The Oasis of Broken Bones
Part Twelve – No Easy Death
Blade watched as the hermit made his way closer, unable to transfer his gaze even if he wished to. A nameless dread filled him at the sight of the knife the hermit held. It promised more than mere death in its wicked edge. The hermit raised it and tested the edge with his thumb. A malevolent smile played across his face as he did so.
“Your death will provide the focus needed to rebuild our undertakings here,” he promised, “Your blood the fuel for our magic. It will not be an easy death,” he added, “For the rituals are long.”
With his free hand he took a hold of Blade and effortlessly lifted him from his feet, as if he was little more than a bundle of rags. Carrying him across to where the rune had once hung, he laid the paralysed Blade out upon the ground, eyes staring at the ceiling above. The hermit took up dust from the ground and around Blade began to trace complex patterns with it, letting it flow out from his hand. Blade could not see what it was that the Hermit was forming, but he could feel it, an oppressive building up of energies that set his skin to crawling, the feeling akin to a mass of ants swarming over every inch of him, even his eyeballs. His chest felt constricted by a heavy weight, causing breathing to come hard. His mind fought against the constant overbearing will of the hermit’s, seeking to find a way through it, to break free. Each attempt was contemptuously crushed.
It took some time for the hermit to complete his preparations but finally he stood above Blade, raising the knife on high.
“And now you die,” he announced, his eyes flashing with evil intent.
“That isn’t going to happen,” a grim voice retorted. Though he could not yet see her, he knew that Peregrine had arrived, and while a part of him was relieved at it, another feared for her safety against the monster in human form who stood above him.
The hermit’s face was suffused with a moment of shock at her words, followed by white-hot incandescent rage. Then the rage was gone, replaced by his normal, malevolent expression.
Blade watched as the knife began to descend towards him, a downward plunge towards his chest. A heavy broadsword swept up in response, taking the hermit at the wrist, sending the hand gripping the knife flying. Despite the severity of the wound, no blood flowed from it.
A curse so virulent snarled from the hermit that the chamber rocked at the force of it. He clutched at his handless arm, his eye narrowing in hate. Peregrine stepped across Blade to interpose herself between him and the hermit, crouched in a fighting stance, her sword held steady before her.
Blade felt the mind grip upon him lessen as the hermit’s attention turned elsewhere, to Peregrine and the wound he had taken. Bringing all of his focus to the fore, he sent it lancing through the enshrouding fog. For a time the grip resisted his efforts, but the hermit’s effort lessened as another came towards him, Halakir with his whispering scimitar. The paralysis that lay upon him shattered under the pressure of Blade’s efforts and the encroachment of Peregrine and Halakir, requiring the hermit to split his attention.
The hermit stepped back and snarled out a harsh tune, the sound scourging across them like the crack of a whip. In response, the dust that lay scattered across the ground erupted and began swirling around, driving at their faces and blinding their vision.
Blade scrambled back up to his feet, holding a hand before his face to shield him from the driven dust. He tried to whistle up a tune with which to contest the winds called by the hermit but the will behind it was too strong to overcome. All that could be done was to await until the spell had ended and in the mean time to survive the assault.
Out in the dust he heard Peregrine growl, as well the sweep of her sword as she lashed out blindly to her fore, seeking to bring down the hermit, to no avail.
Then the winds dropped away and the dust settled back to the ground. Of the hermit there was no sign bar an opening at the rear of the chamber that had previously been concealed into the stonework.
Peregrine took off at a run, plunging into the opening. Blade snatched up his rapier as Halakir quickly ordered his men to head back out and seek out the hermit should he have emerged out in the oasis. Only then did the two men follow after Peregrine into the dark.
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