“Is everything all right, dear?”
Sarah looked up and saw Mrs. Rasta hovering outside her bedroom door.
“I’m fine,” she answered, setting her chin back down on top of her paws. She was lying on the floor of her bedroom, staring out of the window.
“Honey,” the kindly old banshee said, drifting in to float above her, “I know it’s frustrating, but your parents are only doing this for your protection.”
“They could have taken me to one of the Sanctuaries,” she said without looking at her maid. “I wouldn’t have to stay inside all the time, even when they were gone.”
“Getting to the Sanctuaries can be hard,” Mrs. Rasta said. “You can’t teleport inside them, so your parents would have to—”
“I know, they’d have to take me there themselves,” Sarah interrupted, scowling at the moon outside her window. “Because that would be so horrible!”
“Sarah, you know how dangerous that would be!”
Sarah sighed. “Yeah, I know. But it doesn’t make it any easier.”
Mrs. Rasta didn’t say anything for a full minute. Then, hesitantly, she said, “Perhaps there is something I should tell you.”
Sarah finally turned to look at her. “What?”
The banshee took a deep breath, as if second guessing herself. “If I tell you, you have to keep it a secret, all right? Your parents asked me not to say anything.”
That last sentence piqued Sarah’s interest, and she nodded.
“Your parents aren’t just on a business trip,” Mrs. Rasta confided. “They were going to make a quick stop by the office to check in, but after that, they’re going to…” her voice trailed off.
“They’re going to what?” Sarah prodded her.
“They’re going to one of the Sanctuaries to purchase a house,” she finished.
Sarah stared at the old banshee for a few seconds in shock. Then she leaped to her paws, eyes wide with excitement. “A house in a Sanctuary?” she exclaimed. “And we’re going to, like, move there?”
A smile broke out on Mrs. Rasta’s face. “Yes, child. They didn’t want me to tell you so that it would be a surprise. They hope to move in before the year is over.”
“Oh my gosh!” Sarah started pacing back and forth, unsure of what to do with herself. “Which Sanctuary? Did they tell you? What’s it like?”
“It’s called Jellaska Kob Lertan. That’s Dwarvish for The City under the Hill. I’ve never been there, but I hear it is one of the most comfortable Sanctuaries in the world.”
“And there’ll be other Mythics,” Sarah babbled, unable to calm down. “I’ll be able to leave the house. I’ll be able to make friends!”
“Yes,” Mrs. Rasta agreed, then held up a warning finger. “But you mustn’t tell your parents I told you. When they come home, you have to act surprised!”
“I will,” Sarah agreed, nodding her head energetically. “I promise!”
“Good,” Mrs. Rasta smiled. “Now come on, I’ll fix you some dinner.”
As they made their way down the hall, Sarah couldn’t stop herself from asking even more questions. “Have you ever been to a Sanctuary? What was it like? Do you think Jellaska Kob Lertan will be the same?”
“I’ve been to one Sanctuary, yes,” the maid answered. “But I wouldn’t ever want to go back. Many of them are little more than holes in the ground where desperate Mythics go to hide.”
“R- really?” Sarah asked, giving her a startled look.
Mrs. Rasta nodded. “There’s very little food there, and sickness is often a very big problem. It’s no wonder, truth be told, that most Mythics choose to live in the human world like your parents do.”
A dark mood crept over Sarah’s heart. “We wouldn’t have to, if they weren’t here.”
“What do you mean, dear?”
“I mean the humans!” Sarah spat. “Why is it that the whole world belongs to them? It isn’t fair that all the Mythics have to hide so one race can have everything. It’s selfish!”
Mrs. Rasta sighed. “Sarah, you mustn’t think such things. It’s not the entire human race’s fault. Most of them don’t even know we exist. It’s the Slayers that make us live this way.”
“The Slayers are human,” Sarah insisted grumpily. “That makes it the humans’ fault.”
Sarah stared sullenly at the floor beneath her paws as she walked, and Mrs. Rasta gave her a concerned glance from above.
“But anyway, I don’t think the dwarf city will be like that,” she said, bringing the conversation back on point. “They say the richer Sanctuaries are very comfortable. You won’t be living in a mansion anymore, but there will probably be a nice neighborhood and a town.”
“A town?” Sarah exclaimed, eyes lighting up again. “A whole town inside a mountain? Will it have a…”
Her voice trailed off when a strange scent wafted into her nose. Tilting her head back, she took a deeper breath, and then looked at Mrs. Rasta.
“What are you making for dinner?” she asked.
“I’m not sure,” Mrs. Rasta admitted. “I haven’t started anything yet.”
Sarah stopped. “Then what’s that smell?” She asked. “It smells like something’s burning.”
“Burning?” Mrs. Rasta asked, coming to a stop in midair as well. “What do you—”
Before she could finish her sentence, a section of the wall next to them exploded. Both Sarah and Mrs. Rasta were thrown to the side, slamming into the opposite wall. Sarah fell to the ground, her head spinning and her ears ringing. Somewhere in the distance, she could hear shouting.
She groaned, and opened her eyes. The hallway was clogged with smoke, which made it hard to see, but she could still make out Mrs. Rasta hovering right in front of her.
“Are you all right?” she asked, her voice seeming to draw nearer with every second. The ringing went away, and Sarah shook her head to clear it.
“What happened?” she asked, dumbly, only now noticing the flames that were creeping across the walls.
Mrs. Rasta shook her head frantically. “There’s no time, Sarah. You have to go. Can you stand?”
“I- I think so.” She got to her paws, her legs trembling after the scare. Mrs. Rasta drew closer, and grabbed the sides of Sarah’s head.
“Run, girl,” she said. “Run as fast as you can, and don’t look back!”
Sarah backed out of her grip, and saw that the fire had already spread to the ceiling.
“What’s going on?” she demanded. Her mind was finally processing everything around her, and the terror was beginning to sink in.
“Run, Sarah!” the maid insisted. “I’ll hold them off. Just go before they find—”
“I’m afraid it’s too late for that.”
A chill ran down Sarah’s spine, making the fur on her back stand up, and she spun around to see a man walking towards them. The flames parted before him, leaving him safe, albeit charred, ground to walk on. He was wearing a black trench coat that somehow seemed impervious to the fire. He was…
“A Slayer!” Sarah screeched, trying to back away but finding her path blocked by a blazing wall.
The Slayer regarded her coolly, and then reached behind him and drew a long, curved sword.
“I will take the banshee,” he said. “Porter, can you handle the sphinx?”
“Yes, Granger,” another voice answered, and a second Slayer stepped up to join him. He glared at Sarah with so much hatred in his eyes that she almost felt like the fire itself would freeze because of it.
He looks like he’s my age, she thought, her brain still struggling to make sense of everything she was seeing.
The younger Slayer drew a sword out of his pocket, and brandished it at her.
“Stay away from her!” Mrs. Rasta yelled, breaking Sarah out of her trance. She shot forward to stand between Sarah and the boy, but the older Slayer moved to intercept her. The banshee sucked as much air as she could into her lungs, and then released it into a scream that made the floorboards in front of her crack. The Slayers both dodged out of the way, but Sarah cringed and suddenly wished she had hands to cover her ears with. The older Slayer dropped to the ground, rolled under Mrs. Rasta’s levitating feet, and sprang back up behind her. Before she could react, he jumped into the air, his sword reflecting the firelight as he swung it, and sliced through her neck. Mrs. Rasta immediately went silent as her head fell free of her shoulders. It thudded to the floor, and her body hung suspended in the air for a moment before joining it.
Sarah screamed. Mrs. Rasta, the only person she’d ever known besides her parents, was dead! Heat bombarded her from every angle as the fire continued to spread, but she still felt like her paws were frozen to the floor by solid ice.
“Do it, Porter,” the older Slayer said. “We don’t have much time.”
“Yes, Granger,” the boy said again, and threw himself at Sarah.
Mrs. Rasta’s lifeless eyes were open, staring at Sarah, forevermore unseeing but still trying to tell her something. Run, they seemed to say. Run.
Sarah snapped out of her stupor at the last moment, and just narrowly avoided being beheaded by the young Slayer’s blade. Still blinded by fear and panic, she spun around and ran further into the mansion. She could hear the Slayer’s footsteps coming right behind her.
“Be careful!” she heard the older Slayer yell. “The house is coming down any minute!”
Somewhere deep inside of her, she knew that this was the wrong thing to do. She was only taking herself deeper into the mansion, farther away from any possible exits. She needed to get to the first floor, where she could try to get out through a window or something. Her fear addled brain wasn’t listening, though, and her paws just carried her further and further into the huge house.
Suddenly, a powerful gust of wind ripped through the hallway, icy cold despite the fires. It hit Sarah with enough force to lift her off her paws and send her hurtling down the hall, completely out of control, until she struck another wall. Weakened as it was by the fire, Sarah crashed straight through it. There was no room on the other side, so she fell straight down to the first floor, where she landed with a grunt. Smoke filled the lower floor as well. Sarah could feel the flames singing her feathers, so she tucked them tight against her body as she got back up. Fortunately, the Slayer’s magic attack seemed to have given her some distance.
“Gotta get out, gotta get out, gotta get out,” she muttered, trying to get her bearings. The mansion she’d grown up in was completely alien to her, now that it was covered in flame. Still, if she was right, then the Slayer had chased her into the northern corner of the house. There was a door somewhere nearby. If she could just get to it, she could escape.
The burning mansion seemed to emphasize the if by letting out a long, eerie groan. Somewhere further in, she heard a crash as a part of the roof collapsed.
“Stay calm,” she said, fighting the urge to panic again. “You’ll be fine. Just start looking for—”
“You’re not getting away from me!”
Sarah froze, and looked up at the hole she had made when she’d flown through the wall, and saw the Slayer standing in it. Lit from behind by the ominous firelight, he looked like nothing so much as a demon risen from the depths of hell.
He was still up there, though, which meant that Sarah had a few precious seconds to escape before he reached her. She spun around and tried to run in the direction the door was in, but before she could take two steps another gust of freezing wind blew into the room. It swirled around her, whipping the fire into a blazing hot tornado around her, stopping her in her tracks. Behind her, the Slayer jumped down from the hole, and slowly made his way toward her.
“Please,” she begged him, hardly able to speak through the smoke, “don’t.”
“I’ve killed a hundred monsters already,” he said, his eyes cold and cruel. “Why would I spare you?”
He wouldn’t. There was no point in begging, Sarah realized. It was all going to end here, and there was nothing she could do about it. She could only watch as he slowly walked towards her.
“I fight for the human race,” he said. “To protect it from monsters like you.”
Sarah sobbed quietly, her tears sliding down her cheeks and hissing as they splattered on the hot floor. It was good that her parents weren’t here. They, at least, would be spared the Slayers’ wrath a little bit longer. The thought wasn’t much comfort, but it was all Sarah had as the Slayer raised his sword. She bowed her head and closed her eyes, waiting for the end to come.
The manor groaned again, and suddenly there was a crash that shook the floor and threw up a cloud of soot and dust. Sarah coughed, recoiling instinctively. She shook her head, trying to clear the ash out of her eyes, and then looked around. There was a big pile of smoldering wood in front of her, and a hole in the ceiling revealed where it had come from. The fire had weakened the structures so much that the floor above them had collapsed.
The Slayer lay in front of her, his leg trapped underneath the pile of burning wood. Sarah watched him for a few seconds, waiting for him to jump up and free himself, but he didn’t move.
Good riddance, she thought at last. With him out of the picture, she could focus on getting out of the house.
“Porter!” a startled voice shouted from the other end of the hallway. Sarah looked and saw the older Slayer making his way toward them, his sword drawn. The debris blocking the hallway was slowing him down, but it wouldn’t take long for him to reach her. As he came, the house groaned again.
The mansion is collapsing, Sarah thought, her brain kicking into overdrive. No time to run. What can I do?
The answer came to her almost instantly: teleportation. She’d never used it before, but she’d seen her parents do it several times. It seemed simple enough. Or she hoped it was, at least. The Slayer was drawing nearer. She would only have one chance.
She closed her eyes, remembering what her parents had told her about it. Summon the magic, and then imagine yourself being someplace else. She’d never left the mansion, though. Where was she supposed to imagine herself being?
“Porter, I’m coming!”
Anywhere, she decided! She imagined herself being anywhere else in the world besides the flaming deathtrap that used to be her home! Around her paws, a ring of yellow light shot up from the floor. It was working! And not a moment too soon, because when she looked up she saw the Slayer’s hand reaching out towards her. Closer, closer… and then it was gone.
The light grew brighter, and Sarah had to close her eyes. Intense heat washed over her, almost as hot as the fire had been. What was going on? Had she done the spell wrong? What was happening to her?
And then, just as quickly as it had come, the light was gone. A cool night breeze blew against Sarah’s fur, and she hesitantly opened her eyes. It was dark, and it took a minute for her eyes to adjust. She heard trees creaking in the wind all around her, though. A forest? There were no forests anywhere near her mansion. Where had she taken herself?
Her eyes finally adjusted, and she looked around. The moon shined down on her from above, providing the only source of light. Just as she’d feared, she didn’t recognize anything around her. Wherever the spell had taken her, she was lost now.
“Get a grip on yourself,” she muttered, trying to ignore the frantic beating of her heart. “You got away from the Slayers. Now you just have to figure out where you are. If you stay calm and don’t panic, you’ll be—”
The rustle of dead leaves stopped her midsentence. She spun around to look…
NEXT TIME: Well, that was pretty freaking epic, if I do say so myself. But what did Sarah see? What made her scream? Find out next week— and try not to pull your hair out in anticipation!