The man raised a brow at me as I looked at him, unfazed. ‘Is that supposed to make me feel better?’

Once the IBSI came to prominence, we of The Shadow League had found ourselves being called less and less, until eventually we were relegated to the waters surrounding our island.

As I sped up in a panic, my hands came down against the edge of a hole in the ground. Shivers ran down my spine. I’d reached the portal. And I’d almost lost my balance and gone toppling headfirst into it. I scrambled around the edge of it as I continued trying to escape the smoke. It was still surrounding me. Forced to breathe in this smog, I didn’t think I could remain conscious much longer. My head throbbed and dizziness was overtaking me.Then, as if my fading mind didn’t have enough to deal with, high-pitched screeching drifted through the night air, making me stop dead in my tracks. I recognized that sound instantly.

The mutants were coming.It had sounded distant, but with their supernatural speed, I knew we’d be lucky to have two minutes. Oh, no. Fighting to stand while my knees wanted nothing more than to give way and collapse, I forced my eyes open again in spite of the agony.Victoria! Grace’s voice came from somewhere to my right.

Footsteps pounded toward me and then Grace and Heath arrived close enough for me to be able to make them out. Rushing to my side, Heath took my right arm and wrapped it around his shoulder, supporting me against him, while Grace took my left arm and did the same.Come on, she wheezed. We’ll get you out of here.

I could only think that, being half-supernatural, they could bear this smoke much better than I could. Avoiding the portal, they began dragging me across the clearing… but we were too late to reunite with the others.

Two of the mutants crashed down into the undergrowth, blocking our path. They had fearsome hawk-like heads with razor-sharp beaks. They fixed their focus on us before letting out more deafening screeches. Their spear-like tails thrashed behind them as their deadly talons dug up the ground. And then came the fire. It shot from their gaping mouths and torpedoed toward us. If Grace hadn’t been with us to divert it with her powers, we would have been scorched to a crisp. At least, I would have."I should go," she whispered again.

"Then go," he said. But his lips curved.She opened her mouth as if to say something, then closed it. "I- " She broke off, a look of horror crossing her features.

"You what?""I should go." And this time she did, leaving the room with alacrity.