Damian was getting worried. What if their plan didn’t work? Shouldn’t he have gotten some indication of Sirio coming for him by now? He checked his phone. Nothing from Baxel. It had been five minutes since he’d called, and there hadn’t been the slightest hint of magic since then. Something wasn’t right.
“Damian!” a squeakily familiar voice called from behind him.
“Ted?” Damian asking in surprise, turning to face the little imp.
“Damian,” the creature said again, breathlessly.
“Shhh,” Damian said urgently, looking around. He waned to be caught, but not necessarily drawn attention to. “Why are you here?”
“Baxel sent me. He told me that once he and Sirio started fighting, I was supposed to ge-“
“Wait, he and Sirio are fighting?” Damian asked urgently. “Where?”
“A house in Maryland,” Ted replied, his eyes wide.
Maryland. Maryland. No, surely it couldn’t be. Maryland was a big state, what were the chances?
“Baxel said you knew the person who lives there,” Ted said helpfully.
“No,” Damian breathed. “Take me there,” he demanded, holding out his hand.
“I-I can’t,” Ted said helplessly.
“Why not?” Damian demanded.
“The magical backlash from their fight is too much,” Ted said sadly. “I’m so sorry. If I try to get close, I’ll be killed. I didn’t think it would be this bad when Baxel aske-“
“It’s okay,” Damian cut him off. “I’ll go myself.”
“Please, Ted, go away now. Thanks for your help, but I have to concentrate. I have to save my sister,” Damian said, his voice tight.
Ted nodded, backing away slowly. “Be careful, friend.”
Damian gave a terse nod, then closed his eyes.
The shadows around him were abundant After all, it was midnight. He tried to calm himself, to slow his breathing, and to let the shadows seep into his hands, fill him up. He had never tried this before, but if he needed motivation, well, he definitely had it.
Pulling the shadows around himself like a blanket, Damian could feel himself starting sweat from the concentration and the effort. He wrapped them tighter and tighter, pulling in as close as possible. It’s like trying to make a black hole, with you in the center, Baxel’s voice echoed in his mind. It takes practice. It’s hard. You have to imagine yourself shrinking into a single atom then just slipping through the cracks between planes. I’ll teach you someday.
Damian didn’t have time for someday. He needed to teleport that very moment. Damian wrapped the shadows as tight as he possibly could, then felt himself beginning to lose hold on the earth. He let himself fall.
When Damian opened his eyes, it was in a different place. A place he had come to know and recognize. Damian was in the Nether.
He closed his eyes, picturing Maryland. He had no idea how to travel within the Nether, so he could only hope that by picturing the place back on earth, it would take him there when he went back up. However, when Damian reached for the shadows, he couldn’t get a grasp on them. They were slippery in his mind, refusing to do what he bid. Damian was already weak from the extraordinary effort of teleporting down there, and the longer he spent trying to get a hold of the shadows, the weaker his grip became.
They wouldn’t obey him. Damian began to panic. The sweat ran down his face in rivulets, his hair sticking to his forehead. Damian’s breaths became quick and shallow as he tried desperately to get the shadows to wrap around him, to support him and move him. It wasn’t working, and Damian could practically hear the clock in his head ticking. Damian opened his eyes. He thought the landscape might have changed, but he couldn’t be sure. After all, it was just one expanse of gray after another.
Eventually, Damian fell to his knees. He had been down there too long. Any second he was going to end up like Taryn. Still, he wanted nothing more to lay on the sharp gray sand and sleep, but instead forced himself to try feebly, one more time, to control the shadows. It didn’t work.
Damian was trapped in the Nether.
“Where the Hell is that useless boy?” I muttered on earth as I erected a shadow shield to deflect a bolt of light shot at my head.
“Give up, Baxel,” Sirio said. “You know you’ve been beat.”
“I know no such thing,” I replied defiantly. “I think we’re on even footing.”
“Look at yourself, Baxel. You’re cowering.”
Okay, it was kind of true. I might have been crouching in the corner, but I was definitely not cowering. I was ready to leap up and take on my opponent at any minute. Really, I was.
Sirio simply turned away and headed for Taryn.
“I. Am. Not. Cowering,” I growled, lashing out with a whip of shadows at Sirio’s back with every word.
He spun just in time, slicing through them all with light and forcing them to dissolve. He scowled. “You are so stubborn.”
“You know what else I am?” I asked, straightening to my full height. I’d like to say that I towered over Sirio, but, seeing as we were twins, I only matched his level. “I’m sick of your shit.”
Sirio’s face split into a wry grin. “Well, I’ve got bad news for you, then-“
He stopped to look down at the bleeding stump of his arm where his hand was a half second ago. Sirio whirled around, screeching in horror and pain as he shot light towards where Taryn sat, holding a bloody golden knife and his disembodied hand, ring and all.
I took my shot, wrapping Sirio in shadows and teleporting him and I both to the Nether right as the light slammed into Taryn.