Dragon Magic(8)

By: Megan Derr


Fear and mistrust rolled through him, as strong and sharp as his own. The others. He could feel Sule, Binhadi, and the priest. He wanted them gone, wanted them out, but he could only watch as Binhadi fought the fearmonger.

Even in the midst of a nightmare come to life, a shadow mage wielding the full force of his notorious magic was a thing of wonder. Some said that as shadows were caused by light, shadow mages actually controlled and manipulated light. Mahzan had always dismissed the debate as semantics. Whatever they controlled, very little compared to seeing someone tear shadows from the ground and use them like a soldier with shield and sword.

Mahzan just hoped that one shadow mage and the power of three additional mages would be enough.

The fearmonger landed on the stone floor, crushing tables, bodies, and stone as it prowled toward them. It looked like some horrific bastardization of the Great Dragon himself, a contortion of scales and spikes, breathing fire and dripping stone-melting venom, reeking of blood and brimstone, shaking the hall with every step. It threw its head back and howled, a terrible, awful sound that made Mahzan clutch at his ears and bite back a sob.

Then it lunged.

Mahzan jerked back, knocking into Sule, who caught him with a grunt and impatiently shoved him off. "Fool."

"Fool yourself," Mahzan snapped—and then they all jumped as the fearmonger lunged again, only to roar in fury as Binhadi's shadows held him back.

Beside Mahzan, Sule swore in frustration. "We can't let him fight alone."

"No, but I don't see what we can do." Mahzan rubbed his forehead, trying to ignore the throbbing pain. "La la la," he muttered, and decided he didn't really need to be conscious. He was a jester, and his magic mostly useless, so what did it matter if he knocked himself out? It was not as though he had an audience any longer.

On that bitter note, he summoned what remained of his power, stole what he could from Sule and the priest, and focused it on what was left of the once beautiful ceiling—and with a scream brought it crashing down on top of the fearmonger, dragging the crumbling walls with it, and piling on any furniture not already crushed. He threw all of it at the fearmonger, everything his power could manage. Pain tore through him, black spots obscuring his vision, and he fell to his knees, struggling desperately to breathe through the agony.

He only barely noticed when Sule drew his sword and raced toward Binhadi, the priest alongside him… and around the priest, large dogs made of shimmering blue magic. So the priest was a shape mage, more commonly called a shaper.

Mahzan felt—something, hot and cold and tangling—and then it was all too much. The last thing he remembered was the sound of the fearmonger screaming.

*~*~*

A voice, hoarse and thin, was the first thing he heard when he woke. He stared uncomprehending into a face that looked vaguely familiar. "Isle priest," he rasped, then coughed, sat up, turned around, and threw up again. There was nothing remaining in his stomach, but it tried anyway, until Mahzan's muscles were sore and his throat scraped raw.

Wiping his mouth on a grimy sleeve, he turned back to the priest. "What's going on?" There was smoke everywhere, stinging his eyes and clogging his mouth. The priest helped him to his feet, and Mahzan went stumbling and tripping along as he was half-led, half-dragged from the ruined Hall of Kings.

Through the castle they went, and he could just see Binhadi and Sule in front of them, one a black figure in the smoke, the other brilliant scarlet. Mahzan was too tired, too drained, to block out emotion, and it just made him more nauseous and tired and afraid. They were all afraid, sick with it, angry and offended.

Eventually they spilled into the kitchens, equally blackened and ruined—but a hole where a wall had once been had cleared away most of the smoke. Binhadi led them to the hole and climbed over what remained of the wall. Then they were running, tumbling down a steep slope to the bank of the Great Lake.

A fishing boat was still tied up at the pier where the royal fishermen went out every day. All the other boats had been taken by other survivors or destroyed. Clambering into the boat, Mahzan collapsed again. He caught the sneer Sule cast in his direction, and snapped, "Let's see how well you walk after feeling the dying emotions of tens of thousands of people."