Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hound Hunting - Chapter 27.



In that frozen fragment of displaced time I could imagine what my own father must have felt when he placed his own life on the line in place of another. There was no guilt, no remorse to be felt over my course of action. I didn’t even have a single instant of doubt or contemplation about whether or not what I was doing was what I should be. All there was for me was the absolute certainty that Glitch was in harms way and I needed to help him.

Everything slowed and I could hear my heartbeat coming in a drawn out drumbeat that left long pauses between them. I sprinted forward with all the speed I could summon with my only intention being to intercept any malevolent magic that was aimed at my associate. As I slid into the space between them I watched as already the arcane attack had blazed to life into a luminous line of burning blue-white power. It was surging straight towards me, a baleful blast that I had no desire of dodging.

It was rather bizarre, in a way I suppose; that surreal sense of seeing a sinister spell shooting its way towards you and only watching it come. I didn’t have my sword anymore and yet I found myself not truly caring about that small detail. What I did have was a rigid resolve that I had fashioned from my will alone; I refused to fail my friends.

Reaching out I grabbed at the power that was racing its way to find me and met it head on. Without the aid of my blade the blast threatened to engulf me, spreading out like a crashing wave. I found my anger then, standing against the assault and it answered my call. Fueled by fury in its face I rallied my rage and roared defiantly. “You’ll have to get through me first,” I bellowed. “And we both know that there isn’t enough magical might in all creation for you to beat me.”

My grip tightened around the arrow of arcane energy and pulled it into me before it could spill past. No time for second thoughts now. There wasn’t even any opportunity for regrets to form as a torrent of terrible torment swam through me. It was like being dropped into the heart of a mountain of molten lava while simultaneously landing inside the deepest glacier. There was so much pain laying siege to all my senses that it was hard to retain any tie to reality.

I drifted amongst the dizziness for an unknown amount of time. All I could do against all that agony was fight to hold on to the determination to defy it. It ravaged its way through me and I could only feel it bleeding out in a thin trickle. There was no way I could keep this up for very long. If I tried I would be consumed by the effort.

“Know what to hold on to and when to let go,” a voice reminded me in a whisper. Holding on to this kind of power hadn’t done Wynnna any favors and I had no interest in becoming anything similar. I had to let this power pouring into me go and I needed to do it quickly.

Concentrating I called every ounce of strength I could and pushed at the rushing energy to direct it down where it was already trickling away. Nothing happened at first but gradually the flowing force grew in its exit. Little by little I could feel the pouring power steady itself into a strong stream. As it left me, more of my mind returned to me. I had become little more than an open portal to direct the dangerous magic through and I was still holding on to the source.

That gave me an idea. If I had been able to pull the flung force of Wynna’s flowing power into me, then just maybe I could keep tugging. Absent the attempt of straining to store any of the energy I could keep all my attention on the task of fighting against the flow of it. So long as I could maintain channeling the current then I figured it was at least worth a shot. My only other option for reducing Wynna’s raw resources was to watch her wreck more havoc by hurling it around. At least this way I could deplete it with only myself being in the line of fire.

Throwing myself into my tenuous theory I flexed my fingers and dug my feet in. I could see Wynna’s features through the flooding fury, twisted with hate and driven by a dark desire to see me dead. Gone were the warm aspects of someone who I knew well and considered my equal, despite any humor hinting to the contrary. In their place was sheer madness and little else left alongside it.

Violently the rushing ray whipped up as I gave it a hard jerk and more magic crashed into me before passing through. Any attempt at subterfuge, I feared, would only give her the split second chance she needed to sever the stream at best or at worst overload me in a final flash to claim us both. So I had simply skipped straight to the point of things and charged ahead.

Panic appeared as Wynna hissed at my grave gambit, her eyes going even wilder than I thought was possible. I suppose when sanity took a vacation anything was possible. Without hesitation I kept up my leverage and pulled as much of the flowing power as possible. As it begrudgingly bowed to my will, more magic joined the jumbled jab already swarming towards me.

It threatened to become too much for me to handle as the increasing amount of arcane power swept over me. But I hardened myself by repeating the words in my head over and over; just become part of the path – let it pass. My mantra worked and I found myself maintaining my grip as I fell into a rhythm to try and drag everything I could drain right out of Wynna.

One by one some of the repositories that served as her reserves began to falter. I had no conscious way to judge for how long we had been locked in contest against each other. All my attention had been so focused on the monumental effort of my own desperate attempt to thwart the threat she represented. Regardless of the duration I could feel one thing for certain; I was reaching my limit. Exhaustion was coming to claim me and not even I could ignore my mortality.

So when Wynna finally managed to drop her outpouring energy I relished the relief. I ignored the curses she cast into the air along with the snapping sound of things being broken in frustration. As the final fragments filtered through me I cut off the avenue I had allowed for them and reserved what remained. It wasn’t much, only a small sliver in comparison to what had been shoved through me. But I bent it temporarily to my will, desiring only to make use of it for the next few fleeting moments.

Even with mere embers of energy burning away at my insides, it took what was left of my strength to hold it there. It demanded release in a way that didn’t require words and I for one regretted denying it. Siphoning the smallest portion I could I sent a surge of spell-stimulated strength to my limbs experimentally and felt the renewing vigor. The temptation to tap into a power with such promise was immediately aware to me, and I could see how alluring it was. With a steady supply of stolen spells you could become a SpellHound without equal. But to do so would be wrong on so many levels.

My replenished stamina wouldn’t last for long unless I continued to lean on the power I had just imprisoned inside me. All I wanted was to live long enough to release this raw power – no body had the right to contain it indefinitely. And I definitely didn’t want to pay the price it would cost of me for any longer than was necessary.

Wynna shifted a smoking rod from one had to the other and drew her own short sword with murderous intent. At her feet was the shattered shaft of the other rod along with a variety of the other various items she had been carrying. A sadistic snarl escaped her and a smile spread over her face. Wynna was gone.

I let another brief pulse of power free and used it to send my feet flying into a spin while my arm shot out seeking the hilt of my sword. The moment metal brushed against my fingertips I clutched it up and brought it back to be held before me. Now, all I had to do was hope that I had worn her down enough that we could survive any magic she might have left.

Fortune, Fate; if either is a lady then let them favor me with a friendly fondness now and not her. Besides, surely I had the better smile between us… Well, one with more sanity behind it at least.