Authors: Michael G. Manning
Tags: #fantasy, #magic, #wizard, #mage, #sorcery
“How will that change the storm?”
Tyrion gave her a feral grin, “It won’t.”
He spoke another word, and the tattoos on his body flared, covering him with
hard translucent planes of magical force. “It’s just to make sure you don’t
Lines of power struck him from all sides
as he lifted his arms, raising a spherical shield around the campsite, enclosing
the wardens within it. Several of the Prathions made themselves invisible but
they had nowhere to run now. They were trapped. Laori sent a hastily made
spellbeast at Tyrion but he cut it neatly in two with one stroke.
Tyrion’s arms were sheathed in blades of
magical force, and the enchanted shield around his body allowed him to ignore
their attacks as he began to dance around the campfire. Laughing, he cut them
apart; arms, legs, and torsos falling away as blood filled the air. Sanguine
fluids sprayed everything but failed to touch him; the enchanted shield keeping
his skin and clothing pristine while the ground around him turned red.
Kate watched in horror from beyond the
edge of the circle, and Brigid began to retch. Alan Tennick remained silent,
his one good eye closed as he tried not to see the butchery his son was
committing. He could not stop his ears from hearing it, though.
Screams and Tyrion’s haunting laughter
filled the night.
The battle, if it could be called that,
was over. The camp was silent now but for the sound of the fire and the soft
moans of those who had yet to finish dying. Tyrion stood near the fire, his
heart still pounding and his skin flushed from exertion. He felt more alive
than he had in years and he licked his lips as he looked around him.
I forgot how much I missed it,
he thought. The guilt he had once felt after his bouts in the
arena was a faint shadow of what it had once been. In its place was something
more akin to excitement.
Glancing over his shoulder, he saw the
look of revulsion on Kate’s face. She held Brigid close against her, shielding
the child’s face from view. Alan Tennick sat facing away, holding his hands
over his ears.
It must have sounded pretty
thought Tyrion, suppressing a
They don’t understand. They couldn’t possibly understand.
The only people who could understand this feeling are the ones I just slew.
down, he studied the mangled bodies that lay scattered around him.
Three were still alive, if only barely.
Two men, one with a deep cut passing through his abdomen and another who had
somehow managed to seal the arteries in his legs after Tyrion had cut them off.
The third was Trina, part of her head and skull had been shorn away, yet
somehow she still breathed, lying wide-eyed and silent on the bloody earth. Of
the three, only the man who had lost his legs looked to have any chance of
living more than a short time.
Bending down, he examined Trina. Her
injury reminded him somehow of the way a chicken might survive for a while
after losing its head. Her heart beat, her lungs continued to fill with air,
but her mind was gone. She was unlikely to last more than a few minutes.
The slave collar around her neck drew his
attention. Focusing his magesight until he could make out the finer details of
the spellweaving it was composed of, he spent half a minute before reaching out
and cutting through it. Trina’s blood began to boil within her as the collar
disintegrated, and moments later she was dead.
Turning to the man who was dying from a
gut wound he saw the fellow was still conscious. “What are you going to do?”
the warden asked.
“What I promised,” said Tyrion. “I’m
going to remove your collar.” Repeating the process he had followed with
Trina, he deliberated carefully before cutting through the collar in a
different location. The warden died seconds later, his death no less gruesome.
The last man was silent, he had blacked out
from loss of blood while Tyrion attended to the others.
“Lucky you,” he told the unconscious man.
After studying him for a minute he cut the last warden’s collar as well. The
man’s heart stopped, and he died almost instantly.
But his blood didn’t boil,
noted Tyrion clinically.
The aythar faded from the last man, and
now Tyrion was truly alone. At his feet was a headless corpse, a man with a
name tattooed on his hand, ‘Garlin’.
His adrenaline gone, Tyrion’s stomach
tightened at the sight. A sense of vertigo washed over him. He could still
hear Garlin’s last words,
‘Thank you, Tyrion, for the music’
couldn’t remember ever hearing the man say ‘thank you’ before. It was probably
one of the least used phrases among the people kept by the She’Har, almost as
rare as the word ‘love’.
A dark ache crept through him until his
body felt consumed by a cold phantom pain radiating from the center of his
being. He wanted to cry, but tears refused to come, and his eyes remained
He understood. He knew I had
to do it,
he told himself. The words were true, but
they did nothing for him. Instead he changed the words he told himself,
feel nothing. I feel nothing. I am empty.
The pain faded but did not disappear.
With an errant gesture and a thought he
released the shield enclosing the bloody campground. A second later he
dismissed the shield enchantment that encased his body. It had worked well,
though it was the first time he had ever tested it. With his enemies dead it
would remain a surprise for his next opponent.
“Bring the girl,” he said, turning toward
Colne. His voice sounded different in his ears, rougher.
I feel nothing.
“Where are you going?” asked his father,
finding his voice at last.
“To collect the rest of my children,” he
replied. “Can you walk?”
Alan nodded, “I think so.”
“Then go home.” He looked at Kate, “Come
on, we don’t have forever.”
“Let me come with you, Daniel,” said his
father, a faint tremor in his voice. He was afraid, but not yet ready to
abandon his son.
“So you can see more of what your son has
become?” said Tyrion bitterly. “Go home.”
“Let me take Brigid back with me,”
“It isn’t over, Father,” said Tyrion.
“They will keep coming until they have every child I sired. She will never be
“What about Haley? Is she safe with you?
Do you know where they took her?”
The hope in Alan’s voice tore at him, but
he answered with an honest cruelty that made him hate himself even more, “No.
She isn’t safe. A different grove has her. I did what I could. That’s why
I’m here. The best I can do is to make sure that they don’t get any others.”
“But—you’re going to take them to the
forest gods anyway?” Alan was still very unclear on the distinctions between
the different groves of the She’Har.
“My…” he paused for a second, searching
for the right word, “…owner, is different, less cruel. If she has them I will
have some control over what happens to them. They won’t be forced to fight
Meanwhile, Brigid was pulling away from
Kate. “I don’t want to go,” she whispered to her half-sister.
Kate glanced somewhat fearfully at Tyrion,
hoping he hadn’t heard the girl’s words. She wasn’t sure how stable he was
anymore. The last thing she wanted was for him to turn his psychotic rage
loose on Brigid. “Shhh,” she replied. “It’s alright. He’s going to do his
best for us. You have to trust him.”
“I’m scared, Kate,” admitted Brigid
“Let’s go,” said Tyrion, ignoring his
father’s gaze as he walked away. Kate pulled her sister along in his wake.
“You won’t leave me will you?” Brigid
Kate shook her head, “No, sweetheart. I
won’t. I’m coming with you. I’ll be there.”
Tom Hayes stood behind the door to his
store. Tyrion had knocked loudly several times, which had awoken the store
owner, but the hour was late. They had arrived in Colne close to midnight, and
everyone had already been long abed.
“Mr. Hayes, open the door,” said Tyrion.
“I know you’re standing there.”
“Who is it?” asked Tom Hayes uncertainly.
Tyrion’s patience was running out, and his
brow furrowed as he struggled with his temper.
“Tom, this is Kate Tolburn. I’m outside
with Brigid and Daniel Tennick. Please open up, it’s late.”
Tyrion’s magesight easily picked up the
flare in Tom Hayes’ emotional state at the sound of his name. Fear. The last
time he had been in the town of Colne it hadn’t been pretty. He had
threatened, maimed, and even branded some of the townsfolk.
They had deserved it, though.
“My wife is sick,” said Tom hesitantly.
“She’s standing three feet behind you, and
she seems fine to me,” said Tyrion angrily. “Open the door, or you won’t have
a store for much longer.”
“Daniel, you can’t threaten everyone you
meet…” began Kate.
Cold eyes burned into her like ice, “This
isn’t a social call. I’m here to take every child I fathered and hand them
over into slavery. You think I should pretend to be a kindly guest?”
A fire kindled inside her, and her old
spirit began to assert itself, “You have a good cause, don’t paint yourself
“I’m the lesser of two evils, Kate,” he
interrupted, “That doesn’t make me good.”
The door opened in front of him, and Tom
Hayes peeked around the edge, “What do you want?”
Tyrion molded his will and pushed the door
open even as he wrapped Tom in a bubble of force, driving him aside and
trapping him on one side of the room. The man’s wife, Alice, stared at him in
horror as he entered the room. “Tell your son, Thaddeus, to come downstairs.”
“Y—you k—knew I had a son?” stammered
Kate stepped forward, claiming the space
between them, “The forest gods know as well, Alice. They’re coming to take all
of them. It will be much worse if they get Tad. Daniel is trying to protect
“You can’t have my son,” declared Alice,
mustering her courage.
Tyrion stepped forward, prompting Tom to
shout from the side where he was still imprisoned, “Please, don’t hurt her!”
He stopped, frustrated—tired. It had been
a long day, and he was surrounded by nothing but resistance. He had expected
that. Tyrion knew he was the villain of his own private story, but he was
tired of arguing at every turn, tired of being hated.
“We’ll sleep here,” he announced,
surprising everyone. “I’m taking your bedroom for the night, Alice. Kate,
Brigid, and Thaddeus will stay in the room with me. You and your husband can
sleep wherever else you like, but don’t leave the building.”
“What?” said Alice, somewhat alarmed.
“You heard me.”
“Are you taking us prisoner?” asked Tom.
“You can think of it like that if you
prefer,” he answered. “Stay here and behave yourself, and we will be gone
tomorrow. Leave, talk to anyone, or try to warn the rest of the town, and
you’ll regret it. Don’t forget your son will be sleeping in the room with me.”
He motioned at Kate to head for the stairs while at the same time releasing the
shield imprisoning Tom.
Once upstairs they woke Thaddeus and
forced the confused teenager to relocate to what had been his parent’s
bedroom. When they were all inside Tyrion sealed the door and window to make
certain no one could leave. Removing his boots, he lay down on the bed. He
didn’t bother giving any instructions to the others. They could sleep on the
floor or stand all night, either way he didn’t care. He closed his eyes.
The warmth of someone beside him was
comforting, the touch of another’s skin. The tight ache that seemed to
constantly clutch at his heart eased a bit. Tyrion was surprised, he hadn’t
expected Kate would be willing to chance getting near him after what she had
seen the day before.
Stretching out his hand, he felt the
gentle curve of her hip. He traced her leg down to the knee, which had been
thrown over his own leg. She was close against him and her warm breath
fluttered against his neck. He could feel her arm across his bare chest.
He didn’t remember taking off his clothes,
but he was glad they were gone. Opening his eyes, he found soft morning sunlight
filtering into the room. The others were gone, but he didn’t mind, he was
alone with Kate. He pulled a lock of her hair across his face, enjoying the
soft feel of it accompanied by the scent of summer flowers.
He closed his eyes again. This was a
moment not to be disturbed. It needed to go on, but he felt her move and
seconds later the soft touch of her lips on his.
He returned the kiss, but the taste of
iron brought with it a feeling of guilt. Her lip had been split when he struck
I’m so sorry,
It was necessary, or they’d have
seen through our deception.
He was considering how to apologize when
she pulled away. Studying her face clearly in the morning light, he noted that
today it was even more bruised and swollen. Kate’s eyes held a look of sadness
“Thank you, Tyrion, for the music.” The
words came from her lips, but the voice was Garlin’s.
He stared at her in horror, and a feeling
of immense dread swept over him. “No!” he shouted, wanting to deny what he
knew was coming. Her head vanished, exploding into a red mess of gore and
blood. He screamed again, searching the room with all his senses, trying to
find the source of her death, but he knew it had been him.
Tyrion thrust himself out of the bed, his
hand flailing to find his sword.
Kate sat in the corner holding her sister
while Tad was close beside her. All three of them were staring at him with
It was a dream.
Glancing down, he saw that he still wore
his leathers from the day before. His sword was still belted at his side, and
Kate’s crossbow lay on the floor. He had fallen asleep from sheer exhaustion,
and the others had been too fearful to approach him. The other pillows were
still on the bed.