Hailey looked over the huddle of Salem guards, each pointing a rifle at her and she smiled. She felt the power of raw magic coursing through her veins and had a new, instinctual understanding of how to use it. Her first thought had been This is going to be fun! Her second thought, however, was the voice in the back of her head that reminded her that she had just discovered her magic and she probably shouldn’t explore it through combat – something else she had never done before. This voice was a killjoy and she habitually ignored it, but considering the recent results of that habit, she decided to try an experiment. She would make an attempt at responsible action. She waved her hand, causing the floor beneath her and Rhoda to vanish. They crashed gracelessly into the floor below.
“Why did you do that?” Rhoda groaned.
“It was fight or flight time,” Hailey explained, “and I just got this power five seconds ago. I’m not ready to block bullets.”
“But why not vanish the floor beneath the guards?”
“Shield!” someone shouted, saving Hailey from admitting her stupid mistake. The new instinct kicked in again and Hailey circled her hands around each other, conjuring a bubble of solid air around her and Rhoda. The broken segments of chains at her wrists clacked against each other as she did this but didn’t get in the way. She could see the contours of the bubble as the rifle balls bounced off. To keep the guards from jumping down, she pushed the bubble into the hole, blocking it off. Dust settled on its invisible surface. For good measure, she petrified the door to the stairs.
The room they had fallen into was full of prisoners – mostly women and all chained to the wall. The one who had shouted the warning was a green skinned woman with greying hair. Hailey tried not to stare but… green skin?
“Thank you,” she told the woman. “I’m Hailey and this is Rhoda.”
“My name is Tacita,” the green woman said “I was just following the code. Witches always help other witches. Speaking of which, can you get me out of these chains?
Hailey happily obliged, using the same freezing she had used on her own chains. As she did, she noticed that Tacita’s skin wasn’t actually green; it was severely bruised. She had so many bruises that she was a monobruise. It didn’t look like something that could happen naturally, so Hailey assumed there was a supernatural cause.
Hailey started to free the next closest woman but was startled by that woman’s demand to be left where she was. The next woman over had the same feelings, and the one after that. In the end, only three other women agreed to be freed. All of them had green skin like Tacita. Hailey looked to Tacita for an explanation.
Tacita gave a shrug. “They’re afraid they Hunters might chase them,” she explained. “Honestly, I’m afraid too, but I can’t get any more dead than I’ll be if I stay.”
“Yes, you can,” someone muttered.
Rhoda gave Hailey her patented, “What have you gotten me into?” look. “These Hunters sound dangerous,” she said. “We better get out of here before they can break through that door.”
This prompted an, “Are you stupid?” look from Tacita. “Those buffoons upstairs aren’t Hunters. You would be green now if they were.”
Rhoda raised an eyebrow. “Is that what happened to you? Why are you green?”
The green witch clenched her jaw. “I’m green because a Hunter caught me and drained all the magic out of me. It’s the worst pain you’ll ever feel. That’s why we need to leave.
Hailey, Rhoda, and the four green witches left the prison in a hurry. Luckily, a dragon had recently torn a hole in the gate, so they could easily slip out. They quickly left the village via Ipswich Road, where they avoided Proctor’s Tavern and headed for the safety of the woods. That was when Rhoda stopped and grabbed Hailey’s arm.
“Do we have some kind of a plan?” she asked.
“We need to get as far away as possible,” Hailey answered. It seemed obvious enough.
“But what about the time machine?” Rhoda asked.
“It’ll be there when this all blows over. It’s not like someone will figure out how to use it,” Hailey said. “We just need to lay low until the witches attack Salem.”
“Excuse me,” Tacita said. “Did you just say that witches are going to attack Salem? There are Hunters here in the village! They won’t stand a chance! We need to get to the Iron’s estate to send a warning.”
“Sounds like we need to rescue the time machine while we can,” Rhoda said.
“You’re right,” Hailey admitted. “We need that back. But I think I should go with the witches to make sure they make it to Constance’s”
Rhoda chewed on her lip. “So, you’re saying we need to split up?” she asked.
Hailey shrugged. “It seems so. Are you going to be alright?”.
“Probably not,” she admitted.
The shortest of the witches stepped over to Rhoda. “I’ll go with you,” she said. “That way you’ll have some muscle to back you up.” She seemed to mean it seriously.
Rhoda gave Hailey a nervous look. “Be safe,” she said.
“You first,” Hailey replied.
Hailey waved as Rhoda and the short witch walked off. She wondered if splitting up was a dumb idea, but something told her that they needed to act quickly. She also wondered if going to Constance’s was a dumb idea and she had to admit that it was. Hailey would probably be dragon food by the end of the day, but it was either this or let the witches get caught by the Hunters. She turned to the three witches that remained with her.
“It’s time to face the dragon,” she said.