I backed into the corner and held myself there on a platform of air. I changed my homespun clothes for my customary leathers making sure they were black (I wouldn’t forget my blue basilisk across my shoulder) so I could take some measure of shelter in the dark.
Since I didn’t fall, portions of the inn began to explode around me. As the destruction grew, a few other people were revealed to me. Without knowing who these people were, I couldn’t afford to send them to the only safe place I knew, so I sent them to the town square. With Marell concentrating his attention on me, victims stood a good chance of getting away and potential combatants would be delayed if only for a few minutes.
As soon as I saw Marell, I took the splinters of wood he was creating all around me and sent them at him in a deadly cloud, but he wasn’t so easily defeated.
He blew them away with ease, and now that I had given away my location, he sucked the air out from under me.
My fall wasn’t completely graceless. I managed to land like I’ve heard a cat can do, on all fours. At the same time, I pulled the earth out from under Marell’s feet. I had to flatten myself to the ground completely in order to avoid something big that was hurdled at me, then he was gone.
I looked around. The inn had been leveled better than any wrecking ball could ever do, and in the sudden vacuum of sound, I heard far away cries of fear. I hoped they were running away.
I picked myself up off the ground and sought out the big tree that grew in the front yard, or what was left of it. I leaned against its solid trunk and closed my eyes looking for the lights that would tell me where people were. A quick glance showed me that a lot of people had found a way to leave. That left about a dozen people still in the near vicinity. Three of them were only a few yards away. A ragged scream from there propelled me in that direction first.
I was mad now. All I had done was defend myself and respond to their attacks. I hadn’t even drawn my sword yet. I did that now, then I sheathed it in ice. As I walked across the yard, I allowed ice to drip from its tip.
I came upon two men standing over a third. At least I think the thing on the ground at their feet was a man. From this angle and distance, he was unrecognizable and his light was so dim that it had no identity.
One of the other men saw me and pointed, saying something to his companion. A few paces closer and I knew that they were Marell and Cat Eyes, the man I had thrown out of the inn through the wall.
As soon as they saw me, I swung my sword at them. It was nowhere near long enough on its own, but I reached out with the ice and extended its reach until they were forced to jump back or feel its icy cut.
They teleported out of sight or at least they tried to. I managed to hang on to one of them. Apparently, the conflict of magics was painful because his cry was somewhat more than just surprise. By the time I was done with him, he was quiet…very quiet.
I bent over the pile of flesh on the ground. His breath was coming in faint gasps and his bloodshot eyes rolled up at me. His mouth was strangely flaccid, but then I realized that they had left him with no jawbones. After a quick magical examination, I found that at least half of his ribs were missing too.
Recognition was not immediate, but I eventually I realized that it was Tsan who lay before me. His mush of a lower face stretched into a bizarre grin and then gaped into a gasp of pain. With that, he shuddered and the light faded from his eyes.
They had left him with just enough bone structure to breathe for a little while longer and enough of his skull for his eyes and brain to work. They had wanted him to live long enough to see something. Did they want him to see my defeat or did they have some other reason? Who could say?