Mages And Hunters
Mages And Hunters42 mins 17.7K 42 mins 17.7K
“How did you know?” she asked him.
They were in her bedroom. He was calmly sitting near the window, looking out of it. He turned to look at her. His brown eyes pierced her. She shuddered and he smiled.
“How did you know?” she repeated the question.
He got up and walked up to her. His face came very close to hers. She did not flinch. She could feel his breath on her face.
“These eyes”, he said.
“What about my eyes?” she asked interrupting him, her hand flying up to her eye. He walked away from her back to the window and looked out of it. She was now getting irritated. He was taking too long to answer.
“Those eyes were the first hint. They are green”, he said.
“So, I have green eyes. How could you know from that? Many people have green eyes”, she said.
“I said they were the first hint. I am not that stupid. You also possess an aura around you”, he replied.
“What aura?” she asked, feeling scared now.
“An aura which they possess. I should know, I am a hunter after all”, he replied.
She sensed a change in him. He was readying himself for the hunt and she was the prey. She gulped. She felt the goose bumps.
She asked, “Now what?”
“Now”, he began slowly, “you die.” He took out a gun and fired at her.
Six-year old Cassandra was a very happy girl. She looked around the meadow she was in. She spread her arms wide and fell backwards closing her eyes. As she fell with a thump, she heard a giggle beside her. She turned her head towards the left. Her twin sister Catherine was lying there giggling.
Cassandra smiled and asked, “What’s so funny Cathy?”
Catherine pointed towards the sky and said, “The clouds look funny.”
Cassandra looked at the sky. The clouds did not look funny to her. Sure, they were of different shapes but they were definitely not funny. Their nanny called out their names. They stood up and went to her.
“Time to go home”, said their nanny.
Catherine protested, but Cassandra quietly stood beside the nanny. The nanny took a screaming Catherine and a quiet Cassandra back to their house. Their parents were calmly sitting, drinking tea. The nanny deposited the girls to their parents and went off to get milk and buns for them.
“So how was the park?” asked their mother. They told her everything. Their father had gone behind a newspaper. Suddenly they heard a small scream followed by a crash. “What the-“, began their father, but the next moment a team of armed personnel entered the room, pointing the guns at them.
“What is the meaning of this?” asked their father standing up.
The team leader stepped forward, “I am sorry Mr. Coroner but we will have to detain your family. We have reasons to believe that there is a mage in your family. You will all have to come to the facility for some tests.”
Their father started to say something angrily but their mother stopped him saying, “It is all right honey. We knew someday it would come to this. I am the mage. Take me and please let my family out of this.”
“Commendable”, muttered the leader. Then he said out loud, “I am sorry but we will have to detain the whole family. No other option.”
Cassandra saw her mother crying, her father walking proudly, Catherine throwing a tantrum as they were all led away by the squad. Cassandra did not know that she would never see her family together again.
She knew that he would kill her. She could see it in his eyes. When the shot was fired she put up a shield. The bullet deflected and embedded itself in the wall besides the hunter. The hunter fired but she deflected each of them with her shield. He had reduced the gap between them now. He tried to stab her with a knife but she stopped him. She threw him off with a blast of wind. He crashed into the wall and crumpled down.
She ran. She knew she would have to hide now. She had remained hidden pretty well till now. But now she was discovered. How had that happened? She had been careful till now. But somehow, he had discovered her. She had no other choice now. She would have to hide. Then she would have to find out who knew her true identity and then, kill them.
She exited the house and kept on running. Shots flew from behind her, speeding past her, none of them hitting her. She looked back to see that there were two hunters firing at her and a third one supporting the one who had attacked her. She put on the shield to deflect the bullets. She blasted her way through a house, followed by the curses of the owners.
She kept on running till she reached a bridge. She looked around. She saw no one. It seemed that she had lost them. But then the firing started again. There was no time to take a breather. She ran to the bridge and looked at the water. A shot hit near her right hand. She decided she had no choice. She jumped into the water.
All the four hunters came onto the bridge and looked down. They could not see her.
“Target neutralized?” asked one of them.
“No”, said the hunter who had attacked her initially. It seemed that he was the leader, “She is alive. She has escaped for now. Tell No.5 to try and track her.” They left.
Cassandra was kept in a dark room, separate from her family. Various tests were performed on her and they were not able to say that Cassandra was a mage. It was hell for six-year old Cassandra. She cried for her parents every day. As she had passed the tests, she was released. She was taken to a room where she saw her father. She ran up to him and hugged him sobbing. Her father took her in his arms and hugged her back. She then looked around the room in search of her mother and sister but she could not see them.
“Where are mom and Cathy?” she asked. Her father looked at the guard but no reply came. Some time the door opened and a guard came inside. He had a grim expression on his face.
He said, “Mr. Coroner, we have verified that your wife and one of your daughters is a mage. We have no choice but to execute them.”
Her father did not say anything. He was not able to. He looked down at his feet. Cassandra said, “What is going on daddy? Where are mom and Cathy?”
He took her in his arms again and said on a choking voice, “They are not coming Cassy.”
Cassandra and her father were allowed to go home. The house felt empty to Cassandra without her mother and her sister. She did not understand why they were taken. She did not even know what a mage was.
Six years now passed. Her father had not been the same since the day her mother and her sister had been taken away from them. It was now Cassandra’s twelfth birthday. Her father had thrown a small party, consisting only of family members. Cassandra had only two friends, Sarah and Maya, and both were invited.
It was during the party the police arrived. Cassandra saw that they were taking her father away. They had put cuffs on him and were now leading him towards the waiting police vehicles.
“No”, shouted Cassandra and ran towards them, “You are not going to take my father away.”
Someone stopped and grabbed her. “No”, she screamed and threw her arms out. At that moment she felt a surge of energy through her body and the cops were thrown away. They all crashed and fell down unconscious.
Cassandra suddenly felt drained and she fainted. She was in her uncle’s arms. Her uncle said to her father, “Richard... she... the cops...” Her father nodded.
“Someone please remove these cuffs”, he said. One of the guests took the key from the unconscious policeman and removed them. Richard went to his brother who was still holding Cassandra and was in shock.
“Wallace”, he said, “You can let go of Cassandra now. I will take her.”
Wallace said, “You know what you have to do now Richard, don’t you?”
“Yes”, Richard replied, “Run.
As she crashed in the water she put a bubble around her. She navigated through the river in this bubble. She only had ten minutes before all the air in the bubble would run out, but it was sufficient time to escape. Ten minutes later she broke out to the surface. She swam to the bank and lay panting there. She was exhausted. Sleep washed over her.
When she woke up she saw that it was morning. She got up and looked around. The memory of last night came back. She swore. She had been lying on the same place for too long a time. It was a good thing that no one had noticed her, yet. It was not safe there. She had to move. She started walking. She knew where she had to go. It was where every mage went when they wanted shelter and a safe haven.
She did not want to go because there she would have to meet HER. She knew that SHE was the leader; she knew everyone went to HER for help but she could not go there. She did not think she was ready. But she had no choice now. She remembered the promise she had made to HER. She would have to go now. She sighed and said, “It is time. Cassandra, I am coming.”
Cassandra and her father kept on running from city to city, town to town and village to village. They tried to stay off the grid as much as possible. Six years had passed and Cassandra was eighteen years old now. They were hiding in a village where no one knew them. The people of the village had never experienced mages before and so it looked like a safe haven.
They had been there for about three months now. They felt safe. They had not stayed at a place for such a long time. They had always been on the move. However they felt that they could stay here longer. Moreover Richard Coroner was now tired of running. All the running had taken a toll on him and his health had weakened. Cassandra had a feeling that her father was not going to live for long. Moreover he felt at home here. Even she had a bit of apprehension about leaving the village. There was a reason for it. The reason’s name was Jake. She had fallen in love with him from the moment she had laid eyes on him. She had never felt like that for anyone before and she was scared. She had not told her father about it. Her father was in a way glad that she was not showing any signs of leaving the village.
She was going to the market to buy some groceries. Her mind was on Jake. He too seemed to be interested in her but she could not be sure. They currently considered themselves as good friends. As she entered the market she felt something amiss. It was a black SUV. It was parked outside the church. It was out of place.
As she neared the car a person stepped out of it. She froze. It was a hunter. She identified him quickly. It was easy to differentiate hunters from normal people. Mages had that sense. They could always tell. How was he here? How did he know that she was here? Maybe he was just here for some another reason but that seemed highly unlikely. The hunter had seen her. He looked at her and gave an evil smile. Cassandra had no doubt now. The hunter had come for her. She knew what she had to do. It was time to run again.
She peered out from her hiding place. It was a cottage in the middle of the forest. It was here where she had to begin her journey. Cassandra gave shelter and protection to all the mages, but getting to her was tough. She left clues in various places. These clues were accessible only to the mages. This cottage was one of the places. However it was guarded by hunters.
She counted; there were ten of them. It would be easy but she would have to be very careful. She noted their positions from her hiding place. A couple of minutes later she was inside the cottage and the hunters were unconscious. She had very easily knocked them out with a spell she had learned from one of the mages while on the run.
She entered and looked around. Five hunters sprang out of their hiding places pointing their guns at her. She smiled and raised her hands. She muttered, “Mindblast”, and all the hunters fell down unconscious clutching their heads.
“Pathetic”, she said as she stepped over them and explored the house. Finally she came to a locked room. There was no keyhole, only a door knob. She tried to break down the door, physically as well as magically but was not able to do so. She looked around the corridor. She was on the first floor of the cottage. Maybe she should try and get in through the window.
She went out of the house and circled it to the place where she knew would be the room. There were no windows. She was now getting frustrated. However something caught her eye. It was a rune which was on the wall and hardly visible. She smiled as she saw the rune. She now knew what she had to do. She set the cottage on fire and entered it. She went up to the locked door. On the door were seen five concentric circles and in the middle was the shape of a palm. She put her right hand to match the palm shape. The area began to glow. She felt a prick and blood flowed from her arm into the door and there was a clicking sound.
The door had opened and the fire died down automatically. She turned the knob and opened the door. She entered the room. It was empty. Nothing was present in the room. Suddenly the room came alive. She looked down to see that she was standing inside a circle which was surrounded by various other designs and symbols. She swore. She realized what it was. It was a teleportation circle and it had been activated. Before she could take a step forward to get out of the room she was teleported.
Cassandra ran. The hunter followed her. As she ran she felt something whiz past her. She looked back to see that the hunter had his gun out and was shooting at her. She threw him away with a blast of wind. She kept on running. It felt weird to Cassandra that there was only one hunter. Where were the others? Hunters never come alone. They always come in a group.
She got her answer when she reached her home. There were four SUVs in front of her house. There were ten hunters surrounding the house. She tried to feel the people inside the house. She felt eleven presences inside the house. It meant that there were twenty hunters in all assuming that they had not killed her father.
She knew what she had to do. She stepped out and shouted, “Hey assholes!”
They noticed her. They took out their guns. Cassandra took this as a cue to run and she ran. She did not look back to see how many were following. She would have to lose them and get back to her house somehow. She heard the cars start and she smiled. If they were going to follow her in cars then this was going to be easy. She waited for them. The cars came around the bend and she saw that all four cars were coming. As they neared, she raised her hands and shouted, “Fireblast.”
All the cars were hit with a ball of fire and they all exploded. There were people around and they were now in hysterics. Cassandra looked around. Apparently the villagers now knew about her being a mage and this was more of a reason to get the hell out of here. She ran back to the house to see there were no guards surrounding the house. She tried to sense the number of people in the house and saw that there were only two present. It seemed that she had already killed all the hunters except one.
She entered the house as silently as possible. She had sensed the people were in the library. She cautiously opened the library door and entered it with a spell ready in case of an attack. She saw her father sitting on a chair. There was a hunter standing beside him holding a gun to his head. It was, “Jake!” she exclaimed in surprise and fury. Her father tried to stand up but Jake pushed him down. Then he turned to Cassandra and said, “Where are the other hunters?”
“Dead”, snarled Cassandra. Jake closed his eyes and it looked as he was mourning for his lost brothers. Now was the perfect time to strike but she just couldn’t. Here was a man she loved and he was a hunter.
After some time he opened his eyes and said, “Impressive. You killed all of them as I can’t sense any of them. You have grown well as a mage. I see Lilandra has taught you well.”
Cassandra gasped. She asked, “How do you know about Lilandra?”
Jake smiled and in response raised his hand. Small flames burst out on each of his finger tips. He holstered his gun and said, “I know you need some explanations but currently it is time to go.”
He looked down upon the guards. All fifteen of them had been unconscious when he had found them. Now they were awake and a doctor was examining them. He was an official doctor for the hunters. After he had examined them he said, “Probably the victims of the Mindblast spell. They would be all right. They just need some rest.”
“Can they answer my questions?” he asked. The doctor nodded. He asked the guards about what had happened. They replied that it was the work of a female mage.
“Did anyone have a proper look at her?” he asked. The five who were in the cottage gave a description of her. The guards who were outside had no idea what hit them. He grunted and dismissed them. The description fitted her. It means that she was here. He looked at the cottage. He knew what the cottage was for. His phone rang. He picked it up.
“Find her, kill her. This is your number one priority”, said a voice on the phone, “Take two others with you. Finish this quickly.”
The line went dead. He was scowling as he put the phone back in his pocket. Something did not feel right. She was a mage and so his superiors wanted her dead. This was understandable. But now their tone contained urgency. Their tone suggested finish her fast or we will finish you if you fail. It was as if they knew her importance. That night he went to a telephone booth and dialed a number. On the third ring someone picked up the phone.
He said, “She is coming for you”, and put down the phone. He then took out his cell and called his helper. He said, “Get me McHauney and Donovon.”
They decided to split up. Cassandra went with Jake while her father went alone. She was heartbroken to leave her father but both her father and Jake convinced her that this was necessary. As they drove Cassandra asked Jake, “You gonna explain?”
Jake looked at her briefly before looking back at the road. He sighed and said, “I am a mage. I have infiltrated the hunters. I am not the only one though. There are few others. We help the mages to get to the guild before the hunters get to them.”
“The guild?” interrupted Cassandra, “You mean the Mages’ Guild?”
“Yes the very same”, he replied, “And Lilandra is also from the guild. I know she was with you and your father till recently. She was training you I believe.”
“Yes”, she said, “She had to go somewhere. But then, why did you not give shelter to me and my father earlier when we were on the run? Why did the guild not help us?” There was bitterness in her voice and she felt angry.
“Because it was difficult to find you. You effectively hid not only from the hunters but also from the mages. And the guild accepts mages who ask for help or try and look for the mages guild. For unknown mages the guild accepts them if they somehow manage to find the guild but these unknown mages go through intense verification process. We cannot be too trustworthy after all. It is risky. The hunters are very effective”, he explained.
She looked down. They had not asked for help. They had been more focused on running rather than thinking about going to the guild. Hell, they had not even known about the guild till Lilandra had told about it to them.
She said, “What about Lilandra then. She could have helped.”
Jake laughed and said, “Lilandra taught you how to use your powers. Be grateful for that. She does not trust people easily, not even mages. She is a part of the guild but hates going there. If I am correct she would have advised you not to go to the guild.”
Cassandra frowned. What Jake had said was true. Lilandra had told them that they were better off like this rather than going to the guild. She shook her head clearing her thoughts and asked Jake, “Where are we going then? To the guild?”
Jake nodded. “And father, is he going to meet us there?” she added.
Jake did not reply. He kept on driving avoiding her eye and staring dead ahead at the road.
“Jake”, she called but he did not reply. She felt a chill. Jake slowly said, “Cassandra, I don’t think you will see your father ever again.”
She found herself in an abandoned warehouse. She could feel that it was abandoned as it was completely empty. Dust had settled everywhere and she could also see cobwebs here and there. She looked around. There was no one present. Yet she had a tingling feeling that something was wrong. She took a step forward and was enveloped in a cage of energy. She swore. She was trapped and she knew that this was the work of a mage. It seemed that various traps were laid by the people of guild to make sure only mages reached the guild.
It was what she hoped. If she was wrong then there was a possibility that she might die. She waited for someone to come any second and attack her. But no one came. After an hour she started to get impatient. It seemed like no one was coming. She decided to break out of the cage. It was the most obvious thing to do. She touched one of the energy bars. Bolts of electricity passed through her. She fell down gasping.
It seemed that the cage was full of electrical energy. Perfect, just what she wanted. She smiled. She knew the counter spell for the cage now. She performed it. Nothing happened. She tried it again. Still nothing happened. She swore and kicked the cage which was a mistake as she received a shock. She decided to observe the cage more closely.
She observed that the energy was enveloping a string. It was a very thin string and could be seen if you looked for it too hard. She saw that there were total four such strings in all. She would have to cut each of them in order to escape. She had nothing sharp though. She took out her bracelet and straightened it with magic. She hoped that it would be enough.
She attacked the string with the bracelet. It broke. She sighed with relief. She broke the other strings. The cage disappeared. She heard clapping behind her. A woman had stepped out of the shadows and was now walking towards her.
The woman said, “Impressive! But this is as far as you go.”
Jake took Cassandra to the guild. After that he left her. He apparently had to report to his hunter-superiors. Cassandra’s father was found dead. Apparently he had decided to end his life instead of running. His body was found in the library of their home, with a gun in his hand.
Cassandra blended well with the guild mages and soon rose to power amongst them. A guy named Christian was the leader then. He saw potential in Cassandra and trained her furthermore. Five years after Cassandra had joined to the guild she was already considered to be a successor to Christian. It was at about that time they heard about the arrest of a large group of mages. It was said that the hunters had captured thirty mages and some of them were guild members.
A meeting was held. Jake, Cassandra, Christian, Lilandra and a person named Victor was present in the meeting. They were debating on what they were going to do about these arrested thirty mages. Victor said, “We cannot leave these mages out there to die. The hunters will definitely execute them. We have to go and save them.”
Cassandra agreed with him. Jake however said, “Do you know what you are saying? Have you gone mad?”
Lilandra said, “You have to be cuckoo to think of such a thing. It is impossible to breach the hunter’s guild. It has been tried before and none have survived. All end up dying. You will be sacrificing a lot of mages to save these thirty. This will be a bloody massacre.”
“So what do you want to do Lilandra? Leave those poor mages to die?” spoke Cassandra in a louder voice than she intended to.
“Yes”, shouted Lilandra back.
Lilandra and Cassandra were looking daggers at each other now. Victor and Jake shifted uncomfortably in their seats.
Lilandra started to say something but Christian stopped her by saying, “Enough, both of you, we are not here to fight with each other”, then he turned to Jake and said, “If someone from the hunter’s guild helps us then will it be possible to save the mages?”
Jake turned to Christian and said, “It might be possible but it can create a lot of problems. It will cause a major problem for all the mages who have infiltrated the guild.”
Christian thought for some time and the others waited patiently for him to say something. After some time he said, “If we decide on saving the mages then do you have a plan, Cassandra? Can you think of something that would help us save these mages without sacrificing our mages and not affect the mages which have infiltrated the guild?”
Cassandra shook her head and looked down. Christian looked at her for some time and then turned to Victor, “What about you Victor?”
Victor looked excited. He told them of his plan. They listened to it. Christian did not give any reaction after hearing the plan. Jake however said, “You are mad Victor.”
Lilandra said, “Fantastic. It is completely mad. I like it.”
Cassandra gave a short laugh while nodding towards Victor but Victor was looking at Christian expectantly. Christian said slowly, “I don’t like this plan.” Victor’s face fell. Christian continued, “Are you sure you will be able to pull this off Victor? This is a very huge risk you are taking.”
Victor nodded. Christian again relapsed into thought. After some time he sighed and said, “Fine, go ahead with your plan. But it will be your responsibility Victor. It’s all on you. Do you understand?”
Victor smiled and nodded. Christian said, “Fine get your team of five and get ready to go. Jake your task is to give us updates on what happens to these mages. And hurry up. I don’t think we have much time before the hunters decide to execute these mages. Meeting dismissed.”
They all left. It was on.
She looked at the woman. This was not good. She had not sensed her before. Where did she come from? She asked, “Who are you?”
The woman raised her eyebrows. She replied slowly, “I am Lilandra. Don’t you remember me?”
She frowned and shook her head. Lilandra gave a short bark type laugh and said, “So you don’t remember me eh? Interesting! Maybe I should jog your memory a bit.”
Lilandra attacked her with an energy ball. She deflected it easily. She said, “What are you doing? We are both mages. We are both on the same side. Why are you attacking me?”
Lilandra did not reply. She kept on attacking her with various spells which she kept on deflecting easily. It seemed that Lilandra was only performing minor attacking spells and she was easily able to deflect them. She deflected an incoming fire bolt from Lilandra and hit her with a dark bolt. Lilandra managed to deflect it but with difficulty. She was now pumping with adrenaline.
Before she could attack Lilandra any more Lilandra raised her hand and said, “Enough, no more fighting. You pass the test”, and stopped attacking abruptly. She gaped at Lilandra.
Lilandra however turned and started walking away from her. After some steps she turned and said, “Are you coming or not?”
She ran up to Lilandra. They started walking together. They reached a door. Lilandra put her hand on the door and turned to her. Lilandra said, “You are Catherine, are you not?”
She looked at Lilandra with narrowed eyes. She knew her. It means she knew Cassandra too. Catherine nodded. Lilandra smiled and said, “I thought so. Now come.” They went through the door.
There were five of them: Cassandra, Victor, Lilandra, Joseph and Sasha. They had captured five hunters and disguised themselves as the captured hunters with a physical appearance altering spell. They had also stolen the hunters’ memories. They were all suffering from a severe headache now. They had got in easily because of their disguises and now were sitting in the places where these hunters sat. As a result, they were separated.
According to the disguises, Cassandra was Christina, Victor was a guy who called himself Zee, Lilandra was Sarah, Joseph was Marcus and Sasha was Anya. Christina apparently was in the criminal department. Cassandra was searching Christina’s computer to find out where those thirty mages were held. She found the place. She looked through the names of the mages and froze. One name shook her. “Catherine”, she muttered. Could it be? Or is it just a coincidence? She knew her sister had died when she was very young.
“Are you all right Christina?” asked one of Christina’s colleagues. Cassandra started. Then she remembered she was Christina. She got up and said, “I will be right back.”
Her colleague simply nodded. She looked at the time as she exited. It was almost 1 o’ clock. It would soon be lunch time. It was time to act.
They had decided to meet in the cafeteria. “Well?” asked Victor as Cassandra approached.
“They are held in maximum containment cell which is underground. Even I don’t have access to it”, said Cassandra. The others were working in the administrative department and none of them had access.
“We will have to use force then”, said Joseph.
“True, we will have the element of surprise on our side. They won’t expect an attack from their employees”, said Sasha. They all agreed. They stealthily went away from there, avoiding the other employees who were entering the cafeteria. They reached the access elevators. There were two guards in front of the lift. Before they could do anything they heard an explosion and the alarms started blaring.
“The prisoners are escaping”, shouted one of the guards, “Shut down the elevator.”
They looked at each other. They did not have much time. They started forward. The guards tried to say something but they simply blew them off with a wave of their hands. The lift was already out of service. They opened the door and blasted off the floor of the lift. They dropped down. They landed smoothly at the bottom by performing the whirlwind spell. They took a breather and blasted the doors. As they came out of the elevator shaft, they came face to face with the escaping mages.
Catherine was leading them. They all stopped and gasped. It seemed to them that Cassandra was leading the escaping mages. They all looked at Cassandra. She went forward and said, “Need a way out?”
Catherine who was poised to attack said, “You are here to help?”
Victor said, “Yes, we are mages. Please come with us.”
Victor and Cassandra led the group while the others took the rear. Catherine came up to them and said, “Where are you taking us. Shouldn’t we be going up?”
Victor said, “If we take the regular exits then we will have to fight our way through the guards. If we try to blast through these walls then we will be buried. The only option is to reach the maintenance tunnel which leads to the sewers.”
They faced some guards on the way but they knocked them out easily. They did not kill anyone. They finally reached the maintenance tunnel and through it entered the sewers. Lilandra sealed the door behind them. They kept on running for a long time after which they stopped to take a breather. It was then all hell broke loose.
The room was dark. It lit up when they entered it. Catherine blinked. Lilandra simply walked in the middle of the room. It was an empty room. Lilandra cleared her throat loudly. Catherine looked at her. Then she looked at the floor and started. The whole floor was filled with a single runic symbol. Catherine wondered why she did not realize it when she entered.
It was a mass teleportation spell and Lilandra was standing in the middle inviting Catherine to join her. Catherine walked up to her. Lilandra held out her hand and Catherine grabbed it. The rune started to glow. Next moment Catherine felt herself vanish into nothingness. There was no pain, only a tingling feeling. She appeared in a runic symbol and buckled down on her knees.
Lilandra said, “Come on, get up. We will have to hurry.”
Catherine nodded and started behind Lilandra who had already started to walk out of the room. As she exited the room Catherine saw that they were in a narrow passage at the end of which rungs were seen. The passage was lit by electric lamps. Catherine was a bit surprised to see them underground. She wondered where they had come. They climbed out of the underground passage.
Catherine saw that they were in a forest of some sort. They were surrounded by a wall of high shrubbery. The wall of shrubbery was square shaped and with no exits. Lilandra walked up to one of the corners and ran a finger through it from top to bottom. The shrubbery shivered and it went right into ground. Not only that, but a path cleared in front of them by the shifting of the trees.
Lilandra grinned at Catherine and said, “Slight disadvantage for those who are not tall.”
Catherine laughed. They came out of forest and Catherine gasped. There was a valley in front of them and in this valley was, “A town!” gasped Catherine. It was night and lights were tinkling all over the valley. Lilandra said, “Welcome to Avalon Catherine.”
Above them the ceiling blasted and the hunters started to drop. They started firing and killed five mages before anyone could react. Lilandra was the first one to react. She snapped her fingers and the hunters fell down clutching their throats. Cassandra joined her. “Go”, she shouted to Lilandra, “Get out of here. Get these mages out of here. I will hold the hunters back.”
Lilandra nodded and left her. The mages started to run. More holes were blasted now and more hunters dropped down. Cassandra fought them but more and more hunters were dropping down now. She felt tired. It wouldn’t be long before her powers ran out. She let go of her disguise. Performing spells in the disguised form was taxing for her. It was then she heard a voice behind her, “Cassandra?”
Cassandra turned to see Catherine standing there. She ran up to her and hugged her. Catherine collapsed the way behind her and hugged her back. They did not say anything for some time. Then Catherine said, “I think we should get out of here.”
Cassandra nodded and wiped off her tears. They started running. Their pace was slow as Cassandra was tired. Soon they came out of the sewers and into the river. They jumped into it. They came out of it when they thought they had put sufficient distance between them and the hunters. They lay gasping for breath on the river bank. They started to laugh. Once they had stopped Cassandra, “You have a lot of explaining to do Cathy.”
“What about you Cassy?” said Catherine, “Even you have lots to explain. But now is not the time.”
Cassandra frowned and said, “What do you mean?”
Catherine sighed and said, “Go back to the guild Cassandra. I will come to you when the time is right. I will explain everything then. Till then we need to be separated. This is for your own safety.”
Cassandra looked at her sister long and hard. She said, “Fine. But come back soon. I cannot lose you again.”
Catherine nodded. Cassandra asked hesitantly, “What about mother?”
Catherine’s face grew grim. Cassandra understood. She stood up and said emotionally, “Father too.”
Then her voice grew a bit fierce and she said, “I will give you two years. After that I will come looking for you.”
After that Cassandra left. Catherine watched her sister go. Then she also stood up. She had got a job to do.
“Avalon”, Catherine muttered. Then she said out loud, “Hooked up on King Arthur, are we?”
Lilandra smiled and said, “Our ex-leader Christian was a big fan of King Arthur.”
“What happened to him?” asked Catherine.
“Killed by a hunter”, replied Lilandra, “He was trying to save me.”
“Why did you all choose Cassandra to be your leader?” asked Catherine.
Lilandra said slowly, “Because Christian wanted her to be his successor. He believed that she would be the right person to lead the mages when he would retire. She is very popular amongst the mages and she also leads well.”
Catherine nodded. Then she asked, “Have we met before? Earlier you said that I should remember you. I actually don’t.”
Lilandra sighed and said, “It was about two years ago. We busted thirty mages out of the hunters’ prison. You were among them. But now I think of it you would not recognize me as we were disguised.”
“Then why did you ask whether I remember you or not?” asked Catherine.
Lilandra simply shrugged. Catherine laughed and said, “I think we should go to my sister now.”
Lilandra nodded and started walking. A voice however stopped them, “Not so fast.”
They turned around to see who it was. Catherine held her breath. He was here. He was smiling and walking towards them. He had two others with him. He smiled and said, “I am coming with you.”
After the rescue operation, Cassandra and Victor rose in rank amongst the mages. They helped in bringing more and more mages into the guild. It was a year after the rescue mission that Christian died, trying to save Lilandra and he had named Cassandra as his heir. There were some protests against this as Cassandra was only 24 years and people believed that she was too young to take the mantle of the leader. Even Cassandra was not confident that she could be a leader.
Cassandra was sitting underneath a tree contemplating what to do about the leadership issue. She heard footsteps behind her and she turned. Jake was coming towards her. He sat down besides her.
He sighed and said, “So, have you decided to be the leader of the mages or not?”
Cassandra looked away from him and looked at the sky. She spoke, “I have decided that I will take the mantle of leadership if no one opposes.”
“You are talking about Shell and his followers I suppose”, said Jake.
“Hah! Shell! He is nothing. The main player is Father Abbot and you know it. I don’t understand why he is doing this. It’s not like he really wants Shell to be the leader. And he doesn’t want me to be the leader. And he doesn’t want himself to be the leader. Then what the hell does he want?” said Cassandra in a frustrated way.
Jake said, “So you now want to become the leader because Father Abbot does not want you to be the leader.”
Cassandra glared at him. He said defensively, “Well, it certainly looks like that.”
Cassandra looked away from him. Then she sighed and said in a small voice, “It is not because of Father Abbot that I want to be a leader. You see, when Christian died and named me his heir, I was scared. At that time I did not think that I could lead anyone. But as the days passed, I had some time to think. Actually the opposition by Shell actually helped me. If you had asked me to take a decision then and there, I would have said no. But as I thought more and more, I believe that I could really lead the mages. I know I would lead them differently, not as Christian did, but I am confident that I could lead them. I also have many changes in my mind which I wish to make.”
“Interesting”, said a voice behind them. They turned to see Father Abbot standing. Cassandra started angrily, “How dare you...”, but Abbot raised his hand and she got silent at once.
Abbot looked at Jake and said, “I think she has made her decision hasn’t she?”
Cassandra said, “What is going on Jake?”
Jake was grinning. He said, “Well, Christian had named you his heir before dying. After his death you had to take the mantle of leadership. I saw your face when the time came when you had to declare yourself the leader, declare yourself as Christian’s heir. I knew at once that if we had put pressure on you to make the decision then and there about being a leader or not, you would have said no. I wanted to give you time. So I immediately asked Shell to protest which he did. Then I asked Father Abbot to handle the opposition which was led by Shell. I don’t know whether you think what I did was right or wrong, but I believe that I did the right thing.”
He looked at Cassandra waiting for approval. Cassandra stared at him for a moment and then burst out laughing.
Father Abbot smiled and said in a loud voice, “Cassandra Coroner, are you ready to lead the mages?”
Cassandra looked dead in his eyes and said, “Yes.”
She was made the leader of the mages.
Catherine froze on seeing him. Lilandra however spoke in a falsetto cheery voice, “Good to see you Jake. What are you doing here?”
“I come with bad news”, replied Jake.
Catherine stuttered, “You... you... know him Lilandra?”
Lilandra said calmly, “Yes, Jake is a fellow friend and a mage. Why do you ask?”
“Because he tried to kill me”, said Catherine.
Lilandra raised an eyebrow. Jake raised his hand and said, “I am sorry about that. I was only trying to find you. I was doing it secretly. But my superiors found out about it and they wanted me to kill you. They also assigned a team to me. I had no choice. I am an undercover mage in the hunters’ guild. If I had not done what I did, my cover would have been blown. Anyway I made sure you would not die. That is why I came into your room. You had a better chance of escaping if I would have attacked you rather than my team mates and that is what exactly happened.”
Catherine stared at him. Then she walked up to him and slapped him hard. It was then she noticed two more people. “Who are they?” she asked.
“Oh! I am McHauney”, said McHauney.
“Call me Donovon”, said Donovon.
“They are also undercover mages”, said Jake.
Catherine looked daggers at him as if he had done a great crime just by talking. Lilandra sighed and said, “Come on. Let’s go. This is not a place for idle gossip.”
They followed her. She led them through a path which led them to the bottom of the valley. It took them an hour to descend. By the time, a majority of lights in the houses had been extinguished and people had gone to sleep.
“Tell me something”, said Catherine, “Is this only town the mages can escape to?”
Lilandra said, “This is one of the towns. There are many such towns all over the world. Most of the mages however prefer to lead a nomadic life.”
Catherine nodded. They continued walking till they reached a villa. Lilandra simply went inside. Jake however had a talk with the guards and then beckoned Catherine in. The guards stared at her when she passed them. They went to the living room and sat down. After some time Cassandra came in the room. She looked a bit flustered as if she had rushed to get there. When she came Catherine stood up. Both the sisters looked at each other for some time. Then they ran and hugged each other.
“Catherine”, shouted Cassandra with joy, “It is so good to see you.”
“Good to see you too Cassandra”, said Catherine.
Jake coughed. Cassandra went up to him and kissed him. Catherine gaped at them. Cassandra explained, “I see you have met my husband Jake.”
Jake said, “A husband who has very important news which cannot wait.”
Cassandra looked at him. Then she said, “I will convene a meeting immediately.” Then she turned to Catherine and said, “You are invited too.” Jake frowned but Catherine accepted the invitation. They started to go, Cassandra telling the guard who to call. Catherine smiled. She felt as if she had arrived home.
Cassandra was a good leader. Under her leadership the mages guild grew. Few months after she became the leader, Jake proposed to her and they got married. It was the happiest day of Cassandra’s life and she wished Catherine was there to witness it. After all she had gone through; Jake was the best thing that had happened to her.
One day she called Jake. Jake was still an undercover mage inside the hunter’s guild and was now promoted to a higher position. So they were not together most of the time. When Jake came Cassandra went up to him and kissed him. She said, “I need a favor.”
They went up to their bedroom and Jake closed the door behind him. Jake could see she was troubled. He said, “What is it Cassy?”
Cassandra said, “It is Catherine. Do you remember the promise I made to her?”
Jake nodded. Cassandra continued, “Well the two years are up. I don’t know what to do now. I want to go looking for her but I cannot abandon the mages.”
Jake looked at her seriously. He said, “I am thinking that you want me to go looking for her, don’t you?”
Cassandra looked at him pleadingly. “Will you?” she asked.
Jake thought about it. Then he went up to her and hugged her. He said in a quiet voice, “Don’t worry Cassy. I will bring Catherine to the guild. I promise.”
A meeting was convened. In this meeting were present Cassandra, Jake, McHauney, Donovon, Lilandra, Victor, Father Abbot, Shell and Catherine. Cassandra was at the head place. To her left sat Jake, McHauney, Donovon and Shell. To her right sat Father Abbot, Lilandra, Victor and Catherine. Cassandra said to Jake, “What news do you bring Jake?”
Jake looked at McHauney and Donovon and said, “Our cover is blown. They now know that there are mages in the guild.”
Cassandra asked, “How?”
“I think they had suspicions of me. And I sort of used magic upon one of the hunters to extract information. They found out about it. I was careless”, said Jake.
“Yes and they sent a team to take him down. We were with him at that time. They asked us to help them capture Jake. We had to fight them. We killed them all, but I believe they know by now”, said McHauney.
“The hunters will be very pissed now. They will be starting a major mage hunt now”, said Donovon.
“Yes each and every hunter will go through a check now. We will have to get our guys out of the guild. We will have to warn each of our undercover mage to scram”, said Jake.
They all were trying to digest what they had heard. Catherine said in a quiet voice, “It is the perfect time.”
“Perfect time for what Catherine?” asked Cassandra.
“It is the perfect time to strike at the hunters”, said Catherine.
“What do you mean?” asked Cassandra.
“The hunters will be in a state of confusion right now. They will not know who to trust inside their guild. They will be doing checks amongst their own people trying to find out who is a mage. Moreover they would also go for revenge and would come after the mages after they are finished with the checking. They would strike at us anyways now. Why don’t we strike first?”
A deadly silence followed Catherine’s speech. Father Abbot was the first to speak. He said, “What you are saying is right. The hunters have been treating us like animals from the very start. This is a very good opportunity to get back at them.”
Lilandra nodded and said slowly, “It could be done.”
Catherine was looking straight at Cassandra waiting for her decision. Cassandra was thinking. She knew that when she had become a leader, she had decided that the mages would fight the hunters eventually. But this was too soon. She had never decided when. She looked at Jake.
He said, “I like the idea. Let’s do it. We may not get such an opportunity in the future. The hunters would definitely not expect an attack right now.”
Cassandra still was undecided. She said, “Well I like the idea, but I will have to talk with the leaders of the rest of the towns.” They all agreed with her.
Cassandra continued, “I will call the meeting of the leaders and put this point forward. I will do this immediately because I believe if we wish to do this then we will have to do this very quickly.”
They all agreed to that to. Cassandra concluded, “Fine then, this meeting is over. Father Abbot, please start making the preparations and Jake, please arrange for the meeting of the leaders.”
They all left one by one. Only Catherine and Cassandra remained. They went up to Cassandra’s room. Cassandra said to Catherine, “Tell me everything.” Catherine saw the emotion in her sister’s eyes. She sighed and began.
Jake stood in front of her house. There were three others with him. He looked at them. One of them said, “I say we fish her out and then take her down.”
Jake said, “I don’t know. I want to take her down quietly, not make much of a show, you know.”
The hunter replied, “Fine then. You go inside and try to kill her quietly. If you are unsuccessful then she will come out and we will kill her.”
Jake looked threateningly at the hunter. He said, “You are forgetting your place here No.3. Don’t forget who leads here.” The hunter muttered an apology.
Jake nodded and said, “However, I do like your idea. I will go inside.”
He circled the house. He found many traps to ward off hunters. But he was also a mage. He managed to disarm each of them. He found an open window. He climbed up through a pipe and entered the room through the open window.
It seemed that it was her bedroom. She was not there though. He waited for her by the window. He could hear her downstairs. She would come up soon. He looked out of the window. The sky was clear that night and he could see the stars clearly. He was thinking of Cassandra. He was so lost that he did not hear her come in the room. She came in, saw him and froze. She knew at once who he was. The question just burst out of her, “How did you know?”
Jake turned away from the window to look at her. Catherine was standing in front of him.
“After the hunters had proved that mother and I were mages, we were locked up in one of their prisons. However mom broke us out of the prison. The hunters did not publicize the escape. They told father that we were dead, I believe. We kept on running for years. Mom trained me to be a mage. When she thought things had settled down, she tried to contact father. But they found out and they were after us again. We ran. I hoped you and father were okay. It was our twelfth birthday at that time. We were going to come home when they attacked us.
After that we stopped trying to reach to you guys. Soon we believed that you were both dead. Mother died five years ago. We were attacked by hunters. We killed the hunters but mom died during the fight. I was not able to save her. I was a fully fledged mage by then. Since then I have been wandering, living a normal nomadic life, till I was captured and you guys saved me. The rest you know”, said Catherine.
Cassandra said, “Then what have you been doing for the last two years?”
Catherine replied in a serious voice, “I have been trying to find out the identity of the lead hunter.”
Cassandra stopped breathing. She gasped. She began, “Did you...”
“No”, replied Catherine, “I was unsuccessful.”
Cassandra looked disappointed. Catherine said, “Will you tell me your story now?”
Cassandra told her everything. They were silent for some time. Then Cassandra said, “We will go to war now. I will be able to persuade the other leaders, but I will need help. Will you come with me?”
Catherine nodded. They hugged. They went out to the balcony and sat down. They looked at the stars. They talked for a long time that night. It was there Jake found them in the morning, sleeping with their hands clasped.
Jake looked at Catherine and whispered, “You once asked me how I knew? How could I not. You are her sister after all. It was easy tracking you.”
And he smiled at the two sisters, two sisters who would change the fate of the mages all over the world.