The Oasis of Broken Bones
Part Ten – Song and Will
The cadaverous hermit stalked towards where Blade lay prone upon the ground, still rattled from having landed heavily. The hermit held a wickedly curved knife with a serrated edge in one hand. Set into the pommel of the knife was a blood red gem that seemed to gleam with an inner glow. The hermit’s lips curled back in a fiendish smile while within his eyes lurked evil intent.
Blade’s fingers scratched at the ground, touching on a film of dust, as he sought to shake himself free of the effects of the blow. He scrapped together some of the dust into his hand. In desperation, he leapt back to his feet, he cast it towards the hermit, a sharp note whistling from his lips as he did so, a note that carried with it hints and remembrances of breezes as they swirled across fields of flowers. The dust was picked up by a wind that sprung into being and whirled it about the hermit, gusting it at his eyes, for a moment blinding him.
Then a dark note echoed from the hermit and the dust was snatched up and cast aside, shattering Blade’s spell with a sudden finality that was a display of power unrivalled. The hermit’s dark eyes locked upon Blade’s and he whispered another tune, one that brought to mind slithering, pale worms and other creatures of the damp, dark places of the world where the rotten mass of decaying mattered gathered. The tune wormed towards Blade, wrapping around him, while the eyes bored into with a hypnotic intensity, all of it seeking to overwhelm his sense of self. Sweat beaded across Blade’s brow as he sought to fight back, locked in place to the spot where he stood, calling on all of his reserves of self and song to the battle of wills.
Touches of the hermit’s minds glanced across his as they struggled, and in those moments he caught a glimpse into his opponent’s mind, a dark place of cruel edges, of the vision through his eyes, and more. Not all that malevolent will was focused upon him, but bent elsewhere, on the beast outside, feeding it and strengthening it, guiding it with a wicked purpose. He caught flashes of the battle that took place beyond the walls of the old temple, of Peregrine facing down the beast, and he knew that she could not defeat it, not while the hermit remained in touch with it. Another glimpse of that sinister mind and he perceived that the focus of the power that went into the beast was though the glowing rune that hung in the air in the centre of the chamber.
Veins stood out throbbing across Blade’s brow as he strained against the power of the mind boring down upon him, his hand inching into his left sleeve. Tearing pain accompanied the movement but he persevered until he grasped the knife that was concealed there. He shouted a defiant roar as he pulled it out and cast it through the air, straight at the rune, almost crippling agony tearing through him as he did. The spinning blade flew true, striking the rune. It shattered at the impact and a backdraft of power released from it swept through room, buffeting all within. The pressure of the hermit’s mind lessened, and during that crucial moment Blade’s sword leapt into his hand. He lunged froward and thrust with it, driving the sword into the Hermit’s side, scoring a deep cut along it.
A hand slapped down and the hermit trapped the sword against his side. Despite the wound, no blood seeped forth. The eyes focused once more upon Blade and his time the full force of the hermit’s mind was turned upon him. He felt his muscles lock up and his mind rocked by the full force of that will. His sword tumbled from his grasp to clatter to the ground.
A sinister smile twisted across the hermit’s face as once more he approached Blade.
“A commendable effort,” came a voice from the man, one that sounded dead and dusty, “But futile. First you will die and then your friend will. Even without my aid, my pet is more than a match for you.”
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