Vibrations: Harmonic Magic Book 1, page 36
Except that then he saw the Gray Man, still sitting with his fingers steepled, unmoved from when the battle started. Dr. Walt’s eyes had closed, though Sam knew it was probably just from exhaustion and not death. On either side of him, Shordan Drees and the woman were still standing. Looking to the Gray Man, they both appeared to be waiting for something.
“Shordan, Ix,” he said. That and a small small nod was all it took for the two to spring into action, Drees going toward Rindu and Ix teleporting to an area right next to Nalia, attacking as soon as she was substantial. Rindu said something softly Sam didn’t quite catch. He took it as a cue and ran toward the Gray Man, sticks ready to end his life.
He had only taken two steps when he felt like he hit a concrete wall. Bouncing back painfully, he shook his head to clear the ringing sound and looked toward the Gray Man. The man had still had not moved. Trying to move toward the villain again, he found he couldn’t get past the barrier there. It was an invisible, solid wall of force.
Sam softened his gaze and saw the wall in front of him glowing faintly. Whereas he thought that it was surrounding the Gray Man to protect him, he realized that instead it was surrounding Sam, keeping him from moving too far, keeping him from interfering. The Gray Man looked at him with those red-rimmed eyes and nodded his head toward the fighting pairs as if to tell him to settle down and enjoy the show. Sam wasn’t sure he had a choice.
As Shordan Drees attacked, Rindu said quietly, but loudly enough for the others in the room to hear, “If no one cleans the stalls, the manure will pile up.” He saw Sam’s eyebrows lift before the boy shook his head and ran at the Gray Man.
Rindu circled Shordan Drees. He was so tired, he was not sure he could defeat this man right now. But, that was life. It tested you in ways that you would never have thought it would test you. That was half of the battle in life, predicting what you would need and then training to be prepared for it. He had done his best and would continue to do so, but his body felt sapped of all energy. The small wounds all over his body from the battles he had fought in the last few hours felt as if they were letting his very life force seep through them and out onto the floor.
The giant rushed forward and tried to crush Rindu with that huge mace of his. He barely avoided the blow in time. He still could not see how someone that large could move that quickly. Flicking his sword in and out several times, trying to tempt the opponent into committing himself to a blow, Rindu wondered what it would take to win this battle.
He shifted his vision quickly to Nalia in her battle with the assassin woman. She was tired, too, he could tell. They would both need to defeat their enemies quickly so they could help Sam. He saw the wall of force surrounding Sam and knew that the young man would need him. To do that, he would need to get through this man-mountain first.
Slapping the mace with his sword as the big man swung it toward him, Rindu slipped on some of the viscera and blood on the floor. He turned his momentum into a roll and recovered, but not before he saw the look in the big man’s eyes. It was a hungry look, an excited look. Drees thought he had slipped because he was fatigued. He thought he could close in, that Rindu would be easy prey. The beginnings of a plan were forming in the Zouy’s mind and maybe, just maybe, it would be enough.
Nalia narrowly escaped the two dagger strikes the assassin aimed at her while appearing from thin air right next to her. It was not bad enough that she was tired from the constant battles and the minor injuries she sustained during those battles, but the woman could teleport. If she was caught unaware just once, the woman would slice her throat with those oversized and strangely shaped daggers of hers.
Blocking a dagger with one of her shrapezi, she threw the other out to hook the assassin’s arm but was unable to snag her. That was not the actual intent of her strike, though. When the woman pulled her arm back out of the way, she put it into the correct position to meet Nalia’s foot swinging in an arc from outside her opponent’s circle of vision. The inside of Nalia’s foot connected to Ix’s forearm with an audible snap and the dagger went flying. Ducking the other dagger strike, Nalia danced to the side, hoping to end this confrontation quickly.
She was not sure if she had broken the woman’s arm or not, but removing one of her weapons was a step in the right direction. As she struck toward her opponent’s head, the assassin suddenly was not there any longer. She centered herself to sense an attack and thrust both shrapezi up behind her in a cross block just in time to stop the assassin’s blade as it was traveling toward her neck. She was not able to evade the kick that slammed into her back and threw her forward, though. Stumbling a step, she turned to face the assassin again and found that the woman was gone.
Sam could not keep his eyes from widening and his heart from pounding as he watched the others fight. Rindu was so tired he was stumbling and Nalia was fighting a woman who was there one second and gone the next, teleporting and hopping around, trying to surprise her just once so she could kill the Sapsyr. He banged on the wall of force surrounding him with his weapons, tried to push through, tried using rohw strikes on it, all to no avail.
Thinking of the lessons that Rindu had taught him, he stopped moving and breathed deeply. The way of the rohw was the way of harmony, not of chaos or anger. He sat on the floor cross-legged, sticks resting in his lap. He breathed rhythmically for several breaths, calming himself.
Glancing at the Gray Man, he saw that the fiend was looking at him quizzically, obviously wondering what he was trying to do. Sam smirked inwardly but showed no emotion outwardly. Perhaps his opponent was not all-powerful after all. He almost seemed like he was nervous about what Sam was trying to do. Was that possible?
With renewed determination, Sam sank down into himself, reaching the khulim almost instantly. Harnessing his rohw, he closed his eyes and inspected his prison with his inner sight. He saw no flaws in it, no way of defeating it, but that was the wrong line of thinking. He looked more closely at it, trying to figure out how it was made.
He was astonished at its complexity. It was, in fact, not a single wall, but many layers, many walls that together made the whole. Each layer had a different vibrational frequency so that it was immune to a single vibrational energy attack. The sheer amount of power and skill to make something like this dumbfounded Sam.
He probed the wall with little jolts of force and was able to penetrate one layer, but one layer only. As one layer was bypassed, the other layers suddenly shifted frequencies, defeating even an attack that changed frequencies itself. Sam decided that he could break a pin hole through such a wall, given days to analyze every shift, assuming the frequency shift was not random. But he didn’t have days. He didn’t even have hours. God knew, he probably didn’t have minutes.
With nothing left to do but try, he gathered as much rohw as he could, channeled it through one of the porzul wood sticks and struck at the wall as hard as he could.
Rindu was balancing on a knife’s edge. He needed to convince his opponent that he was faltering, but he needed to do so without making the fatal mistake of leaving himself too open to attack. So far, he had managed to stay alive, but it was getting harder.
The mace came at him again, a downward diagonal strike meant to crush his shoulder or his arm. Rindu side-stepped toward the giant allowing the weapon to miss him by a fraction of an inch. As it passed, the Zouy twisted his blade and sliced at the tendons in the man’s wrist, at the vulnerable spot just above where the wristbands were buckled. The strike was too shallow. Though blood immediately sprung from the wound, he did not sever the tendons to prevent the man from holding his weapon.
Rindu kicked at the man’s knee to distract him and danced back out of range as the soldier shifted back to a balanced fighting stance. The huge man had a smile on his face and a gleam in his eye, knowing that he had Rindu running and one mistake was all he needed to kill the mage.
Then, not wanting to wait
Stumbling again and feigning weakness that seemed all too close to being real, he dropped his sword arm and let it hang loosely by his side, giving the impression that he could not defend himself. He moved backward hurriedly and hoped Drees would think he was trying to escape.
The ploy worked and the man-mountain moved in, expecting to make the killing blow. As a straight sword thrust came towards his chest and a vicious overhead blow of the mace came down to crush his skull, Rindu suddenly flicked his sword up to deflect the other man’s sword strike, causing it to go slightly wide to pierce his chest, glancing off a rib and punching out his back. At the same time he actually stepped toward the man, causing the giant’s eyes to widen in confusion and shock.
Being too close to his opponent for the mace to strike effectively, Rindu struck upward with his open hand, channeling rohw through his strike, shattering the shaft of the mace near Shordan’s hand as it came down. Then, with lightning speed, before Shordan Drees could react, the Zouy mage struck downward with his open palm on the front of the other man’s forehead, pouring all his energy into that one strike. For the briefest moment of time, Shordan Drees looked into Rindu’s eyes, confused about what was happening, and then the man’s skull exploded, spattering Rindu with blood and brain matter. The giant soldier’s lifeless body slumped to the ground, followed immediately by Rindu as he fell downward as well.
Nalia saw her father fall out of the corner of her eye. In that moment, she felt a heat flow through her she had not felt since the Gray Man killed her mother. She would not allow this to go unpunished. Because the closest person to her was the assassin Ix, the assassin would be the one to suffer. Within her, a calmness developed, spreading throughout her body and infusing her with energy. Instantly, the solution to this battle came to her, and she went into action.
Before Ix appeared again, Nalia went within herself. She became one with the battle, even more so than before. She became one with her surroundings. More importantly, she became one with her opponent. Just as the assassin was about to appear, Nalia could sense where she would be. Turning quickly, she struck out, apparently at thin air. As Ix appeared, she became substantial just in time to be struck in the face with an open-palm strike. Her nose broke and blood spattered all over her face and Nalia’s hand. Before she could strike with her swords, however, the assassin teleported away again.
The next two times the woman teleported, she was more careful, appearing not right next to Nalia but far enough away to prevent a recurrence of the previous strike. Finally realizing that she would not be able to surprise her as before, the assassin settled for physical battle.
With one of Ix’s arms injured but still serviceable, Nalia thought she would have an easy time fighting the woman. It was not so. Even without teleporting, the woman was proficient in combat, using combinations of feet, legs, fists, arms, elbows, even her head. She threw combinations of attacks, including knife attacks that Nalia was hard pressed to avoid in her tired and wounded state.
When a particularly clever knife attack left a shallow slash on her midsection, Nalia decided it was time to end the conflict. Trying to bait the assassin into overreaching, and failing, she attacked in bursts, trying to force the other woman to make a mistake from fatigue. She could see in Ix’s eyes that she knew what Nalia was doing, and there was fear in those eyes that it would work. Making one last ditch effort, the assassin threw her remaining dagger at the Sapsyr and prepared to teleport.
Nalia deflected the dagger with her shrapezi and, before Ix disappeared, probably for good, Nalia grabbed the assassin’s wrist, applied a wrist lock, and held on tight. A fraction of a second later, both of them disappeared from the room.
Sam scanned the room quickly, eyes darting to every corner. His breathing, coming in quick, panting gasps, caused flecks or light to dance in front of him. He watched as Rindu killed Shordan Drees and then collapsed. It looked as if the big man’s sword had gone all the way through him and he appeared to be dead. Sam couldn’t get to him to know for sure. No matter how he tried, he couldn’t get out of the prison he was in.
What may have been even worse was that while he was watching Nalia fight with Ix, appearing to be winning, they both abruptly disappeared from the room. He guessed it was the assassin’s trick of teleporting, but somehow Nalia was dragged along.
Now, with both of his protectors dead or incapacitated, there was only him alone with the Gray Man. He tried to slow his breathing, tried to calm himself, and looked to the villain only to see amusement reflected on his face. “Now, that was interesting. I wonder if either of them will come back.”
Turning his glowing gaze on Sam, the amusement drained from his face. His dark features painted on that ash-gray face of his showed no emotion, but Sam understood the danger written there. “Enough games. You have been an irritation to me since you arrived in this world. You have been working toward this confrontation, not knowing how truly dangerous it is for you. Why? What are you looking for, boy? Tell me before you die.”
Sam fought the fear welling up inside him. He supposed it didn’t matter. They had severely underestimated the Gray Man’s power and the ease at which he could manipulate them. Without Rindu and Nalia, he didn’t suppose it mattered. His life was already over in all the ways that were important.
“I just want to go home,” he finally said, deflated.
“What?” The Gray Man actually seemed to be confused. “What are you talking about?”
“I just want to go home. I can’t get back to my world. That’s it. You are the only one who has the knowledge to help me.”
The Gray Man was silent for a moment, looking deep into Sam’s eyes as if to judge whether or not he was telling the truth. Then, incongruously, he began to laugh. The soft laugh built into a hearty belly laugh before the man tapered off. Wiping a tear from his eye, he shook his head. “I expected something noble, something dangerous, something…substantial. Instead, I get a pathetic plea from a whining child. ‘I want my mommy!’ Ha. Such a small thing to die for. Such a small thing.
“Well. Sam, is it? Well, Sam, just so you can die fulfilled, I will tell you that getting home is easier than you would ever believe, and harder. The concept is easy, but the application…ah, that is where things become difficult. It’s ironic that in a way, I was searching for the same thing, thus our friend here.” He gestured to Dr. Walt, who was twitching and softly groaning, apparently having a nightmare. As if any nightmare could compare to this reality.
“In any case, your time is at an end and I have things to do. So, goodbye Sam. I hope your last thought finds that all your effort was worthwhile.”
Nalia found herself in a small stone room, still holding onto the assassin. From the look of the stone, she thought that maybe she was still in the fortress, but in a different location. The sparsely furnished chamber had no conventional decorations, but instead had weapons scattered about or mounted on the walls. A simple bed, table, and chair were the only other things in the room. This must be the assassin’s personal room.
Looking to the woman’s face, she found surprise painted there. “We can do this the hard way or the easy way,” Nalia said to her. “Would you like to die easy or hard?”
The assassin tried to break the wristlock Nalia still held her in, but was unable. She tried to sweep Nalia’s foot, but could not do so while being in such an awkward positio
“Where are we? Still in the fortress?”
The assassin didn’t answer. Nalia ratcheted up the pressure on the wrist lock, causing Ix to groan in pain.
“Are. We. Still. In. The. Fortress? One more chance.”
“Yes,” the assassin moaned. “Yes, still in the fortress.”
“Better. Now, I am tired from killing all your friends...”
“They are not my friends.”
“Fine. I am tired from killing all the soldiers. It means little to kill one more, but I find I am feeling generous. Tell me exactly how to get back to the chamber we were in and I will let you teleport away. If you try anything, or if you teleport back, I will kill you.”
The assassin looked at her for a moment and then nodded.
“I will tell you how to get back to the chamber and then I will go away and not return.”
Nalia looked her over and tightened her wrist lock, causing the assassin to groan and bend further toward the ground. “Now tell me.”
After Ix explained how to get to the chamber, Nalia released her slowly and brought her swords up.
The assassin glared at her. “It was time I was moving on anyway. There is employment to be had elsewhere.” She slowly opened a wooden box on her table, withdrew some small figurines, and then disappeared.
Nalia threw open the door and ran as fast as she could back toward the large chamber, hoping that the assassin had told her the truth.
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