Chapter 47: Winged

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I raced forward, around the magician-turned-dragon, but just as the front entrance to the orphanage came into sight, I felt the magician move from beside me. With the sound of a million pages turning at once, the magician spread his magnificent black wings and took to the air.

The force of him landing on the building sent me flying back and the roof caving in.

"Oops," the magician snarled. "Hope Jack wasn't in any of those rooms."

I got back to my feet, returning the Semper to my boot for safekeeping.

I couldn't worry about how smashed-in the building was. Couldn't let doubt creep in. My only chance was to get in and find Jack. That was all I could do.

The magician lifted his tail and slammed it back down. I cringed at the sound of cracking glass and splintering metal.

I had only just taken a deep breath meant to steady me as I dove into the building when something flew out of a hole in the roof (created by the magician, of course). Jack.

"Ah. If it isn't the young statue himself?" The magician whipped his tail around, almost managing to curl it around Jack, but my flying friend zipped away.

"Come here, you!"

That was it. I needed to get up there. I grabbed onto the wall and started climbing.

"Oh, no you don't!"

Arms wrapped around me and yanked me to the ground. The breath was knocked out of me as I hit hard, not helped by the knees so rudely pressed into my stomach.

"Madame P.?" I gasped weakly.

"You're not escaping me this time!"

"Get off!"

But no matter how hard I struggled, I couldn't get free. She had a surprisingly strong grip, and kept pressing into me harder.

"I wouldn't move if I were you," another voice said, this one higher. Younger. It stopped me cold. I lifted my head enough to see short red hair with dark brown streaks framing a face I could never forget. Fyrn.

She held a wicked-looking gun, of a make and model honed for accuracy, somewhat casually, though it was pointed at me.

"Well done, Fyrn," Madame P. said delightedly.

I was no longer struggling, though not because I feared her new toy.

"Why?" I asked, voice breaking on the word.

Fyrn smiled impishly. "Because. After Madame P. Noire becomes the new mayor and abolishes the Council Force, she will make me her second in command."

I choked on my laughter and lack of air. "You? A fourteen year old girl?"

Fyrn's eyes hardened. "You remember the night you showed me the Formliss? I told you of all the good it could do, how it could change the world. But you just wanted to keep it for yourself!" She stepped closer, until she was looking down at me. Madame P. had released me, and stood watching Fyrn with pride. It seemed Fyrn was her protégé.

"You won't get the life water," I said defiantly.

Fyrn's expression brightened. "Turns out I don't need it to change the world."

She stepped even closer to me, if that was possible, gun pointed right into my face. "Goodbye, Skai," she said. Our eyes were locked. My gray glaring at her green. Her finger moved.

Madame P. sputtered from off to the side.

Fyrn whirled.

I gasped as three small winged creatures flitted beside the orphanage director's head. Birds? From their high pitched chirps I knew I was right. But even as I watched, more birds appeared around her, until there was a whole swarm.

Madame P. swatted at them. "What horrid-"

Fyrn stepped forward to help and some turned to her. So far, they had done no more than flit around and distract them. They seemed to want more, but they waited for something.

"Get them," I said, hating myself for it.

They didn't need any more encouragement. Madame P. shrieked and swatted at her face, missing the plethora of pecking birds as they swirled around her hand. She turned and ran. Fyrn lost her gun but stood her ground anyway, swatting at them as well, though without the high-pitched screams of terror. She had always loved a good adventure. It was hard to make out any of her features through the millions of tiny wings, but I occasionally caught glimpses of her eyes still staring at me. I raced to the wall, forcing myself not to glance back, and climbed.

I looked up, partly to find my next hold, partly to find out what was happening on the roof.

Jack was still zipping around the magician's tail, always coming tantalizingly close, then spinning away just in the nick of time. The magician, however, was getting angry. Smoke billowed from his nostrils. Or was that shadow?

I climbed faster, determined to get there before it was too late. The magician opened his gaping jaws, spewing out a river of shadows.

Jack's eyes widened and he moved to avoid it, right into the magician's waiting tail.

Jack's mouth glinted. He couldn't talk. The metal was almost up to his nose.

The magician brought him close, opening his jaws wide.

I was still too far away. I wouldn't get there in time. "Jack! Catch!" I brought out the Semper and launched it at him.

Too late I realized my mistake.

All eyes followed the vial's trajectory through the air. Time slowed. The magician's slitted pupils contracted. His tail loosened and Jack slipped through it. The magician stepped forward.

Then time sped back up and it was over. All at the same time, the magician held out his claws; the vial shattered over his scales, water shimmering and splatting over him; and Jack clanged to the roof.

No one moved in the silence that followed.

Slowly, the magician and I met eyes as we both realized the same thing.

The world was over.

A/N: Thanks for reading! Comment below: what did you like? Dislike? I'd love to hear from you!

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