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The Cloak of Steel (The Magic Crystals, #5)
Parisian Tails
Corridors (The Magic Crystals, #4)
Hunt and Power (The Magic Crystals, #3)

Hunt and Power (The Magic Crystals, #3)

Excerpt from ‘Hunt and Power’

The footsteps stopped outside the door, and I could tell that it was only one person. Good. But then the man's voice spoke to us, and I felt my blood chill.

“Stand against the back wall of the cell. Do not try anything, or I will kill you.”

I gulped. One door separated us from Arnold Hammerson himself. Amelia beckoned us toward the back wall, and we wasted no time in following. Peter and I stood shoulder to shoulder, apprehensively watching the spot where we thought the door was, but Amelia seemed unable to hold herself up, and collapsed to the floor beside Peter.

The lock clicked for a bit and then the door swung open. I got only a brief glimpse of Hammerson before he waved his hand, and light flooded the cell so that Peter and I covered our eyes, gasping. Hammerson shut the door behind him while we had our hands over our face; I squinted as he turned back to us. He had an object in each hand; one was an agonator, the other I didn't recognise. He surveyed the three of us with cold satisfaction.

“I said stand against the back wall,” he said harshly, and with a wave of his free hand, Amelia was lifted into the air and placed on her feet beside us, where she propped weakly against the wall.

Hammerson's gaze wandered lazily over Peter and onto me, a cruel smile twisting his face before he looked back at Amelia. “Well, this is more than I could have hoped for. I think I'll have no trouble at all finding a use for you, girl.”

“Like what?” said Amelia. She didn't sound frightened, but contemptuous, as if she wasn't afraid of anything he could do.

“Well, perhaps we ought to start by improving your manners,” he said, raising his agonator.

No!” Peter shouted as he clicked it. But Hammerson thrust his hand out at us and Peter and I were forced back against the wall, unable to move, thanks to the invisible force pushing against us.

He clicked the agonator again and Amelia screamed and dropped to the floor, thrashing and screaming, kicking and hitting Peter and I in the legs. We could do nothing except scream ourselves, and the noise was deafening. Hammerson stood quite still, watching the screaming, writhing Amelia with amusement; even pleasure. Finally, he clicked the agonator again and Amelia was left twitching and sobbing on the floor.

“Now then,” said Hammerson, using his magic to lift her into the air like a puppet, but leaving her hanging there, hopeless and pathetic-looking. “Have we learnt our lesson, girl?”

Amelia's lips twitched convulsively, but she seemed unable to answer him.

“When I ask a question, I expect an answer,” hissed Hammerson, raising his finger so that Amelia was flipped over. She hung upside-down in mid-air, her skirt falling down around her and her long hair dangling limply below her. Her arms hung useless, her fingers a foot from the floor, while all the blood rushed into her face. “I asked you if you have learnt your lesson, girl,” he snarled.

“I have—a name,” gasped Amelia, talking as she had earlier, though through a world of pain. A moment later, she was screaming again, screwing herself up and then splaying out absurdly, her arms and legs waving horribly, unable to smother the pain in any way. Then she stopped, and was left twitching again, still hanging upside down in mid-air, tears falling down her forehead into her hair.

“Yes, you do,” agreed Hammerson, sounding amused as ever. “And now you're suffering for that very name. Indeed, it's your name that causes all the problems. Oh yes,” he said, waving his hand so that Amelia fell in a heap on the floor in front of him, “you shall suffer greatly for that name of yours.”

I was taking advantage of Hammerson's preoccupation with Amelia to look around the room, taking in as much as I could while I could see it. There was nothing at all on the walls, but I could see the camera, which was, as Amelia had said, at the top of the wall we were leaning against, to our left.

Before I could see anything else, Hammerson raised the other object he'd brought with him. It looked like a small silver knife, except that it had the tiniest of holes in it, right at the point. I couldn't see if it had any buttons on it, but I knew instinctively that there would be some way to access the magic the device stored. Amelia had scrambled backwards against the wall, looking terrified at the thing, and Hammerson slashed it in front of her. Though it made no physical contact with her, a deep gash shot across her face, and dark blood, shockingly scarlet, sprayed sideways over her chest and onto the floor. She screamed again and covered her face in her hands.

“Oh yes,” said Hammerson, staring pitilessly down at her. “I will enjoy watching you bleed, filthy Woodward girl. The trouble you have caused us … I shall enjoy making you suffer to the greatest extent before I dispose of you.”

“She's a Sorcerer!” Peter shouted at him. “You can't kill Sorcerers.”

“Correction,” said Hammerson, slashing his knife at Peter so that his shirt was ripped and his blood went flying across the room (he yelled, but was unable to move to staunch it). “You can kill Sorcerers. Or rather, you can kill Woodwards.”

I knew he was referring to the crystals—to the possibility of removing the Sorcerous chips from the Woodwards, thereby making them completely mortal and non-magical—but prayed Peter wouldn't say anything about them, in case he knew I had them, and he took them off me. I needn't have worried, though, since Hammerson's attention was still focused almost entirely on Amelia.

“For years and years,” whispered Hammerson, stabbing at thin air with the knife so that a small hole appeared in Amelia's stomach; blood spurted all over her, all over the floor around her, and she doubled over, looking as though she was about to black out. “Since before you were born, girl, you Woodwards have been the one thing, the distraction, leaving us unable to concentrate on more important things. You are like salt in an open wound. Do you know what that feels like, girl?”

Amelia didn't answer, but apparently Hammerson wasn't looking for an answer this time. He waved his hand so that Amelia was forced into a sitting position against the wall by the same magic that was holding me and Peter in place. He then shot something at her, something that sprayed from the tiny hole in the tip of the knife. It lodged itself deep in the dark, horrible wound in Amelia's stomach, and she screamed, her head turning from side to side, unable to stop the pain. I knew seconds later, by the smell the wafted over Peter and me, that it was salt, and all the two of us could do was watch in mounting horror. I felt sure that he would put Amelia through much more than me or Peter, since he knew that nothing he did to her right now would kill her, but that didn't mean that he wouldn't torture us a bit as well—or even kill us.

“It's a burning distraction, is it not?” hissed Hammerson, barely audible over the noises Amelia was making, which weren't screams, precisely, but something like choked whimpers. “Leaves you unable to think of anything else, does it not? That is what you Woodwards have been to us, all this time. Oh I can't begin to express how satisfying it will be to finally be able to do something about you.”

Amelia slumped sideways on the floor; Hammerson had relaxed the binding magic against her. Now he turned to me and Peter, and I wondered what was coming, remembering that Stella had said only he, Hammerson, knew why he wanted me.

“A spare,” he said, glancing at Peter. “We have no use for you. I'll send someone back to finish you off once I've decided for sure that we can't use you for anything.”

“Oh right,” said Peter insolently. “That'd be the way to go, since you know I'd never do anything you say anyway.”

I groaned inwardly. That was the sort of thing that Hammerson would take as a dare to finish him off here and now, and that would be the end of my brother. Killed by his inability to keep his mouth shut. Thankfully the Sorcerer ignored Peter. His eyes were on me, and he looked even more satisfied as he stared hungrily at me.

“H3,” he whispered, and I felt the stirrings of déjà vu; where had I heard that reference? “Now this is better again. I have a use for you too, boy, though it ought not to take too long. I'll return for you once I've organised everything I need to.”

“And I don't suppose you'll tell me what it is,” I said, impressed by my own courage—or was it stupidity? Who knew. I had no idea what I could possibly mean to him, except that anything he wanted me for couldn't be good.

Hammerson laughed. “Oh no. Not yet, anyway. You'll learn what is in store for you in due course. In the meantime, the three of you will remain here for the duration of your stay. It ought not to be long for you two boys. For you, maybe so,” he said, looking down at Amelia.

Then he waved his hand behind him so that the door swung open, and backed out of the room. He waved his hand again, and I felt the binding magic fall off me as he slammed the door on us. The moment the door shut, the light that had flooded the room disappeared. We heard the click of the lock again, and the sound of footsteps as Hammerson walked away, leaving us to bleed in the darkness.

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