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Out of Nowhere by Patrick LeClerc.
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Transdimensional Blues

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A Fisherman's Guide to Bottomdwellers

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Blood from a stone

by

Ross Kitson



I learned all I know about humans from their blood. I read it as it trickles in crimson rivulets through the fissures of my being. I glean what I can from the miniscule permutations of the iron and the copper; for they tell all the tales, record all the stories.

And I know this: I know that man is earth sullied by the other elements. He is rock, tainted by the whispering lies of air; he is granite weakened by the impurity of water. Men burst like berries underfoot when my stony pseudopodia smash into their frail forms.

I crush men because I must. I squash men because I am commanded to. I am bound by ancient sorcery, enslaved to the will of Tervor, the Ogre. And as men smear my pebbled skin, their vital juices spattering far and wide, I learn more.

I have learned deception. I have learned to hide my thoughts from this master I serve. I have learned to nurture a secret. And I have hidden the secret deep within the catacombs of my being.

I have hidden a man.

#


The man was near transition. It would not be long until his body become one with the earth. I could sense the warmth leaving his being, leaching into the stone I encased him in. If he was to be of use to me I needed to address the weaker elements within him.

On the fringes of my prison, where the eldritch runes radiated their agonising border, was a moat of lava. The heat scorched through me whenever I chose to pass my essence through the rocks nearby. It took me a few hours to gradually move the hollows within the mountain to a proximity wherein the transmitted heat would warm him.

The air pocket would sustain him for many days, of that I was certain. But his face was dried and his lips cracked with want of moisture. Now the heat made this worse and he moaned in delirium.

I foraged through the stone of the mountain, sliding my spirit through its convoluted channels. I passed the chambers that Tervor kept his malignant treasures within, ascended through the seams of granite and haematite, searching for ingress of water.

I located it near the peak. A large pool had formed in a divot of non-porous rock. I circled the recess then began remodelling the stone, shaping and moulding it into a channel. I teased the impervious rock down, deeper and deeper into the mountain, directing it towards the man.The water dripped into the hollow and pooled near his face. I shifted the stone within the tiny cave and tilted his face into the water. He lapped it like a thirsty cat, colour easing back into his cheeks.

The man was still somnolent; he required something further, something from the air. I could feel the disgust spidering through my being, like the cracks in my spark-father those aeons ago.

‘Crikk, attend me now,’ Tervor’s voice resonated through the mountain.

The man would have to wait; my master commanded my presence.

#

Tervor was stood in a vast chamber, its wide ceiling supported by innumerable columns. Each had been carved to resemble souls writhing in torment. He was garbed in shadow, his dark blue skin merging seamlessly with oily darkness that fell to the floor. His smouldering eyes regarded me as I moulded the rock into a humanoid form. It was how the master preferred to address me.

‘Crikk, you are tardy this night.’

‘My apologies, master, I was dormant deep within the roots of the mountain.’

‘Indeed? The intrusion earlier was disturbingly close to this chamber.’

I could feel a swirl of unease arising in my granite chest.

‘I can not be held responsible for the failure of Argyx and...the wind spirit.’

Tervor sneered at me, the serpentine slits of his nose flaring. ‘You can not even bear to say her name? Argyx has been dealt with already, he screamed exquisitely for a fire elemental. But Urryst? No, I could find no fault in her protection of my domain.’

‘She mutters her lies on the breeze, master...I...’

A searing agony tore through my spirit, as if every particle of my existence were being torn asunder at the same moment. I could not measure its duration; perhaps the clatter of a pebble, perhaps the erosion of a monolith, I could not tell.

Tervor’s whisper was in my mind. ‘You hope to trick me, don’t you? By allowing the humans into my sanctum, by guiding them to the source of their pain.’

I moaned my reply. ‘Master, it is not true...my loyalty...’

‘...is based on fear and through that respect. The runes hold you bound for eternity, should I choose and your service...will never end. What if you had not sensed my return, eh, Crikk? Would have you let them pass?’

‘Master, no...’

More pain washed through me, tiny channels of torture. My thoughts drifted, in the cloud of suffering, to the waterfalls of blood that had run through me but an hour earlier—and it gave me strength.

‘I am sorry, master. I exist only to serve.’

Tervor’s laugh was terrible. ‘You exist to guard, you stupid elemental. Generations of misery have been visited upon the city of mankind. They will pay evermore for the deeds of their forefathers and their driving of my brethren from this isle. Now be gone, I wish to indulge the fifth element alone.’

I allowed the statue I had created to crumble but I remained seeping through the rocks as Tervor strode through his treasures. His element, that of darkness, clung to him like a needy child. He moved through the crystal skulls and the silver chalices until he reached the Pestilence Brazier. Words of thick malignancy oozed from his blue lips. The air in the chamber was dense with sorcery.

I left then, flowing through the fissures and the cracks of the mountain, pushing upwards. My mind was a maelstrom, a storm and with that comparison I could sense my disdain of the air above my surface arising within me.

#

The eagle had only an instant to protest before I sucked it into the surface of the mountain. It lived only a short minute before my grip asphyxiated it; its transition was swift.

The storm slammed against my surface, the violence of the gust splintering boulders from my exterior, sending them hurtling into the rain. It was a scratch compared to Tervor’s torture.

‘Crikk, she is not yours to take,’ Urryst wailed.

‘She was born in the peaks that claw away your poison, wind-child. All living things are primarily of the earth.’

‘Such arrogance,’ Urryst said. ‘Has Tervor being tormenting you again? Or do you hold onto prejudices long since faded?’

Anger rumbled within me; a tremor rippled through the mountainside.

‘They are an old hatred, wind-child. I watched as your kin destroyed my spark-father; watched as their gales eroded his being until he was nought but rubble.’

‘It was a war long past, Urryst. Are we not now united in our servitude, our incarceration?’

‘We shall never be united. My hatred is too fierce.’

Urryst’s laughter was like the wind rustling through the long grasses of the meadow.

‘You cannot hate when you have never known love, Crikk. You sicken me, with your weakness. Tervor holds you only partly in thrall with his runes. You shall never be free until you cast off the shackles of fear and selfishness, until you think beyond your own misery.’

I roared my fury at this insolent air-sprite but she weaved away into the breeze, her words an echo in my canyons.

#

The man ripped the flesh from the eagle, gulping down the bloodied strips with mouthfuls of water. He would hesitate every so often, to gag and retch, but I took this as a marker of strength.

Once he had eaten his fill he lay there in the pitch-blackness. His breaths came in little gasps, pathetic, weak, like a little animal. How could this creature assist me, I asked myself?

‘Can you converse, man?’

He jumped, like he had been touched by the lava of Argyx, the fire-child.

‘Spirits of my ancestors, who’s there?’

‘I...I did not intend to startle, man. Be still.’

‘What are you, your voice...?’

‘It is the grinding of the rocks, seeking to emulate your fashioning of the wind in your throat, though I may converse with the mind-speech if you prefer.’

The man looked around the cave, though there was no glimmer in which to see.

‘You are part...of the rock?’

‘I am.’

‘An earth-spirit?’

‘Indeed. I am a Duke of the Sandstone Steppes, brood of the Earth-mother, Nolir. The master calls me Crikk.’

‘Then you serve the ogre, the sorcerer Tervor? It was you who killed my allies.’

I could sense his anger; it burned so brightly, with such passion. ‘I sped their transition. Their forms are one with the earth now.’

‘Damn you, they were good men, good souls, trying to end this evil your master brings upon us.’

I had no answer for him. Their transitions were necessary, lest Tervor become suspicious.

‘Why am I alive? Are you toying with me?’

‘We will talk on it more, later. First you must regain your strength, man.’

'Er-Jan, my name is Er-Jan.’

I did not reply. I had to secure more sustenance for this Er-Jan, without raising the suspicions of Urryst further.

#

For a week I foraged for living matter for Er-Jan. It was soon apparent to me that not all creatures with sparks were to his taste. It was a subtlety I had missed from my readings of the blood.

His dismay was evident when I brought a writhing mass of earth worms from the humus of my slopes. It was doubled when I gathered three dozen beetles from the same locale. Birds were his favourite, but each one I seized brought more confrontation with Urryst and I dreaded Tervor’s discovery of my scheme.

Er-Jan was a stripling of a man and I found it increasingly intriguing as to why he would stride into certain death within the ogre’s sanctum. One night, as he ate a sparrow, I addressed the subject.

‘It is because I name myself Oath-breaker.’

‘You have two names, Er-Jan, is that not a privilege?’

‘Perhaps in the endless caverns of the lime-nomads, but in my city it is a mark of shame. It denotes one who has not gained balance within his soul, one who is sheared by conflict.’

‘Why Oath-breaker?’

‘I swore on my honour, upon my father’s death-bed, that I should protect my family when he had departed for the table of my ancestors. I had two sisters, twins as precious as a golden rose and as fair as the jasmine that grew once in the squares of my city.’

I slowed my passage around the cave in which the boy sat. An odd sensation flickered within me.

‘And I was true to my oath. Each day I would escort them to their school, in the upper city of Kalun-Be. I would then go forth and work, turning my hand to all manner of trades. Smithy, tailor, porter I partook of them all.

‘A month ago I was engaged in a delivery in the upper city when I met a woman. She was beautiful beyond my mediocre ability to describe. I walked with her as the sun cast its longest shadows on the walls of the city and in my indulgence I forgot to collect my sisters.’

‘What happened to them?’

‘Tervor came that sunset, for it was the eve of the red moon, the moon of blood. He demanded his brides, the twenty maidens chosen to be given to him.

‘Two of the maidens were daughters of a merchant, As’Rgar, Jitun of the outer district. His men swapped the daughters for my sisters, exploiting my absence. I became aware of this terrible deed only as I saw the twenty lifted over the city walls and taken to the mountain--his mountain--this mountain.’

The cavern was silent after Er-Jan’s tale. I saw water leaking down his face, tumbling onto my exterior.

‘Why does your city give these women to Tervor?’ I asked.

‘He holds a terrible curse over us,’ Er-Jan said. ‘Once, twenty years ago, the Jitun of the city vowed he would no longer sacrifice his people to this sorcerer. Three days later a terrible plague was inflicted upon the city. The suffering was indescribable. Tervor demanded two score maidens that season and the Jitun’s head.’

'And the liege of this land--why does he not challenge Tervor?'

Er-Jan rubbed his face with weary despair. 'The king--the Isjitun--has always cared little for the cities of the west coast of Shorvor. Now he is in thrall to the might of the Artorian Empire. Our once proud isle is but a cog in the grinding war-machine of Artoria.'

‘And, knowing your Isjitun's indifference, you come seeking vengeance?’

‘I sought to end this evil with my compatriots, the finest warriors of Kalun-Be, though my enthusiasm outweighed my skill. I sought to destroy the Pestilence Brazier.’


#

Over the following week I restored Er-Jan to health. I hid him in the roots of the mountain, far away from the peripheries of Tervor’s awareness. Once Er-Jan had regained his vigour I commenced further preparation for his task. Within the limestone caverns, far under the surface, I had discovered a narrow chasm with the added benefit of illuminated lichen. It took little effort on my part to alter the width of the chasm gradually to exercise Er-Jan’s muscles and nurture his capacity to leap the distances I required.

On the sixth day Er-Jan was unusually silent. I found humans far more intricate than I suspected; more intricate than their blood would lead me to believe.
‘This is not a time for rest, Er-Jan,’ I said. ‘I can not hope to deceive Tervor for much longer.’

‘Why do we skulk in the caves, Crikk? We could practice my jumps far better on the surface, where the air is fresh and enhanced by the scents of spring.’

‘You fantasise again about your city. Remove it from your mind, it distracts from our purpose. It is not safe in the open.’

‘But why?’

‘Air can not be trusted. She is duplicitous. It is in the nature of her kind.’

Er-Jan stared down at the darkness of the crevice.

‘It is the first time I have heard emotion in your voice,’ he said. ‘It rumbles with hate.’

‘They are the enemy of my kind, though our wars are long since finished. They slew my spark-father.’

‘If you know of hate, then you must know of love.’

I could feel the irritation arising in my stones. ‘We have not the time for this nonsense. I saved you for a task and...’

Er-Jan stepped off the precipice and plummeted into the darkness.

I moved with the speed of a landslide, surging down through the rock face of the crevice. If I simply thrust a plateau out under the man then he would explode like a raindrop. Every iota of my being strained to speed below him and then I pushed the rock out into a gentle slope.

He struck the rock with a meaty jolt and scraped down the slope. I pushed the incline progressively more horizontal until he tumbled to a halt.

Er-Jan was laughing.

Fury more suited to the Magma Lords of the Lava Planes engulfed me. I thrust a column of rock under Er-Jan and brought him the hundreds of feet up the crevice to the brink.

‘You mock me, mortal,’ I rumbled.

‘I wished to see how much I matter to your scheme,’ he said.

‘Do not try my patience, Er-Jan. I can locate another.’

‘In which case, you must be starting to care for me--to save me thus.’

Huge fissures snaked up the wall of the cavern, such was my anger. The insolence of this mortal was staggering, to attribute me with such human failings.

‘Foolish man. Do you think me some benign sprite, invoked in a glamour by an amateur sorcerer? I am a Duke of the Sandstone Steppes, a noble of the elemental plains. Your life is but a flicker of a flame, a flash in the vast void of time. I am nigh on eternal, boy—I will persist when all mankind is but dust on the breeze.’

‘Yet you are trapped in here with me, held in thrall by evil made flesh. I burn briefly, but I burn brightly, Crikk.’

My rage was distilling through the cold seams of the mountain. The man was correct; I needed him.

‘And so I help you for a price, Crikk. I will help you escape if you assist me in ending the pestilence of Tervor.’


#

I brought Er-Jan towards the surface once I was content that Tervor was absent from his sanctum. The corridors and chambers were lit by sputtering torch flames and it took Er-Jan many minutes to become accustomed to the glare.

I slid along the smooth carved walls of the corridors, vigilant for the return of Tervor. Er-Jan ran along by my side. His strength had improved vastly and I felt a strange sense of pride at my achievement.

I had little opportunity, as a result, to avoid the power of the runes around the inner sanctum. I struck the ethereal barrier at full speed and waves of torment pulsed through my essence.

Er-Jan had halted, sensing my pain. ‘Crikk, why are you stopping? Is that not the sanctum where the ogre stores his vile devices?’

It took a minute for me to recover enough to reply.

‘You are correct. He has become wary. The room is inscribed with runes of power preventing my passage.’

‘Then I shall go.’

‘Halt!’ I cried. ‘Tervor is no fool. He has bound a guardian of shadow within the sanctum. For me it would have proven a mediocre challenge. But to you...?’


‘I need a weapon, if I am to fight.’

‘It will require a weapon of silver to wound a shadow creature.’

Er-Jan rubbed his face. ‘I have only a slingshot on my belt. My sword was destroyed when you...killed my companions.'

Weariness was infiltrating my stones. ‘Then you must leave the brazier and flee with me now.’

‘I can not. It is all I can do to restore my name, restore my honour.’

‘By the gods! Your stubbornness is worthy of granite,’ I said. ‘Your sisters are dead, Er-Jan. Why still do you care? Why do these words you have said matter so? They are sounds stolen by the wind.’

‘For the same reason you continue your hatred of the air spirits. You were robbed of your father in the same way as I was my sisters. Some things are worth more than your life—honour is one, friendship and love are others.’

‘Crikk, attend me.’

Tervor’s voice rippled through the mountain. Er-Jan and I were united in a moment of utter panic. I stretched out my consciousness at the same time as propelling Er-Jan down through the rock within an air pocket. I located Tervor out on the plateau bordering the moat of lava. There was another presence there with him.

I sped towards my master, suppressing my fear lest he recognise its taste.


#

Tervor was stood on the rocks, Urryst swirling around him. On the one of the columns that acted as stepping stones across the lava was stood a man in armour. He carried a slender spear and had a sword strapped to his back. I could see the runes which marked my prison etched on the surface of the stepping stones.

‘You are tired of waiting for death, I see,’ Tervor said.

‘A death in bed is no for ending for a hârdan, sorcerer. Nor a death of disease precipitated by your evil tools,’ the hârdan replied.

Tervor sneered, manipulating the magic in the air around him. He compelled me to arise before him and I did not resist. It would not do to raise suspicion at this time.

‘Then I shall endeavour to be creative in your demise, before I return to punish your city for its affront.’

The hârdan moved like lightning. The spear hurtled from his hand and straight towards Tervor. I rose from the ground at the same instant Urryst gusted down. We clashed with a crackle of energy.

The spear passed through the confusion.

It struck Tervor in the shoulder, spraying black blood across the rocks behind him. A mixture of fear and hope swirled within me. Why had Urryst collided with me?

The hârdan leapt from the final rock column and onto the plateau. Tervor roared in anger and black sorcery poured from his arms. It struck the hârdan square in the chest, as he ran forwards with his sword drawn. His flesh hissed and smoked and he crumpled in agony, his sword clattering on my surface.

The sword was magnate—god-silver—alloyed with steel. It was the weapon Er-Jan needed.

Tervor advanced on his writhing foe and then plunged his hand through the hârdan’s breastplate. A rain of blood pattered around him as he tore the heart out. Disgust was written across his face.

I could see Tervor’s fury steaming from him. He lifted the corpse off the crimson rocks and tossed him into the lava. I reached out surreptitiously for the magnate sword, letting my rocky grasp close over its length.

‘Crikk, throw that weapon into the fire too. Then tell me what you have plotted.’

I froze in horror. How could he have known?

‘Master, I...’

‘The sword. Then the explanation.’

I watched as the shimmering blade sank into the lava with a hiss. I re-formed a body shape from the rocks.

‘Why did you allow my wounding? Are you plotting my death?’ Tervor said. His voice was as cold as a tomb.

I emptied my mind of all traces of Er-Jan as I faced him. His willpower was ferocious.

‘Master, it was my fault,’ Urryst said.

We both regarded her with astonishment.

‘I sought to protect you as eagerly as Crikk. We both exist to serve you, yet I have become...jealous of his favour in your heart.’

Tervor’s laugh was shrill and terrible. ‘You are like idiotic pets. To think your kind dominated this world before the gods created ogres and man. Pitiful.’

I slunk back into the expanse of rock within the mountain. What had possessed Urryst to lie in that way? Whatever reason, it had repelled Tervor’s suspicions for a while longer. But my fortune could not last.


#

‘We have no weapon, Er-Jan. It is suicide. Your transition will be futile.’

Er-Jan stared at the gloom of the sanctum. Tervor had healed his wound and departed for Kelun-Be, vengeance dripping from his heart. This was our chance.


‘I can not leave without it. It’s why I came.’

‘But only silver, whether man-silver or god-silver, can slay the creatures of shadow.’

Er-Jan shrugged. ‘And you are all out of coins?’

I had never understood this human trait of humour and so did not reply. A spark of a notion ignited within me, however. I reached deep into the roots of the mountain, probing and exploring, looking for a unique tang.

I found it.

I dragged what fragments of silver there were from the bowels of the rock. I focused my will and condensed the metal into three dense spheres and then spat them out at Er-Jan’s feet.

‘Go carefully, I can not aid you,’ I said. ‘Walk past the Coffer of Sighs and the Phials of Lover’s Tears and you will see the Brazier. It is small but exudes black sorcery. Take care.’

‘You are sounding like you care, Crikk.’

I rumbled my irritation at his tardiness. Er-Jan smiled at me then stepped into the chamber.

I could see his progress through the doorway, though the shimmer of the runes’ magic made it indistinct at times. He weaved cautiously through the dark treasures. A cold dagger of apprehension was thrusting within me.

The shadow serpent came at him from the side. He rolled across the floor as its jaws decimated a shelf of potions. Thick purple smoke belched into the air. Er-Jan came to his feet and hurled a silver sphere at the serpent. The glittering missile missed and clattered away into the corner.

The serpent lunged again. Er-Jan kicked a small chest into its jaws and the enchanted wood splintered like glass. He turned and ran between two broad tables, the serpent in pursuit. Er-Jan leapt onto a table and his second silver missile hissed from his slingshot.

It struck home and the serpent screeched in agony, black smoke cascading from the wound. Er-Jan loaded the final sphere in a blur and slung it with all his might into the shadow serpent’s head.

The creature jerked back with the impact and then crashed to the floor, dead. I roared in delight, sending pots crashing to the floor in the sanctum.
Er-Jan was panting but he moved swiftly. He seized the Pestilence Brazier and exited the sanctum.

It was time for our escape.


#

Er-Jan preceded me onto the plateau at the base of the mountain that ran to the moat of lava. Even from a distance I could see the heat was unpleasant for Er-Jan. If Tervor returned then the unpleasantness would magnify considerably.

‘Where is the rune I need to carry you past?’

I formed a torso and head from the granite. ‘It is on the second column of rock that juts from the lava. Even if I could pass through the fiery rock, and I am unsure whether Argyx, the fire elemental, would permit it, I can not pass my essence through the ward.’

‘But if I take you?’

‘Then I can escape. We must hurry. Tervor has a habit of returning unexpectedly and our luck dwindles like sand through the hourglass. If he returns whilst I am reduced then I can not help you.’

Er-Jan nodded and advanced to the edge of the plateau. It was a good jump to the first column and would not be helped by his carrying the brazier. He turned and gestured to me.

I focused every corner of my willpower into my task. I drew all the fronds of my consciousness, of my vast form, in together and then I squeezed. I constricted; I shrunk; I condensed; I folded in on myself an impossible number of times and then some more. It was liquid agony.

All that I was I reduced into the density of a diamond, pure and ordered and regular in its beautiful lattice. I felt terror at the claustrophobia, an intense longing arising in me to stretch out my essence into the expanse of the mountain again. Yet I resisted, for I knew it to be my only hope of escape.

Er-Jan scooped me in his hand and slid me into his pocket. I retained some awareness of the environment around me but it felt muted, strangely distant.

‘Crikk, what are you doing?’

Urryst’s voice swooped around Er-Jan as he neared the edge of the plateau.

‘Escaping, wind-child, fleeing the tyranny of the ogre. If you try to stop...’

‘Why would I do that? I despise him as much as you. Go swiftly, Crikk, before he returns.’

I felt a lifting sensation as Er-Jan leapt to the first column. His boots scraped on the moist stone. The fires of Argyx flared in the lava below.

‘The leap is greater to the next column, Er-Jan. Do not lose your focus.’

‘Oh, I am focused beyond all comprehension, Crikk,’ Er-Jan said. He fidgeted with the Brazier, trying not to look down at certain death.

The moment seemed drawn out in time, thin and insubstantial. Er-Jan ran at the edge and leapt. I had the sense of the lava bubbling below us and then felt a jolt as he struck the column. The Brazier clattered on to the column before him, allowing Er-Jan to use both hands to scrabble for a grip on the stone. Fear penetrated my perpetual pain within the confines of my minute being.

Er-Jan scrambled on to the flat top of the column. The raw power of the rune etched onto the stone seeped through the pouch and into me. My scream was silent yet resonated through the chasms and fissures of the mountain.

‘Crikk!’

Urryst’s warning echoed across the lava. On the plateau we had just left shadows swirled then coalesced into Tervor’s dark form.
‘What madness is this?’

I could feel his willpower rolling out like the waves of the ocean towards me. His dominance over we three elementals was total. My prior fortitude dispersed like rust in the wind.

‘Crikk, come back here. Urryst, flay the flesh from the human before he ruins my treasure.’

The wind screamed around us as Urryst strived to resist Tervor’s command. I felt the heat of the rune’s sorcery engulf me and I tumbled to the surface of the column. I could not resist this close to the rune; I needed to be back on the plateau to challenge Tervor’s power.

‘Crikk, what are you doing? We have one last jump and then you’re free,’ Er-Jan screamed above the gale.

‘Take the Brazier away from him. Save your kin. Restore your honour. Go now, Er-Jan—let one of us be free.’

‘No, I...’

‘Go, burn brightly and fiercely,’ I said, agony wracking my tiny body. ‘Cast me back onto the plateau, so I may strive against my....master.’

Water leaked down Er-Jan’s cheeks. He scooped me in one hand. On the plateau darkness surged from Tervor towards Er-Jan.

All was lost.


#

Er-Jan hooked his boot under the Brazier and kicked it into the path of the dark sorcery cascading towards us. The oily magic struck the enchanted metal and an explosion ripped across the plateau, throwing Tervor back.

Huge cracks ripped down the shaft of the column. Er-Jan tottered on the precipice. The lava belched smoke towards us; the thick spiral twisted in the writhing winds of Urryst.

Tervor staggered to his feet, his flat blue face contorted in hatred.

I felt Er-Jan place me in the slingshot and hurl me through the air towards Tervor. I arced through the smoke and wind. An abrupt realisation came upon me: the throw was too weak, I would not strike Tervor.

Ethereal fingers grasped my glittering body. Urryst took hold and poured every fragment of power she had into my flight. Tervor’s eyes widened in horror. I struck his forehead and continued through his brain and out of the rear of his skull. I skittered across the plateau, wet with his blood and bone.

Tervor flailed around and then keeled forward, dead. A wave of dark magic rippled from his corpse, blasting out across the plateau and lava moat. The columns shattered in a cloud of rocks and I saw Er-Jan flip in the air and tumble towards the lava.

I could not hope to move from my tiny form into the rock of the mountain in time. I watched helplessly as he plummeted. Sickness overcame me as I remembered the transition of my spark-father those aeons ago. It was the sickness of sorrow, the grip of loss, the ache of love.

Er-Jan thumped against the hard magma of the moat. His cry of pain transformed into a yell of relief as he realised he lived.

The flaming tower of Argyx was regarding the lad from a safe distance. He had drawn his essence from the lava, cooling it in an instant.

‘You have earned gratitude beyond comprehension, human,’ Argyx said. ‘As have you, Crikk. Your plan was ambitious.’

‘And bolstered by fortune,’ Urryst said, as she diminished her form to a small dust-devil.

‘And your aid. You have my thanks, Urryst, and my apologies. Perhaps if I had learned to abandon my prejudice we would have combined our powers and escaped Tervor’s hold sooner.’

We watched Er-Jan clamber from the magma moat.

‘The human is the distillation of all four elements,’ I said. ‘I thought him the weaker for it--now I see I was wrong.'

‘And how did you learn of the humans and their prowess?’ Urryst asked.

‘I had considered I knew all from their blood, wind-child. But the sounds, the words that they say, the oaths that they speak--they carry the true power.’

And Urryst’s laughter was like the breeze through the leaves of autumn.


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2012-01-02 09:48:36
Loved this story - reminds me of the arabian knights. strong sotry, engaging characters, well crafted

2011-12-01 07:16:55
Excellent! Loved it.

2011-12-01 06:14:11
Well-written and riveting! Thanks.




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