hideout; two months later
The weeks slipped by with dizzying speed. It was as if time had turned to sand — I could catch the first few handfuls, savor the time with my sister, but the next waves were overwhelming. I spent the time fretting over Raf, wishing desperately that I had access to an alchemy station, and training —
Training for what, I wasn’t sure. I’d tried asking Nora what the end goal was — complete rebellion? Survival? But she never gave me a clear answer.
She’d tasked me with working with a laser machine designed to mimic the security system in place at Uncle Kylo’s — sorry, the Warlock‘s — headquarters. They were still figuring out how to blend the high tech infrastructure with magic, and the entrance to the kitchens still had the old, technology-based security system in place. Nora wanted to use that entrance to sneak into the building. The Warlock had stockpiled all the essential pieces needed to construct robots, and I had the feeling Nora wished to even the playing field.
Behind me, Kel grunted as she nimbly jabbed at the training post. Each hit had a deafening crack, and it was a miracle that the post hadn’t split cleanly in two by now. The vampire still terrified me; witches and bloodsuckers had never had a good history, and now, unable to use my magic, I was vulnerable. I had regained my magic, but I dared not risk casting even the simplest of freezing charms. I believed this restraint was what kept me alive, what kept Kel from sniffing out the truth.
I had thought the urge to cast would be irresistible — and it was difficult to keep from casting a spell. I found myself running my hand over my wand late at night, when no one was locking, but the yearning wasn’t overpowering. My months without magic had faded it to a dull ache.
My hand slipped, and the laser glowed red. I hissed in frustration. I’d been trying to solve this particular system for the past two weeks, and the knowledge that I could cast a single spell to solve it was infuriating.
Even with these months of training, I still was clumsy. While I might be good at magic, I was wretched at anything else. I hated being the weak link.
And, sure enough, the vampire wheeled towards me. “You still haven’t solved it?” she demanded.
“Well, Kel, the light is red, which I suppose means…no,” I said. It was risky to anger her further, but I couldn’t help it; the vampire insulted me at every possible moment, and I’d never been the type to suffer in silence.
Kel growled, baring her fangs, and I forced myself to hold my ground. The vampire raised a fist, and I stiffened —
“Kel, stand down,” came Victor’s voice.
I wheeled, an automatic retort ready on my lips. When I was angry, no one was safe; I wanted to throw verbal barbs at everyone, drag them down into my ire until they, too, were as ugly as I was.
But something in Victor’s profile stopped me. These past few weeks, we’d teetered on the edge of camaraderie and something far more frightening. I felt a traitorous flutter in my stomach and squashed the feeling down with grim determination. I couldn’t even entertain these thoughts while Raf was lying unconscious just a few feet away. Raf and I were no longer together, yes, but he was still my friend, and it didn’t feel right to — to do anything while he was gone.
“Ridiculous,” Kel said, but the word lacked venom. The vampire shot one last glare in my direction before storming off, her crimson hair even spikier than normal.
“How long do you think it takes to get her hair to that height?” I joked, if only to break the silence. Like Kel, Victor made me nervous, but this was an unsettling, unpredictable kind of nerves.
“She’s only nervous,” Victor said. “The Warlock grows stronger each day, and we’ve just heard word that one of the other rebel outposts has fallen. It’s getting harder and harder to communicate.”
“We used to be able to use a special radio frequency to contact the others, but that’s been clouded with propaganda. It all reeks of magic.”
Magic. The thing I yearned for and thing he despised.
I looked again at the man, forcing myself to linger on the anger twisting his mouth into a scowl. No, it was better we didn’t act on…whatever there was between us.
It was on our next scouting trip that things went terribly wrong. We were mapping the perimeter of Kylo’s building when we smelled it — the acrid smell of burning metal and the dry heat of an unplanned fire.
We headed towards it in unspoken agreement. Victor skidded to a halt before the flames, his eyes darting around the area. There were so many witnesses — robot and human — staring at the flames in horror. The firefighters hadn’t been dispatched yet, and the flames tore hungrily at the dry grass.
“We need to do something,” Victor shouted.
I glanced behind me, all too aware of the watchful gaze of the robot. It was one of Kylo’s — not a security drone, thank Plumbob, but a threat nonetheless.
If we stayed to fight this fire, we would draw unwanted — and dangerous — attention to ourselves, but what choice did we have? Victor certainly couldn’t leave this fire in good conscience, and even I hesitated to abandon these people.
Victor grabbed a fire extinguisher from a shaking woman and deftly uncapped it, pointing it into the flames. The fire sputtered for a moment, recollected itself, and roared with a vengeance.
Victor stood his ground, but I could see the fresh fear in his eyes. What good was a single fire extinguisher against a wildfire? People everywhere were screaming, running as quickly as they could from the flames.
I felt the familiar weight of my wand against my leg. Although I hadn’t cast any spells in months, I’d kept it close by, if only to draw comfort from its presence. I could extinguish this fire with a simple freezing charm. It would be so easy, so quick. My fingers twitched. Almost everyone had left; the chances of being seen were slim, I was sure.
Knowing that I was making excuses and hating myself for it, I quickly slipped my wand from my pocket and, glancing at Victor to make sure that he wasn’t looking, murmured a spell. Immediately, I felt a flush of power, of joy, as the flames began to subside.
I was alive, finally, after months of dull slumber. This was how I was meant to be. This was what I was — a witch. Nothing could change that.
With my magic, the fire died quickly, and I hurriedly shoved my wand down my waistband as Victor turned towards me, his face streaked with soot. “Korra-” he began, his brow furrowed in question, and my stomach plunged.
Had he seen?
Before he could finish the thought, however, a robot grabbed me roughly by the arm. I saw Victor freeze out of the corner of my eye. Protocol said that, in the event of any altercation with a robot, the other should leave immediately. The rebellion’s numbers were so slim that risking an additional life was too costly.
“You are in violation of Rule 374B section 21,” the robot intoned.
Behind my back, I motioned for Victor to leave. I had the feeling that Rule 374-whatever had to do with magic wielding, and it was better that he didn’t stay for that part.
Still, when I saw Victor leave, it was like a new weight had settled on my shoulders. No one liked being alone.
The robot, still holding my arm tightly, pressed a button, his eyes flashing red. A few moments later, my uncle appeared in a flash of light.
Uncle Kylo. He looked the same as before — a bit older, perhaps, with more tired lines and sunken cheeks — but his eyes were the same. Cold, pale eyes devoid of any discernible emotion.
“Korra,” he said. “So you are here.”
I’d last seen him as a hapless, scared teenager ignorant of her own powers. I was that child no longer.
At least, with Victor gone, I was free to cast. I drew my wand and, without waiting for him to continue, lashed a whip of fire in his direction.
I resisted the urge to laugh. How good it felt to cast again, how right.
Uncle Kylo dispelled the flames with a swift flick of his wrist but, to my great surprise, he didn’t retaliate with a hex of his own. He was soon joined by a second figure, and the sight of her gleaming black eyes made me swallow.
So she had made it to the future after all. Could — could this be the witch everyone spoke so fearfully about?
“Korra,” Mako greeted, and I shuddered at the sound of my name. “I knew you’d show up eventually.”
I cast a hex, not wanting to hear her voice any longer, and again Kylo dispelled it without retaliation. Why wasn’t he fighting back?
“Enough,” Mako hissed. “If you won’t attack, I will.”
Before I could react, I felt the barbs of her spell bite deeply into my chest.
author note: it’s been a while! I’m slowly catching up on all of your stories and comments — thanks so much for your support 🙂