Vertigo is the sensation of having one’s surroundings whirl about, usually while standing or sitting still. Some sufferers of vertigo report a sensation of falling, or feeling that they are the ones spinning while everything else remains in place. For me, it feels more like I’m spinning downward, falling into darkness. People’s voices turn to whispers and white noise, and I hyperventilate. I finally had a working, breathing body again, and I felt like I was going to suffocate and die while being bounced around in space.
“Homewrecker,” I gasped in my mother’s direction. “Murderer,” I wheezed. “I have a brother? I have a brother!” Jabbing a shaking finger in her direction, I asked, “What else have you lied to me about?”
“I never lied to you, Kiera,” Atlantia calmly stated. “I simply did not inform you of things you had no need of knowing.”
If I could have properly caught my breath, I would have screamed. “You infuriate me,” I hissed through clenched teeth.
“I am surprised that you know what that word means,” she retorted smoothly.
“So not the time for this,” Kenzie muttered.
“I’ll drink ta that!”
“Master.” A soft tug on my sleeve had me looking up and into Sami’s face. Her serene expression disturbed me. She handed me her phone, which I hadn’t heard ring, and said quietly, “He would like to speak with you.”
“Who?” I questioned her, but her only answer was to shove the phone closer to my ear. To avoid being hit, I grabbed it, and brought it up slowly, as if it were a bomb. With the the way things had been going for me, it probably could have considered a nuclear warhead. “Yeah?” I spoke into the little microphone. “Who’s this?”
“Ah. I see. So the rumors of your death have been grossly exaggerated, hmm, dear sister?” The silky smooth voice that I’d previously heard over the loudspeaker flowed across the line.
“Mikilas Blackmoor, Jr,” I sighed into the phone. “To what do I owe this dubious honor?”
He chuckled. “I admit, this is not quite how I wanted to meet my sister. A shame, really; we probably could have been on the same side of things had we grown up together.”
“Doubtful,” I retorted. “Your kind exists solely to subjugate mine. It never would have worked between us.”
“You wound me, Kiera Blue, as your mother wounded mine when she stole my father.”
“Your father was a grown man; he knew what he was stepping into when he chose to sleep around.” My eyebrow twitched; that was a sign that I was getting angry. I felt my mouth twist into a parody of a smile.
“Our father was a great man!”
“Your father. He was all yours.” I got to my feet, hand gripping the phone so tightly that the plastic casing squealed in distress. I moved on to more important matters. “How do you know Samilla?”
He inhaled sharply, most likely not expecting my rapid change of subject. “Everyone knows Samilla. Her father is a great leader. She has played her part in this quite beautifully.”
“So you’ve always known about me,” I said, making it a statement and not a question.
I swore I heard him blink. “You…you didn’t know about me?”
“I didn’t even know I had a father until, oh, about an hour ago?” I pretended to think. “Yeah, ‘bout an hour now.”
He growled softly. “That witch─”
“Whoa, there, brother dear,” I interrupted, my words sickeningly sweet. “Wouldn’t want to anger two Master Spellcrafters with your slurs, now, would you? Might make things harder for your people, you know, standing out there, all exposed to the elements and whatnot.”
“Are you threatening me?”
“Were you threatening us?”
“Do not purposely antagonize the witch killer,” Book hissed in my head. “You will only make him try that much harder to meet his goal,” it warned me.
“So what do I do?” I muttered aloud.
“You are asking me?” Mikilas asked, sounding shocked. “I want your surrender, the key, and your mother in chains.”
“You’ll get nothing from me,” I said. My words sounded hollow and false. My rising anger had dissipated, and I was left with a sense of loss. “Not without a fight,” I added, throwing fuel on the fire.
“You are an idiot! Your mother should have smothered you at birth!”
“But you need me,” I hissed back, “even if you wish you didn’t.”
“Unfortunately, that is true,” Mikilas responded to words not meant for him. “I will call again. I am hooping for an outcome that is favorable to us both.” He ended the call, and I shoved Sami’s phone in my pocket, ignoring her waiting hand. I turned to face Atlantia, who tilted her head to peer into the air above my head. “Mother,” I drawled.
“I asked no questions, he offered no information,” she defended herself sullenly.
“But you knew, didn’t you?” I pressed her. Balling my hands into fists, I took a threatening step toward her. “I believe that you knew, and that you had your reasons for not caring.”
“I did love him. More than that, I needed him,” she told me, crossing her arms tightly across her chest.
I shook my head in disgust. “Forget it. I’m not even going to ask.” I blew out a breath, then addressed my “team”─for lack of a better word─grimly. “We need a plan.”
“We have a plan,” Atlantia snapped.
“Which is?” I inquired.
“Kill them all.”
I barked out a short laugh that was devoid of mirth. “You can’t be serious about this.” I stared at her, unease spreading through my belly. “You’re serious about this?”
“Kill or be killed.” She spoke quietly, with confidence; her power was packed into each syllable. She was a bullet, loaded into a powerful gun, just waiting for someone to blink at the trigger and release her into the world. My mother, at that very moment, terrified me.
As I watched her, my mouth going dry with fear, I felt Sami move toward me, trying to both shield me and hide behind me. I felt Kenzie’s heartbeat speed up, and heard Jelly Bean shout something in our direction. I felt Book hollering in my ear, making my head pound with the pain of the ancient curses. My vision, my hearing, both had been stolen by the Master Spellcrafter before me.
“No,” I whispered.
“Yes,” she cackled as her eyes changed to a bright, glowing, electric blue. “Oh, yes.”
Lightning bolts ripped the sky into pieces, the heavy, earth-moving, bass drum of thunder crashing hard enough to shatter the kitchen windows. Screams of the people outside caused physical pain in my companions, and they flinched.
“No,” I whispered again.
“Yes,” Atlantia cackled. “Yes, yes, yes! I free you, blood of my blood, child of my soul. Shackles unbind and keys unlock, I speak thus to the wind: OCTAVIA. Be my sword and rend the sky.”
My body grew hot; my blood felt like lava pumping through my veins. The sound of my scream was lost, swallowed by the sound of my roar. I released a battle cry as electric sparks jumped from my fingertips and aimed themselves toward the Hunters outside.
“Mikilas Blackmoor, Jr,” I commanded my energy, and off it went, in search of the brother I’d only just learned of, and the part of me that was still me choked. She was going to make me kill him.