Everything hurt. Even her eyelids, which was ridiculous, and yet she couldn’t open them.
A movement to her left made her flinch and curse instantaneously when every cell in her body screamed in protest. She pulled on the last of her reserves to protect herself. Her hair whipped out, snaking around the hand which hovered above her.
“What is it with you and the hair?” She heard a familiar voice mutter.
“Zachariah,” she said, frowning. Why can’t I sense you?
“Hag,” he responded.
Would it kill you to use my real name? “If I had the strength, I’d punch you,” she murmured, squeezing his wrist with the silken binds.
“That bad, huh?” He flexed his hand until she let go.
Her hair slithered back and shrank against her side. “Just give me a minute and I’ll be as good as new.”
He laughed, and she wanted to punch him again. “Take your time. I took care of the ones you couldn’t handle.”
That did it. Her eyes snapped open and the world hit her with a punch of light and colour. She glared across at Zachariah and groaned when he grinned back, showing teeth.
“You did that on purpose,” she accused, narrowing her eyes.
“Someone had to snap you out of it. You can’t lie here, feeling sorry for yourself.”
You’re going to pay for that. “A giant-sized version of Metal Mickey just made me his bitch,” she said slowly, because each word hurt. “I’m surprised he didn’t snap me in half, so forgive me if I need to regroup.”
Their latest battle with the Fractured had claimed more than a dozen lives. They had used magic to power monsters made of metal and the enemy had proved a considerable challenge.
Zachariah’s face pinched in disgust. “It’s like cheating,” he said, looking across the field towards the mountain of metal littered across the clearing. “Using man-made constructs against us.”
What the hell is that noise? The rumbling in her throat was akin to a disused engine trying to ignite the cold in its bones. Not what her laughter usually sounded like. Maybe that’s what she was now, she thought sourly, broken.
“We got a live one here,” somebody called from inside the metal mountain. She recognised the voice, she just couldn’t place it. Her lids were heavy and stubbornly refused to bend to her will. They slammed shut, sealing her in darkness.
“I need to carry you over to Elliot,” Sebastian said.
That’s it…Elliot! “Glad he made it,” she croaked. He was the newest member of the team. A changeling with a chip on his shoulder. She’d liked him on sight.
“This is going to hurt.” Sebastian again. “Try not to pass out or it won’t work.”
Hurt didn’t even cover it. The moment Zachariah lifted her from the ground she was drawn into a world of pain. It wanted to pull her down into a comforting void where she would feel nothing but a quiet, blissful peace.
“No checking out on me,” Zachariah whispered.
She managed to grunt, letting her mind wander. A scan of the damage to her body told her it was worse than she thought; a dislocated shoulder, three cracked ribs, several broken bones and internal bleeding. The only thing keeping her alive was magic and she was almost out.
“I will not die at the hands of a tin can,” she ground out. The sound of her voice frightened her, it was weak and breathy. The sound of a drowning woman.
“That tin can might save your life,” Zachariah answered.
She puzzled over that a moment, until darkness engulfed her once more. The cold, hard ground came up to meet her as Zachariah lowered her down again.
“You still with me?” he asked, touching her cheek. “Think you can access Mickey’s juice?”
“Hook me up,” she croaked.
Zachariah’s laughter brushed over her skin. “Anyone particular you had in mind?”
Sorry, my funny bone doesn’t seem to be working. “Hilarious.”
After a long, uncomfortable silence she began to chant softly, calling on the last of her magic to make the connection. If it didn’t work she would die here in the dirt.
She felt the slow unwinding of her hair as it moved with snake-like elegance, seeking the energy source. The stark silence was replaced with a gentle hum. It was followed by a punch of magic so strong and dark it knocked her out cold.
Thanks for reading.