In The WindA Chapter by EarthExile
I didn’t plan for it, but sometimes my mouth runs away from me.
“Beck!” I shouted at the top of my lungs, wincing at the rawness in my throat. “Beck! You’ve got to stop! The spell’s going to-“ I gagged as Ramage spat out a word and bound me up in ropes of glowing air, thrashing as much as I could, to no effect.
“She can’t hear you, fool,” the Grand Master pointed out. “She’s a hundred feet away in the center of a magic storm. Are you paying any attention?”
I glared at her, at Nick, at the top of Lee’s head. Her black wool hat seemed lumpy. Nick bounced in place, rapidly tapping a foot and seemingly unaware of how annoying it was. They were all just standing there while Beck killed millions of people, killed herself, and they weren’t even going to tell her. Watching silently.
My eyes flicked to Wylla, still sitting on the bench, clutching at her robes as though she was going to be sick. With trembling fingers, she fumbled for the wooden box at her belt and pulled out the still-glowing cigarette.
“There is a time and a place for deviant hobbies, Sage,” Ramage remarked. “This is a great moment in the history of our kind. You could show a little decorum.”
“We value different things, Grand Master,” Wylla replied gently, inhaling from the joint. “I’m enhancing the experience.”
The older woman snorted something about typical liberals and ignored her, turning to watch Beck as she channeled an ever-greater amount of magical energy. A lance of scarlet lightning exploded from her aura and ripped a meter-long gouge in a marble column, but she didn’t even flinch.
It was beginning to become clear that the spellwork was taking a physical toll on Beck at last. Her hands were clenched into white-knuckled fists, her teeth were gritted, eyes squeezed shut against the onslaught of light and sound around her. I wondered what she was experiencing, and immediately decided I’d rather not know.
As I watched, she appeared to be raising herself up to tiptoes- and then her toes left the floor as well, as she floated very slowly to hover inches above the marble. Her luxurious hair stood on end, a silken halo.
I glanced around frantically, unable to move, unprepared. Time for what?
With a heaving sound, Wylla tumbled from the bench, vomiting explosively across the marble. Ramage hopped nimbly out of the way, a look of contempt on her aging face, but Lee cried out in horror, breaking her silence at last.
She dashed forward and caught her friend around the shoulders, pulling sodden dreadlocks away from her ashen face. “Wylla! What’s wrong? What’s going on?”
The Sage coughed deeply, wetly. She mouthed words to Lee that I couldn’t hear.
Ramage frowned. “Our healer appears to need a healer.”
“That’s not funny!” Lee snarled, murder in her eyes. “It’s the spellwork, she’s too sensitive! I’ve got to get her out of here!”
“We brought you here for a reason,” Ramage intoned. “When you’re done, feel free to take some sick time.” Both of them glanced at me.
My heart skipped a beat. Oh f**k. She meant me. Lee was here to execute me, the Conclave’s wet work. I tried to shake my head, eyes wide, all out of jokes. All out of everything. Totally screwed.
Lee calmly lifted Wylla like a child and carried her as far from Beck’s spell storm as possible, placing her on a table in front of a deserted restaurant. I saw her lean down and kiss her friend’s sweating forehead. Then she wheeled around on her heel and marched directly towards me.
No, no, no…
She stopped in front of me, not meeting my eyes. “I’ll take him,” she said to Ramage, drawing out her Text. She pronounced a short phrase, seizing my body in a telekinetic grip. Ramage’s spell fell away and vanished. My mouth was uncovered at last, and I took several gasping breaths as Lee directed her spell.
I was dragged a few feet away and backed up to a marble column, arms at my sides. I had had quite enough of being magically manhandled, but apparently that was going to be the rest of my life. Still, Lee refused to look at me.
“You don’t have to do this. Please. Leah.”
“Everything about this is wrong!”
“Shut him up already,” Nick jeered, “He’s ruining the occasion!”
“Hey, f**k you too!” I shouted, writing in my invisible chains. “Leah, stop! What’s wrong with you?”
She stepped close to me and looked directly into my eyes. Expressionless. “I am what I am, Trick. You are what you are.”
“What are you doing? We were going to leave! You were going to teach me! We had a plan!” I must have had something in my eyes, because they began to well up, clouding my sight.
Lee stared at me, silent. “There’s a new plan,” she said.
And she winked.
“Quiet,” she snarled, silencing me with a glare. “I can’t even look at you. Reduced to begging. You really will never fit in with Conclave.”
“You know what,” I said, feeling a spark of confused hope in my chest, “I’m all right with that. Uh. B***h!”
“That’s enough,” Lee growled, and pulled her hat off her head. Her hair had been chopped brutally short, lending her a wild, fey appearance.
She jammed the black wool hat down over my head and face, like a hangman’s hood. “Do not move,” she said, a tiny bit too loud.
Something leathery pressed against the top of my scalp.
The invisible fist released me, a sudden void where there had been implacable pressure, but I remained still. I heard Lee back up a few steps, heard ancient paper rustle as she drew open her Text.
“Wait a minute,” I heard Nick mutter, and then everything went goddamn insane.
Lee cried out in a high, clear voice, and the mightiest of “bloops” filled the air. The thunder of Beck’s spellwork was muted to a dull roar, and Lee screamed to me, “Five seconds!”
I ripped the hat off my head and reached inside, gripping the smooth, warm leather of my very own Text. Five seconds to find something worth casting? How was I supposed to-
-and the book fell open in my hand, about fifty strips of scotch tape holding it open to a page near the middle. A page alight with dancing, squiggling, seductive Glyphs. They called to me, sang to my soul, screamed to be spoken aloud, irresistible.
I did not want to resist.
They promised destruction.
I looked up and gasped. Lee’s surprise had been to encase us in a twelve-foot dome of semitransparent light, like plexiglass made of stars. On the other side, Nick was jumping on the spot and swearing at the top of his lungs. Ramage calmly stood in place and launched a spell at us, which crashed against the bubble and scattered motes of flame for yards in every direction.
“Trick!” Lee shouted, and the bubble began to shimmer, further distorting the enraged faces outside. I glanced down at my Text, picked something likely, and cleared my throat.
“I’m ready,” I lied.
The bubble vanished, and I screamed out my last desperate hope into the storm of energies already ripping through the Nexus like a hurricane, adding my chaos to the mix. A sheet of flame erupted into being near my hands and streaked towards Ramage and Nick, expanding to the top and sides, roaring and leaving a wake of thick, pungent smoke.
I was already moving before I saw what effect it had, sprinting for my life towards Beck, desperate to do something to stop the spell. She had no idea she was being used this way. I could explain it to her. I could stop her.
I could save her.
“Beck!” I shouted when I was fifty feet away, reaching out to her with my empty hand-
-a ribbon of twisting white plasma snaked around my ankle and flipped me to the floor, where I landed painfully on my ribcage. Gasping for breath, I pushed myself up just in time to fling myself backwards again, as a lance of insanely bright light streaked past my face.
I blinked the afterimage away, shaking my head and cursing. Explosions were going off everywhere, between Beck’s storm and whatever Lee and Ramage were up to. I couldn’t hear anything, but I saw Nick the Necromancer, stripping off his fine jacket and stalking towards me in his shirtsleeves.
I flicked my eyes down and allowed myself to shout “Gilfreidei!” Nick’s second spear of energy met a wave of bluish force, and the air seemed to warp and twist at the point of contact before exploding violently. Fine by me. I was still standing, miraculously untouched by any drain from the spells I’d cast. What was that about?
I lost track of Nick for a moment, looking around desperately, buffeted by the wind of the storm. Arcs of lightning bounced from Beck’s contorted, floating body, striking and shattering the pillars ringing the mall common area. Other bolts danced uncomfortably close to the window, high above.
A line of lightning wreathed straight towards me, and I didn’t even have time to be horrified before it sliced harmlessly through me, leaving only a warm, rapidly fading tingle.
Somehow, I felt pretty good. Weird.
Screams of rage drew my attention off to the side, and I had to pause for just a second to wrap my head around what I was seeing. I had thought I was frightened of Lee before. I had thought I was some kind of badass with my fireball spell.
Lee was assaulting Grand Master Ramage with absolute psychotic frenzy. She conducted the entire confrontation at a dead sprint, directly towards Ramage without the slightest of hesitation, shrieking out forgotten words from her Text and filling the air with lead from her massive handgun.
Spells arced from her fingertips to slam into Ramage’s hasty defenses like battering rams, bullets whanged off her shield bracer, shrapnel from explosions ripped at her pristine uniform. Her calm expression quickly gave way to panic.
“Lee!” she croaked, barely audible. “Lee, wait!”
Lee merely roared and poured forth a stream of red-hot plasma from her outstretched hand, shattering the Grand Master’s energy shield with a loud crack of feedback. The crystal on her bracer shattered, the metal imploded. The older woman cried out and dropped her metallic purple Text, cradling her crushed left arm and falling to her knees.
I wasn’t going to say anything, but Lee left her alone. Instantly switching targets, she scanned around the chaotic Nexus, one hand raised to launch spells, the other gripping her smoking Desert Eagle, a rictus of insane rage twisting her delicate features.
“Lee!” I shouted hopelessly. It was too loud to hear almost anything except the roar of Beck’s deadly rite. “Goddamnit.”
I wheeled to face Beck, and was startled to see that she’d opened her eyes. Her lips were moving with a steady cadence, and fiery Glyph symbols began drawing themselves in the air around her. The rest of her body stood erect, stretched and contorted, but she never paused in her work. Tears flowed freely down her face and floated away, buoyed on the swirling energies.
I guessed that she had gathered a sufficient store of power, and was constructing the spell that would direct it, once she read the Glyphs out loud. The storm only increased in ferocity as she dictated to the wind.
“Beck!” I screamed, still not getting her attention. Behind me, a loud snap echoed through the mall, and I ducked while I turned to see Nick trading spells with Lee, bone-white lances of stolen life weaving in and around arcane furies. I could barely see, for all the intense brightness.
After seeing how she handled Ramage, I trusted Lee to make short work of the Necromancer. I returned my attention to the problem of Beck, twisting and hovering in midair, the eye of a hurricane I had no idea how to stop.
I couldn’t let her Read those flaming letters.
The unnatural wind tore at my clothes, but I found myself planting my feet firmly and resisting the gale. Strength seemed to be returning to my limbs, and I realized it at last; I was absorbing the loose magics swirling around, replenishing myself, powering my spells for free. The lightning hadn’t harmed me at all- rather, it had charged me up a little.
Weird, okay, but I wasn’t going to let a good thing go to waste. If energy was what I had, I would have to use it. No matter what.
“Beck!” I called out, screaming into the storm, “I’m sorry!”
That was the only time I ever said that to her, and really meant it.
Then I raised my branded hand, let my eyes pass over a dancing bit of ink, and searing blue-white magic erupted forth, tearing through fiery letters and weaving magics, screaming to consume my petite ex-girlfriend-
-who deflected the bolt with a contemptuous flick of one hand. Somewhere the blue fire exploded against something, and probably fucked it up, too.
Beck, however, was fine.
Straightening her body with obvious effort, bending her arched neck down to regard me with flashing eyes, she paused in her spellwork to look me in the eye… and then silently shake her head, as if I’d just burned through my last remaining chance and she was disappointed.
“Beck! Listen!” I called, hoping she would read my lips or something. “This spell, it’s not what you think! You’re gonna die, they tricked you! They just told me, I swear!”
She rotated in midair to face me head-on. The storm continued, but slowed to a lesser intensity, apparently just so I’d be able to hear her voice.
The level of control she demonstrated over what I thought were out-of-control magics was… disturbing. She looked the part of a goddess, and now the distinction was becoming creepily vague.
Beck spoke gently, but I heard every syllable.
“Nobody tricked me into anything. They played their parts, same as you. Do you really think I dropped that Text into the breakup box by accident? Me? That never even crossed your stoney little mind, did it?
“No, you made every fucked-up, lazy, antisocial move I expected you to. You finally lived up to my expectations, Trick. And you were the same thing to my co-conspirators that you always have been to me.”
Her eyes narrowed. Prismatic fires filled her open hands.
“Just a distraction.”
© 2012 EarthExile
Added on July 1, 2012
Last Updated on July 1, 2012
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