Luke grabbed my arm and pulled me out of the room, through the door, and into the hallway. He stood behind me, his voice low. "Tell me what happened to your brother."

I swallowed thickly. "He was there...and then he wasn't. They did something to him. I didn't understand it at the time. I could hear his screams even after...his body...fell to the ground."

As I began explaining to him, the horrible memory flashed across my mind. I tried to calm my racing thoughts, but for a moment the images overwhelmed me.

James tried to fight, raising magics designed to heal and using them in ways that I never thought possible. He was older and fully trained. He had an arsenal of spells in his repertoire that I hadn't even begun to learn. I might not have been able to cast the spells, but I recognized them when I heard them. He manipulated a spell used to slow poisonings and two of the men bent over, vomiting violently. I heard him shout the words for a spell that Mama often used to anesthetize patients for surgery—another man collapsed onto the floor. But there were three more mages, and they were unaffected as James threw attack after attack at them.

But it was Macaven who advanced on James slowly, the air around him crackling with discharging energies. He paused to kick one of the vomiting men out of his way, sending him sprawling into a pool of his own sick. Macaven laughed cruelly at the miserable man, stepping around him to stand in front of my brother.

James gathered his power and fired a spell at Macaven. It was a simple spell—one used to break up blood clots in stroke victims—but James fueled it with all of the power he possessed. He released it at Macaven, but to my disbelief, the dark mage calmly clapped his hands together and the spell rebounded back onto James. The light around the magic changed color and expanded. The spell my brother cast was somehow morphed; Macaven had turned it against him.

When the ball of light hit James, he collapsed to the ground like a puppet cut from its strings. He lay still for a moment, then rolled onto his side, coughing heavily. Red blood sprayed the floor in front of him. He rose slowly to his knees, his breathing loud and labored, and began to crawl away from Macaven—and toward me, hiding in the pantry. His face rose to meet mine through the slit in the pantry door. I screamed at the sight of blood pouring from the inner corners of my brother's eyes like tears. Blood slid out of his ears and nose. An alarming volume flowed down his chin, splashing onto the floor in a rapidly spreading pool.

I shrieked, but they couldn't hear me.

Even as he started to die before my eyes, James's spell bound me to the pantry, kept my presence hidden, kept my cries blocked from the outside world.

His eyes locked onto mine for a second. I was still cowering in my hiding spot, and I saw the awareness dawn in his bloodshot eyes that he was leading Macaven straight to me. He stopped crawling, a look of calm resignation on his face. He turned, trying painfully to rise to his feet as Macaven strode up to him. Macaven reached out a long finger and placed it on the center of James's chest.

In one final act of defiance, James spit a mouthful of blood into Macaven's face.

The dark mage didn't even blink. His lips moved in a spell I couldn't hear, and James started screaming. Macaven pulled his finger back, and I stared, horrified, as my brother's soul came with it. He screeched as if he was being shredded from the inside out. After a few more moments of painful wailing, James's body collapsed to the floor, his mouth slack and unmoving—but still the scream went on, roaring through the air as his spirit was torn from his body and thrown into the ether sea.

My eyes never left my brother's face as all the blood left his body, forming a large puddle around him. My mother and father died brutal deaths, but their ends had come mercifully quick. Not James. James died painfully, horribly. His was a death I couldn't bear to think about.

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