Chapter XVI: The Elements and the Eye (11/13)Mature

Will needed no introduction to know that he was with his family. They surrounded him, and they were running. There were young children trailing clumsily behind, five in fact, manoeuvring expertly between the trees that they knew so well, ducking and leaping over broken branches and rising roots. Half a dozen men were in quick pursuit of them, their black cloaks flew behind them like devilish wings, leather face masks scrunching the flesh of their face so that only their eyes and lips bulged out sluggishly between the slit holes. Painted in red on the foreheads of the masks was the Evil Eye, a symbol that Will couldn't believe he had ever forgotten, for it had been this mark that hung above him, and the mark that now charged him like prey.

The pursuers had longswords, they were heavy but easily held up by muscular arms, the light through the trees painting a mirage on the awfully beautiful polish of the edges. In their other hands they held wands, in unison they fired spells which sent parallel lines of fire either side of the children, searing hot against their exposed arms, burning away in moments the trees and branches that rose above them like great columns.

In a sudden, terrifying moment, a fiery branch fell at Will's feet and he felt himself flying forwards. His jaw trilled with pain as his watery eyes blurred, he brought his knees and hands beneath him to scramble up as quickly as he could, when the most beautiful woman knelt down to take his arm and pull him up. He couldn't believe her to be anything but an angel, her hair was long and blonde, folding around her face like golden grapevines, her eyes violet and full of panicked tears.

She seized him by the elbow and pulled him up, dragging him frantically behind her, 'come on, Willow. We must hurry!' she said breathlessly. Suddenly, falling into a skilful crouch from the treetops came three masked men surrounding them - her voice broke with a terrified sigh. Will turned and saw that none of the children followed them anymore, it was him, the beautiful woman and the swaddled babe strapped over her back trapped within the circle.

'Willow! Go, find Carmen and Karn'el, I'll keep them away from you, hurry!' She began pushing him towards the only gap remaining in the quickly-closing circle.

'No, Mother, I'm not leaving you behind!' he argued, refusing to let go of her.

'If you don't go right now, you will die! Go! For God's sake - GO!' The ferocity in her voice overwhelmed him, he backed away and with a final nod from her, he raced through the gap and towards the eclipse of darkness in the trees. Just as he thought he was safe, somebody seized him around the neck and pulled him back, vomit rose up in his throat as he felt himself choke. One of the men had grabbed him, and suddenly he felt something hot and slick on his arm, he looked and saw blood pumping out from a gaping wound on his left arm - seeing it made him scream. But his mother, lost in a fit of determination and rage, held out her arms and screamed to the skies,

'GET - OFF - MY - SON!' With her words came a cataclysm of blinding light, startling Will so that he drifted far, far away out of his dreams and towards the present day...

The End

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