Chapter 16: The Chillcrafter
The guard moved closer to the Torchkeeper; he looked as if he might begin to cry.
She gave the blade a sharp little snap, like she was trying to rid it of water. Little sparkles of blue lightning flicked away and scattered on the floor.
“Traitor?” she said. “Who among us has resisted Luminary authority?”
“You don’t have the authority for this,” Viktor gestured to the bodies.
“Quite incorrect, dear Torchkeeper. Maybe if you spent more time learning about the wider world around you instead of tending to tree gardens, you’d understand.” She stepped towards them and pointed her new weapon. “Now submit, or join your colleagues.”
“Viktor,” said the guard. He now looked transfixed, as he grabbed the Torchkeeper’s wrist. They looked at one another and June realized what he was about to do. She pushed a sharp blast of Distanska at them, and they flew apart. She knew she was too late though, because all four of their swords went trailing after Vik. Xe stuck his landing, managing to keep afoot. The blades arranged themselves in a fan around xim.
The other guard simply crumpled and flopped, skidding into the fall wall, all his life’s energy now swirling in Viktor Velessi.
Xe looked up, xis eyes and crystals pulsing red. She could feel the redoubled strand of aspectral energy winding away from xim and into the system. June could try to cut it off, but that would mean unraveling one of the probes: too risky. The horn could sound at any moment now.
Each of Vik’s blades began to rotate, spinning faster and faster until they were nothing but whirring discs. She felt xis Bodyanchor cycling up, creating a wedge-shaped shield between xim and her. She tugged more power from the probes. They let her, but protested more seriously now.
Defensive strategy it was. Still holding the glowing blade, Junelight backed into the dais, intending for the circle of columns and the stone itself to serve as obstacles. The fuzzy glare from the centre painted the whole world a deep pomegranate.
Vik stalked forward, the blades following like killer ducklings. She moved, trying to keep the stone between them, figuring xe wouldn’t risk sending anything dangerous past it.
A fireball came circling from the side, lazy and probing. A decoy. She let the fake fire rain down over her, her Bodyanchor splitting it into bits as it tried to dive bomb her head. There was a bigger pulse of energy and some ten projectiles came orbiting around, fast, fiery and all from different angles. She hopped out of the dais, letting most of them splatter and crash into the spot where she stood a moment ago. She zapped little cooling bolts into those that managed to follow her, and they popped like bubbles.
The stone came with built in Artwork that held most of the system’s light in. Now, she rerouted these cycles into her own probes, repairing them every so slightly while simultaneously causing the stone to radiate with brilliant force, hopefully blinding Vik. She positioned herself in one of the spoked shadows from the columns, waiting for more fireballs, or perhaps a pair of the blades.
“You’re not a fighter, Viktor! This is pointless!” she called out.
Xe did send the blades—two came whizzing from the outer edges of the cylindrical room, trying to get behind her, she supposed. With the tip of her sword, she fired a bolt into each, sending them careening into the walls. One blade stuck right in, and the other shattered.
Viktor emerged from the dais, peeling from around the column she faced. Xis remaining blades joined him at xis sides. She sensed that xe was going to put it all into one last charge. Good, if so. This was getting bothersome.
Then it came—a low and sonorous wail from the south. Gaa-ruuuHRM! Two other notes joined the tone, carrying it on as the first began to fade out. June smiled and felt for the probe that was wrapped into the outgoing energy. Right now, it was busy sending everyone’s shards into the useless communication loop. She pulled that now, feeling it collapse into the main trunk, smooth like a seamstress’ thread. When it was as tight as it could get, she squeezed it, as hard as she dared.
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