It burned within me, though it wasn’t as consuming as it had been in the past.
When she was by my side.
“You can’t kill- hell, you can’t even hurt someone with your a piece of computer paper.” But the words left my mouth much sooner than they should have. He wasn’t an ordinary assassin. He was a Dragonmancer of the House Blood Lotus. All he needed was a piece of paper.
His grin twisted into a gnarled root, and he shook the ground with a guttural laugh, black tentacles of energy snaked from his back, and he was enveloped in a sheath of shadow. His fingers worked quickly on the paper, folding and folding and folding, luminous flashes shooting from fingertip to fingertip. His eyes ignited in a blue flame and the dragon he had been folding leapt from his palms.
The movies have battle all wrong. There’s no clever tete a tete, there’s no reparte. There’s no exchange and dances, no evading by bounding off walls. There’s shouting, and desperation. No one wants to die anymore. Not since the old gods vanished.
I immediately crossed my arms in front of me and summoned my golem from the ground. He would have trouble dealing with a spirit totem, but they all had their weaknesses. I needed to know who I was after me. I needed to know where he kept his source.
My golem sprouted up, and I surrounded him in a flame shield. If the spirit dragon game from a piece of paper, it might be susceptible to fire. I called forth Magus, my altercelestial.
“Yes, Cothran.” His voice was like diamond wind through golden clouds.
“Magus,” I communicated telepathically. “Branch in through the Shadowveil. Find the sigil of the lotus pierced by a spear. I need to find the fire that burns from inside the flower.”
“Magus is here as your guide, Cothran. I shall return.”
My golem slammed his fists into the head of the dragon, and caught its tail on the turnaround. The dragon spewed a prismatic spray of something at us, but my golem cast a shield of energy from his forehead that spread out in all directions. The spray was ineffective, but the dragon’s speed was too much. It gripped my golem around the waist and hoisted him into the air.
My golem swung his ponderous fists, repeated slamming into the hand of the dragon, which seemed to be growing in size.
I glanced at the Dragonmancer’s deep shadows. His fingers worked the air in archaic circles. His eyes continued to glow. He needed to be in control of his dragon. It wasn’t like my golem. It had to have a master.
“Keep him busy, golem!” I shouted as I ran around him. My golem rapidly slammed the dragon’s fingers, finding purchase several times with its face and neck.
I readied my spell in my right hand, hoping that it wouldn’t drain my golem’s strength too much, and called Magus once again.
“Any good news, Magus?”
“Cothran, you will not find his center here.”
My brain scrambled. “What do you mean?”
“He is not, by all appearances, there.”
“He’s, what, a Mirror? Where’s his reflection?” I’ve dealt with mirrors only once before. It almost killed me the first time.
“On the Alterplane.”
I stopped. My spell fizzled. “The Alterplane?” I felt the burning once again. “With you?”
“Cothran. I must be leaving now. Good luck.”
The first push is the most painful. It cut into my sternum, ripped through the center of my chest, and exploded out my back. The second push expands the hole, and before the third push, I was on the ground, my heart broken, my lungs suffused with shadow magic, and my eyes unable to focus.
“There it is.” He whispered, his voice a sharp blade of glass. “It looks like you won’t be able to save her after all.”
I saw the Torrent pulsing in my chest. The assassin was standing over me, his hands ready to accept its power. “My master will thank you. It’s a shame you had put up such a fight. It would have been much easier to just hand it over.”