I flew as fast as all get-out, but the buzz of whizzing wings soon reached my ears. I glanced back to see Tracer gaping at me. He pointed past me.
I did a barrel roll down and out of the way of a group of Flight School Trainees, just grazing the tips of their leaf-sleds. Earth, water, and sky whirled around me as I righted myself and zoomed on towards—where was I going?
Tracer caught up to me, and the other boys trailed behind, struggling to keep up. He asked me the same question. “I’m not sure,” I answered, shouting over the roar of the wind. “But I’ll know when I get there.”
Out of the corner of my eye, a carriage rocketed out of nowhere. It flew over our heads towards a wider clearing ahead. This was the one. The wind beat against my already sore wings as I tried to out-fly it, leaving the boys far behind, but a teenage faery against six hummers is no match.
“Duck!” I yelled.
I wasn’t sure if it I felt it or saw it darting out from the thick of the woods first. The second carriage racketed about through the air, careening towards the one with the kids. Cries erupted as they saw the second headed straight for them, being pulled by a horde of nasty hornets. It crashed at a sharp angle into their side, with sparks scattering between them where metal met metal. Even in such young minds, they knew it from instinct: they were all going to die.
Not if I can do anything about it.
I pounded my wings faster than I thought I could have possibly done, and later I realized I must have been half Drifting or half Shifting to make up for my lack of strength. The carriages banged together again, and the metal rims of the wheels ground against each other. Sparks flew between them, and the little kids inside screamed for their mommies. The hummers and hornets snapped at each other, now having a tangled fight of their own. When they finally separated and the carriages broke away, I got a good look at the people riding in the hornet-drawn sleigh.
They wore dark green suits, black caps, and brown belts, sheathed swords and bows, and their teeth glinted in the shadow of their hoods. One brandished a long, curved knife and waved it at my face out the window. Somehow I’d wedged myself between the two carriages, stuck myself into the frame of the door, and grabbed the handles on each side. My legs screamed continuously as I blocked the incoming carriage with my feet, pushed it away, and had it slam back into me, jerking my knees sideways and twisting my back at a weird angle.
I cried out angrily, and the Guards yelled things to each other, things I didn’t understand. We were nearing the edge of the clearing, and I knew I’d only have a few moments to save the kids. The soldiers pulled away again and prepared to come back to squish me like a grape.
The pressure pounding on the inside of my head increased again. I felt time blur, and the world became a watery painting of greens, blues, oranges, and browns. My hands grew hot, like I’d reached for a cooking pot without mitts. As I brought them before me to hold off the next attack, even in the chaos of colors, I could see very clearly that blood was surging down to my fingers, turning my arms a ghastly white. The heat in my hands pulsed stronger and faster, until I thought they’d catch fire.
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