Saturday, August 28, 2021

Serial Saturday: "Clan of Outcasts" Season 3, Part 31 "Stone Angels"

Part 31
"Stone Angels"

Two Years Previously...

The flashes of blue energy arced among the rafters, pushing against the stones and swirling down around the two combatants.

The Master, Mage Korsan, tugged at the air with his fingers, and the energy responded, as a cat when it desires to be caressed. Curling and swerving, the beam of energy traced intriguing patterns in the shadows before coalescing into something hard and unstoppable.

The youth standing across from Korsan twirled his staff, unleashing a torrent of purple Darklight, which spread across the air in front of him like a shield, or a very thin veil. Fingers of blue reached through that veil, and the youth called up more energy, guiding it toward the blue protrusions with a steely glint in his violet eyes. In his periphery, a series of blue bolts hissed through the air, and he left off his concentration in putting up the wall just in time to raise his hand and block the bolts. At a gesture from his staff, the purple veil of energy shrank and collected into fingers of its own, which bent and twisted around Korsan's beams, sliding back toward the Mage with even more vigor than the old sorcerer could muster. Korsan raised his hand to banish the seeping purple energy, giving his protege the opening he needed to cast a spell at the Master's feet, encasing him in a glowing purple dome of energy, impenetrable by his own magic.

Surprise registered on Korsan's face, and then the old Mage laughed. "I concede! Well done, Risyn!"
The youth grinned and waved his hand, drawing all the Darklight energy back into himself, while Korsan did the same with the blue Brightness.

"All the same," Risyn responded, running his hands over the knots and burls of his staff, "I cannot attribute this victory to my own cleverness, as you've only been challenging me with attacks constructed to match the techniques you teach me."

Korsan raised his wispy silver eyebrows. "And who is to say those are not the same sort you will meet in your service as the King's Mage? The techniques and spells I teach to you are all the ones that I know. I have not met another Gifted Mage who knows anything different--just new combinations of the same basic components. Once you master those components, you will be able to defend and attack against anything." He stroked his thinning beard and sighed. "And master them, you have." He laid a hand on Risyn's shoulder. "You have come a long ways since you first arrived at this castle, desperate to learn how to control and use the magic that manifested as your Gift. Soon, you will take my place beside King Jaran's throne, as the King's Mage--the last line of defense in the whole kingdom."

Risyn's thin lips tightened, and his dark eyebrows gathered closer as he shook his head. "I don't want to take your place, Master Korsan," he said. "As I told you before, when we practiced mind-shielding, if you have nothing more to teach me, then I would rather go out and find my own place, in some other kingdom..."

Korsan watched the young man tracing sigils in the air with his dark hands, and erasing them before they were finished. "Hmm, yes," he acknowledged, taking his seat a bit slower than usual. "You did claim something like that, when we encountered that deep and painful memory that you successfully hid from all of my probes. But the fact is, young Risyn: I am not leaving because I am weak or weary. I am leaving because I must."

Risyn scoffed. "Why won't you tell me what it is that compels you to leave, then? Surely it's not going to be for very long--you will attend to whatever it is, and you will return soon enough. You can't leave a new novice like me in charge, just like that!" He turned his hopeful gaze to his master. "I am only fit for temporary work, an interim position, just until you return."

Korsan shook his head slowly. "I cannot return--not unless I wish to be the cause of death among these former Outcasts that have become my friends."

Risyn blinked, his own frustration forgotten in the face of this new revelation. "What? Whose death?"
Korsan shrugged his bony shoulders. "It is a glimpse of the future I've been having for a few days now. The portents make it clear: there is a threat coming that, once I get involved, will cause the death of one or more person. I have heard their screams, I have seen their blood--but I do not know who it is. You might not know King Jaran's circle of family and friends very well yet, but if I know anything about it, it is that a threat such as the one that is coming will no doubt compel them to get involved, and the only way I can ensure that no part of this vision will pertain to them is if I separate myself from The Realm."

Risyn sighed, his hands gripping the gnarled staff until his knuckles paled. "For how long?" he asked.

"Indefinitely," Korsan reminded him. "It is how it must be; I can see no other recourse for me. But if this prediction should find its way to you, I want you to be aware of something, so that you will know that what I am saying is true."

Risyn forced himself to meet his master's gaze. Korsan stood before him, so Risyn stood as well. "What is it?"

Korsan stroked his beard again. "The death will happen at the hands of an Angel made of stone. I know of no such sculpture in all of The Realm--but then again, the portents have also never been wrong, just unclear until the moment they are fulfilled." He fixed his gaze on his young protege. "Be wary if any such thing should appear. And if it does, then you will promise me to do everything in your power to defend the King and anyone with him."

Risyn took a deep breath. So many promises--how could he keep them all? "I will shield them with every ounce of my strength," he declared, letting a slip of Darklight magic seep out of his hand and wind around his staff, binding his will to his Gift.

Korsan nodded. "Then I leave the safety of the Realm in your hands, Mage Risyn Nysir."

Denahila ducked behind a crumbled wall and consulted her implanted sensors. It was a bit like being a Hunter all over again, tracking down Gifted miscreants through dense forests, the barren Wasteland, or the labyrinthine Harbor streets...

Except this one wasn't Gifted, but his skill set presented the same threat level she had been conditioned to believe her old quarry possessed.

A flurry of wings passed overhead, the alert triggered by the sound slicing through her skull like a knife. She cringed, drew a pistol from its holster at her hip, and fired--
The bird croaked once, and flopped into the rubble above her.

Keaton was nearby. Denahlia used a scan of her immediate surroundings to form another piece to the digital "map" of Gybralltyr she was assembling. Between the outstretched forefinger and thumb, a readout screen showed all the areas she'd scanned in thus far. Her strategy had been to divide the city into "zones" consisting of as far as she could see, scan the area, and then shift her position to somewhere on the edge of that scanned portion, to repeat the process over again. In this way, she built a map of Gybralltyr unlike any in existence, she was sure. She had the ability to zoom in or out on this map; to mark the various traps and dangers that still existed in the city; and, most importantly, to trace different paths for herself and for Markus which would give them access to all points of the city, both as a way in and a way out.

Speaking of Markus... Denahlia tapped her implanted comm. "How's progress?" she whispered to her cousin, who'd positioned himself on the opposite end of the city.
"Progress is slow," Markus grunted back under his breath. "I almost had him once or twice, but he keeps slipping away before I can tag him."

The most important variable in their plan was also its biggest flaw: they would need to "tag" Keaton by maintaining direct visual contact for at least fifteen seconds, and so far, Denahlia had spotted him once and Markus twice. He managed to stay out of sight, and what his intentions were, they still hadn't figured out--meanwhile, the blackbirds that wheeled and circled through the grey skies overhead seemed to function as his own personal drones, sending up a cry whenever they coasted over the cousin's positions, or even triggering some overhead traps in an attempt to drive the two of them away.

"Keep trying," Denahlia grunted, ducking out of the way as yet another bird swooped down to dive-bomb her head. "I've almost got this half of the city mapped out, and then we can start building a strategy."

The Hunter crossed to the other side of the street, where a cluster of homes had yet to fall completely--the rubble piled inside seemed to be supporting the walls against collapse. Her display between her hands told her that she was at the edge of the currently-scanned zone. Time to find a good vantage point and scan the next bit.

Denahlia passed by the cluster, to a clearing where a large building had toppled between two massive columns of rock--thick pedestal-like formations that seemed too intentionally separate to be all that remained of some larger structure. She could see a dwelling of some sort constructed atop one of the pillars. Perhaps if she could find a way up there, she could scan a bigger swath of the city--
Denahlia gasped as her sensors caught the slightest sensation of movement in the elevated structure. She snapped her fingers to activate the x-ray vision, and sure enough, through the crevices and cliffs obscuring her view, she could see a wiry shape crouched in the middle of the floor. The birds who swooped down to land on this structure, but not the other one, confirmed her suspicions.

"Caught ya," she whispered, using another setting in her wrist-implants to guide her in scaling the rock column. The implants directed her to hand-holds that gave her a secure grip, while also improving her muscles to support her own body-weight as she climbed.
Halfway to the top, Markus' voice bawled in her ear, "INCOMING!"

Denahlia barely had time to cringe before something sharp and heavy slammed into the back of her head. Her forehead connected with a corner of jagged stone as multiple crows screeched in her ear and scratched at her shoulders. Denahlia beat the birds back as well as she could, but she was too high to consider dropping back down again, and too precarious to actually be effective at driving the buzzards off. She forced herself to ignore the pain and the annoyance and the noise, and focus on getting up to that abode at the top.

An abode it very well could have been at one time, with a small ledge to stand upon, and a hut with four walls greeted her, untouched by whatever had decimated the city below. There didn't seem to be any sign of so much as a rope or ladder--why weren't there stairs leading up to a place like this, at the very least?

More importantly, there was no Keaton. Denahlia scowled and scanned with her infrared and x-ray implants. She found the miscreant at last--down on the ground and running off into territory she hadn't scanned and examined yet! Denahlia slammed her hand against the wall, feeling the brunt of her own humiliation.
"How did he get down there so fast?" She snarled to no one in particular.

She focused her eyes, pointing her finger at the escaping figure to enhance the accuracy.

Trace Established, declared the disembodied voice in her head. Commencing environmental renders.

Denahlia grinned. Why work harder when one could work smarter instead? The digital map she had access to grew incrementally, unfolding as Keaton made it deeper into the city. Now that she had a trace on him, she could see where he went at all times, and simply follow the path he took, as she could be relatively certain that he wasn't running through any traps himself.
With a flick of her finger, she sent Keaton's location to Markus' cybernetic implants.

"Nice work, cousin!" He replied. "I'm on the seaward side. Keep marking those traps, and I'll come toward you. We'll trap him between us in the middle of the city!"

Denahlia sighed as she made her way back down the column. "This would be a lot easier if we knew exactly where he was going, to head him off!" Denahlia focused on Keaton's trail, relying on her proximity sensors to alert her to any threats in her immediate vicinity. 
A vibration issued from her arm, shaking it in its socket, and Denahlia pulled up short. A chorus of bird calls warbled overhead, and she looked up just in time to see a blackbird cross in front of a hair trigger.

Denahlia swore and jumped out of the way as a large pendulum swung down, its parabola scraping past the place where she stood. A pair of crows fluttered and croaked among the rafters of the archways she passed through, and the various creaks and rumbles alerted her to activated traps, just before the flagstones fell away, or cris-crossed javelins sprang out of the walls. Denahlia clenched her fist to fire off some sonic blasts to drive the birds away as she doggedly followed after Keaton. She couldn't focus on both Keaton's progress through the heart of the city, while also being on her guard against any birds who managed to find the hidden triggers for the traps every time.

Denahlia felt her alarms trip again, and as she froze in place to scan the walls for any sign of triggers or birds, a heavy weight slammed her down to the ground.

Denahlia's first instinct was to roll over and blast away whatever pinned her down, but then she heard the sound of small objects pinging off a metal surface, and saw Markus standing over her, his mechanical arm raised to shield them from an onslaught of hidden darts.
The sound stopped, and he finally reached down with his flesh hand to help her to her feet.
"Saved your life," he quipped.

Denahlia picked up Keaton's position again, very near to a series of traps she had flagged before.
"Let's go!" she said, setting off down a clear path.

Keaton's blip suddenly veered toward an entire gauntlet of traps, and Denahlia frowned. Why would he spend this entire time avoiding traps, then running right into the midst of them?

The ground under their feet rumbled, and Denahlia staggered backward as a massive stone from the archway overhead slammed into the ground just a few feet in front of her. More stones fell, and not even Markus' armor-plated prosthetics would shield them.

Suddenly, something yanked her with the speed of those falling stones, and in the space of a gasp, Denahlia found herself watching the archway fall from a distance. Beside her, Markus cried out as Nyella came to a stop in front of them.
"Everybody safe?" she asked.

Denahlia blinked. "Nyella!" She yelled. "What are you doing here?"
"I have him cornered now!" called Aurelle, coming into view. "He's completely disoriented, and we can pursue him whenever your ready."

Markus raised his eyebrows and chuckled. "So you're the reason he changed directions?"
The Illusionist smiled. "I showed him what I wanted him to see, and he followed the path I laid for him."
Denahila frowned. "What about going back to the Roque and contacting the others?"

Nyella shrugged. "I still have a few vials left, and Keaton is a loose end. Besides, he's been ahead of you this whole time, but now we have the upper hand." She gave a saucy bow with a flourish of her invisibility cape. "You're welcome."

Aurelle was a little more apologetic. "I felt bad because it was sort of our fault--or mine--that allowed him to get away in the first place. Erlis really wanted to get out of dragon-form, so when she shifted, I shadow-traveled her back to the house and came back here with Nyella."

Denahlia didn't have time to respond before a sharp burst of feedback whined through her comm units. Markus cringed as he felt the same.
"Ugh, what is that?" he cried.

Denahlia fought through the pain as she consulted her tracker again. She swore. "Keaton beat the illusions! He's further into the city, and apparently he just started broadcasting a signal of some sort!" She clenched her fist and narrowed her eyes. "We need to find him and shut it down before whoever he's contacting arrives!"
Nyella reached into her bandolier and took out a vial. "Let's get him!"

Denahlia nodded at her. "Use your vials to protect you and keep him distracted. Aurelle, you come along with Markus and I as we use our tech to disable only the traps to carve ourselves a path into and out of the city. We'll use them as goads, forcing Keaton down the path that we choose, to the edge of the cliff outside the city." She looked around at the group. "Everybody understand their part of the plan?"
Three heads nodded, and the group split off in different directions.

Nyella wrapped herself in her invisibility cloak, sipping on the vial. Well she did, because as soon as she came within sight of Keaton, standing on a mound of rubble and aiming his arm toward the sky, a rapid-fire machine unfolded from a turret nearby and began peppering her with bullets. They glanced off her skin with the sensation of small hailstones.

Keaton stared hard in her direction, the glowing blade of the sword in his hand no longer illuminated. "Who's there?" he said. "Show yourself!"
Nyella didn't move.

The pirate came down from the pile, poked around a bit, and then said, "I know someone is there."

Nyella held her breath and hoped he wouldn't hear her heart pounding in her chest.
"Have it your way," Keaton said, and he drew his pistol to shoot through a high, small window in a building beside them.

With a hissing noise, a plume of noxious smoke billowed out of the window, and Nyella soon found her eyes watering and her lungs seizing as the green haze covered everything. Keaton disappeared, and she felt her knees wobble. Her hands shook as she fumbled for another vial. She could barely coax her throat to swallow it--but as soon as she did, the breath-filtering Gift took effect, and all of her symptoms disappeared. Nyella could see clearly now, and breathe easily. She escaped the poisonous fog and listened carefully for any sign of Keaton.

One sense-enhancing tincture (courtesy of Velora's wolfish Gift) later, Nyella located Keaton as he seemed to be looping back toward the middle of town--and toward the others. Thinking quickly, she downed another tincture that allowed her to teleport, and sent herself to stand right in front of him.

Keaton wheeled back in surprise as the girl appeared in his path. He wheeled backward and dashed off to the side--and there she was again!
"How are you doing this?" He lunged at her, but in a mere instant, she stood behind him, pulling his feet out from under him as he over-balanced.
Keaton scowled and drew his sword. The kid with all the vials! She was trying to stop him, in the most aggravating way possible. "Get out of my way!" he snarled, swinging his blade.

The girl brought her hand to her face as if drinking something, and suddenly Keaton was completely surrounded by copies of the girl! He slashed at the nearest one, but that girl vanished like a cloud of fog. Illusions all around him! Keaton lunged madly, missing the girl every time, but that didn't stop him from attacking.

Then the girl disappeared completely, and Keaton sheathed his sword and darted for cover between two buildings...

And found himself surrounded by a ring of flame. She'd switched on him! Keaton kicked the loose mud around his feet until he had enough to douse part of the flame, but as he did so, the ground softened under his feet, burying him up to his knees. He flailed as the flames went out, pulling and jerking as the ground hardened again, sealing him in. The wooden slats of the buildings on either side split and shifted, turning into sinewy roots that wrapped around him, binding Keaton's arms tightly.

Nyella stepped out into the open with her hand outstretched, now that he was all bound tightly. Denahlia, Markus, and Aurelle came out to join her. Try as he might, Keaton couldn't move.
"Tell us who your contact is!" Denahlia ordered.
Keaton stopped writhing and stared up at the sky. A smile crept over his face.

Markus looked up at the sound of many croaks and squawks. A swirling vortex of black crows amassed overhead, and within minutes, the entire murder dived down toward the gathered defenders.

Markus threw up his arms to deflect them, but the birds scratched and pecked at the exposed wires and hoses of his arms. Denahlia tried to use her implants to push them aside, but there were too many, and they scratched her arms as well, raking their talons through her skin and exposing her implanted circuitry.

In the midst of this storm of beaks and talons and incessant screaming, a giant crow--the size of a horse, it seemed--landed beside them, and as the crows dispersed, the crow transformed into a towering giant clad in black leather, chain mail, and cloaked in dark wool lined with feathers. His jet-black hair hung down to his shoulders, framing a pale, sculpted face.

Denahlia and Markus could hardly move, with the damage done to their cybernetic parts, and Aurelle wondered who this strange man might be, since he seemed to have a similar ability to Mallory.
Only Nyella recongized him at once, and gasped, "Trev!"

The man stared straight at her, his face lined with hard edges and a keen glint in his eye. He seemed much more regal and imposing than the meek, silent man they'd only just met, in Aurelle's estimation.
"My name is Trevon--I do not know you," he rumbled softly.

Aurelle and Nyella gasped. It was the same voice that had spoken in their thoughts, but colder now, and coming from his mouth. He could speak!
"Don't you recognize us?" asked Aurelle. "We found you when you were hiding under the White Castle--you've changed since we saw you last!"

The man called Trevon shook his head. "Foolish mortal! I have not changed. I have become. Now, release this agent, and depart from this city. I must prepare the way for my sister to claim her throne!"
"Sister?" Nyella gasped.

Denahlia and Markus stood, and braced themselves. Denahlia held her twin pistols, while Markus managed to engage the rifle built into his prosthetic hand.
"You're not going anywhere, intruder!" Denahlia growled.

Trevon's dark eyes narrowed. "You think that apprehending me is going to stop what is coming?" He laughed, as the throng of crows settled on walls and trees all above them. "You are fools! Soon we will set up our new kingdom in this place, and we will become a force more mighty than any other kingdom in the world!"

Markus rolled his eyes and retorted, "Big words coming from a man whose only party trick is he can turn into a bird! Who's going to set up this kingdom of yours? What army do you think you have?"

Trevon's self-assured smile didn't waver. "This one!" He responded, and gestured with his long arms and broad hands.
The surrounding rubble erupted with the glowing blue ghosts of every soldier who lost their life in the destruction of Gybralltyr. Gaunt, armored specters rose from the ground, and at Trevon's command, they surged forward toward the small group.

Nyella gripped Aurelle's hand. "I thought he wasn't Gifted!" she gasped.
Aurelle stood firm. "These are just illusions! They can't hurt us!"

Denahlia eyed the feet trampling on the ground, kicking stones out of the way as they thundered through the streets. "I have a feeling those aren't what you think--"

Before she'd finished speaking, a soldier in the first wave reached Nyella. It swung the club in its hand, and the young girl crumpled with a cry of pain.
Markus instinctively raised his damaged metal arm to stop a sword swinging for his head--and felt the resistance as the two metal surfaces connected.
"I don't understand!" Aurelle cried. "My illusions never took physical form!"
"Obviously he's different!" Denahlia roared in reply. "Now EVERYBODY RUN!"

The four friends commenced a mad scramble to stay abreast of the conjured army, dodging over heaps of rubble and between narrow gaps in the unsteady terrain. Denahlia struggled to pull up an adequate map in her hands, as the damage rendered her implants inoperative.

Their mad dash ended abruptly against a large wall, much too high to climb, with heaps of stones on either side. Nyella saw Aurelle's hand close around the glowing blue stone around her neck, even as Markus did his best to shield Nyella from the oncoming horde with his body.

A thundering roar split the air overhead, and a massive dark shape landed between them and the ghost army. Erlis the dragon had returned to save them! She blasted the army with fire from her breath, and the blue specters dissolved in the yellow inferno.

Nyella felt her knees give way, and she crumpled to the ground, as Markus also slumped against the wall. Aurelle approached Erlis and held out the blue stone--the talisman-stone that Erlis also carried, and told her, "Thank you for coming--now we need a healer's help!"

Erlis bent her head and her eyes reflected the blue of the talisman-stone. The dragon's enormous body gave a shudder, and crumpled in on itself until only Erlis the woman remained.

"This is a dangerous new enemy you face," she murmured, looking at the damages suffered by the small group. Erlis knelt beside Nyella and ran her Gifted hands over her head and shoulders, where the most serious injuries had taken place.

While Erlis tended to the physical wounds, Denahlia and Markus conferred, checking in on each other's damaged mechanical parts.

"What's the worst damaged?" Denahlia asked her cousin.
He snorted. "I can still move, at least--but you're better off asking what still isn't damaged. I'll be fine until we can get out of here. How about you, are your implants okay?"

Denahlia examined her wrists. The skin around the implants had already swollen, creating a painful, highly sensitized cushion of sorts around the exposed circuits, but everything still functioned, for the most part.

"Ungh!" Erlis grunted, as she suddenly recoiled from repairing a gash on Nyella's leg. Her eyes bulged, and her body quivered.

Aurelle reached out to her. "What is it? Are you all right?"

Erlis gulped a few times before she could manage to speak. "It's... I feel I'm--URRRGH!" She cried out again, and writhed away from her friends. "Get back! I'm--" She stopped speaking, but Aurelle clasped the talisman-stone with a listening expression.

"She's changing into a dragon," she relayed to the others. "But she's not the one doing it! Erlis, someone is trying to control you! Fight it!"
Erlis thrashed and wailed, her voice growing deeper and louder as dragon scales burst from her skin. She rolled away from them, down into a shallow pit that momentarily concealed her from their view--and when she emerged again, she was a dragon. Erlis bellowed and a jet of flame blasted from her mouth.

"Erlis! Stay with us!" Aurelle called, gripping the talisman-stone between her fingers. "She's shifted too many times today already--she'll tear herself apart going back and forth!" She watched her friend with growing fear on her face. "She says that whoever initiated her shifting has bound her impulses. She cannot shift back, and she's feeling compelled to the will of another!"

"The dragon is mine now!" Trevon's deep voice announced, as the black-garbed man arrived at the top of the hill.

Denahlia grabbed Aurelle's hand and pulled her back to where Markus was just supporting Nyella up to her feet. "Go, Aurelle, and take Nyella with you. There's nothing we can do for Erlis right now, but we need to survive. Go!"

Aurelle wrapped her arms around the young girl and disappeared in a whirl of shadows.
Trevon reached the top of the hill. He slowly scanned the area. "Only the two of you?" he mused. "But you have nothing of use to me." He waved his hand, and Denahlia and Markus felt the ground shift under their feet, sending them tumbling across the mounds of rubble and down to smack against the ruins of some ancient marketplace.

Across the island, Aurelle and Nyella emerged from the shadows just in front of the entrance to The Roque. Tessa and Brinley ran out to greet them, astonished by their wounds and wondering what had become of the others. Aurelle didn't stick around for long, only saying that she needed to go back "for the others" before she dove back into invisibility once more.

Nyella explained everything as Seline met them at the door. When she reached the part about the arrival of Trev, who was now someone called Trevon, Seline bounded into the air.

"That heartless wretch!" She seethed. "Mallory has twisted his mind for her own purposes, and her perverted experiments on us as Abnormals has given her an abominated version of our own abilities--that must be what she's given him to mimic the Gifts, using them for harm instead of good."

"Trevon..." Tessa mused with a furrowed brow. "The way you describe him sounds like he could be the last natural-born Gybralltan; they were a race of giants, if I recall. Oh, how horrible! You mean that Mallory always intended to use him as her weapon as she, what, sets up a kingdom for herself in the ruins of Gybralltyr?"

Seline swept her wings wide and lifted into the air. "Not if I have anything to say about it!" She took off for the ruined city, full of righteous ire.

By the time Seline arrived, spiraling down toward the large black figure, Trevon had already covered half the distance between the former temple at the center of Gybralltyr, and the tall cliff that once housed the ancient Gate.

She did not slow as she dropped toward him, folding her wings close and drawing her sword. Seline had to pull up suddenly and catch her balance as Trevon's body melted into a shadowy mire without form or substance. She recovered herself and brandished her sword at him.

"Just try me!" snarled the Angel. "Your Gifts cannot touch me! You have no power here!"

Trevon waved his hands, conjuring up a black sword and shield for himself. "I have more power than you think!" he responded, parrying her blows.

They dueled against one another, trading blows that glanced off of each other's frame, as if from some invisible armor. Although Seline had the advantage of an Abnormals natural immunity to Gifts, Trevon didn't seem to use any Gifts to fight against her, instead relying on trickery, conjured weapons, and, at the last, a glancing blow against the trigger for a buried net that sprang up around Seline, snaring her. She cut off most of the mesh, but the part that wrapped around her legs was made of a dangerous substance called pitchrope--dark and sticky as tar, it would only trap her further, the more she struggled. Trevon held tightly to her wing, braced to break it if she did anything to displease him.

"Now, Angel," he rumbled, "I will free you on one condition: first you will tell Tessa to summon him to The Roque."

Seline dared not wriggle too much--his large hands could snap the delicate tendons of her wings easily. "How do you expect me to do that?" she grunted through clenched teeth.
Trevon smiled, even running his long fingers through the feathers of her wing. "Telepathy is no large feat for an Angel. Tell her!"
Seline swallowed hard, but she relayed his message.

Over in the Roque, Tessa stood from the sofa where she had been fidgeting anxiously with enough suddenness to cause Bronn to grunt in alarm.
Seline appeared in front of her, there but not really there, a mental projection who spoke with telepathy.
"Trevon has overpowered me," she said. "He bids me to ask you, Tessa, to summon the one you know back to The Roque."

Tessa gasped, clasping her hands. "Polaris? But I don't have the--I mean, I don't know how to do that! He isn't anywhere near here! I can't--"

Seline's image twisted and vanished, replaced by the projection of a towering man even taller than Bronn, dressed in regal black robes.

"You can, sweet Tessa," he rumbled in the deepest voice Tessa had ever heard, "and you will, or I can and will make you suffer." As he finished speaking, the projection reached out. 

Tessa felt the force of his large hand striking her in the chest, and she reeled backward across the floor, where she crumpled into a terrified heap.

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