It was near midnight when the Peters family descended on Maxville. The treetops bent slightly in the wind, carrying snow with it to cover the already icy road. This far out of town the roads were less managed, but they didn’t mind.
“How much longer?” Connelly asked, a German accent permeating his voice. His cell was against his ear, his father on the other end.
“Four miles, then take a right,” Mathias replied, sounding as worn out as Connelly felt.
Connelly sighed and hung up. “We’re almost there,” he told his twin brother, Ivan.
Ivan just nodded and looked into the truck’s backseat, where their sister was still fast asleep. Her arm was wrapped in gauze stuffed with a poultice to speed up the healing process, but she still looked in pain even while passed-out. She would’ve healed almost instantly had it have been a normal attack, but this wound was tainted with magic.
Between the devastating losses they suffered today and the dangerous deal with a centuries old creature, at least they had made a small step in the direction of success. But try as he might to look at the positive side of things, he knew they weren’t out of the woods yet. It only got more perilous from there, and he was afraid for his family.
“There,” Ivan pointed to a mailbox in the far distance and Connelly urged the truck faster until he turned onto the long tree-lined driveway, his father’s SUV right behind him. A few minutes later, the trees gave way to a small clearing, and sitting in the center was their new home.
Both vehicles eased to a stop and everyone stepped out. “Aubrey,” Connelly took her hand that was hanging off the seat. “Aubrey, we’re here.” She stirred, and he helped her exit the truck. She was barely awake, leaning on the truck while continuing to hold her bandaged arm.
“Um, weren’t we supposed to find something a little more…” Ivan trailed off, looking doubtful.
“Livable?” Connelly added as the last of the family, Mira and an injured Alister walked from the SUV to get a better look at the new place.
It was a good question, as the house before them had obviously been in disrepair for a long time. It was a two-story number with a wrap-around porch, looking more like the local haunted house than their next hide-out. Connelly, Ivan, and Mathias walked around the building, noting that almost all the windows were busted, the porch sagged miserably in several areas, and the side-paneling as well as the concave roof were missing in some places.
“Well?” Mira asked when they returned to the front yard.
They all looked to the black SUV for an answer where Amelia was the last to emerge from the vehicle. The moon above shone on her face, wretched and streaked with the remnants of mascara she’d missed wiping away. Connelly’s heart broke all over again seeing their mother’s pain as she sniffed and tried to pull on a mask of normalcy.
“Well,” her voice cracked slightly and she cleared her throat, “It needs some work, but I think it will be nice. It was the only one big enough for everyone…”
She trailed off and Mathias spoke quickly to keep her mind focused on the present. “Let’s get this going. You all have school tomorrow.”
“Don’t you think, because of all that’s happened, that we should at least get a day off?” asked Alister, his voice agitated. None of the others said anything and looked to Mathias.
“I wish I could, but you have an appointment up there you can’t miss.”
“Who gives a shit about appointments!” Alister exploded. “That bastard just took Vincent! How are we supposed to just go on like nothing happened?”Audible gasps echoed around the group, and shocked eyes skipped from him to Mathias.
You are so stupid, Connelly thought. Alister had never gone this far, and hoped he would stop there.
“Yes he did, to save your lives!” Mathias bellowed, his deep voice echoing across the clearing. He took a step toward Alister and pointed a finger, “Don’t you dare imply I don’t care, but in case you’ve forgotten in the last few hours, we’re in a war!”
Amelia was suddenly at his side with her hand on his arm. They shared a look, but slowly he lowered his arm and looked back at Alister, whose shocked face had reverted back to a glare. “Take your sister inside. Mira, you and Ivan put up the perimeter and Connelly, you’re helping me with the house.”
Amelia patted his arm before helping the still drowsy Aubrey up the steps with Alister dragging his feet behind them. Mathias sighed in frustration, and then turned to Connelly, tossing him a small jar of purple liquid.
Without a word, they started in the middle of the front porch and worked their way around, drawing sigils for protection, concealment, secrecy, healing, and blessings, among many others. Connelly’s brow furrowed in concentration, watching the liquid sigils disappear when they were completed.
Over an hour later they were all finally walking into the house, finding Amelia tending to Alister’s wounded side while he and Aubrey rested on an old moldy sofa. “They nearly killed them,” Amelia said, not looking up from her work and murmuring healing spells under her breath. The wounds looked better than they had earlier that day, so at least their healing speed was returning to normal.
“How are you holding up?” Mathias asked, looking down at Alister gravely.
“Well, I would’ve been better –,” Alister had a sharp intake of breath at Amelia’s touch, then continued, “if we would’ve been allowed to practice any magic at all before this crap.”
“Alister,” Mathias began, “I’ve already told you why we can’t do that.”
“Yeah, yeah, because our magic is more powerful and they would be able to track it. Well, if we don’t die by them finding us, then we’ll definitely die by not being able to defend ourselves when we attack them!”