I stared in complete shock at one of the second story windows, drops of rain dribbling down my face. In the window stood a man, light radiating from his muscular…transparent body. Long red hair flowed from his head and he wore…was that…a kilt??
This couldn’t be McNeil….why would he be glowing? I really hope this muscular ghost-dude isn’t another enemy we need to take care of before all of this can be ended…
“Who is he?” I asked nervously. “A guardian?”
“I don’t remember one being mentioned in the book…”Allie muttered.
Dilyn gasped. “He’s beckoning to us!”
I looked up to see the figure’s spectral arm quickly motioning to us. I turned to Tarra. “Do you think he’s on our side?”
She bit her lip and stared up at the window. I noticed that the figure’s face appeared worried, and that he kept squinting at the horizon behind us. Instinctively, I spun around, imagining the worst, but nothing was there. I glanced back at my sister.
“I don’t know if he’s on our side or not, but we need to get inside that castle, complete your ritual, and get out of here before McNeil arrives,” she finally said.
I clinched my fists. “Let’s go.”
The huge wooden doors of the castle slowly creaked open as we pushed hard against them. With one final shove, the doors slammed back against the stone walls. Thunder rumbled overhead as we stood on the threshold, gazing uneasily down a long stone hallway which ended at a narrow staircase which curled upwards out of sight. An occasional heavy, wooden door lined the walls. Streaks of lightning revealed the brackets for torches along the walls.
Rhys took a step forward to continue down the corridor, but something at the end of the hall made me reach out a hand and stop him. “Rhys, wait. Look.”
We all stared in growing trepidation as a light began slowly emerging from where the steps disappeared out of our view. Before long, the figure we had seen in the window stood on the bottom step. A deep voice rumbled down the hallway towards us: “Greetings, Rhys Stengle, Dilyn Cutter, and companions.”
“Who are you? How do you know who we are?” Rhys commanded. “Are you for us or against us?”
“I am Peter de Berewick, your ancestor. And of course I’m for you. The real question is: Will you be for me?”
I saw that Tarra had laid a hand at her hip, on the gun that she had taken from Roy. “What is that supposed to mean?” she called.
“I have a little job for you, Rhys.” He laughed, the noise sounding cold and harsh against my ears. A shiver ran down my spine and I remembered that we were dealing with the ghost of a madman. A very powerful madman. “But first,” Peter continued, “I believe there’s a ritual that he needs to complete. On the top of the tower.” We all glanced at each other. Then Rhys began striding down the hall towards Peter.
“Lead me where I need to go,” he ordered.
Rain poured over me as I stood on top of the taller of the castle’s two towers, the wind whipping at my clothes and hair. Tarra, Allie, Dilyn, and Peter were in the room below me, shielded from my view and the reach of the savage elements.
I closed my eyes and raised my arms, turning to face the east. On the way here, I had read the words which I needed to say over and over again, memorizing them perfectly. Now was my chance to take full ownership of my power.
I began chanting the words, softly at first, but I grew louder and louder, my voice rising above the noise of the wind and rain. Thunder boomed overhead and lightning flashed almost continually, but still I pressed on, not faltering in my speech. The words were in a language unfamiliar to me and at first felt strange on my tongue. But soon I discovered that they were rolling smoothly off of my tongue almost without any mental prompt from me. Partway through, I turned around and faced the west for the rest of the chant. Finally, it was finished.
I lowered my arms and stood waiting, my head bowed, eyes closed. It seemed as if all creation was waiting with me. The thunder and lightning ceased and the wind died. Only the wind continued lightly. All seemed still.
Suddenly, electricity began coursing through my body. I slowly willed it to come to my hands, marveling at the ease. Electricity hissed at my fingertips. In a moment of pure triumph, I let loose a stream of electricity into the night sky and held it there, watching it snap and crackle above me. A loud cry of victory escaped my mouth. I had conquered my power. I could finally control it. And no one else could.
When Rhys dropped from that trapdoor back into the room, not bothering to use the ladder, no smile in the history of smiles could have possibly been bigger than his. In seconds, Dilyn and Tarra and Rhys and I were all jumping up and down and crying and whooping ecstatically and hugging each other.
After a few minutes, a gruff cough penetrated the celebration. Peter stood there stiffly, looking a bit awkward. “I believe there’s still one more ritual to complete. Dilyn?”
Dilyn’s eyes shone as she ascended the ladder, her hands shaking slightly. She reached the top and pushed the trapdoor open. For a moment, she paused to look down at us, the moon shining on her long brown hair. Then she was gone, the trapdoor falling down heavily. We waited.
A few seconds went by and we strained our ears for any sound. All we heard was deafening silence. But then we began to hear Dilyn’s sing-song voice sweetly reciting the words that would set her free. She reached the end and we waited again. A few minutes later, although it felt like hours, the trapdoor squealed open and we stared up in amazement.
A bright light shone down on us and we had to shield our eyes with our hands! Finally, it began to die and we could see Dilyn standing there. She climbed quickly down the ladder.
“Sorry about that,” she said. “For a sec, I was worried that it wouldn’t stop.”
Still stunned by how brilliant her light had been, it took us a couple of seconds to come back to our senses. But when we did, our response to Dilyn’s obvious success was just as loud and wild as ours had been to Rhys’s. Finally, the din ceased, and there was silence. Dilyn broke it after a few moments.
“I can’t believe this is all over. We’ll never have to go back to the Lab again. We can stop running.”
“It’s not finished yet, Dilyn,” Peter said, instantly sending a cloud over our jubilant faces as we remembered.
“McNeil!” Tarra gasped. “Rhys, Dilyn, we all need to get out of here as soon as we can before he arrives!”
“Why?” Peter questioned calmly. “If you don’t face him now, you’ll be running from him for the rest of your lives. I thought you wanted to stop running, stop hiding.”
“We do…”Dilyn admitted reluctantly.
“You may now have full control of your powers, but that won’t necessarily stop McNeil. He is a very slippery, cunning man with almost inhuman skills at tracking people down.” This comment made us more than a little uneasy. Peter continued, “If this is to end, it must end now.”
“He’s right,” Rhys said, glancing around at all of us girls.
I knew Peter was right, but I didn’t want to stay.
How could we possibly stand up to McNeil and his men? What if something went wrong and everyone was killed? Including me? Maybe I could sneak off and hide somewhere…
I instantly realized how selfish my thoughts were. The chances of something happening to Rhys and Dilyn and Tarra were high, whether they stayed or left. I didn’t want anything to ever happen to them. Whatever occurred, I knew I needed to stand by them. These were my friends. My only friends. I wasn’t about to leave them.
As I decided this, I realized that everyone was looking at me. Rhys repeated his question.
“Do you want to leave or stay?”
“What’s currently the majority vote?” I asked.
“Tarra and Dilyn and I all are staying,” Rhys answered slowly. “But don’t base your decision on that. McNeil doesn’t necessarily want you. If you stay, something could happen. But you can avoid all of this by leaving. The town of Settle is just a couple miles away. If you cut through the park, avoiding the roads, you should be able to make it there safely. You can wait there for us to…to come back after all of this is over.”
I looked Rhys squarely in the eyes. “I’m staying.”
I wasn’t sure whether I was pleased or annoyed by Allie’s decision. I really didn’t want anything to happen to her. But I did appreciate her stubbornness in standing by us.
“Alright,” I began, “we need to come up with a good plan as to how we can solve this and leave here alive.”
None of us had noticed that Peter had left, but we all saw when the door creaked open and Peter entered, a gleaming sword in his hand. I stared at the weapon warily.
“What’s that for?” I demanded.
“Rhys, I mentioned earlier that I had a little job for you. You should find it rather simple. This sword if for McNeil and his men. It had magical powers and is capable of completely disposing of your opponents without any assistance from you. Just a single point at the opponent and the utterance of the word which controls it will end it all for you in a matter of minutes.”
I found my hand slowly reaching for the sword but I quickly drew it back. I spoke quietly, inwardly fighting the urge to take the sword. “Peter, my goal for today is to leave here with the deaths of as few people as possible. I don’t believe that sword will help accomplish this. I can’t accept it.”
Peter’s eyes burned. ‘The Magmans must die! All of them! I can’t finish the job myself, Rhys. You can. It is your duty as an Ilvan to completely eradicate all Magmans.”
“But why?” I asked. “Why do we need to kill them?”
“Because they are evil!” He shouted furiously.
“I could think of a really evil Ilvan, too,” I heard Allie mutter under her breath.
‘How? What makes them anymore evil than us Ilvans that they must be destroyed?”
‘Rhys. The Magmans. Must. Die.”
I could tell that we weren’t going to get anywhere. Suddenly, we could all hear the sound of a motor. Tarra looked out of the window and I followed her gaze. A sleek, black car was racing up the road, its tires squealing as it recklessly turned the corner. The vehicle slid to a crazy stop by our rental car.
As the first person emerged from the car, I instantly knew it had to be McNeil. Red hair fell to his shoulders and a thick mustache covered the grim mouth. He rose up like a giant, broad-shouldered and intimidating; his brawny figure almost bursting the seams of his spotless black suit. I stared in uneasiness at a large bulge on his hip. McNeil removed his dark shades, glanced at our car and then looked straight up to where we were staring out of the window. He held my gaze for what seemed like an eternity. But then he looked away and motioned for his five burly Scottish sidekicks to head inside. I felt myself gulp.
Peter laid a hand on my shoulder. I turned to see the sword held out to me.
I don’t want to kill anyone! I thought.
But we don’t have any protection, said a little voice in my head. Did you see how burly the men McNeil has with him are?! You know they all are going to have guns. I heard the heavy doors of the castle slam open.
But maybe I can reason with him. Show him how needless this all is. That he can’t blame us for something our ancestors did that we had no part of.
Good luck with that. You’ll probably be shot before you have a chance to say anything.
I realized that Peter wasn’t another enemy. It was his sword. It was Peter’s magical sword which creating this conflict within me between my conscience and my desires and concerns.
I can’t kill anyone. I won’t.
I pushed the sword away. “Keep your sword, Peter.” Ignoring the heavy scowl on the man’s face, I stepped through the door ad began the descent down the narrow stone staircase.
We met in a long wide hallway with tall stone pillars lining the walls. I stood at one end. McNeil and his men grouped at the other.
“At last we meet, Rhys Stengle,” McNeil called menacingly, his thick Scottish accent evident.
“It’s a pleasure, I’m sure,” I responded, my voice dripping sarcasm.
“Do you like my suit, Rhys? I like to wear this to funerals. Like now.”
“Nobody’s died yet, and I aim to keep it that way. McNeil, this isn’t necessary. No one has to die.” I heard the others run up behind me and stop at the sight of our opponents.
“But many did, Rhys!” McNeil cried angrily. “Your ancestor, Peter de Berewick, incited his followers to one of the greatest massacres in the history of the world: a massacre of my people, the Magmans. You and Dilyn and Tarra must die to pay for their acts. You will die.”
Dilyn stepped up next to me. “Why must we die for something our ancestors did?” she questioned. “Only a few days ago, we didn’t know exactly who we were, much less what our ancestors had done to your people!”
“But you have found out, and one day you will turn just like them and come after us. We can’t have that now, can we?”
“We have no intention of killing anyone,” I replied.
“Maybe not now, but the future is almost always uncertain. I intend to make my future-and yours-very certain.”
Randy McNeil is no saner than de Berewick is, I realized. Suddenly, without warning, McNeil yanked out a pistol from under his coat and fired. I heard something clatter to the floor behind me and I spun around. Tarra stood there, stunned. Her fingers were bloodied from a slight scratch by the bullet. The gun lay at her feet.
“Don’t try anything else,” McNeil ordered. “The only shots will be fired by me and my men.” The five other Scots raised their guns and cocked them, following their leader’s example. “You. Will. Die.”
Then came the gunfire. Bullets whistled through the air towards us, strong and deadly. But they never reached us. I opened my eyes in astonishment to see that Dilyn and Allie and Tarra and I were all still standing! Ahead of us, McNeil and his men lay crumpled on the floor, wounded. Four Scottish police officers stood above them with their guns drawn and smoking.
“Randy McNeil, you’re under arrest for robbery, attempted murder, and a whole lot more,” one of the officers stated.
“I still can hardly believe that all of this is over.” Rhys said, running his hand over his arm. He looked up and grinned. “No more needles.”
“No more needles,” I repeated, smiling. “I’m so glad Tarra decided to move the two of you into the house next to us after the Taylor’s left. I was worried I was going to lose another friend.”
“Oh, after seeing how you stuck by Dilyn and me, I don’t think you would let that happen.”
We laughed and it felt great! McNeil and his men were in prison, Peter's ghost had disappeared, and Dilyn was pleasantly situated in England with her grandmother. I was very happy that everything was alright, that everything was back to normal.