Spellbound is back! Excuse any typos at the moment. I’ll fix them later, as I am currently in a rush.
Catharsis: a release of emotional tension, as after an overwhelming experience, that restores or refreshes the spirit. Many physical things can be cathartic, including crying, screaming, vomiting, and punching people in the face. That last one is my favorite and, thanks to my mother’s personal security force, one I got to practice to my heart’s content.
They came running at the sound of Sami’s distressed scream (leaving the rest of us to wonder where they’d been hiding during all of the other screams and crashes and magical flares and power outages) with their stun guns and batons and energy conducting rods at the ready. The seven of them immediately spread out, covering the door and windows. One dropped to his knees to check Sami, and the leader, who wore more shiny silver medals on her blue uniform than her compatriots, stalked over to us, and bowed before Atlantia.
“Headmistress, are you safe?” she inquired with a surprisingly deep voice. “I offer my apologies for being less prompt than expected. We could not traverse yourwards. My thanks to you, Lady, for summoning us across.”
Atlantia lifted an eyebrow at the squad leader. “I did no such thing,” she denied, “and should you fail again, there will be consequences.” My mother jerked her chin toward the window. “Status report, Griffin? I assume you’ve been doing more than hammering impotently away at such weak energy barriers.” Her lips twisted into a sneer as she looked down at the silver-haired woman. “Perhaps you would do well in retirement, after so many years of service.”
I snorted. “You’ve got big ones, lady, to come someone else old,” I told mother. I should have expected the sudden loss of breathable air around my head and my urgent meeting with the floor. I tapped the floor three times, chest heaving, letting her know that I sincerely regretted my actions, and she restored my oxygen. I inhaled noisily, gratefully, until it (once again) dawned on what had just happened. “You tried to kill me!” I accused her.
She ignored me, lending her ears, instead, to the squad leader on one knee before her.
Griffin spoke, hesitantly at first, as if unsure of how Atlantia would take the news. “The building is surrounded, Headmistress. Hunters and general security corps in the front, reporters and indie bloggers watching the back.” She shook her head. “How they got through the gates without an invitation is beyond my pay grade, but I suspect that each of the groups has a powerful Spellcrafter. Perhaps not a Master level, but close.”
My mother grimaced and grunted in response, already lost in her diabolical plots and plans. I, on the other hand, was (mentally) greedily rubbing my hands together, thinking that this was my moment, my chance to take charge and shine. From the looks on Jelly and Kenzie’s faces, they wanted it, craved it. From the look on Sami’s face…well, Sami wasn’t currently seeing anything except the flesh of her arm, which was draped across her eyes. Two guards attended to her as she lay flat on her back on the tile. A hulking male with curly, sandy-colored hair was expertly drawing symbols on the bit of Sami’s exposed forehead. Another guard─Yavi? Yabi? I’m quite certain we’d had a couple of classes together when I still lived at the Academy─with gold discs braided into her thick hair and ritual scars on her cheeks grabbed pinches of powders from a wooden pill box and sprinkled them into a bottle of water. As I watched, the liquid took on the color and consistency of red mud. I blanched when she clamped her strong fingers onto Sami’s face, forcing her jaws apart, and dumped the concoction into her mouth. Quickly, she pinched Sami’s nostrils, and leaned backward, as far as she could, to avoid being splattered with the drink when Sami coughed and choked. Which she did, twisting and trying to rise, only to have the big guy hold her down again. I was almost sure that what they were doing to her was necessary.
I turned my attention back to Atlantia, who was frowning, and Griffin, who was once again standing and waving her arms around in agitation. “The dungeons,” I offered.
They both stopped speaking and stared at me. I cleared my throat. “Well, that’s just what I call it. You know what I mean though, right? That maintenance tunnel in the basement that leads to the west garage?”
My mother leveled a steely, somewhat pensive gaze at me. “Why do you know that?”
“Was it supposed to be a secret?” I questioned her. “How do you think I snuck out of here so many times without tripping your wards and junk?”
“Again, welp, I ask you: why do you know that?”
“I’m resourceful,” I answered.
“You’re a sneak,” she shot back, not without some measure of pride evident in her tone and on her face. Leave it to my mother to be proud of me for all the wrong things.
I made her less proud when I stalked to the pantry, opened the door, and flicked the light switch in a predetermined way.
The big guy blinked. “Shave and a haircut?” he asked, trying to place the code.
“Dogs playing poker,” I smirked. I thanked the Mother of us all that the password had not changed in the years I’d been away.
Hulk Dude slung Sami over his shoulder, and the rest of us shuffled after Griffin, who took point, and Atlantia, who refused to cower like some useless weakling─her words, not mine─and exited the kitchen through the secret panel behind the canned goods as quickly and quietly as we could.