The moment I get home, Minister Seville’s face fizzles to a greyish ash that I rub off my skin. Today, I’ve officially just become the first woman on a ship. It’s an interesting contraption used by the upper class to circle Oasis island every now and then.
“Cassie. You’re back,” a blue-grey cat meows sardonically, “and still alive. Well done.”
I bristle at her tone. “Come on,” I say brusquely. “We don’t have time.”
Maja drapes herself over my neck, a demon-mask strapped onto her back, and we take off like a shadow into the night.
In the haste of our escape, I stumble into a trap. A magic circle immobilises my feet. Now ten Peacekeepers stand around me, each with a gun pointed at my head. I cast a camouflage spell.
“What’s going on?” I ask, feigning offense.
“Uh, it’s you, Minister Seville,” a Peacekeeper says, alarmed. The group whisper among themselves as their leader radios the headquarters.
The spell was supposed to buy me time to think, but my mind only runs in circles. They’ll find out soon enough that Minister Seville is just a decade-long sham, a simpering man I created to enter the bottom rung of the ruling class.
“Woman,” the leader announces, putting his radio away. “Nobody leaves Oasis except with prior approval from the Governor.”
“Run towards the alley when I tell you to,” whispers Maja impudently. A familiar ordering a witch around – I nod despite the flare of indignation. With overwhelming magic, Maja breaks the circle. We dart past the guns that I’ve frozen with a wave of my hand. My feet pound the cobblestone so fast I’m almost flying.
“It’s a witch!” somebody yells. “Get the iron!”
Maja cackles, hanging on tightly to my neck. “I think they want to smooth things out.”
I conjure a wall behind us to block the iron bullets. My lungs are close to collapsing when we finally reach the dock. I toss a summoning orb into the water. In a moment, an enormous ship bubbles out of the ocean’s murky depth.
“Woah,” Maja laughs in wonder. “You actually stole a ship.” It’s our path out of Oasis island, so beautiful I could cry. With the magic in her demon-mask, Maja shifts into a griffon. I jump onto her back.
“Go, go!” I urge, grinning. As we land on the ship’s marble deck, I close my eyes half in joy, and half to suppress the memory of this afternoon’s drowning passengers. They don’t matter anymore. There’s no price too large for freedom.