Jed pulls my arms toward him, cutting the bonds. I rub my wrists gratefully, but understand in my heart that this means nothing good. I have seen these people in action before. God help me, I have.
I remember when I was only nine years old, by human reckoning. That was my first encounter of them, and I have never forgotten it. I was locked in a park, because my friends and I had been playing after dark, against our parents’ instructions, and the wardens had shut the gates unknowingly. We hit the metal with out tiny hands but no one came to help us, not for over half an hour.
And then a lone teenager came over. He looked about sixteen to us, but he was much taller, with a shock of black hair contrasting oddly with his pale skin.
“If I help you,” he began, tasting each word on his long tongue, “what will you give me?” Foolishly, a girl at the back of our little group called out, “Anything!”
He unlocked the gates by becoming a person only three inches high and crawling inside to push the workings. I wondered at the time why we had not thought of becoming a smaller creature and crawling underneath, but I realise that we were not practiced enough. In times of panic, our magic seems to desert us.
We are all born in human form, you see. That is why as children we generally stay as one, unless our skills are particularly developed. Mine were not, back then.
“Thank you!” we all said in enormously grateful voices, and the boy smiled.
“Now it is time for me to claim my payment,” he said, and he took the small girl who had called out by the hand. Holding her hand open like a flower, although she resisted his touch, he ran a sharp blade across her palm.
Within a flash his mouth was against her palm, and her face went dead-white with shock. Was this man a Blood-drinker?: it was in all of our minds as we stood there, frozen to the ground. He raised his head, the blood still on his lips, and smiled.
“No, I am not a Blood-drinker,” he said, but none of us were taken in by his seductive voice. “Any gift willingly given by an innocent simply strengthens me, and I use it to enable my … missions.” He turned and appeared to fade out into the night. Maybe he really did become invisible – I do not know.
Two years later he approached me.
“Do you remember me, child?” he said. I loathed the way he looked at me, as though I was just a worthless baby.
“Of course I do,” I said, trying to show him that I was not afraid. “What do you think I am, a goldfish?” He laughed at that.