Friday, October 28, 2011

Chapter 92 - SHOWDOWN

I heard a commotion, punctuated by some indistinct cries, coming from the direction of the town square. Perhaps Durmas had arrived, hopefully with the others in tow.

I headed in that direction. I hadn’t gone more than three or four paces before I heard an explosion. I broke into a run, and seconds later I heard another explosion.

By the time I reached the village well, I could pick out the source of the commotion by the light of the moons. Marell had run up against Durmas and Oskan. From my point of view, it looked to be progressing much the same as at the inn. Two houses had been leveled and a third was coming apart.

It looked as though Marell was having trouble with this house and I couldn’t imagine why until I caught sight of Haines ushering people out the back.

My heart turned cold when I caught a glimpse of black hair on the other side of Haines’ shoulder as he disappeared beyond other houses further away. At the same time, I recognized the house in contention.

How dare he attack her? With a roar, I put on new speed and crashed into the fray. I say ‘crashed’ because as I ran I gathered up a good deal of the debris scattered around me and imbedded it in a large ball of ice that I then hurdled at Marell’s back.

The fact that Durmas and Oskan scattered to the side alerted Marell to the danger from behind, but he wasn’t quite quick enough to escape all my wrath. My wood-spiked ball of ice laid several cuts across his chest and knocked him sprawling to the ground where Durmas attempted to bury him, but he was up too quick for that.

Oskan launched several projectiles, not all of them arrows, at him, but missed as he teleported to the side several feet and hurdled huge clods of dirt back at him, forcing him to do much the same thing, then Marell turned on me.

By now, I had stopped running and was striding boldly forward. Memories of Carm and Tsan unboned, combined with the knowledge that he had gotten very close to someone I loved very much, unwittingly or not, was enough to cut the last restraints I might have had on the use of my magic.

With my sword pointed directly at him, I began to gather water at its tip in a bizarre ball that spun and writhed. At first, this puzzled him, but it didn’t stop him from trying another attack.

He tried to use the ground between us as a shield, likely thinking that I planned to hurdle my gathering ball at him.

The earth between us didn’t interfere with what I was doing, nor did it protect him from attack from the flank, but I wiped it away with a swipe of my free hand.

Oskan shot more splinters of wood at him and scored several hits this time, though there was little blood-loss, and Durmas started to suck the air from the vicinity, but couldn’t seem to keep it away and new air rushed in to replace what was taken away, creating something of a vortex littered with debris.

I came to a halt about six feet away from the man. By now, he was having more than a little trouble and couldn’t seem to use his magic any more. Veins were standing out on his neck and temple. His face was beginning to contort with pain and the ball on the tip of my sword grew larger as I held it in front of his nose.

“There is more than bones in a body,” I said. “I understand that a body like mine is over half water. I wonder how much water is in your body.”

Marell blanched. It finally occurred to him where my ball of water was coming from.

Oskan realized it moments later. “Liam, Liam, don’t do this.”

I refused to hear him. With a vicious determination, I continued to draw water from the man in front of me. I watched him sink to his knees; he couldn’t even muster sound through his vocal cords and he was visibly shriveling.

Durmas stepped forward and rested his hand on my sword hand. “That’s enough,” he said softly.

I pulled my eyes away from the animated mummy in front of me and let the magic go to look at Durmas. The water I had been accumulating splashed to the ground in front of Marell, barely completing its splash before the desiccated body of its previous owner splashed into it.

As the resounding silence sank into my soul, I sank to my knees. My sword and knife dropped from my numb hands and I brought them up before me with exaggerated slowness and watched them begin to shake uncontrollably. Now I knew without a doubt – I could kill.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Chapter 91 - FIGHTING BACK

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?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Chapter 90 - CARM

I ran forward through the blood-splattered hallway and into the room they had been guarding. Inside, I found Carm lying on a bed. This room had once been a rather nice room, but it had seen some abuse since the last time anyone had done any cleaning.

It was obvious that Carm had been lying here exclusively since he had been captured. He reached a swollen and bruised, almost unrecognizable hand out to me. “Liam, Liam, I knew it was you.” The hand sank back to the bed. “Liam, they did something to me. I can’t walk. I can’t even sit up enough to figure out what they did.”

I knew what they did. I could tell by the shapeless ballooning in his limbs (I touched his knee just to be sure); “They removed your bones, Carm. How bad is it?”

“I don’t know. Everything hurts too much. I can’t tell any more.”

“Where’s Tsan?”

“He was here until just a few minutes ago. When you called out, that man came in and sent him somewhere else. I have no idea where.”

I hoped he had been sent somewhere else. I touched Carm’s forehead. He was running a high fever. “I’m going to try and help you, but I don’t have the time to fix things. More than likely it’ll put you to sleep. I hope it does. Then I’m going to send you to your old home. It’s the safest place I can think of. I’ll fix everything later when this is all over.”

He closed his eyes with a ragged sigh.

I voiced my worries. “I’ve never done this before. I don’t know if I can,”

“You just do whatever you can. Anything you do will be better than this.”

I suppose he was right. It didn’t matter whether he survived the move; even death would be an improvement to this agony. And if I couldn’t fix him, he’d die anyway eventually. I gritted my teeth and used what I had learned back on Earth. I didn’t have time to recreate his missing bone structure, but I could clear up some of his problems. I cleared up most of the bruising and reduced a lot of the swelling. Soon he was sleeping just as I had hoped, but my time was up. I heard shouting from below and stepped to the window to see what there might be to see.

I didn’t get the chance to notice much more than the fact that night was falling before my attention was brought back inside by the sound of a small table falling over behind me. I turned to see that the floor where I had been standing had begun to dissolve. The hole got bigger and was about to reach the bed where Carm slept. Time was up; I braced myself and sent him away. I hope he made it.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Chapter 89 - COMBAT MAGIC

I headed for the stairs to the next floor at a run. I was mid-leap, reaching for the second step up, when the stairs morphed into some bizarre imitation of what might have been a giant tiger’s head on another planet.

I froze it back into inanimate wood before I crashed into it, but it was now unusable as an access to the upper floor and I didn’t have time to create another staircase.

I whirled in time to find the floor coming alive behind me like an over-long tongue, so I took control of my end of it and used it to smack Marell back into the room I had just left, and then jammed the splintered wood into the door. It would only stop him for a moment, but perhaps it would be long enough for me to regroup and think.

Thanks to the wooden teeth behind me, I now had a long gash down my arm. I hastily pulled my flesh together so I would stop dripping blood everywhere.

I looked up; I had never been inside the inn. I could only assume that the floor above was just like the one here. I hated this. I teleported myself to the floor above, hoping I wouldn’t end up as part of some piece of furniture.

The move doubled me over. I really must learn how to do this with my stomach’s cooperation, but I wasn’t to be allowed much of a chance to recuperate.

Obviously surprised, two people were standing about half way down the hall in front of one of the doors. The woman was tall for a woman, even here, and it looked like she was having some sort of argument with the man who was with her; however, their argument was quickly forgotten as they squared off to face me.

“Who are you? What are you doing here?” asked the man who looked like a teenager next to the woman, though he was still a lot bigger than me.

I knew I couldn’t afford to take my eyes off these two, so I did what was hopefully the next best thing. “TSAN! WHERE ARE YOU?”

There must have been some sort of commotion inside the room by where they were standing, because the man darted inside and I distinctly heard a muffled cry.

I wasn’t allowed any further chance to think. The woman hurled a ball of fire at me rapidly followed by a whole chain of others.

I collected them all and sent them back at her in a fine stream. I was tired of being attacked and tried very hard to spear her with her own flames.

She deflected my first attempt, but couldn’t avoid the rope of flame I sent after her like a lariat. It wasn’t long before she was screaming, and that didn’t last very long either. She fell to the floor engulfed in flames.

I didn’t want the place to burn down so I forced the flames to ignore the carpet and wood beneath the body while I faced the man again.

He came charging out of the room at his companion’s first scream and began to hurl spears of ice at me. Water Magic – I could do this too. I collected his ice and turned it into a spiked ball before hurling it back at him.

He successfully dodged it but tripped over the burning body of his companion.

I sucked the air from their piece of the hall, which put the fire out. It also starved him of air to breathe, but he didn’t suffer long. I knew the damage a vacuum could do, and it took no time at all to turn their small piece of hallway into a vacuum for a few seconds.