“Momoko,” I called. “Can you open the two side doors over there?” I pointed to the plain wooden doors just a few feet away from the crowded entryway, where people were literally trampling one another to get out.
Momoko narrowed her eyes. Her wizard mark—a stark tattoo of spikes and bold lines—stuck out on her pale skin and eased up her forehead and down her cheek, stopping just at her jawline.
Momoko was one of my best precision wizards. She was great at using small amounts of magic for delicate tasks, and since she started practicing in the evenings with me, I’d had her target marks that were smaller and farther away.
Magic buzzed, and two gusts of wind popped the side doors open.
Momoko grinned. “Got it!”
I found I could breathe a bit easier as I saw some wizards peel off from the mob to run through the doors, a few fae scuttling behind them.
“Good. Let’s go!”
Franco, Felix, and I were the last out of the chamber, backing into the hall so we could keep our eyes on the battle.
That was how I caught sight of the magic circle swirling on the ground beneath Killian and the five vampires that accompanied him.
Given its scale, I had a hunch it was the first spell we felt go off.
I shifted my eyes to Celestina, who was crouched next to Killian and shouting to Rupert.
Rupert, a sour-faced, red-haired vampire I had a bit of a history with, tried to step past the boundaries of the magic circle, and failed.
They were trapped.
A bitter taste filled my mouth, but I forced myself to step into the hall, tearing my gaze away from the fight as two Night Court fae threw crystal vials that shattered on impact and released noxious orange fumes.
In the hallway, my family had reorganized themselves into our half-circle formation, curling protectively around Elite Bellus.
“We need to travel in the opposite direction to everyone else,” I said. “It’ll be the fastest route outside.”
“This’ll be the best way.” Mr. Baree pointed down the hallway—which was audibly quieter than the other direction, where everyone was shouting and screaming.
“Wall formation—Mr. Baree and Leslie combat ready,” I ordered.
Everyone shifted around me, creating a solid wall with our shields at our backs so no one could sneak up on us.
I tugged on the magic in the air and summoned lightning to my hands. It crackled up my arms and shed sparks at my fingernails. Since I was the only one capable of using a lot of magic while keeping my shield strong, I stood in the center of the line with Leslie and Mr. Baree standing off to the sides, wielding blue fire around their fists.
“If you’ll stand behind me, Elite Bellus,” Mr. Baree mildly said.
The Elite watched us all with a curious gaze—it stressed me out that he didn’t seem more concerned about everything.
“Let’s go!” I shouted. We trotted down the hallway, turning off a few times so we spiraled away from the chamber.
We were in sight of a side door that opened up to the parking lot when someone shouted behind us.
Three wizards dressed in royal purple and deep red charged down the hallways after us.
I glanced at Elite Bellus, who smiled. “They are from my House,” he confirmed.
“Let them in,” I said. “But we need to get outside.”
Mrs. Yamada and Franco shifted to the side, opening a narrow space for the three wizards to pass through, closing the gap behind them.
The wizards crowded around Elite Bellus, giving us House Medeis wizards curious looks as we prowled the distance to the side door.
Once again Leslie opened it and Mr. Baree darted through. He reappeared a moment later, fire still swirling around his hands.
“It’s clear. It seems the Night Court and Drake Family are still fighting in the chamber,” he said. “Out here it’s only everyone who escaped.”
I cautiously dropped my shield—Franco and Felix stepping closer together to block out the hole I left—and poked my head out the door.
Supernaturals were flooding out the back doors of the Cloisters, retreating into the parking lot in frenzied sprints.
It didn’t look like anyone had been seriously hurt, and no one out here was fighting—though the occasional explosion that rocked the building was a pretty solid indicator that the battle was still going strong.
“I think we’re good.” I stepped outside into the nippy night air, my breath clouding when I exhaled.
The cold air seemed to knock some sense into people. No one was screaming out here—or jostling one another. A few fae had even formed a circle on the sidewalk to talk.
One by one, my family dropped their shields as they left the building, relaxing once it became obvious we weren’t in danger.
“It was a deliberate attack, then.” Elite Bellus scuffed his dress shoe on the sidewalk as Franco and Felix—the last of us—slipped out the door. “I wonder if the Night Court knows just what they’ve done.”
“What do you mean, Sir?” one of the wizards from House Bellus asked.
“The Curia Cloisters are a neutral territory.” Elite Bellus’s mild look slipped into a cold expression with narrowed eyes. “By attacking the Drakes they’ve broken a treaty that’s been held since the Cloisters were established.” He glanced back at the building. “They’re going to regret it—that’s if the Drakes don’t tear them to shreds.”
“Hopefully no one got injured in the crossfire.” Leslie bit her lip.
“I think the crowd was the biggest threat to itself.” Franco dropped his arm over his wife’s shoulders. “They were acting like a bunch of idiots.”
“People tend to lose their sense of logic when frightened like that.” I tapped my fingers on my thigh as I stared at the glass door we’d come through.
Elite Bellus glanced at his wizards. “Did you notify my wife?”
One of the wizards bowed. “She’s on her way with a force of Bellus wizards. We also touched base with Pre-Dominant Harka. A werewolf force is roughly twenty minutes out.
That was a long time during a fight.
“Thank you for your help, Adept Medeis and wizards of House Medeis,” Elite Bellus said. “Seeing you work together was eye-opening, and I am thankful for the protection you provided.”
“It was our honor,” I said automatically.
Elite Bellus smoothed his goatee. “I may have to call upon you on a future date for some collaboration, but for now I think it’s safe to assume the meeting is over. I’d head home if I were you.”
“Of course. Goodnight, Elite Bellus,” I said.
“Goodnight.” He waved to us as he stalked off, his three wizards swirling around him, answering questions and swiping at their cellphones.
Once he was gone, I turned around to face my family. “I think that was a pretty smooth exit, great job everyone.”
“It was awesome!” Franco affectionately ruffled my hair. “I finally get why you make us memorize and practice so many formations, Adept!”
“It was very effective,” Mrs. Yamada agreed.
“Yeah,” Felix said. “But maybe we need to get our Adept a whistle? Everyone was so panicked it was pretty hard to hear orders.”
“I think when Elite Bellus whistled he was signaling his people,” Leslie said. “Maybe we should come up with a similar code?”
“Not just for formations, but locations, plans—it’ll take work, but I think after today we know it will be worth it.” Momoko rubbed her hands together, rapidly warming to the idea.
“Should Felix and I go pull up the cars, Adept?” Mr. Baree asked.
I looked back at the glass door, my stomach in knots.
Whatever spell held the Drake Family in the chambers, it had to be a powerful one. Normally I’d think the Night Court were idiots for trying to pen up vampires—they’re more lethal in close combat than ranged—but it looked as if the trap was just around the Drakes. None of the fae had entered the trap. Which meant the only way the vampires had to fight back were their guns.
Don’t get me wrong—they were dead shots, so the Night Court were in for a load of trouble. But over the summer the fae had given Mason a particularly old and powerful spell that I suspected was so ancient it was originally made by the elves.
If they tossed that to Mason—a lowly ally—it was pretty likely they had more spells like that in their arsenal. And if they dared to break Curia Cloisters laws to attack Killian, I was pretty sure they were going to make it worth the consequences and throw everything they had at them.
Celestina was with him, as were Rupert, Julianne, Josh, and Gavino. They’ll be fine.
Something in my chest twisted.
It was Killian and his five against Ira and all the fae he’d brought. When I’d been leaving it looked like they had at least fifteen.
That wasn’t a fair fight. And help would be a long time in coming.
It wasn’t right.
I was still furious with Killian, and I really wanted to rip Celestina and Josh each a new one. But no matter how angry I was, I couldn’t abandon anyone to an ambush like this.
“Get the cars,” I confirmed. “I want all of you to go back. Call someone at the House, and as soon as you arrive put it on lockdown.”
“Why are you talking like this? You’re coming with us,” Felix said.
I started walking backwards to the door. “I can’t leave things like this. But go home and prepare the House. Depending how nasty the Night Court is feeling, they might decide to come bother us.”
“Hazel!” Momoko shouted.
I could feel the extra tinge of fear in her voice, and I felt like a jerk for what I was about to do.
We had invisible wounds in House Medeis. If I was extra protective of them because of my baggage, they had become rabidly protective of me.
But I can’t leave Killian and the Drakes like this.
“Be careful!” I spun around and yanked the glass door, slipping back into the building, which positively reeked of fae magic.