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Powerless (The Powerless Trilogy): Chapter 40

Kai

I woke up on the edge of a mountain.

Plummet Mountain.

I only know this because I’ve been here before with Father, casually conquering more fears and such.

But I’m not alone.

Andy groans beside me, her eyes fluttering open before she bolts upright, head swiveling as she scans her surroundings just as I had done a few minutes prior.

My head is pounding. Between all the alcohol, the fights last night, and the drug that knocked me out to be dragged here, I’ve felt better on the battlefield. But upon arriving at Plummet, the first thing I noticed was the pen scribbled on my hand. My slanted, hasty handwriting is scrolled across my palm, relaying a very important message:

She said I could touch her when I’m sober.

I’m shocked that I have no recollection of writing this, considering how vividly I remember everything else about last night. Paedyn pressed against me, our conversation, her panic before I untied the laces of her dress. My lips twitch at the thought before I’m suppressing a smile when I remember how she pinned Blair during their fight and made her bleed.

“Plagues, what is going on?”

Braxton is up now, blinking in the afternoon sunshine. Blair’s lilac hair shimmers behind him as she sits up, looking just as confused and tense. We eye each other, remembering how brutally we fought last night and how we were forced apart before we could finish.

I pull the crumpled note from my pocket and toss it on the dirt before us. “We were left with this.”

I hear Blair scoff as she snatches the paper up and reads aloud, her tone bored:

Welcome to Trial number two,

We think a little teamwork is due.

You have twelve hours to reach the top,

To beat the other team, you must climb nonstop.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Andy grumbles beside me, running her hands over her dirty face.

“I’m sorry,” Blair huffs, “we’re supposed to work together?”

Father is having fun playing with us.

He had us fight each other last night to fuel the tension between contestants and leave us wanting to tear each other apart. We were forced through several rounds of fights against random opponents, lasting well into the evening and only aiding our fatigue. And now, we’re forced to work side-by-side while fighting the urge to finish what we started last night.

I stand to my feet, head throbbing as I scan the sky. The sun tells me that it’s nearly mid-afternoon, which means we will be climbing through the night.

Riveting.

“We’re losing daylight,” I say with a sigh. “Let’s get a move on.”

Then we are climbing, confused by this Trial and how we are expected to work together rather than rip each other apart. Plummet isn’t an enormous mountain, but it is intimidating, to say the least. For the time being, we are trudging through the thick barrier of trees and rocky terrain at its base. Once we get higher, the trees will thin, replaced with steeper rocks and slippery slopes. Other than its deadly terrain, Plummet is also home to even deadlier animals. We will be climbing for twelve hours straight with no food, no water, no weapons, and no trust in one another.

I spot Sights out of the corner of my eye, swift and silent beside us as they document our progress. There must be dozens of them stationed all along the mountainside, trading off with one another, waiting for us to come into their range.

Blair and Braxton climb stiffly nearby, eying one another with equal amounts of suspicion while Andy stays close to my side, reassuring me of where her loyalties lie. She has become my only source of entertainment, her rambling taking my mind off the mountain looming above. I listen to her complain about how she would have already transformed into a falcon and left us all in the dust if it weren’t for us tying her down with our teamwork.

“Okay,” she says, slightly breathless after climbing for nearly two hours already, “I spy with my little eye—”

“Oh, Plagues, make it stop,” Blair wines, picking up a pinecone with her mind and chucking it at Andy. “You’ve been spying things for nearly an hour despite being the only one playing. It’s tempting me to forget about this teamwork thing and rip your head off.” She’s practically growling while Andy is grinning.

“You know,” Andy says with a smug smile, “you haven’t changed one bit, Blair.” She shrugs. “Once a bitch, always a bitch, I suppose.”

With that, Blair raises an army of pinecones off the ground in a silent threat. “I would keep your mouth shut if I were you. Or you might just find a pinecone lodged in your throat—”

“You’re only proving my point,” Andy singsongs.

Blair’s abandoned the pinecones for one of the many giant rocks littering the ground. She sends it flying towards Andy and inevitably flying towards me in the process. With the flick of a hand and the borrowing of Blair’s ability, the boulder changes directions, flying away from us and crashing into a nearby tree.

“That’s enough, ladies.” My tone is bored, portraying my current mood. “I’d rather not be in the middle of this.”

Braxton grunts in agreement, and we fall into a tense silence as we continue to climb. The sun crawls across the sky at a slow pace, beating down on us until sweat is rolling down my face and my throat aches for water.

Then a scream shatters the silence.

I spin to find Andy clutching her calve, her eyes glued to the ground.

“Kai.” Her voice is little more than a whisper. “Don’t. Move.”

I follow her gaze to where dozens of beady, black eyes stare back at me, forked tongues flicking. Snakes. Huge and hungry. I can’t even make out how many of them there are with all the underbrush and rocks scattering the ground, but I know that there are enough for me to be worried.

Blair bites back a scream when she spots the slithering creatures surrounding us while Braxton swears under his breath.

“Alright,” I say slowly, never taking my eyes off the ground, “this is going to have to be you and I, Blair.” She turns her wide gaze on me, her cold demeanor thawing from fear.

“What do we do?” she whispers harshly, trying to hide her horror.

I draw out a breath, not sure if I have an answer for her. The snake nearest to me is drawing closer by the second, and I eye it, mind reeling. “I’ll deal with the snakes over here,” I nod to where Andy and I stand, “And you handle yours over there.”

Handle?” she hisses, sounding like one of the snakes encircling us.

“Yes. Handle.” I sigh. “It’s not a great plan but just…throw them.”

“Throw them?”

“Ready?” I ask, ignoring her question. She grumbles something, and I take that as a yes. “Good.” I pause. “Go.”

I reach out blindly with Blair’s power towards the snakes slithering at our feet. I lift three of their massive bodies off the ground and send them flying far down the mountain. I hear a chorus of hisses and spot two more before letting them sail through the air after their friends.

There are dozens of them. Blair and I are sending snakes flying left and right, all of us dodging and dancing on our feet when they get too close. I hear a yelp from Andy and spin to see a snake lunging towards her, mouth wide and fangs ready to sink into flesh. I suspend it in the air before it can add another bite to Andy’s leg.

After finally scrambling up and away from the nest of snakes, Andy staggers, and I’m at her side in a heartbeat. “You got bit.” It’s not a question. “Let me see.” Her face is pale as she peels her hand from her leg, revealing two deep fang wounds, blood dribbling down her foot and into her shoes.

I brush a strand of deep, red hair from her sticky forehead, searching her eyes. “How do you feel?”

“Well,” she chokes on a laugh, “my pride seems to be hurting more than I am. I didn’t even see the snake coming. And then the rest of them showed up and…I’m sorry.”

She trails off, focusing on the sun now beginning to sink behind the mountain. “Hey, none of us saw them, remember? But I need you to tell me how you’re feeling.”

Plagues, please don’t be poisoned.

“I feel alright. It hurts like hell, but I’m alright.”

For now.

The unspoken words hang in the air between us.

I’m hoping that our only problem is the pain she is in and nothing more. Hoping that I don’t almost lose another one of the few people I can’t afford to.

“Can you walk?” I ask.

She takes a step, her face scrunching in pain. “Yeah. I’m fine.”

“Bullshit,” I mutter before crouching down in front of her. “Come on. Get on my back.” I throw her a small smile over my shoulder. “Just like old times.”

She laughs hoarsely. “Seriously, I’m fine—”

“Well, clearly you’re not,” Blair’s agitated voice cuts in. “So get on his damn back so we can get a move on.” She starts climbing upwards, muttering something that sounds like, “Plagues, I hate teamwork.”

“I could try to transform into a small animal so I’m easier to carry?” Andy sounds doubtful. “But I’m not sure I could hold that state for long…”

“Save your energy. Come on. Up you go.” I help her onto my back, gripping the back of her knees as she grips my shoulders. She’s tall and lanky, her weight barely bothersome.

For now.

And then we are climbing again.


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