"It was a mistake bringing her here boy, you knew your orders."
"I'm not a healer, not like you. All I could do was slow the poison for a couple of hours but the seal is wearing off now. She's going to die, you can see what the Dark glamour is doing to her. There's got to be something you can do."
I groan and struggle into a sitting position, my body complaining as I do so. Dean walks over to me and takes my arm, helping me off the table I'd been lying on. I almost drop to the floor and it takes me a few moments to become steady. I glance at Dean in fear; I hadn't realised just how weak I am.
Dean shoots the woman standing across from us a look and she sighs before crossing the room to stand in front of me. She has long silvery hair hanging down past her waist and wears a deep green dress. But what really catches my attention is her eyes; they seem ancient, thousands of years old, like they've seen everything there is to see. I can't even begin to guess her age; her physical body says she's in her thirties but her eyes speak a different story.
While I've been staring at her she's taken my hand in hers, her fingers gentle in their inspection.
"What has changed about the markings since the moment you got them to now?"
I swallow nervously and look at my hand and the lightening marks that now trail from my fingertips up to my forearm. "There was a handprint on the back of my hand, I'm not sure when it faded exactly. And the marks have been there since the start, but they're growing."
The Healer nods and slowly releases my hand. I wrap my arms around myself, panic slowly building up inside of me at the look of pity on the woman's face. When she next speaks it's directed to Dean.
"I'm a healer of the Light, I cannot draw out a Dark that's embedded this deep. Only those with a connection to the Dark itself have the power to do that now."
Dean tenses. "Well I can't exactly just take her to the Dark Realm; we'd both be dead the moment we set foot in there."
"That's not what I was suggesting."
Dean lets out a humourless laugh and runs his fingers through his hair. "I know what you're suggesting. You want us to travel into the heart of the Free Lands and find the Powers, despite the fact that it's at minimum a two day trek and Willow doesn't have that sort of time. Also your plan seems to forget that if we do actually get there before the poison reaches Willow's heart, there's a strong change the Powers will deny us their help."
The Healer remains quiet during Dean's outburst and only when he falls silent does she speak.
"I can place a seal upon her, similar to the one you placed except mine will have a stronger hold. It will buy you the two days. If her life means that much to you, you'll make it."
Dean glances at me and I'm surprised at the vulnerability I see in his expression. It fades as resolution seems to settle on him and his eyes are hard as he looks back to the Healer. "We'll make it."
We leave out the back door so we can avoid any more encounters with the Light Fey. Dean's been on edge since the moment the Healer placed her seal on my arm and he hasn't spoken more than a couple of words to me. His silence is evidence of how worried he is and knowing that he's worried terrifies me.
I wonder blankly what my mum's doing. She won't notice I'm gone until she's about to leave the house for work and even then she'll probably just assume I'm out with Dean. The thought that I could die in Fey and she'll never know what happened to me dances across my mind and I shiver. I break the silence just the get away from the thoughts in my head.
"What are the Powers?"
Dean flashes me a sideways look. "The Powers live in the Free Lands because they are the half-way point between the Fey." He must have seen the confusion lighting my features. "The Powers have an affinity for both the Light and Dark; they can wield both of the glamours. But they're...difficult. Sometimes they'll decide to reject one of the glamours, becoming fully one for a time."
I struggle to understand him. "So what you're saying is we could get there and they could be fully Dark?"
He nods. "Which means they won't help us."
I hug my arms around myself and the thought leaves my lips before I can stop it. "I'm only seventeen; I don't want to die."
Dean stops at this and wraps his arms around me, pulling me into a hug. "Will, we're gonna fix this, okay? I'm gonna make the Powers help you; they don't get a choice." He releases me and I nod, trying to force down the lump in my throat.
We continue walking but now Dean seems to have reanimated. He doesn't let us fall into silence for more than a few minutes, keeping up a constant stream of conversation. He's doing it to comfort me and I love him for it.
A stone archway has appeared in front of us, growing steadily closer as we move. Through it I can see the forest continuing on, but it seems distorted and every so often a slight ripple seems to flash through it as though there's something inside the arch.
"This is how the Light Fey access the Free Lands. It's quite simple, all you have to do is step inside the arch."
I nod at Dean's words but I'm more focused on the arch than him. I'm so close to the place I've visited a thousand times in my dreams that I'm almost shaking in anticipation.
Dean chuckles as though he's guessed at my eagerness. "I'm guessing you won't wait here while I check to see if it's clear on the other side?"
"Are you kidding me?" I meet his eyes and gestured around us. "I don't want to stay here any longer than I have to. But the Free Lands...I know them. They're probably the only place in Fey I'm not terrified to go to."
He smiles but it wavers after a moment. "I get that you're excited but you can't forget that it's still Fey, Will. It's still dangerous and this time there'll be people; we won't be alone."
I think of the girl who had poisoned me and glance at my arm. "Trust me, I haven't forgotten."
Dean seems to guess my thoughts as he takes my hand and steps up to the archway, tugging me with him. He's smirking slightly now and I feel a small smile slip onto my own face in response. "Okay, are you ready?"
I roll my eyes at him and step into the arch.