They ran into a riot.
Lina had used the word before in that sort of semi-ironic way that she used a lot of words. It meant people were complaining or people really wanted that TV.
This was an as-seen-on-TV genuine screaming riot.
Nobody was breaking windows, sure, but that’s because there were no windows. The amphitheater was this great (normally) natural bowl-shaped formation that opened to a waterfall in the back and the lake on the left. It had three bottleneck entrances and, at the moment, it looked like the guards were trying to keep people from leaving, so nobody tried to stop Lina and Jackson from entering.
She wasn’t quite sure why they did, but even as she had that thought she pulled up a shield in front of them. “What the – what the hell?”
She couldn’t be heard over the shouting. She could barely hear herself over the yelling.
She grabbed someone who was carrying a third of a broken lawn chair. “What’s going on?”
“We’re trapped in here! Trapped! They want to keep us here so we can die.”
“I think-” Jackson started, but he trailed off. Lina didn’t blame him. I think they want to keep you here so everyone else dies didn’t seem like the right sort of argument to make here.
Also, she recognized the woman she was holding. “Mrs. Teller. Head for the north exit. Put down the chair and fix your hair, take a moment to fix your eyeliner, and head for the north exit. If you really want to leave, you aren’t going to get it by shouting.”
She wasn’t doing the woman any favors, of course, if this whole prophesy thing was right. But if it wasn’t, the last thing they wanted was a Councilwoman getting caught on film rioting like a teenager.
Speaking of — She let go of Mrs. Teller. “Got it, ma’am?”
Mrs. Teller smoothed her hair down carefully. “Yes. Thank you. The exit is – that way?”
“Here’s a mirror.” She pulled her compact from her pocket, made sure it wasn’t the good powder in her color – nope, the empty one she used as a mirror – and handed it to the Councilwoman. “Go on, that way. You should be fine.”
She didn’t pay the woman any more heed, because a bunch of teenagers — and some old enough that they really should’ve known better – had a couple people down on the ground and were kicking them. “Jackson.” She tilted her head that direction. “Can you—”
He whistled, the sort of piercing sound that got right under people’s skin. It stopped everyone just long enough for Lina to throw up a force shield between the people and their targets. “None of that,” Jackson scolded. “They might be assholes but that doesn’t mean you kick them to death.”
Assholes? Lina looked at the two on the ground and held back a couple choice words. “Stand up,” she told them, keeping her shields around both Dylan and Ethan, and offered them a hand. “Come on. We’re getting out of here.”
“They don’t deserve it! Teach their stupid parents a lesson!”
Lina ignored the shouting mob — well, she strengthened her shields and made sure that she and Jackson were covered, too, but kept her eyes on the two she was – well, she was rescuing them, wasn’t she?
Neither argued with her – not that she was surprised by that. She was surprised that Dylan took her hand, although possibly not as surprised as he was that she was offering it.
Someone threw something – a rock – in their direction; it bounced off her shield. The shouting got louder at that.
“The elite want us to die here!” someone shouted, and even though it made no sense at all, a bunch of the other people picked up the complaint. “They’re going to leave us up here until we all starve!”
“They’re going to ride out the end of the world in safety!”
“This place,” Lina commented, “is not all that good at information dissemination.” Her shield bent slightly as another rock hit it. “Shit. They’re getting vicious.”
“This way.” Jackson grabbed her free hand and pulled her up a steep cliff. Dylan and Ethan followed, sticking close to them.
The path, such as it was, was more the direction run-off had taken down the hillside. There were times they all let go of each other’s hands just to grab onto a tree root or anything else that could offer purchase. But, as they got further up the cliff, the rocks stopped flying and the shouting seemed to wander off in another direction.
Lina kept her shield up and didn’t look back. The cliff was enough to worry about, the dusty dirty slippery under her feet and the dim light of a sliver of moon not helping matters.
As they reached the top, Jackson took her hand and hauled her the last few feet. “here.” He pressed a napkin-wrapped package into her hands. “I grabbed this on the way – your shield takes energy, and that means calories.”
“Thanks.” The napkin held a couple pastries and a weird mushroom tart. She split them in half and offered Jackson part; he shook his head. “All for you. I’m still full from dinner.”
“I’ll take some.” Dylan was brushing himself off; even in the fading light, he looked pretty badly off, and so did his friend. Lina couldn’t bring herself to feel too bad about that, after what they’d done to the pizza delivery guy.
“It’s for her,” Jackson informed him, and then hrrmmed. “Actually. Lina, could you spare a little bit? That half of the tart you were going to give me?”
“Sure.” She eyed him in confusion, but he didn’t seem inclined to explain. He hadn’t led her astray yet, so she split the half in half and handed one quarter of the tiny tart to Dylan and one to Ethan.
Jackson waited, watching, while they ate. Then he cleared his throat. “You understand now, that you are hers. She has saved your lives and given you bread and salt from her own hands. By the compacts that bind the Organization and those who use magic – you’re hers.”
The two froze, Ethan in the act of putting food to his mouth. Dylan shook his head. “N-” He stuttered and huffed. “Fuck. You saved our lives. You gave us bread and salt from your own hands. I am yours.”
“Lina, put your thumb on his forehead. Think about your power, feel it, but don’t try to push it away. This ought to work, and if not, he’ll just stumble a bit.”
“Thanks,” Dylan muttered. Lina looked between Jackson and Dylan.
Jackson liked what was going on; Dylan didn’t. Ethan was confused. You are hers. I am yours. Did she want to agree to that?
Did she have any idea what that would do?Want more?