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.”Pep talks are truly useless in life and death situations!“Let’s just get it over with,” I said.“One way or the other this ends now.”I tried to sound strong and confident but an unsteadiness in my voice offered little reassurance.Super powers or not, to me I was still Alex Ryan, loner and recent orphan.My faith in Blaze, Tristan, and Sadie was unfaltering; I prayed I would not hold them back.This part of town was different from the rest.The vibrant beauty had been sucked out of it and all that remained was eerie gloom.A reddish haze enveloped Katerina’s castle and the rest of the gray sky hung above us like a watchful spy meant to track our every move.Ominous, dark clouds seemed to follow us, urging us to fear what lay ahead.There was no soft, green grass or colorful flowers.Instead, the grounds were covered in dirt and black, abstract trees.Even the air was different, which could account for the landscaping.The once comforting warm breeze was tainted with wickedness and grew heavier with each step.Our strained bodies needed all the strength we could muster to move us through this dreadful environment.My head drooped in anguish.Tristan quietly grasped my hand but I could not bring myself to look at him.The group stopped moving and, in my distracted state, I nearly crashed into Sadie.Brick by brick my gaze drifted upwards to the angry vines and undoubtedly evil grime that clung to the walls like that was its only purpose in life.The castle and my fear grew.“What is that smell?” Sadie whispered.“Burnt eggs?”Malevolence radiated from the enormous stone fort, polluting the once majestic land with hatred, destroying its beauty and suffocating it with darkness.All we could do was hope it would not do the same to us.Katerina’s abode, although it was a castle, was nothing spectacular.Perhaps it was the lack of romance or regality most castles possessed or, conceivably, it was due to Katerina’s noticeable disinterest in basic upkeep.Focus.Be alert.Don’t trip.Don’t get anyone killed.These thoughts revolved in my head until I practically forgot where I was.The rest of the group was turning the corner ahead.I had fallen far behind.“Hey!” I whispered.“Wait!”Tristan sprung from behind the wall, visibly frantic.He waved for me to hurry while shushing me at the same time.The faster I walked the more he reminded me to be quiet.“How am I supposed to hurry without running or making noise? You are stressing me out!”Just then Sadie let out a terrifying shriek.“Sadie!” I screamed.Tristan and I rounded the corner to see Sadie and Blaze tussling with three guards.I rushed over and threw a right hook at the first man I came to.Seeing my siblings threatened brought out the fighter in me.With a single punch, the large guard hit the ground with a super-sized thud.My attention was freed in time to see Blaze finish off his attacker while Sadie and Tristan defeated the last one.Until we arrived in Haliwick, I had never been in a fight in my life.I had never been made to throw a single punch or even raise my voice in anger, but lately that had changed.I was thankful that by some stroke of fate my family was blessed with an understanding of combat.Either through magic or luck or a combination of the two, we could hold our own.Though my hands quivered after each encounter, there was something oddly exhilarating about battle.I still found fighting barbaric but it brought out my competitiveness and spoke to the hidden, yet remarkably proud side of me.Of course, being good at it helped a lot.“There’s a door through here,” Blaze said.“Be careful,” Tristan added.“I think it’s safe to say they know we’re here.”Blaze created a makeshift flashlight with his palm to light a path through the overgrown weeds and vines shielding the doorway.The obstacles proved to be no match for Blaze, even using one hand.He clawed through the stubborn undergrowth with ease and no assistance.Blaze entered the doorway first, stopping once inside to investigate his new surroundings.All must have seemed well because he returned to help Sadie through the iron door’s rather awkward opening.Blaze lifted Sadie and pulled her inside without a grumble from either of them.Tristan shuffled me around him and towards the door, signaling that it was my turn.Though I was more than capable of entering the castle on my own accord, I knew Blaze would never go for it.He grabbed me around my waist, his large hands almost touching on either side of my stomach.I suddenly felt small, insignificant.If Blaze could affect me this way I shuddered to think what Katerina could do.Confident was not a word I would choose to describe myself.I was certainly no coward but it seemed I lacked the gene that would allow me to think of myself as anything but ordinary.You have magic powers! Hellooo?I could only shake my head.I had to be the only person in the history of mankind to have an inferiority complex and magical abilities.Clinging to Blaze’s shoulders I could see the inside of the castle, at least this particular section.To my left several measly flames flickered atop equally miserable candles, evenly spaced along the wall of the haunting corridor [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]