Chapter 35: Coming Clean

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The door creaked softly when Rowan pulled it open and stuck his head outside. "There's still nobody around, but we'll have to move fast."

"Here, drink this first," I said, handing him the flask with the Invisibility potion. He took a sip and gave it back to me, his form already fading. After taking a dose myself, I stuffed the remaining liquid into the pocket of my cloak.

"How long do the effects of this potion last?" the empty air before me asked with Rowan's voice. I stifled a girlish giggle; invisibility never failed to amuse me.

"Five to ten minutes, I think; long enough to get us out of here."

I heard him take a deep breath. "Okay. Let's move."

We rolled the barrels into the hall. I kept a watchful eye on the stairs, but everything seemed calm. Too calm. Rowan's barrel had almost reached the door on the opposite side of the landing when the sound of fast footsteps drifted toward us, coming from downstairs. Frozen in place, I watched as a head covered with chestnut brown hair appeared, followed by a tall figure dressed in the armor of the Dark Sorcerers' army. He looked familiar, and when he turned around and his brown eyes fell onto the two runaway barrels, I recognized him: he was the Dark Sorcerer whom Rowan had been training with for a week now. Rowan had introduced me to him a few days ago; I believed his name was Elijah. A quick glance at our escape route taught me that Rowan had stopped moving too.

The Sorcerer—Elijah—unsheathed his sword and approached the barrels with caution. "As far as I know, barrels can't roll out of a storage room on their own," he mumbled, his gaze flicking back and forth between both barrels. He tilted his head to read the labels and I cringed as his eyes widened. "Shit."

I reached for my magic, but my resources still hadn't recovered from my earlier outburst. Rapid breaths left my lips while fear tightened its grip on my throat and continued to narrow my wind pipe until I had to gasp for air. Elijah merely stood there for a few seconds, gripping the hilt of his sword with both hands as he weighed his options.

Suddenly, a loud, painful gasp escaped his mouth, as if he was choking, and he dropped the sword to claw at his invisible attacker. A stifled groan reverberated in the air behind him, but the squeezing force on his throat didn't budge. Elijah's eyes started rolling in their sockets and his body went limp soon after when his brain shut down due to the lack of oxygen. His chest still rose and fell with labored breaths; he was only unconscious.

I tiptoed toward Rowan, whose heavy pants were the only audible sound in the hall. My hand searched the space in front of me until it found his shoulder and I clutched onto him. "Are you all right?"

"Why wouldn't I be?" he answered in a careless tone, although his voice quavered mid-syllable. "We really should go now."

We passed nobody else on our way down, even though the barrels made an awful lot of noise on the stairs despite our efforts to roll them down as gently as possible. Only one guard was stationed at the tower's back door instead of two; judging by the enraged screams coming from the training grounds, I had a pretty good guess as to where the second one had run off to. Rowan took him out the same way he had done with Elijah and dragged him further down the narrow corridor to hide him from sight. Just in time too, because only ten or so seconds later, both of us became visible once again.

As promised, a carriage awaited us in the dark alleyways west of the tower. A young man with curly brown hair jumped down and ran toward us to help load the barrels into the carriage. He gave me a shy smile before relieving me from my burden. "I'll take that for you, if you want."

"Thank you, uhm ..."

"Sterling."

"Right. Sterling. Sorry." My cheeks heated up with embarrassment.

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