A Cord of Two Strands–Part 6

This is part 6 in a 7 part series. If you’re new, you can start with Part 1 or you can go to an index of all seven parts.

From the end of Part 5:

Aleron stopped mid-stride and turned, “We escape.”

One Way or Another

“I am not ready.”

“You do not have a choice.  We leave tonight.”  Aleron took a deep breath and added, “There is one more thing you must do—you will have to free me from this spell.”

“I can not!  If you are unable to undo it, how shall I?”

“It is designed to keep me from using magic,” he replied shortly, tempering his impatience.  “I do not think they considered an outside force.  You are, in fact, the only one able to do it right now.  Think back to what I have told you about how spells are formed.  Believe what you will, you have an intuitive understanding that quite surprises me.”

Sonora felt odd, as if he had given her a compliment she couldn’t accept.  That she would have any kind of arcane prowess was absurd; a simple tailor’s daughter did not have any business understanding magic.  But she nodded and closed her eyes, waiting for instruction.

“Focus on what you sense around you.  Your sight will not help you this time; you can only use your mind.  Find the spell matrix; feel it out.  Push against it until you feel it weaken.”

“How will I know what to do?”

“You will know.  This is something you will have to find out for yourself.”  She felt lost, like a traveler without a map or a destination.  She tried to focus, but doubt got in her way several times.  “Let go,” Aleron instructed. “Concentrate!.”

Sonora let go.  She pushed her doubt aside.  Aleron had never mislead her; never caused her to fail.  He had been her constant coach and friend, despite his insistence that she put herself through paces again and again.  If he said she was ready, then she was.

It was all the certainty she needed.  She pried into the ebon crown, feeling for nuances and weaknesses.  She touched hesitantly at first, and then as her confidence increased, grew bold.  Sonora forced herself not to rush; the time for haste would come later.  Pulling here, pushing there, somehow she began to piece the spellwork together, amazed that she had a grasp on the big picture.  She felt as though it hid inside her mind, waiting to be found.

Then, suddenly; in a flash of understanding she could neither repeat nor explain, Sonora knew.  She knew how the spell was formed; she knew of its intricacies and its deficiencies.  Calming herself so not to lose focus at such a critical moment, she found the most pliable thread in the spell and tugged gently, afraid that if it unraveled too quickly it could trap her own mind or steal Aleron’s forever.  Slowly she pulled, shielding herself from its outflows.  Sonora felt it coming apart, the other faults giving under the strain.  Several tense moments later, it collapsed, sending a small, cold shockwave across her.

Sonora opened her eyes and gasped.  She had done it!

UK

Aleron’s eyes sparked with a glow she had not yet seen in him.  He immediately looked stronger and taller, and his face formed an almost ferocious expression.  He stood and took a deep breath; to Sonora it looked as if he had just come from a dark ocean into fresh air.  He no longer looked tired or feeble; in fact, he looked frightening.

“You have done well, Sonora.  You may not have come into your power the way most of us do, but I would say that you are a mage of equal standing with any of the students of the Kirin Tor,” his voice was gentle, but she could tell it was only for her.  She sensed that he felt frustration and bitterness bubbling within him; she hoped it did not overcome him.  “You are not done yet, young mage; we have a battle waiting to begin.”  And one in which I will relish the torment of each of these greedy warlocks, he added silently.
Sonora took a deep breath herself.  She was not sure she could handle this; she knew quite a few spells, to be sure.  But fighting her way out of this place would take quick thinking and a courage she felt far beyond her years.
“Are you ready?” he asked, looking back at her.  She stood, her heart pounding so loud it nearly deafened her.  Her head felt weak, as if her body was acting against her will.

“I am.”

Aleron’s eyes flashed, and he sent a barrage of swirling light sailing at the door before Sonora had steadied herself.  The bang as the door flew open sobered her, and her mind caught up with her body.  Things felt as though they were moving in slow motion, and the fear threatened to keep her from moving forward.  But there was Aleron, striding forward towards the surprised guards; she had no choice but to follow.

Before Sonora had reached the door, another flash passed from the elder mage’s fingers, and a sleepy orc stumbled back in surprise.  With another pass of his hand, a shocking glow originating within him passed outward, knocking both guards on their backs.  Aleron raised his hands again, but Sonora grabbed his wrist.

“We are not trying to obliterate them—we are trying to escape.”  Sonora was surprised when he narrowed his eyes at her, but he lowered his hands.
“These I will permit to live, but not to speak,” he replied coldly, casting a spell to silence them both for a while.  His young companion looked at him in stunned silence.  It is not her vendetta, he reminded himself; but I must see it through.

They climbed a narrow staircase, pausing to look into the room.  One warlock sat in the corner, snoring over a stack of scrolls.  The two mages entered the room and passed through it.  Aleron’s fingers itched to cast, but the slightest lift of his hand brought a chastising look from his younger counterpart.  She could have her way for now.

The next room was empty, and they passed through it without pausing.  Another staircase around the corner, and they came across a room full of beds, each with a figure above.  Aleron looked back at Sonora, and she nodded.  They would move slowly between the beds.  It shouldn’t be a problem to get to the other side of the room as long as all remained still.
They began their slow trek, taking note that the boards beneath their feet were kindly mute.  Four beds in, a dwarf rolled fitfully on their left, and they held their breath until he had calmed.  Continuing carefully, they made it to the last row.

Aleron anticipated the moment when the cloak and dagger approach would fail, and was not disappointed as footsteps sounded on the stairs ahead.  He felt Sonora freeze behind him, and his own blood run cold.

A goblin.  The sound was unmistakable, and it was followed by a familiar female voice—the hooded night elf that had lead the torturous events they had endured for weeks.   Anger welled up inside of Aleron, and he waited impatiently for them to descend.

The goblin, hopelessly lost in some complicated and greasy-sounding explanation, missed them altogether until the elf next to him gasped as a fireball whirled towards her head.  She ducked, but it was too late—it hit her with all the force intended by its creator, and she stumbled backwards for a moment before the searing pain of its three blindingly fast and successful followers burned her from within and the world went black forever.

UK fire

Sonora gasped; she had never seen anyone die like that before.  It was quick and terrible.  She looked at Aleron frightfully, but he was lost in the heat of the moment.

If she was shocked, it was nothing like the goblin’s surprise at having his customer blown away beside him, and he was decidedly louder about the disturbance.  “Intruders!  Attackers!  Help!” he shouted shrilly.

Bodies shot up out of their beds, their eyes foggy as they assessed the situation.  Panic set in as many screamed and ran.  But many more began to shoot dark spells of their own at the mages, and Aleron saw summoners beginning to channel.  The demons they could bring forth concerned even him, and he looked back at Sonora, already ducking a myriad of dangerous, swirling attacks.

“Run!” he yelled, grabbing her arm and pushing her in front of him.  “Go for the stairs!”  She complied, and he tried to follow, but the spells raining down on him caused him to change his mind.  He began to focus, throwing up a small shield to protect himself as he tried to channel his own attack quickly.  He hoped Sonora was already upstairs, because this spell would not differentiate between friend and foe.

Suddenly, it was as if he exploded.  Sonora, fighting through the panicked warlocks rushing to the scene, felt the reverberation through the floorboards and stopped.

Hot blue fire moved out from him in waves that knocked every person standing off of their feet.  A couple of weakened spellcasters died instantly; others were knocked out by the force of their head unexpectedly slamming into the ground.  He took a moment to appreciate the tormented screams of those whose flesh burned from his spell before turning and slowly fighting his way through the throngs of recovering warlocks.  Spells flew around him in wide arches, and he threw a few of his own into the chests of those who stood in his way.

Sonora, pausing to evaluate the explosion below, found herself being forcefully grabbed by a nearby assailant.  Thinking quickly, she hurled a ball of fire in his face, causing him to writhe in pain and slacken his grip just in time for Aleron to catch up to her.  “Go!” he shouted.

But they had waited too long.  A wall of warlocks poured in from every entrance.  Aleron’s spell had awakened what must be the entire building.
“We must find a way out!” Sonora yelled at him, ducking an oncoming attack.
“No!  I will stand here and die if that is what it takes!”  Spells began to come from every direction.  Sonora felt one graze her arm and grabbed the place where it burned; warm blood oozed through her fingertips, and she winced.
At the same time, Aleron felt an odd and familiar weakness passing through him. Turning, he found the source of his weakness: a fel hunter sinking its tethers into his shoulders.  He used a spell that released them for the moment, but he could sense more coming towards him.  He began to cast wildly in all directions, aiming somewhere in his mind to kill every one of these filthy magicians and their supernatural beasts.

Mid-cast, he suddenly felt jerked, as if pulled from the stomach.  He knew the feeling well; he was being teleported.  Sonora! He thought angrily as the world swirled around him.

Sonora's Port

He took a moment to look around, trying to temper his anger at the young draenei before speaking.  A small room, somewhere nearby.  This was not connected to the building they had left, Aleron could tell; but it was in the same area.  They were in a house, but whose he could not say.

“What were you thinking?” he whispered harshly to Sonora, who was still attempting to steady herself after that surprising decision.

“I could very well ask you the same question!” she replied in her own whispered irritation.  “Did you really think we could take on hundreds of warlocks ourselves?”

“Whether we could or not, we should have stayed and fought until the end.  I owe it—” he cut himself off.  Sonora chose not to press, and instead took a few quiet steps forward, looking around for herself.  Aleron reluctantly followed, still angry but not finding anyone he truly felt deserved his wrath.

Once in the hallway, Sonora peered in each of the rooms.  A smoldering fire smoked in a fireplace in front of an empty, luxurious-looking chair.  A room with a table—a table she recognized.  Sonora held back a gasp.

And then she heard a sharp inhale behind her, and saw Aleron looking into the bedroom in which Markus slept comfortably on a bed large enough to fit three of him.  Aleron moved silently towards Markus, his unsettling anger finding a release.  This man has taken my entire life away from me! he thought. How very easy it would be…

Aleron raised his hand, conjuring the spell that would at last avenge his daughter, but cold, hollow laughter interrupted his cast.  Markus turned to face them, quite at ease as he stood.

“For two of my toys, you have caused quite the ruckus,” he chuckled darkly. “Ah well, one should know to clean up their playthings when they are finished.  A mistake easily corrected.”

Aleron pushed Sonora through the door and followed.  The wood splintered behind them with the force of Markus’s spell.  “Go!” he shouted at Sonora, and she ran hard and fast, until she burst from the house into the moonless night, Aleron right behind her.

“I do like a chase,” Markus said, casually sauntering out to join them.  “But please believe me when I tell you this is a battle you cannot win.”

“The chase ends tonight, Markcus!” Aleron replied hotly.  Markus only laughed again, sending a dark bolt sailing in his direction.  The mage blocked the attack, but only just.

“You are willing to fight, but what about your little apprentice?  Have you taught her enough, Aleron?  Arcis was stronger than she, and still she was not strong enough to defeat me.”

“Do not touch her, Markus!  This is our battle alone.”

“Is it?  I was aware of no such restrictions,” he replied.  This time, the attack came whizzing towards Sonora, close enough to singe hairs.

“So, you like to play.  I enjoy a good game myself…shall we?”

Click here to go on to Part 7:  The Parting.

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