Dragon Magic(7)

By: Megan Derr

Mahzan stared wide-eyed, then rolled to his feet and dragged Binhadi up with him. He looked around, the emotions assaulting him beginning to affect him. Everything was a mess. There were too many dead people, too many dying people. Blood, stone, ruined tables, fire and brimstone.

He looked up as the smell made him gag, startled by a sudden rush of hot air, and froze in terror as a fearmonger appeared in the hole where the beautifully painted ceiling of the Hall of Kings had once been.

He had hoped, deep down, that it was a misunderstanding. That it was not really a fearmonger, but some other, lesser creature. Fearmongers had not been seen for nearly a hundred and fifty years, by the grace of the Great Dragon. But that was definitely a fearmonger, a nightmare born in the depths of a sleeping volcano and somehow brought here to a place it would normally avoid. It was massive. Mahzan had never seen a living thing so enormous. He trembled, suddenly too cold and too hot all at once. He couldn't move, couldn't breathe. Couldn't do anything except wait to die.

Instead of dropping down to crush them all, however, the fearmonger launched into the air and vanished from sight—but not before bathing the air with fire.

"Damn it!" a voice snarled, and Mahzan saw North Captain Sule rush up, hands held up and fingers spread as he fought fire with fire, his eyes glowing red-orange.

Binhadi shook him again. "Calm them!"

"There is no one left to calm!" Mahzan snarled, but he tried anyway, closing his eyes to get hold of his own emotions, grabbing hold of everything that made his head ache, wrapping it in his performer's calm, and then pushing it out again.

But just as he could feel the calm affecting those most susceptible to such magic again, he heard more screams—and then was overwhelmed by the rush of people dying in fear and pain. He screamed in agony, falling to his knees again and heaving up stomach fluids. "Dead," he croaked. "The fearmonger—"

He looked up again, pale and shaky, when he heard it growl, smelled the brimstone, and bit back his own scream as it landed on the edge of what had once been the ceiling.

Movement from the corner of his eye made Mahzan look reflexively, reaching for the daggers he had not worn that night. Sule lay sprawled on the floor, head bleeding from where falling stone had struck him. The Isle priest Mahzan had teased earlier knelt by Sule to examine him. Mahzan could feel the man's relief a moment later, so Sule must be all right.

He could not say the same for anyone else. Beyond the four of them, he could feel nothing. Everyone in the castle, and very likely the city, was dead.

"We need to share power," Binhadi said, his eyes on the fearmonger. "We four are the only ones left. We need to link our power."

"I'm not giving anyone my power," Mahzan snapped, and he could feel the agreement of the other two.

Binhadi glared at them, dark eyes sharp and hot and more than a little frightening. Shivers ran down Mahzan's spine. "We don't have time—it's moving—your power! All three of you, now! It's our only chance if you want to live!"

Mahzan opened his mouth to protest, to name all the reasons it was stupid to simply throw your power at someone else—never mind a stranger, never mind a shadow mage with a reputation blacker than his eyes. But they were facing a fearmonger, and everyone else was dead. Binhadi was right: if they did not act, they would join the piles of bodies.

Opening his mind, Mahzan laid his hand against Binhadi's face for a connection. If they knew each other well, touching would not be necessary, but they were strangers, and so physical contact was necessary.

The fearmonger roared as the priest and North Captain Sule joined them, and moved as they too touched Binhadi—

Everything went quiet. It felt as though he were being grabbed, being choked, being smothered, couldn't breathe, couldn't feel—

Then he was free, and he could feel his power moving as Binhadi took it, used it. Shaken, disoriented, Mahzan fought not to fall to his knees again. Beside him, the other two looked as though they fared no better. They watched in silence as Binhadi battled the fearmonger with his shadow magic, unable to do more than feed him power.

Well, there was nothing the other two could do. But Mahzan had power in abundance, more power than a mere jester should, and Binhadi was nowhere near to depleting it. There was something Mahzan could do… but then he would be of no use to anyone when he passed out.