throat. The golden hair boy, that sat by the window in every one of her advanced classes. A gifted healer, she had heard. She couldn’t run and abandon him. Her hands twisted and sent sparks of burning sunlight into the knuckles of the stranglers hands. Their hands fell from Wills throat and she yelled, continuing to throw sparks as Will gasped for air and fought to his feet.
They had never talked, had never interacted but they wouldn’t have survived the afternoon without one another. The corridors, he somehow knew who was bewitched and who was running, guessing where attackers would jump from, pulling her down to dodge blasts of fire and lines of lightning as they tried to leave the Academy. And she, she could pull on her elemental power. Sunlight sparking from her hands, blinding the bewitched. Vines cast from nowhere, wrapping around the bewitched bodies and trapping them to the floor.
Confusion as Will pulled her away from the exit and further into the academy. To his family. The turned shifters came after them, wolves and dragons blocking their path. She got to his mother and sister first. Grabbing their hands and trying to protect them with her body and white-hot sunlight shield. Will taking up the rear, an old long sword he’d accumulated in a fight held tightly in his hand, teeth gritted with determination to get them safe out of here.
The screaming. Haunted, echoing, bouncing around the stone corridor. The clashing of swords. The fire balls being snorted from a dragon shifter that caught the arch of the whole corridor. Flames chasing them, red hot, burning, blistering, screaming. Running. Fire was everywhere and the shifter was still coming. Running, running, running until they blasted through the air, thrown against the stone walls by the explosion of flames spinning in a fiery red ball. Missing Skye and Willby metres, but catching his sister and mother in a wall of red flames. The floor seemed unsteady, her ears ringing, screaming, shrieking, sounds that she didn’t even recognise as her own for people she didn’t even know.
The blood drawn out of Wills face. The horror and agony as he turned to go into the fire. Skye throwing her arms up and sending vines out to grab and pull him away. There was nothing they could do.
Stumbling out of the academy. Fighting, still fighting to get to the realm entrance to Earth. To someplace safer than here. A shifter grabbing her and smashing her into the ground. Ripping and tearing. Ear bursting screaming and yelling. Will. Smacking the hilt of his sword into the shifters head, pulling her up and running for the realm entry.
Spinning, spinning, spinning, spinning, tightly holding to Will. Her fingers clamping down on his hands, frozen, terrified and reeling with hysteria. Tumbling out of the entrance and running. Running like she never had. Agony, her knee worsening as they fled. Blood, as she looked at Will, if she caught her reflection or if her gaze dropped down to her knee. Sliding against the concrete wall and trying to breathe, breathe, breathe.
In the darkness and safety of an abandoned cottage, Skye’s eyelids fluttered open, pupils dilated wide with fear and worry.
“Will,” She gasped, trying to move, “Will?”
“Hey hey, stay there Skye,” He crouched down beside her, his eyes oddly eerie and moon-like in the pitch dark.
She breathed out, relief coursing through her veins, “Where are we, exactly?”
“We’re safe,” He squeezed her hand, “For now anyway. An old cottage, as far as I could carry you.”
“I’m sorry,” Skye sighed, “Not ideal to pass out when we’re running for our lives.”
Will gave a dry chuckle, “Well, it took me quite a bit to heal you but you shouldn’t go fainting on me now.”
She smiled, despite all the horrific things today, she was grateful to have met him, “Thank you. So the rumours are true about you being an excellent healer for a second year?”
“Seems likes some of the first year gossip may be right,” He shot back, the hint of a smile on his lips.
The light banter made them both feel a little better and calm.
“Do you know why…” Skye trailed off, lost for words about the situation.
Will shook his head, “I have no idea what just happened. First, we need you to heal, then get further away before finding out what the fuck happened at the Academy.”
Skye nodded, and propped herself up to look at him. Golden curls, piercing grey eyes, patchy burnt skin and bruises, a sliver of where the cut on his face had been. No sign of breaking down, no tears, just a steely gaze.
“Are you okay?” Skye looked into his eyes. Grey, steady, unnerving,
“I healed myself,” He said, “Our burns should be better in the morning after the inflammations gone, then I can fix them.”
Skye wasn’t asking about his injuries. Her heart felt heavy and she felt the horror and hysteria rising in her again.
“Your family,” Her lip trembled as she reached out her hand.
He let her hold it, hold him, comforting him through silence.
“I still have you,” Will said softly, squeezing tight.