Eye of the Tempest
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But I didn’t let my fear stop me. Instead, I put a little magic into my run, pushing forward with my shields to clear the ground in front of me so I could move faster. I backed off on my magic only when I knew I was getting near the commotion. I could hear what sounded like pretty intense fighting from right up in front of me.
Hoping to sneak up on whatever was making all the racket, I shut down the mojo as I crept toward what had to be a glade. In the dim evening light, I could see stars twinkling from a space free of canopy… and a fuck ton of magic being thrown about like it was D-day here in Boofookey, Maine.
When I neared the clearing—hunkering down to stay behind a cover of undergrowth—I nearly gave myself away by swearing.
For standing directly in front of me—less than a yard away—was the unmistakable tree-trunk legs of a spriggan. And since I could clearly see the now rather melty face of Graeme, the rapist incubus, standing on my right-hand side of the glade, I knew that spriggan had to be my favorite shit-for-brains thug, Fugwat.
What the fuck are they doing here? And where is Nell? There was no way the gnome could be unaware of such explosive trespassing.
I got lower, so I could peer between the spriggan’s spraddled legs to see what he and Graeme were attacking. What I saw made my blood boil.
Pinned by enemy fire against an enormous boulder, his arms spread as if protecting something precious, stood Gus. His bald pate gleamed with sweat and his glasses hung off one ear as he bravely defended his rock.
Or are the rocks defending him? I wondered, as I watched various stones—some mere pebbles, some as large as my fist—unearth themselves from the ground and go winging toward Graeme and Fugwat.
I stood, quietly, ready to attack Fugwat from behind and make my way to Gus, when a series of shrieks pierced the air.
And where goeth Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, there followeth the damned air brigade, I thought as, sure enough, Kaya and Kaori (whichever was which) came streaking downward, harrying Gus away from his rock. My rescue plans were put on hold as I tried to figure out a way to save Gus from four baddies without getting both of us killed. I was also trying to figure out what, exactly, Phaedra’s lot was doing in the first place.
It’s like they want Gus’s boulder, I realized, even though I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out why anyone but Gus would want the stone spirit’s rock.
Then again, I can’t really understand why anyone would want Gus, either. I’m sure he was a very nice stone spirit and all, but man he was hard work.
Speaking of which, I thought, as the harpies’ attack on Gus intensified. The poor little guy was obviously struggling, and I was hiding in the bushes.
No fucking way, I thought, remembering that moment when Anyan was attacked and I just stood there. Not this time.
Inhaling deeply, I stood up right behind Fugwat, who’d moved forward a few feet toward Gus’s boulder. Conjuring the biggest, baddest mage ball I could muster, I held the swirling iron-gray orb in my hand as I used my outdoor voice.
“Fugwat! Duck!” I shouted, praying that my plan worked.
And it did. Fugwat dropped like he’d been shot, leaving Graeme’s flank totally undefended. I let fly my mage ball, which smashed through the incubus’s token side-shields and into the side of his head with a crunching noise that was music to my ears.
It’s not that Graeme was more of a threat than the spriggan, really. I just liked him even less.
By the time Fugwat had raised his rather empty head to see what had happened, I was across the clearing and running to Gus’s side. He’d seen me and was reaching out a plump hand when the lean, dun-colored shape of Kaya (or Kaori) came streaking down from the sky, landing a solid blow across the stone spirit’s forehead.
Blood gushed from Gus’s wound and I cried out, extending my hand and my shield toward him as I solidified the latter using a combination of power woven through the water saturating the air. The second harpy, Kaori (or Kaya), bounced off my impromptu shield with a thud before she could strike Gus.
Squawking painfully, she tumbled to the ground. While I wouldn’t normally kick a person when she was down, I was more than willing to kick any of Phaedra’s murderous lot. So I dropped my shields, funneling my force into another large mage ball. Instead of throwing this one, however, I bowled it at where the harpy lay, hooting piteously. Her sister snatched her up from the ground just a second before the mage ball could strike.
They spoil all my fun, I thought, as I finally gained Gus’s side.
The stone spirit was weaving on his feet, clearly wounded. As I had absolutely no healing skills (another huge gap in my education), there was nothing I could do but try to keep him from getting hurt any worse until Nell finally arrived.
And where the hell is that gnome? I thought, as I watched Kaya (or Kaori) land her sister Kaori (or Kaya) a few feet from where Graeme lay. I think the rapist incubus was smoldering, which pleased me to no end.
The mobile harpy sent a blast of healing energy at Graeme, even as Fugwat finally cottoned on to the fact that he’d been tricked and insinuated both his sizeable bulk and his even more formidable shields between me and his cronies.
Gus’s hand clutched at mine as he pulled me toward him to get my attention.
“Save her!” he pleaded with me. “They want her! I don’t know why, but they want her!” It took me a second to put two and two together, and then I realized that the “her” in question was Gus’s boulder.
I was about to tell him that I’d try when we both fell silent under an onslaught of incubus magic so dark, so violently sexual, and so terrifying that both Gus and I turned as one.
Graeme stood there, his waxen face even odder than before. The incubus had been gorgeous once: an Apollonian delight of perfectly symmetrical, golden male beauty. But such beauty had only barely masked the monster peering out of those sky-blue eyes. When Conleth—the ifrit halfling—had melted Graeme’s original face, the subsequent healings had left the incubus with a weird, waxen parody of his former glory. In other words, he now looked on the outside like the horror he was on the inside.
Graeme stepped forward, waving his cohorts behind him. The look in his eyes froze my blood; he wasn’t any more of a fan of me than I was of him.
“Jane, you stupid little cunt,” he articulated in a tone that was paradoxically friendly and light. “What on earth do you think you’re doing?” Graeme backed up his words with a wave of juju poured directly at me. It was so strong that I staggered, whimpering as visions of sex and pain crowded into my brain on a wave of magic.
Focus, Jane, I scolded myself, bracing myself both physically and with my power. Trying to keep my shields up and intact, I pulled Gus closer to me. I wasn’t sure if I was trying to protect him or to remind myself that I wasn’t alone with Graeme.
“You’re not meant to be here fighting like this,” Graeme’s voice floated toward me, and with those words came more images, more suggestions. I shook my head violently as my shields wavered.
What the hell is this? I thought, frantically. I’d never dealt with anything like what Graeme was doing. Physical assaults, sure. But mental? I didn’t even know that was possible.
“Jane’s not a fighter,” came that voice, again, the words searing into my mind. “Jane’s meant to be tied up… fucked… like the little slut she is.”
I’m not a slut! my brain insisted, that word jarring me enough that I managed not only to solidify my shields, but also to raise a mage ball that I lobbed at Graeme’s head.
And what’s wrong with being a slut, anyway? grumbled my libido, as Graeme’s shields absorbed the impact of my missile. But he did step back a few paces, giving me some breathing room.
“I think you mean some other Jane,” I yelled, hiding my growing fear behind bravado. “ ’Cause this Jane’s gonna kick your ass!”
Okay, it sounded a bit lame, even to me. And Graeme’s only response was a chuckle so evil it raised the hair on my arms another inch. I must have looked like a scared cat or a porcupine, at that point.
“Slut,” Graeme hissed. “Just a little slut, built for your pain, my pleasure.”
I growled, lobbing another couple of mage balls that I pulled out of the air with practiced ease. Anger was making me strong, but I needed to watch my power levels.
Unfortunately, Graeme was able to deflect my barrage and keep talking. Behind him, the spriggan had backpedalled toward the boulder, where he was doing something I couldn’t quite make out. It was a testament to how badly Gus was hurt that he didn’t even seem to notice his rock was being man-handled.
“Don’t act like I’m lying, little Jane,” Graeme said loudly, trying to refocus my attention on him. And succeeding at it. “I know it’s what you want, what you crave…”
Again, images assaulted my mind: bodies bent, chained, whipped, bruised, cut… blood and semen dripping across lacerated flesh and I moaned.
“That’s it, Jane… open your mind… drop the inhibitions that fetter you… let… me… in.”
And with those words, Graeme’s magic rolled across me so powerfully that I fell to my knees, my head feeling as if someone were forcing a chisel into my skull.