Sunday, 28 September 2014

Dying of the Light

The Pharoah's head exploded with a sound like a hippo biting on a cabbage.

Xander Farren smiled. Or smiled as much as he could with a mouth full of obsidian, any way. Yes, it was satisfying to have picked off his target in such a manner. Finding the headquarters of the Shining Sun had cost him a small fortune in bribes as well as the previous three years of field work. He'd had to sacrifice his beard by walking deliberately into the Light Wizard's trap, so it looked like he'd been caught trying to steal the scroll.

He'd merely been swapping it, of course, for a near-identical one. When the Pharoah read it, his ritual still completed. It just moved the focal point for the magical energy several metres away from its intended target, so that instead of powering the internal resevoirs of the Deliverance Engine, it coursed directly into his nasal sinuses.

Fine, job mostly done. Now Xander merely needed to escape from the entirely mundane but entirely efficient bonds he was trussed in. If you were going to convince a smart enemy you were helpless, sometimes there was nothing for it but to really get into character.

Panic ripped through the cultists. Instead of chanting in carefully arranged circles, they stared, screamed or staggered about. All to the good - the Deliverance Engine was no place for the careless walker. One man's robe got caught in the whirlings of some high-speed crank, and his arm ended up on the other side of the room.

Panic spread further.

Xander began inching his way across the bottom of the large copper bowl he was lying in. Using his feet to try and hook a purchase before dragging himself along, he felt like a big grey caterpillar. It wasn't easy. The bowl was slippery and his feet were pretty numb from all the rope binding them together.

The screaming got louder. Something exploded nearby, something metal this time. Magical feedback?

Finally, he got his feet up to the edge of the bowl, ready to pull himself over the edge at last. A pair of robed figures, their blandly-smiling sun masks doing nothing to conceal their rage or panic, rose up on either side of his boots. One had a knife, the other a chunky looking mallet. Xander winced - unlucky. He nodded at the pair, steeling himself for the inevitable..

The one with the knife stabbed him in the leg, hard. It didn't hurt as much as he'd expected, presumably thanks to his lost circulation. But it was still incredibly painful, enough to make huge starts burst behind his eyes. He howled under his gag, composure lost.

The man with the hammer pulled himself up into the bowl, swinging his legs over the lip. He stood up, hammer over Xander, just as the knife-wielder stabbed again.

I wish I was an illusion, Xander thought. I wish I was somewhere else. I wish these two would turn on each other and fight to the death.

None of his wishes came true. Earthed and bound, he was powerless. Death was coming for him.

The hammer swung down.

A great purple flash burst across his vision, and then everything went dark.

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