Initially, Niccolo didn't want to split up, but it didn't take me very long to convince him it was the only practical thing to do. Zafria had some serious injuries that needed immediate attention or they could become infected; none of us had any doubt that Mevolent didn't clean his torture devices. Then he would need to get her out- the sooner the better- and one of us had to stay behind, because a guard had seen our entrance. He was the only one who could teleport, so really our only option was for me to venture deeper into Mevolent's castle after the guard alone.
I followed him for a short while until we had cleared the cells; I didn't want any prisoners letting slip that they had seen me. As much as I wanted to, there was too much at stake for me to trust these strangers. He was walking down a dark hallway alone when I jumped him, choking him the same way Croatoan had choked Jubi- only I was aiming to kill him, and didn't hold back. It only took ten seconds for me to crush his windpipe under my arms.
I laid his body down gently so no one would hear a thud, and silently crept back out of the hallway. What I hadn't realized was that Mevolent already knew of my presence; the guard had pressed a slient alarm for intruders as he ran to tell his comrades. Actually, I suddently realized, he hadn't been running to anyone; how could he contact anyone from a dark, dead-end hallway anyway? This was a trap, and I had walzed right into it.
I whirled around and backed up against the flat stone wall, my eyes searching in the darkness. I kept my wits about me; there was no room for panic. Even if I was ambushed, I wouldn't have to kill everyone- I just had to hold them off until Zafria was safe and Croatoan came back for me. But instead of foreboding footsteps, the only thing I could hear was... My cell phone? My phone was ringing. I was surprised it still even had battery... Forget that, I was surprised that Mevolent had even left if on me when he had me on that table...
"Hello?" I answered, making my voice sound light and happy- the only people who had this number were Croatoan, by best non-magical friend, and my immediate family. And Niccolo wouldn't be calling me.
"Sweet pea!" My little brother's voice rang out, excited and innocent, on the other end of the line.
"Hey!" I said brightly, not having to fake it anymore. My parents and my brother could cheer me up even if the world was ending.
"Mallory! How's the reaserch going?" My father chimed in. So I was on speaker- well, the more the merrier!
"Pretty well," I answered, "The herbs are growing nicely in all different areas of sunlight, but I think I'll have to replant the lilacs somewhere else; some small animal keeps eating them, and I can't spray them with anything or it would mess up the experament.
"How are you feeling? Do you miss us?" My mom spoke up, laughter in her voice.
I giggled a bit, and responded, "Of course I miss you guys! And I'm fine." That last part wasn't even a complete lie; I was fine for the time being, at least.
"I bought you a movie and some jellybeans last week!" My brother screeched happily, "Please come home soon so you can have them!"
"I've still got a few weeks to go," I admitted, "But you can mail it to me if you want." I offered, not wanting to dissapoint him.
He laughed and I could hear his loud footsteps race across the room. "Mama, Papa," He tried to whisper, but he was way too loud from excitement, "Don't tell Mallory- we're going to send her a package!"
I laughed, but then heard the slightest scratch from a dark corner- it could just be a rat, or it could be one of Mevolent's servants; I couldn't be sure. "Hey, guys- sorry, but I kind of have to go now; I'll call you later, ok?" An out-of-tune chorus of "good-bye"s and "I love you"s, I murmured, "I love you too," then hung up and shoved the phone back in my pocket, just as Mevolent himself stepped out of the shadows.
He grinned maliciously, his gaze lingering over my scars. "Did I do all of that?" He asked rhetorically, "You must have been a very mean to me. Oh, that's right, you were- I asked you nicely for some simple information, and you shunned me as though I was a criminal." A slight pause. "Would you like to speak now?" I glared at him, my eyes cold and defiant.
"You really care about your family, don't you?" He continued. "They must love you very much." He was taking one step towards me with each word, until we were only a few inches away from each other. Keeping my arms in tight so he wouldn't see what I was doing, I pulled a small needle out of my pocket and stabbed it into his arm. He looked down to see what I had done, while I quickly popped it into my mouth. He looked up, realized what I had done, and just stared at me; I could've sworn he was amused.
Suddently I felt a searing pain on the left side of my neck, where he had cut me before. Of course, I still didn't know the binding symbol was there. But what I did know was that I had his blood in my mouth and I wasn't attacking him. I wouldn't have killed him anyway- the Grand Mage had dibs on that- but I could've at least slowed him down enough to escape. But now, for whatever reason, I just couldn't do it, and black spots danced before my eyes as the pain in my neck increased.
Mevolent laughed, but I could barely hear him. It felt like I was on fire. Only a few moments more and I was writhing on the floor, gasping for air because I had forgotten how to breathe. I couldn't raise my head but I saw his shadow turn and walk away; I was no longer a threat. Though I was still surprised he hadn't killed me. I laid there in agony for what felt like a lifetime, then the pain finally began to subside. I crawled back to the cold hard wall and curled up against it, trying to slow my breathing, until Croatoan found me and took me back to the forest.