Stella awoke – again – to a splitting headache. ‘What does Venitus have against the idea of my getting a full night’s restful sleep?’ she thought.
It took a moment for her to realize she wasn’t alone, or in Venitus’ torture chamber. A pale shadow detached itself from the others and moved towards her.
“Shh, you’re safe. I’ve moved you to a secure location. Venitus doesn’t know you’re gone yet.” A young man with blue-black hair and strange silver eyes sat down next to her.
Now that she was away from the Magus’ influence, Stella became irritable. She had been tricked by Venitus’ minions once before; she wouldn’t make the same mistake again.
“Who are you, that such a powerful Magus would go to such lengths to break you to his will?” the newcomer asked.
“Who am I? I am Astriella Starfire, only daughter of Cherisa Starfire and Marcus Skybright. The blood of Nika Moondust runs as pure as time has allowed through my veins,” Stella replied proudly. “I am one of the most famous wraith hunters this side of the Golden Valley. I fear nothing and no one. Who are you, who dares challenge me?”
The stranger smiled faintly. “I am called Leivos the Blue. I know not who my parents or ancestors were, and I am a mage. A fairly junior mage, despite my studies. And I am also the one who rescued you. Now, if you would like to get out of the Magus’ land, I can help you. You have to trust me, though.” Leivos held out his hand to her.
Stella groaned. “Is everyone around here a mage? And why should I trust you? The last two mages I met planned to kill me.” She folded her arms across her chest and waited.
Instead of explaining, Leivos stood up and just started walking. “I don’t have to make you believe me. If you want to leave, then follow me. A great hunter you may be, but this place is magical. You won’t find your way out unless you have a guide, so I suggest you hurry,” he called back.
Stella, realized he was right, quickly stood up and ran after him. When she caught up, she silently fell into step beside him.
He glanced at her. “You’re sulking. I’m sorry I offended you.” He paused, considering. “You’ve a strong sense of price, and you’re incredibly spirited. I admire those traits. Just so you know,” he added when she stopped to stare at him.
She shook her head in amazement. “What prompted that?” she asked.
Instead of answering, he stopped as well and gestured for her to be quiet. He stood absolutely motionless, listening.
Stella walked over to him. “What-“
“Shh!” His strange silver eyes moved restlessly, searching for something.
Stella was about to ask again, when she suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of danger. It was so strong that, against all her mental protests, she squeaked fearfully.
Leivos whirled to face her. “Shh! Someone’s here,” he hissed.
“I know. It’s Ashion and Venitus and . . . some others,” she whispered, trying to stay calm. Why couldn’t they leave her alone?
“You’re right, Astriella,” Venitus called mockingly as he, Ashion, and a squad of mages stepped into the clearing. “A pity your mage friend couldn’t tell sooner. Ah, well,” he sighed, “now you will have to stand and fight, or surrender.”
In a state of near-panic, Stella quickly erected a psionic shield around herself and Leivos. This simple structure only blocked other minds. ‘Could you fight them off? I’m no good at magic,’ she sent. All I can do is “think” pain at them.’
Leivos stared at her. ‘You’re a telepath? Of course, that’s why they want you. It’s integral to their plan.’ He went off into absentminded mutterings.
She sighed. ‘Yes, I’m a telepath. Can you, or can you not, fight them?’
‘What? I might be able to take some of them, but not the Magus. He’s the most powerful mage I’ve ever heard of.’
‘Thank you. I can get Ashion and Venitus – maybe. You take the rest.’ She dropped the shield, and the two of them leaped into action.
Stella directed several powerful mind waves at Ashion. He immediately keeled over, out of commission.
Leivos was everywhere, sending such simple spells that the other mages couldn’t block them. Within moments, Stella, Leivos, and Venitus were the only ones left standing.
The Magus laughed. With a casual flick of his hand, he sent Leivos flying. The young mage’s body struck a tree and fell heavily to the ground. Stella screamed and attacked Venitus.
Magic has no power against sheer fury, which was why Stella was able to push Venitus back almost five meters before he threw her off of him.