“Five daemons, give us the power to destroy our enemies. Teach us how to dominate those who oppose us,” Hope’s voice rang out over the hill. “We summon and stir thee.”
Hope raised his arms toward the moon. For a time, everything was silent, and then the fire cracked and swirled in a spiral toward the sky.
Hope turned his face toward me. His eyes gleamed crimson in the moonlight.
I stumbled back and fell. My head landed on the rocky path with a sickening crack, and for a few moments, all I could see was blood red light.
Then, slowly, the red light faded away, and I saw black cloaked figures standing all around me.
“…should have been there to keep her still,” Hope was saying as he knelt beside me. “Where is Mercy?”
I blinked up at Hope. For a moment, I thought I was seeing double, but then I realized his brother had knelt beside him.
“This is a disaster,” Brother Lux said in his softer voice. “If our secret is revealed-”
“It won’t be; I will make certain it won’t.”
Another figure moved closer and removed its cowl, revealing Chastity’s face.
“Can you? None of us can reach her.”
“I’ve had more success than any of you, and I’m at my full power, tonight,” Hope said. “I can do it.”
While the others spoke, I tried to sit up, tried to move, tried to even draw a breath, but I couldn’t. I felt as though I was bound by ropes that constricted around my chest and my arms the more I struggled.
Brother Lux put his hand on my head and closed his eyes for a moment. “She isn’t seriously hurt- just stunned. If you are going to do it, now would be the best time.”
Hope nodded and leaned closer to me- his eyes were still shining red in the moonlight-though…how could they be? The moon was behind him.
“Look into my eyes, Grace. Listen to my voice.”
Hope stared into my eyes, breathing slowly, and I realized that I was breathing again. A red haze filled my vision as I breathed- in and out- a rhythm not my own.
“Keep breathing with me, Grace. You are safe and relaxed. You can trust me.”
And with those words, the red haze disappeared, and my breath jerked out of rhythm.
No, I thought, I cannot trust you. You’re lying.
Hope didn’t seem to notice anything amiss- he merely continued to stare into my eyes. I realized then that he was trying to mesmerize me.
“When I give you the command, you will go with Lux back to the house,” Hope continued. “You will allow him to examine your head, and then you will go to sleep.”
I tried to breathe in rhythm with Hope once more, so he wouldn’t know that he’d failed, but it felt more unnatural than before. With each slow breath, I wanted to either cry or scream.
“In the morning, you will awaken feeling happy and refreshed. You will forget all of the distressing things you witnessed tonight. There is no need to remember. Forget… forget… be happy.”
Hope’s voice trailed off, and we breathed together in the silence.
“When I snap my fingers, that is my command. You will stand and take my brother’s hand- now.”
Hope snapped his fingers as he spoke the last word, but I felt little compulsion to stand. I had to force myself up to my knees, and then onto each foot. I reached out to take Lux’s hand, shuddering slightly at his icy touch.
“She’s cold,” Hope said. He removed his horrible black cloak and draped it over my shoulders. My throat constricted, but I was grateful that I could not scream.
I struggled to hold back tears on the way back to the manor. One or two tears broke through and ran down my cheeks, but Brother Lux didn’t see them. It was dark, and Brother Lux walked a little ways ahead of me- pulling me after him as though I were a child.
As we walked, I thought about Hope, and about his strange power. I’d read about mesmerism in storybooks, but even so, It had taken me too long to recognize the power. I could now recognize that Hope had mesmerized me twice- earlier that evening when he’d put me to sleep, and once on the day of our engagement, to make me feel more comfortable. On the day of our engagement, however, I had broken free from his power, much as I had tonight.
I’d seen him use his powers the first time we met, as well- on the High Priest, but that time the effect had been instantaneous. He had spoken, and the High Priest had obeyed.
Hope had taken control of my mind more slowly and methodically, and for some reason, I’d been able to resist.
Of course, even though I felt clear- headed at the moment, and I hadn’t obeyed Hope’s command to trust him, I was still doing everything else he’d ordered. What difference did it make, I wondered, whether I obeyed because of hypnosis or fear? In the end, I still obeyed.
Brother Lux didn’t speak to me until we were back in the manor, in my bedroom. He lay me on the bed, and then placed his two hands on my forehead.
“Let’s see- no internal damage, and no concussion. Good- good,” he muttered. “I don’t know if I would be able to heal you, if there was damage. None of us are as strong as Hope.”
It was then I remembered Chastity’s words- “None of us can reach her.” Did Brother Lux and Chastity have powers, as well? Why couldn’t they reach me?
I shut my eyes.
“Yes- that’s right. Just rest, now. I’ll go find Mercy- she was supposed to watch you.”
I heard Brother Lux walk across the room and shut the door, and when I was sure he had gone, I let myself cry.