It was slightly eerie walking through the city so early; streets that usually bustled with activity were sadly empty. The sun crested the horizon as we walked, the light washing towards us down the street and finally bathing us with its warmth. I could hear birds singing softly, even in the midst of so many tall buildings and concrete they were there to greet the new day. As the light washed over Harry I saw him take a deep breath, his eyes shutting briefly. I’m not sure if he even realised he did it. I found out later that magic holds a strange relationship with the sunrise. It has something to do with the new day washing away all things that have come before, it ushers in a revolution that cleanses most magical effects unless a great deal of energy has been inputted to keep the spell active.
But as I said, at the time I knew nothing of this. All I know is that the light was fine by me. We ended up in a McDonalds at something ridiculous like half past five. This was one of the first times I had ever seen the city so early in the morning and I was surprised to see that there were still people moving around, not many by any means but a few. Clearly there were enough customers to ensure that places like this were open twenty four hours a day and I was grateful for it as my stomach gave a growl at the thought of something to eat.
The girl behind the counter looked half asleep as it was, leaning gently onto the cash register to support herself as she sullenly asked us for our order. Harry ordered a round of coffees and some basic greasy food that I hardly paid attention to before devouring it. We found a table by the window and far from anyone who might overhear us as we spoke.
I didn’t really join in with the conversation all that much to begin with, too eager to eat.
“Ok, now who exactly are you?” my dad asked after a small sip of his coffee, his face contorting into a grimace at the bitter taste.
“Well, this is not going to be easy to hear. My name is Harry Akers and I am a Wizard.”
I looked closely at my parents reactions from across the table, I had been secretly hoping to see complete confusion cross their faces. The last chance I had that this had all been a mistake. But it didn’t come, instead they looked at each other and then sighed.
“We have been expecting this,” my mum said eventually.
I couldn’t help myself at this point, the anger erupted from me in a snarl, “You knew! How could you keep something like this from me?”
“Lily please, you have to understand that we only did what we thought was best for you.”
“I nearly died tonight, more than once! If I had known I was a Wizard then I might have been able to do something about it.”
My mum looked at me, all concern and confusion, “You’re a Wizard? No you can’t be,” she looked at Harry for an answer, “Tell me it’s not true.”
"Lily you have to believe us we didn't know that you were a Wizard."
"How can I believe anything you tell me after you have kept who I am from me for my whole life!"
The look of hurt that filled my parents eyes with tears almost cut through my anger to make me feel guilty, but it was all too raw at the time. So instead I turned my head in disgust and stared out of the window rather than look at them.
"It’s not my place to intervene in family matters, but there are a few things that we need to discuss. Lily has been placed under my protection as a novice. She must learn to control her powers otherwise they will be a danger to herself and those around her. To this end I have tried to get her a place at Beacon Academy starting in September. We don't really have a choice in this matter, but I hope that you will give your consent anyway."
"We will do anything we can to protect our daughter."
"I don't want your help, I'm not even your daughter. I know all about the Fae and the Winter Court!" I don't really know why I said it, I think I just wanted to spread some of the anger around but before my mum could answer one of the staff came over to our table to clean up the empty tray of food wrappers and coffee cups.
I saw it in the reflection of the window first, her face was normal one moment and then monstrous the next. Her teeth grew to long thin points that pierced from black gums revealed as her lips peeled back in a snarl. The eyes that had been normal transformed into deep back pits as she lunged across the table towards me. Her hands, now more claw like with long sharp nails, outstretched to grip my face.
I moved instinctively, ducking my head towards the window and as far from her reach as I could get. As I moved I twisted around so I could get a clear look of my attacker and I saw that all of the staff had transformed into these monsters and were coming towards our table. Bounding across the room in great leaps while high pitched wails filled the air from their throats.
Harry's hand reacted faster than I would have thought possible reaching out to grip the outstretched wrist before it had a chance to rip into me. His other arm darted into his jacket and started to pull something out before the momentum of her lunge pinned him to the seat. I kicked out with both of my feet wildly, both connected but without much success. There was a low grunt from her throat that was the only sign I had made an impact. I continued to kick, aiming my feet towards her face while Harry struggled beneath her weight. Clearly she was powerfully built as he seemed to be struggling to stop her jaws from biting him while her claws raked across his chest. I expected to see fountains of blood erupting from deep wounds but where the claws met his jacket faint blue sparks spang up and left no mark behind.
While we struggled with the first howling monster the others had gained ground ready to leap in and finish the fight decisively and, unfortunately for us, fatally.
"Harry!" I screamed wildly as my foot once again connected solidly with the side of her face, forcing another grunt to erupt from her lips as she was foiled from biting into his exposed neck.
"Little busy here Lily." My parents sat across from us, my mum cowered as far into the corner of the seat as she could squeeze while my dad covered her as much as possible. Their eyes were wide with shock and the terror had left them unable to move.
"What do we do? The rest are coming." I kicked again as hard as I could, it knocked her head sideways away from our table and she howled in frustration once more. The others howled in sympathy as they prepared to pounce towards us.
"Ventas-Vis," the spell was snarled low almost inaudible, but I could feel the force of it. The creature flew backwards away from Harry, spinning wildly in the air and colliding with two of her companions. With his arms free Harry stood and in the same motion withdrew his arm from his jacket pulling out a pistol. Before the first monster had landed shots were ringing out in the confines of the restaurant and sounding unbelievably loud.
I flinched back from the noise and the wave of after effects that the spell had left. I didn't see what happened to the other monsters but a moment later Harry was looking at me once more, his free hand outstretched and pulling me to my feet.
"They won't be down for long we need to move."
My ears were ringing with the noise and I could smell the burning in the air mixed with a faintly metallic smell that I later learned was the unmistakable odour of blood. As I began to move I saw the creatures faintly stirring regaining their ability to move as the deep holes in their chests fused back together before my eyes.
"What are they?" I asked as I stumbled slowly towards the door.
"Ghouls. Low-Life creatures of the Fae world; tough to kill and have a taste for meat. We can't fight them here so run."
We staggered out into the street, me pushing my parents in front and Harry standing behind us, his gun held low by his side in one hand and the other held before him, fingers spread wide. We moved down the street as quickly as we could but before we had moved more than fifty feet from the door the glass windows exploded outwards as three Ghouls leapt clear through them to crash into the road. They moved with an unnatural grace, leaping and pouncing like some huge horrific cat. The first to land lifted its head in an unmistakable sniffing gesture before turning towards us and howling in satisfaction.
Harry lifted the gun once more, firing five quick shots in succession that tore into the oncoming Ghouls but seeming to have no effect as they continued to bound towards us. His other hand was pooling fire as I felt the rush of power sucked towards him, it grew brighter in his hand until it became painful to look directly towards him; a second sun rising from the shadows.
The Ghouls were gaining ground swiftly as my parents cowered together, my mum trying to pull me backwards towards them. I thought he left it too late, the leading ghoul was preparing to pounce when his hand shot up and his voice resounded into the silence, "Ignis-Vis!"
The fireball streaked forwards, the heat searing my face. It collided with the leading ghoul in mid pounce, engulfing it in flame and carrying it backwards to collide with the others. A strong smell of burnt hair filled the air as I took a deep calming breath, but before I could relax a burning, snarling shape erupted from the inferno and collided solidly with Harry, the pair collapsing in a tumble of burning, flailing limbs
"Run!" I didn't know how to help so instead I followed his command, leading my parents away from the scene as fast as I could and not daring to look behind me for the fear of what I would see.
I didn't know where we were going but my parents seemed unable to think, the shock rendering them useless. So I took turns at random, moving as fast as I could to get as much distance as possible between me and the ghouls.
We stopped in an empty alley behind the main road of shops, I listened as hard as I could for the sign of approaching footsteps but all I could hear was the sound of my own heavy breathing and pounding heart; that was until I heard the voice.
It was a low, smooth voice that was filled with an unexplainable joy considering the situation I found myself in. "You can't escape them, they will hunt you down to the ends of the Earth if they must."
I looked wildly around for the source of the voice but couldn't find it. There was nobody around me in any direction, at least nobody I could see.
"What do they want with me?" I asked, my voice fortunately not betraying the fear I felt.
"What indeed, you should know by now that you are anything but normal Lily Bowden," the voice purred with pleasure, clearly enjoying my fear.
"How do you know my name?" I continued to search for the source of the voice, my eyes roving wildly around me.
"I know a great deal more than that," he laughed and I finally saw him. What I had mistaken for a simple shadow moved almost imperceptibly to show the brief outline of a tall man. I understood it at once, he wasn't simply stood in shadow he was made up of shadows, with only his feline yellow eyes gleaming from the darkness.
"Harry will be here soon, you should leave before he gets here."
"I'm afraid the Wizard is a little caught up at the moment and sadly won't be rushing to save you. My friends on the other hand..."
I had been focusing my attention on the shadow man and had failed to notice two more ghouls walking towards us, shedding their human form as they moved closer, their faces growling and drooling spittle as teeth began to extend.
I backed away slowly, as far as I could in the narrow alley. The ghouls were moving slowly none of the supernatural speed evident as they prowled towards us. Each movement was deliberate, like that of a hunting cat that had cornered its prey.
'You are not prey Lily. Now stop acting like it and do something.'
'What do you suggest? I'm trapped in an alley with two huge monsters about to eat me and apparently I have finally gone mad because I'm talking to myself.'
'Hmm perhaps you're right. Maybe we should just give up and die right here. Or I suppose we could finally start to act like the Wizard that we are supposed to be.'
A small laugh escaped me at this point and I think it startled the ghouls almost as much as it shocked me. I don't know how I looked exactly but everyone was staring at me so I assume it wasn't my normal self. I really had gone insane if I was starting to talk myself into using more magic when I had no idea how I had done it in the first place.
'I can show you how to do it if you want.'
'Don't take this the wrong way, but I think if I'm hearing voices I probably shouldn't do as they say.'
'Is now really the time to think about such things?' As my inner self said this the ghouls started forwards once more, all the while watched by the shadowman.
'Ok maybe not.'
I felt it happen almost as soon as I decided to do it. The power began to build within me, I could feel it being absorbed from all around me and I began to feel a coldness spreading throughout my body. When I thought I could hold no more, like a bubble about to burst and my with my eyes shut tight against the pain building in my head I faintly heard the voice of the other me whisper.
The effort overwhelmed me and I collapsed. I would have hit the floor completely if strong hands hadn't gripped my shoulders and kept me upright. I took a few deep breaths feeling exhausted. Eventually I opened my eyes, expecting to see Harry but instead meeting the strange grey stare of the Fae from the trial.
"Not bad for a mortal," his voice was filled with a strange pride as I stared back without comprehension. Seeing that I didn't understand he nodded back towards the ghouls that now stood frozen. The alley was coated in a thick layer of ice and snow for a good fifteen feet. The mock winter emanated from me in a cone, turning the warm July air into a frigid arctic environment that had caught both ghouls into its snare. As I stared in disbelief they exploded into tiny chunks of frozen ghoul that littered the floor.
"That’s not possible, winter has no power here Fae!" the shadowman spluttered angrily.
The Fae inclined his head modestly, "True, but Lily is not fully of Winter and as you can see definitely has power here."
The last thing I saw before I faded into unconscious bliss was Harry rounding the corner and his eyes bulging wide as he slipped on the ice coating the alley floor. A smile crossed my lips as I noted the surprise on his face.