I saw the young hunter searching. So close. Reaching. I pressed my back against the wall. The clothes I was surrounded by didn’t hide me well enough.
“I’ll do it!” called one deep voice.
“You’re too harsh! She needs a gentle hand!” argued a younger, softer male voice.
“You’re too kind on them, you’re supposed to learn how to handle a situation like this! She’s a dangerous Mage! All Mages are dangerous!” the older one barked. A rough hand reached in and dragged me out by the front of the shirt I had just . . . acquired. He lifted me into the half light. The place I was in was giant, with so many rooms it was so easy to get lost in this place. That was at least the point I was going for. I could almost make out the one who had me in his grip in the light. He had sun-blonde, curly hair that reached to his shoulders. His eyes were a forest green, flashed in anger and hatred. I couldn’t see his clothes in the dark, but I felt it when my bare foot brushed up against the smooth touchable surface. Both my hands flew to his grip on my shirt.
“Commander!” A young boy protested. I didn’t bother to look at him. I let my left hand release my grip on the man’s hand, feeling the power and heat surge within me before I held out my free hand and shot a small fireball at him. He let go in surprise and pain before covering his face with his hands. “Commander!” This tone was less reprimanding and more concerned. Any friend of his was no friend of mine! I took off in a short burst of adrenaline and energy. I ran, creating a gap between myself and my enemies. I had only JUST lost my only friend and now I was on the run?! What happened to my life?!
“Wait!” I heard the younger voice call. I ran up some metal stairs, around plants and into a giant room of clothes. It was too dark to see the types of clothes I had run into. Some felt soft, others felt rugged, a few felt like animal fur. “Wait! I’m not going to hurt you!” he promised. His voice echoed off the walls, distorting my ability to tell where he was. I placed my hand on the cool hard surface.
‘He is good! He won’t hurt you! Surrender to him.’ the voice in my head whispered encouragingly. But he’s after me! His friend hurt me!
‘But HE won’t hurt you.’ the voice promised. I heard footsteps come closer, and closer and closer until they stopped.
“I know you’re scared, I know you don’t trust me right now, but I can promise, on my word as a person, I’m not going to hurt you. I promise as a hunter. I promise that if you surrender to me, no harm will come to you.” I heard something be set down, and steps growing faint, but not disappearing. I heard a loud clacking sound and the bright lights flooded the room, blocked mostly by the clothes. When my eyes adjusted I saw that I was in a room of coats. Soft coats, denim coats, fur lined coats. The floor was a green stone-like material that shined like polished glass. In the middle of the floor was a stuffed brown and white wolf toy. I tilted my head as I peeked through the coats like they were curtains. It was about six feet from me, staring at me with pleading brown eyes.
Feeling the call of sympathy I crawled out of my spot and quietly made my way to the stuffed wolf. I was happy when I sat down with the wolf and held it in my arms. I felt love and safety while holding the wolf. I leaned my head on it and closed my eyes.
“I name you, Hunter.” I whispered to him. I heard quiet and careful footsteps behind me and froze. I stood on my feet and spun on my heel, dropping the wolf, and held my hands out to defend myself. I was greeted by the sight of a rusty-blonde haired young boy with brown eyes, who looked to be about eleven, wearing a black sweat jacket and a pair of jeans staring wide eyed at me.
“Hey, . . . I like wolves too.” His black tennis shoes were just shy of squeaking on the floor. I kept my guard up, but didn’t attack, yet. He stopped with his hands raised as if to show surrender. “I mean you no harm. My name is Salem Youngblood; nice to meet you. I just turned twelve last week, and was sent on a journey to chose my own path. And your name is-?” he asked. I kept silent. He sighed as if defeated.
“You may keep the wolf. Hunter, you named him? That’s an incredible name for a three year old,” he guessed at my age. I shot a glare, but put my arms down. “Come with me, I’ll take you to the Arch, a castle turned into a school for you. You’ll get to learn how to control your magic, discover your favorite type of magic, and meet others just like you who want to learn to control their magic and see the world. I’ll take you to it. You’ll be under constant protection, and I’ll be there. I won’t leave you; I’ll protect you.” Salem swore, repeatedly. I looked down at my feet past my jeans, totally busted. I held my hands up again but this time it was in surrender as well. The boy. . . Salem, looked confused at first, but gave a slow nod.
“You’ll do well.” he murmured before taking a slightly faster approach toward me. It took everything I had not to shoot out fire at him. He picked up the wolf, handed it to me, then picked me up like a father holding his daughter.
“Where is she?! Did you get her?!” I heard the rough voice boom as he stumbled into the room. I gave a short squeak before hugging Hunter to my face to protect me.
“Shhh, yes. I - well. . . she surrendered to me.” Salem explained.
“. . . What?” the older one scoffed.
“She surrendered. Look; no cuffs, no bruises, I didn’t need to harm her. She’s scared, Bruce. Scaring her even more will not make her bend to your will. She needs compromise and understanding.” Salem sounded like a young father or older brother.
“What are you, her mother?” the older one teased. I peeked from behind Hunter to see he was cradling his bleeding cheek.
“Hunter, this is Bruce. He’s my mentor and a good guy, normally. He’s an evil hunter isn’t he?” Salem teased him while calming me to his presence. I wrapped one arm around Salem’s neck, holding myself away from Bruce.
“She’s trying to choke you!” Bruce accused.
“You’re scaring her! I told you to be calm, and gentle.” Salem scolded.
“Wasn’t I teaching you, boy?” Bruce said, grinding his teeth.
“You need a refresher course. She’s shivering. Let’s get her to the inn and let her sleep.”
“In a cage.” Bruce said matter-of-factly.
“No! In a bed. She probably hasn’t seen a bed in months.” A hunter was going to take care of me? I’m not even his responsibility. Bruce drove the black car while putting on a headset, while Salem and I sat in the back seat. I could see what Bruce was wearing now. He wore a black jacket and jeans with black boots and black gloves. The car was small and black with smooth seats, the same material as Bruce’s jacket, shiny and sleek, with black carpeted grounds and polished glass mirrors. He took his gloves off to drive.
“Boss, we got the Mage girl. . . No, hasn’t said a word since we found her. . . In the Sunrise Mall… Two feet, three inches, my guess is three or four years old. … She must have made a break for the clothes or something, smelled some old dried cinnamon bun; I don’t know. … Look we got her, but it’s going to be a while before we can get her in. . . OK. . . Alright. Bruce out.” He tossed the headset on the passenger seat before addressing Salem.
“They say we should stop at a hotel and sleep in shifts, make sure your little friend doesn’t get away.” Bruce’s green eyes flashed at me from the mirror. I leaned my head on Salem’s shoulder and hugged Hunter to me tightly. The car ride wasn’t loud, but the silence was deafening.
“Could you turn on the radio? This silence is unnerving.” Salem spoke up.
“How is silence unnerving? You will learn kid, silence is your friend. Silence means you haven’t been discovered.” Bruce explained.
“What are we hiding from? We have the girl! What more could there be?”
“Boy, you have so much to learn.” Bruce sighed.