Once more lightning struck. A charge pulsed through her body. No longer covered with a soft blanket of snow, the hard ground beat into Colli when another bolt, this time shaped like a ball, bounced at her feet. It passed from the ground sending shock waves through her body. Colli couldn’t stop shaking. She lay flat. Breathing hard, she crawled along, keeping low. Another charge struck the ground near her right hand.
“Collianna.” Trevan stood in the doorway.
“Stop. Get back inside.” Colli tried to stand. Pain spread from her left shoulder. Moisture dripped from her fingers. Her words went ignored. A force lifted her into the air. The strength of the wind at her back pushed her toward the trunk of a nearby tree. If not for Mary and Keleon grabbing her feet, she would have hit it with a massive force. They pulled her down, and prevented her from flying up when, once more, a heavy gust tugged at her. The three stood together against one final burst of wind.
Mary touched the wet sleeve of her shirt. “You’re bleeding.”
“Not now.” Colli fought to keep her voice steady. Leave panic for later, she commanded herself. “We have to get inside.”
Trevan stiffened. “Where’s Mommy,” he sniffled.
Colli leaned against Keleon. There was a warming in her shoulder. Blood caked on her fingertips.
“That won’t hold for long,” Keleon whispered in her ear. Keleon’s gift of healing extended beyond mechanical devices.
I should have known, Colli thought.
“Mommy.” Trevan ran from the doorway.
Colli pulled away from Keleon, trying to grab Trevan’s hand as he ran past. She missed.
Swirling snow descended around him.
“Mary. Keleon. Get Trevan.” A rumble and blast of power grew between them.
Mary responded. She grabbed Trevan. He tried to pull away. Somehow she maintained the grip she had on him.
“We’ve got to get inside,” Colli commanded
A gale gobbled her words. Before she could push her way back to the others, snow and ice crackled and fell as splinters to form a prison wall around them.
“We’ve got to get inside.” Chernbog mocked her.
Colli looked at the inviting interior of the fortress. The longing to be there, safe, melted.
Mary moved her hand over the barrier that surrounded the three of them. At her wrist, a gash opened. Blood flowed from it to darken the snow at her feet.
Keleon reacted, but not quickly enough to prevent the effect the loss had on Mary. Too weak to stand, she fell to her knees. She slid onto her face. If not for Keleon grabbing her, Mary would have fallen into the razor sharp barrier.
“Now it’s between you and me.” Chernbog’s head materialized before Colli. Shadows grew around them, blocking all but Trevan’s whimpering. “You might as well give up.” His body solidified. Muscles rippled beneath his tight fitting blue shirt.
“No.” Colli moved in the direction she knew the others to be. Dark enveloped her. Silence, more deafening than thunder, joined to isolate her. She pushed on, reaching out for something, anything to give her a sense of direction.
Where are the voices? They too had grown quiet. Help me. Colli tried pushing her thoughts in all directions. “Where are you?” she whispered, letting hopelessness escape.
A tickle started in her brain, at the base of her left ear. A soft whisper of breathing grew. Finally words formed.
“We’re here. We’ve always been here.” They grew stronger.