CHAPTER FOURTEEN: WINDOW LOCKS
The war lasted eons. Humanity bathed the earth in the blood of magic. After thousands of years, the oldest spirits still hear the screams ringing out, crying for mercy.
I couldn’t sleep that night. My room would have been pitch black, but I’d left the shades of my bedroom window open. With all the lights in town having gone out, the stars were more visible than ever. I turned over in my bed again and again, under my enormous pile of blankets. No electricity meant no central heating, and I didn’t want my family to walk into my room in the morning only to find a yeti laying in my bed.
I sighed. Obviously Blood-Shard was more clever than we’d thought, if he’d so thoroughly severed all contact with the outside world. I thought about the immaterial barrier Blood-Shard had managed to raise around the town. According to my aunt and uncle, nothing they’d tried could get through it. I wondered if that meant the whole town would eventually suffocate. I doubted it, though – from what I understood, plants renewed the oxygen supply in an area, and there were plenty of trees inside the barrier.
I was shaken out of my thoughts when a there was a gentle splat on my window. I flinched away from it and stared. The remains of a snowball slid down the glass, and another one soon struck the glass.
Some back part of my mind guessed at the probability that it was someone harmless trying to get my attention, and came up with the idea that if someone was trying to get me to go to the window so that they could shoot me, they would likely try to act as if they were a friend. The front part of my brain wondered whether I would just keep getting more paranoid the longer I was a hunter.
I grabbed my handgun and crept closer to the glass. Before I could edge close enough that I would be able to see the snowball-thrower, an idea struck me.
I took a deep breath and felt the chilled air of the room, and the frigid atmosphere surrounding the house. I let the cold creep through me. Then I looked towards the snowball-thrower. I still couldn’t see him, but I could feel the intense burning of a phoenix’s aura. Finn.
I sighed in relief and focused on Finn’s aural flames to seal off my own power.
I opened the window and saw the redheaded not-teenager standing there, grinning up at me. “What are you doing here?” I hissed.
“Helping,” said Finn, unhelpfully. “Can I come in?”
I rolled my eyes and backed away. “I don’t know, can you?”
He could. I didn’t see them, physically, but I could sense a pair of ethereal wings sprout from Finn’s back and beat downward once before vanishing. The blast tossed him up towards my window. He entered the room gracefully, turning his body sideways to fly in through the opening, and then twisting so that he landed on his feet, one hand planted on the ground, facing me.
“Show-off,” I said.
Finn shrugged, not denying it, and stood upright. “I mostly just wanted to let you know that Maya’s outside right now, putting a charm around your house to keep you warm. We wanted to make sure that you stay human while we figure out how to break Blood-Shard’s hex.”
I nodded. “Thanks. Maya told me that she’d found runes in the woods. I guess this is what they were for?”
“Apparently. I also want to warn you, Jeremy: he’s seen you. He knows you’re a hunter, and he’s not going to let that slide by without confronting you. Not if he knows you’re a yeti.”
I grimaced and sat down on the edge of my bed. “I was afraid of that. I’m pretty sure he figured it out the moment he saw me.”
“Probably,” said Finn, “He spends almost all of his time in full elemental form. When we do that, we see auras and magic all over the place, all the time.”
“So he’s got us under siege. You don’t think he’s doing this just to trap me here so I can’t run, do you?”
“That’s exactly what you think,” I surmised.
“And not only am I trapped here, but we have no communication, no transportation, no supplies. Whatever we’ve got to work with here in town is it.”
“Essentially,” said Finn.
“So what do we do?”
I saw a flash of red flames sweep through Finn’s eyes. “We fight,” said the phoenix.
I bared my teeth. “Perfect.”
Finn blinked and looked outside as though he’d heard something. “Hey, I’ve got to go. Maya wants to talk to you, though. One second.”
Finn leaned out of the window, then went down in a dive. I jumped up in time to see him front-flip before landing safely in the snow. Maya stood there, waiting for him. She’d changed from the comfortable clothes she’d worn earlier into more practical winter wear, but her dark, silken hair was still tied in a ponytail. She looked up at me, smiling brightly.
A jolt of excitement surged through me at the sight of her. “Hey, Maya,” I said.
“Hey,” said the witch. I noticed how bright her smile was, like every single bit of her was just radiating happiness, lighting up everything around her. “I’m going to stay down here, if you don’t mind,” she said.
Finn backed away and said, “That’s my cue, then. See you two later.”
We said bye, and then it was just me and Maya.
“So, um,” I started nervously. “Thanks for the spell. You’re right, I don’t want to change in front of my family, so…staying warm should help.”
Maya reached a hand back to fiddle with her ponytail. “No problem.” Her amber eyes were intense, then, as she looked at me. “I was wondering,” she said. “Is, uh…is this…”
“Is it real?” I finished for her. Maya’s smile had turned from confident to nervous.
“You have to admit,” said Maya, “We haven’t really gotten to know each other, we just kind of…seized a moment.”
“Yeah,” I said. “I think…it’s not quite real yet. But it could be, if we give it time.”
Maya stared pensively at the ground for a second. After a moment, she looked back up and said, “Finn told me that he’s given the hunters an order to leave town as soon as Blood-Shard’s taken care of.”
“Oh. Yeah,” I said with a frown. “Uh…Facebook?”
Maya laughed, though she was careful to keep it quiet so as not to wake up anyone else in the house. “Alright, then. We can Facebook-date. Fantastic. It’s the twenty-first century, after all.” She took a look around and said, “It’s getting late, Jeremy. I’d better go. See you later.”
“See you,” I said.
I watched her go until she passed out of sight down the street.
I sighed and stared out the window, up at the stars. I’d always kind of figured that if I wanted a real relationship as a hunter, I would need to find someone who could handle all the craziness with me. That went double for me being a yeti. A potential relationship with Maya was definitely worth exploring.
I turned back to my room, looking at a battery-powered clock on my desk. I wondered how long it would work. It was a couple of hours after midnight. I still had enough time for a pretty good night’s sleep. Or most of one, anyway.
As I turned toward the window to shut it, something bolted in through it faster than I could make out, seized me by the ankle, and yanked me outside.