Miracle & Mystery XVII
Author’s Note: As both the year and the book Miracle & Mystery come to an end, I must again notify you that I’ll be going on a hiatus. This time not for a rewrite but for finally writing my Bachelor’s thesis.
Miracle & Mystery is already completely written and will be published, as will another short story set in the word of Tatzelwyrm, but disconnected from the plot.
This short story is roughly 10k words long and will be published in smaller chapters, rather than all at once, so look forward to a steady trickle of content.
I hope you will forgive me my hiatus and will be thrilled to see you all again soon, especially your comments.
Winter was still holding on to the city of Chsyatana, blowing its wet winds through narrow passageways in the darkness of the night. Nannade put on her cloak’s hood and pulled the thick felt closed, then she turned around to her teacher.
“Are you sure you got everything?” He asked her a last time.
Nannade nodded. She saw her path ahead of her. “Once they confront me, there is no more reason for me to let my godfather stay prisoner, I will not be able to resist any longer. I must free him, I promised.”
“I know. I will hold out for you. Find me as soon as you’re done.”
Another nod from Nannade. Then she turned around and followed her path. The sisters of fate were watching her thread weave in and out of shadows tonight.
Korinna took shelter further behind the corner of a house. She looked over to Timaeus on the other side of the street, he too sought shelter from the wind. More than eagerly, Korinna had allowed Timaeus to attempt to convince the sinner, he wanted to sway her, convince her to give up freely so she could see the benefits of Master Paramonos’ solution. If Timaeus had success in convincing Nannade, they’d get out without a fight. If he failed, he’s be the one hit first by her mindless fury. It would be a win for Korinna either way.
A figure slowly came up the ramp to the merchant’s terrace, cloaked in felt and determination. Even by the dim light of the merchant’s terrace’s glowing vials they could tell, it was Nannade. Timaeus stepped out into the wide street to block her path.
She seemed to care little and continued her gait until she was almost within an arm’s reach of Timaeus.
“Nannade, please listen to me!”
From where Korinna stood, she could see her face well, but not Timaeus’. The girl merely made an annoyed grunt, accompanied by a twitch from one corner of her mouth.
“There is still way to turn around, there is still way to not become subservient to the daemon. Master Paramonos is deeply concerned for your safety. He really means well!”
The girl finally answered. “All people mean well. That’s why they do the things they do. I do not intend to listen to well-meaning actions of oppression.”
Timaeus voice took a pleading and begging tone. “It isn’t oppression, he wants to liberate you from the moods and whims of a being alien to our reality, can’t you see that? He has seen the fate of those who fall to daemons.”
Nannade’s face spoke of spite coming from deep within. She extended an accusing finger at him. “I will no longer stand and take your blasphemy. The Serpent is not a daemon. She is a deity, a god, and I will no longer stand for your drooling idiocy. Get out of my way, for when you engage Her in combat, you cannot be saved!”
Big words for someone of her standing, but Korinna did not yet intervene. She checked on the bundle at her feet. The cage was still there. She looked back to Timaeus. The heavy blade was still in its sheath.
Draw the blade and end it in one swift strike, fool!
Timaeus spoke up again. “I only want to help you, I promise that you will be treated well if you just admit your previous errors and return to Master Paramonos’ meditation. Help him help you!”
It was a motion so fast Korinna could barely see it, but she did see how Timaeus’ chest was punted backwards; Nannade’s was ready for combat, her fist not even entirely outstretched. She took a flowing step towards Timaeus, him still reeling from the punch, she lifted her leg and placed her feet on his chest. Her kick seemed to accelerate Timaeus in the blink of an eye, sending him flying and skidding over the wet cobblestone floor.
It was time to take things seriously. Korinna stepped out onto the street, bundle and blade in hand. “You should have given up, Sinner, now it gets ugly.”
Timaeus was still reeling from the hit, regaining his balance, as Nannade turned to Korinna. “You will not intimidate me with your cheap magic. I know you haven’t been trained to fight. I have been, however, and have defeated more fearsome foes than you. You are not my enemies, let me through to the house!”
Korinna shook her head and tore the cloth off the cage. The bird – the angel – was still inside, chirping angrily and ready for action. “I have brought someone who has enough combat experience for a thousand knights.”
“Fine then,” Unimpressed, Nannade threw her cloak off; underneath, she wore vestments Korinna had never seen before. A green, hooded scapular, embroidered over and over with red thread unmistakeably the hair of the girl, held together with a wide leather belt around her waist, consisting of large overlapping scales rimmed with silver and on the central scale adorned with a large silver brooch, a small glass vial containing a black liquid held in it like a gem. Korinna had seen the vial before, normally around the girl’s neck. The girl reached into the sleeve of her shirt and pulled out a long thin staff that should not fit in there. It was as tall as the girl herself and was dotted with white inlays and threads of some sort ran around it in wide spirals. “What a lucky coincidence it is that I happened to wear the vestments of a high priestess today.”
Korinna opened the cage’s door and the bird flew out of his cage and in a flash of fire and rage, grew to twice, thrice the size of an eagle, with a long neck and the head of a bird of prey. His feathers seemed to be alive with the flow of embers and molten metals, each flap of his wings sent forth a swarm of sparks flying wildly like angry, fiery wasps, his tail feathers stretched across the plaza, trailing behind him as the angel circled his target: the abomination. And the abomination just smirked, twirling her stupid staff.
Red Spike was waiting on the roof of a building in the more crowded part of the craftsman’s terrace. Next to him sat Master Paramonos of the Houses of Mysteries, a respected and experienced man capable of summon powerful spirits and daemons. They were keeping their eyes on a specific alley. Their target would soon come through here. Where the two back alleys crossed, Spike and Paramonos had set up not just one, but several traps. There would be no escape once the target was inside.
And there he came, around the bend, Purple Paw. His broad figure was almost blocking the narrower parts of the alley. His step was directed and full of purpose towards a point just beyond the traps, he thought he would be meeting with a crucial contact for a new bounty there, but that too was a part of the traps.
Paramonos whispered in his felt cloak drawn tight. “Do you think he’ll fall-?”
Red Spike merely slapped his hand over Paramonos’ mouth to make sure the fool would not mess this up. He was capable, but he had no feel for the finer parts of intrigue and combat.
Purple Paw set his first foot in the trap. Just the slightest hint of a whirr was heard as the first layer of the trigger activated. Then the second foot came; another whirr. Finally, the first foot was set down a second time, right in the centre of the intersection.
A spectacle of light and sound erupted from the surrounding floor and buildings. Chains of white and blue shot forth to bind Purple Paw, the ground reshaped to grab his legs, several circles of layered glyphs rotated around the trapped target and bright yellow tendrils crawled up his skin, seizing up his muscles and eliciting that sweetest of pained grunts from him. Purple Paw was trapped.
“HAH!” Red Spike jumped down from his perch. “I always knew that I was the better one at judging a situation, but this was too easy even for me! What made you blind?Did your sweetheart blow you a kiss that got you all foggy-headed?”
Purple Paw did not answer, merely grunt in pain as Red Spike came closer, daring even to put some swagger into his step. Paramonos peeked from the roof of the building, still unsure whether to come down just yet, but he did prepare his own weapon of choice, an unassuming whistle with some ominous runes carved into it. He blew it twice quickly and shortly after, a swirl of blood appeared on the ground at the building’s base to rise up and condense into three huge and vicious dogs, blood on their fangs, murder in their eyes. They immediately took positions around the trapped target.
“You see, Paw, you are surrounded. But don’t worry, we do not intend to kill you, or even harm you, as long as your little apprentice plays nice. We can’t have you interfere with her negotiations, though.” Spike took a last step towards his victim, who finally shot a glance at Spike and decided to speak, even if under strain and pain.
“You... know, it really is a lucky... coincidence!” He pressed out between his clenched teeth.
Spike had to agree. “I agree, I was very lucky. Seems like a life of chosen mediocrity cannot win against a life of struggle and training. You talented all fall in the end to the diligent.”
“No... not that!” Paw breathed in deeply, gathering strength. “That I just happened to...” An especially painful shock seemed to go through Paw as he let out a bellowing scream.
A crackling aura rose around Paw’s skin, condensing into a powerful barrier and finally...
...tearing apart, taking with it the chains, the tendrils and the glyphs. Spike had to shield his eyes from the storm of ethereal shards blowing his way.
“...wear several protective layers, just for the fun of it.” Paw completed his sentence. He looked at Spike dead ahead, with that unbridled determination in his eyes.
Did he know about the trap? “But from whom? Who told you this?” Spike looked to Paramonos, who was already blowing his whistle in a single, long note. The hellhounds dashed forward, lunging toward Paw’s throat, but he merely ducked down and evaded them entirely with a single movement, not even bothering to pull his feet free from the ground’s grasp.
“I guess this just became a proper confrontation then.” Spike drew his dagger and an entire array of papers from his belt. He didn’t come unprepared with just one layer of defence either. One after the other, the spell papers went up in flames. Paw merely raised a cheeky smile in response to that.
The windy night had turned to fierce day in the presence of the Flame’s once most loyal, most powerful servant, onlookers had gathered, people were eager to see what was happening. With the golden cage held in her left, Korinna shot her right hand forward, pointing to the ugly, smirking stain on this beautiful world and commanded the angel. “BURN HER TO ASHES AND THE ASHES TO NOTHING!”
The angel flew up into the sky and circled the plaza. He enjoyed its service to the Flame once more and spew forth flames into the wind, blessing the dark skies with another sun for a moment. He turned around for a run directly at the sinner when somebody stepped in front of her: Timaeus.
“NO!” He stretched his arms out. “I won’t let this escalate into violence!”
Korinna stepped forward, lowering her hand and showing the angel to halt his advance. “Step aside, Timaeus, you had your chance. Master Paramonos said it: Accept when your ways have failed and help defeat the abomination!”
Timaeus seemed to show no sign of cooperation. “I won’t let him hurt her!” He turned to Nannade. “Please, Nannade, I know you care not for it, but I love you and I will protect you. I’d rather fight my master than let him-” His attempted confession and turn coat was cut short by Nannade burying her fist deep in his guts.
“You disgust me. You let yourself be guided merely by your cock!” Her face spoke truly what Korinna had been thinking of the simpleton for a while. “What good is your help and support if you will throw it away for a vulnerable girl and a chance at burying your fun rod somewhere warm and moist for a night?” She grabbed the man curling in pain by his collar, rammed her elbow into the back of his head and dragged the limp body to the edge of the plaza, tossing him into an empty barrel like discarded bones of fish. Then she turned back to Korinna, pointing at her with her staff.
“You have chosen combat, you shall be judged, convicted and redeemed this night.” She threw the hood of her scapular back and now Korinna saw that the sinner was wearing some sort of scarf. She took the cloth around her neck and tied it tightly over her eyes. “By the stench of your sin, I shall know you!” A red symbol flared up before Nannade’s forehead. The brand of the sinner, where it should be, not hidden on her shoulder, in plain sight, brighter than a candle in a bedroom at midnight. “By the weight of your guilt, I shall crush you!” She opened the vial in her belt’s centre and the black blood from it flowed onto her staff, assuming the shape of black chains wrapped tightly around it. “And by the taste of your pain, I shall redeem you!” She snapped her fingers and a circle of caustic, green flame sprung up around the two of them, cutting off curious onlookers as well as guards seemingly waiting for backup.
Korinna did her best to remain unimpressed. She had no idea the sinner was able to wield such miracles, but she would not be deterred. An angel, a general of her Holy Radiance’s armies of brilliant heavens was on her side tonight. A gust of wind came and Korinna looked back up to the phoenix. He was still hovering there. She shot her finger forth again towards Nannade. “RETURN TO YOUR DUTY!”
The phoenix dropped into a dive and made a turn to approach the sinner just at eye level, taking in air for a heft of scorching fire.
A wind of fire blew from the phoenix’s beak, lighting up the street and plaza, onlookers screamed in panic and fled to their houses seeking shelter from the wrath of brilliant heavens. The sinner leapt out of the way, keeping her composure as if she had merely taken a single step on a lazy stroll. Again, she twirled her staff, turned to Korinna and smirked, as the angel got ready to approach another attack. Nannade checked her surroundings and seemed to decide on a move.
As the angel again spewed flame onto the plaza, trailing its breath over the wet cobblestone, the sinner dodged, not to the side this time, but in an arc around the torrent of fire, like a graceful skater on the ice, and under the phoenix’s belly, striking him with her staff.
The black chains unravelled from the staff and around the angel’s body. As if the Sinner was anchored to the ground by a thousand pounds, she pulled the angel from the air down onto the ground. He hit the ground with the sound of cracking coals and sparks shot away from his impact in a thick cloud, reaching even outside the circle of green flame and causing the onlookers behind it to shrink back.
The sinner had just taken the angel one of its advantages over her with a dirty trick, but it shall be her last one. Korinna moved her right hand to the dagger’s handle.
Spike had erected all necessary barriers and enacted all additional precautions. Paw meanwhile had pulled forth a talisman-looking object. A bone, probably the femur of a dog, inscribed with all sorts of protective runes.
Paraomonos blew his whistle and the hellhounds charged towards Paw. He needed barely to pay attention to dodge them and hit one of them with his bone-club.
The hellhound splintered into a spectacle of fleshy ash as the club tore through its body as if it were the sharpest blade in Paw’s rich arsenal. Paramonos cursed from his vantage point and continued to blow commands with his whistle. Paw merely raised the bone and spoke an ancient rhyyme. The runes on the bone flared up and the two remaining hounds shrank, whimpering and clutching their tails between their legs, no matter how much Paramonos blew his whistle in anger and command.
Paw still grinned, dagger in his right, bone in his left. “I wouldn’t try to fight in your place, Master Paramonos, your colleagues will be here soon. You played your last card a long time ago.”
It seemed Paw again outsmarted his target, making them believe he was the pray while he was hunting them. Luckily, Spike hadn’t been as neglectful as Paramonos; he still had one more card up his sleeve, and in his anticipation that someone might talk, not told Paramonos about it. Spikecould still bind Paw for long enough so that Paramonos’ students could finish off the abomination, hopefully.
Paw came closer, his blade glinted in the weak lights of the back alley. “Spike, I am disappointed. Did you really believe you could be able to trick me so easily? My apprentice could have seen the trap with a blindfold on.”
“To answer your question: No, I did not think that. That’s why I made sure to pay a little visit to your ‘trusted contact’ Philander.”
Watching Paw’s face crumble was the most satisfying things to ever happen to Spike. “What did you do? Where is he?”
“Now it would be a bad move to reveal my hand too soon. You’ll just have to leave me alive, drop your weapon, and come with me.” Spike pulled a little ampule with blood from his pocket. The blood inside was glowing from the inside, its light pulsing in the rhythm of a heart, a panicked heart. “Just so you know that I’m not bluffing.” Spike knew an experienced practitioner of blood magic like Purple Paw of Halonnes would recognize his lover’s life essence. And he was proven right in that assumption when he saw Paw’s face growing more determined.
Paw actually sheathed his dagger, but his face did not speak of surrender. “I see I’ll have to draw your defeat out then. Wouldn’t want you to die so quickly.” He curled his hands to fists and slammed the knuckles together. He seemed to go into deep concentration; Spike thought about intervening, but before he could even look for a possible approach, tongues of lightning started to arise from the grounda round Paw. They licked his huge form and as they did, metal accumulated on his fists and forearms, even growing into small thorns. Spike hadn’t seen an electro-plating spell in a long time, but it was hard not to recognise. Paw opened his eyes again and blew contained rage from his nostrils. He came closer, first slowly, but soon accelerated his step, breaking into an angry charge down the alley, like a furious housewife wielding a rolling pin.
Spike merely drew his favourite spell from his belt and ignited it. Within the blink of an eye, the stones of the pavement and the clay of the house walls grew into large spikes reaching far into Paw’s path, forming a wall of bars. Cracking and breaking could be heard from inside the forest of spikes, until Paw finally burst out the other end, still in a full charge, lightning tendrils shooting from his iron fists, seeking a target. Spike had already prepared his next spell. A block of stone and soil as wide as the alley itself lifted out of the ground in front of him and barrelled down towards Paw.
Spike used the precious moments that Paw would be distracted and quickly made his way up the low building on his left, bouncing from alley wall to alley wall. A dull THUD was all that was heard when the impact should happen, the advance of both Paw and the block of dirt was stopped. Spike could see from up there that Paw was struggling against the block, grunting and straining. When he noticed Spike, he dropped backwards, onto the ground and let the block crash into the few remaining spikes and bars behind him.
He got back up and sot his angry scowl up to Spike. “If you think you can stall me while Paramonos’ little rats take on Brazen Claw, you’re wrong!”
“And why is that?” Spike strutted along the edge of the roof, waiting for Paw to make his angry ascent to him.
“Because all you’re doing is stall yourself while Claw takes those amateurs apart limb by limb. Once she has acquired her target, she’ll come for you!” He went down on his knees and with a sudden burst of energy, made the leap all the way up onto the roof, roughly twelve feet from where Spike was standing. Arrived freshly, Paw cracked his knuckles, flinging discharges of static energy into the howling wind around them.
Spike had to scoff. “Oooh, scary! I can’t wait to see what this little mistake of yours can do. Now I might actually want to wait for her, can we just sit down and have a chat instead of fighting?”
Paw’s face spoke of only more anger building up. “No, I have some stuff to work out, and you look just durable enough.”
Spike felt his surroundings, every single roof shingle of wood, lead or clay. He extended his mind and shoved ever finer tendrils in between them.
Paw started his charge. Ten feet to go. Spike inhaled and flung his arms wide open; the shingles rose up. Hundreds of them suspended in mid-air for a fraction of a heartbeat. Then he brought his hands together in front of him. As the sound of his hands clapping travelled over the rooftop, the shingles reshaped into spikes of wood, clay and lead, all towards Paw.
Like a cage of interlocking needles, they surrounded him. Spike could hear Paw’s charge come to an abrupt end, as well as curses erupting from within. Spike pulled his next spell from his belt. With its ignition, an iron lance manifested and shot forward, through the tight lattice of spikes, elegantly weaving between them like a snake closing in on its prey.
A sudden discharge of lightning flashed through between the spikes. This was not as planned! A bolt of energy jumped from the inside of the cage to the lance and from the lance to Spike. The night on the rooftops turned brighter than any day as the lightning was diverted around Spike’s energy shield, enveloping him in blazing brightness. He heard the sound of cracking stone and charging steps; but it seemed so distant and timid against the sound of thunder still ringing in his ears.
The full force of an ironclad fist hit his kinetic dampener hard enough to push the sensation of its thorns ever so slightly into his cheek. Then a second fist hit his stomach and the acceleration set in.
Spike could feel the wind in his hair for the blink of an eye before impacting on a wall. No matter how many dampeners he wrapped around himself, the sudden journey through a solid loam wall and into the interior of someone else’s house would always be painful and disorienting, even if he carried no actual injuries away from it.
Through dust, wind, screams, yells and pain, Spike could find his awareness again. He ignored the angry inhabitants in their night gowns and instead stared through the hole in the wall of their house. Paw was again charging him, spiked fists clenched tight and eyes full of fire to set the entire city ablaze with rage. Even Spike’s involuntary hosts noticed the mad brute approaching and quickly left the room. Spike had to admit, the next phase of combat had begun and he had to take things more seriously. He took the blood vial and shattered it on the ground; if Paw got his hands on it, he could track the hostage with his blood magic, no point in doing any of this then. He prepared his active defences and offences and braced for another potential impact.
The sinner yanked and pulled on the black chains binding the Father of Phoenixes as if he were a common drake or gryphon, but still, she would perish, Korinna knew as much. “SCORCH HER, ANGEL OF THE FLAME!” She clenched her fist tighter around the cage’s handle.
With a loud screech, the phoenix whipped up its head in his bindings and released a torrent of flame. The sinner ran circles around the phoenix, not letting even a single hair on her body get singed. With each moment, more chains rose from the sinner’s staff, wrapping around the angel’s wings and neck, allowing her to bring him even closer to the ground.
But the angel did not give up. With the little freedom he still had, he tried to swing the sinner around on those chains of hers, but she remained solidly attached to the ground. Korinna decided it was time to go on the offensive herself. She raised the bird cage above her head and called out. “Angel of Flame, grant me the fleetness of fire!”
Her feet were enveloped in flame, shooting forth beneath her soles like a furnace spurred by mighty bellows. She felt the power of Her Holy Radiance rise up within her. With her left, she held on tight to the cage, her right she clenched around the dagger’s blade, then she started to set one foot in front of the other.
Korinna felt the fire below her, with just three steps, she was moving faster than she ever did before in her entire life. No horse nor ship had ever carried her as fast; the wind was blowing her hair back and cold air into her eyes. She pointed the blade of horizon forward, pointed at the sinner, who noticed Korinna approaching. She moved her staff around to block the blade’s impact.
It felt like the force of impact was pressing Korinna’s arm and shoulder into her ribcage. She thought her bones would give in and splinter like a tooth pick, but they held, just barely. The staff kept the blade from touching sinner, but Nannade herself was flung backwards, skidding over the slippery, wet cobblestone and letting go of her staff. It fell to the ground with an unassuming sound and the chains turned back to black liquid.
With a screech, the Father of Phoenixes threw his wings open and released a storm of sparks at all around. Korinna could hear cheers from beyond the green fire barrier. The hero of light had prevailed; for now. With slow steps she made her way over to Nannade, who was already getting back up and into combat position.
“You see, Sinner? The servants of light always prevail.”
Nannade’s face turned to cynical frown. “You call yourself a servant of light yet you hold the tools of slavery over a forlorn angel! You are full of lies, Korinna. Lies to yourself most of them.”
Korinna arrived next to the staff and picked it up. She took a closer look at it. The white inlays seemed to be bone and each of them inscribed with a rune. The threads wrapping in wide spirals around the staff looked like tightly coiled sinew, four of them, each going around the staff once from top to bottom.
“An impressive piece of craftsmanship. So, you have infused this with the essence of the Serpent? It doesn’t matter. The Father of Phoenixes is more ancient than your stupid sin!”
Nannade’s frown turned lax. “The Serpent has slept more centuries than your stupid cult of fire has even existed!”
“Your opinion is not needed, Sinner.” Korinna rattled the bird cage and the angel came to her side, its head looming high above the sinner and preparing to finally reduce her to dust. Korinna dropped the staff behind her and started another charge.
She ran around the inner circumference of the green fire barrier, picking up speed, she wanted to know how fast these feet of flame could carry her. The sinner merely had a confused look on her face while dodging the phoenix’s fire. Korinna raised the blade forward and honed in on the sinner.
Nannade saw her coming and prepared, bracing herself as if she could withstand the blow that was about to come. Korinna aimed for the centre of the chest.
The sinner disappeared in an instant and seemed to reappear to Korinna’s right just as she was about to hit. Clawed hands closed around Korinna’s; one below the elbow, the other at the dagger’s hilt. The sinner tore it from Korinna’s hands faster than she could even realize what was happening, then pulled her around and flung her to the hard cobblestone with full force.
Korinna’s head slammed onto the pavement and whacked consciousness from her, even if just for a moment. She blinked and when she opened her eyes, she saw the sinner had picked up her staff and faced her. The angel was gone. Korinna shot up, but she saw the Father of Phoenixes circling above, getting ready for an aerial attack. The cage was still in her hand. She sighed with relief.
Korinna got back up to face the sinner. Nannade wasn’t holding her staff, had she thrown it away? Korinna looked to the angel, directly behind the sinner, approaching her on flaming wings, Nannade seemed fully aware of it, she even seemed content with it. What was she planning?
She started to sprint. Was she hoping to trick the angel into attacking Korinna? What a fool! As long as she held control over him, she was immune against his wrath. The angel opened his beak and inhaled, a ball of dense fire formed in its throat. The sinner’s steps became longer, she became desperate. Korinna would await her here, she would not move one bit.
Then Nannade leapt forward. Within a heartbeat, Korinna realized what she was going for: the cage! Hastily she took a step back and lifted her arm up and out of Nannade’s reach; the cage was safe.
Too late Korinna noticed the pair of glowing, caustic green eyes peering out from inside Nannade’s sleeve. Then, a snake emerged from there, not a shadowy spiritual one, but a real one, of flesh and blood, uncoiling itself into a leap forward. It lunged for the cage! Its wide-open maw was about to hit the bars when it closed. With the bars between its teeth, the snake clenched down tight. All while still falling, Nannade closed her hand around the snake and yanked her arm back, tearing the cage from Korrina’s grasp.
Korinna tried leaping after it, but the sinner picked herself up and held the cage in one hand, snake in the other. The scaly animal suddenly straightened and turned into wood. The staff once again was Nannade’s hand. The angel was still approaching, but slowed, flapping his wings to stop mid-air. In a puff of smoke, it seemed to vanish, only for a tiny bright songbird with a long-flowing tail to land on Nannade’s shoulder.
Korinna had lost. Her heart sank. Nannade raised her staff and from it a single black drop hit Korinna’s shoulder. It turned to chains that covered her like a net crafted by a goldsmith. They threatened to cut into her flesh as they pulled her down and forced her into a submissive pose.
“So what now? My judgement? What is my sentence?”
Nannade spoke calmly and without anger. “Servitude.”
Korinna’s insides churned. Servitude to a branded sinner? She would have gladly suffered any pain Nannade could have mustered up, but servitude was truly a more devious punishment than any other. “What do you wish?”
“Only one deed and your dept is paid.”
“And what will this deed be?”
Nannade took off her blindfolds. “Come with me. I am about to set free a horrible thing from your master’s basement. I cannot prevent it, I cannot even struggle against the thought of it, it is part of an agreement. But you are outside that agreement and it seems fate has delivered an additional trump card to me today.” She took a closer look at the cage, then she turned to the songbird on her shoulder. “You are free, return to your children, guide their songs and flights under the sun.”
The bird tweeted a thankful and happy tune, then took off with a happy chirp and exploded into a shower of sparks far above the plaza.
Korinna couldn’t believe the Father of Phoenixes was gone. “It said the candle in the darkness needs to be protected, yet now it is enslaved to your shadows!”
“If you truly believe that ‘candle in the darkness’ meant you, then you are the fool in the library. The candle in the darkness is me. I work outside the law to bring law; I walk the path of the sinner to find and end the sinner; I journey into darkness to snuff out the shadows before they devour the light.”
“And you know that how?”
Nannade’s face showed a deprecatory glare. “Talking with bird is kind of what witches in Sturreland do all the time. Especially if those birds are corporeal spirits. You imprisoned and enslaved an angel and thought it would just by chance want the same thing as you? Those idiots in Fulgopolis truly messed with your head! Come now, I don’t have all night!”
Nannade snapped her fingers and the barrier of green flame disappeared, then she took a step and Korinna felt the compulsion in her legs, a blazing red pain pushing her to obey. Before she could ask anything, an entire troop of guards blocked their path.
The most forward one, visibly experienced and with many honours and privileges bestowed upon him, spoke up. “HALT! You are both under arrest for unlicensed use of destructive magic, disturbance of city peace, magical and armed assault, and conjuring of unreal entities.”
Nannade simply pulled a piece of paper from her belt and ignited the spell on it. A glowing seal appeared above her palm. “By authority of the Hidden Hand Purple Paw of Halonnes in service to Master Anaxagoras, master of the Unthought of the Houses of Mysteries of Chsyatana, I request that you delay the issuing of charges and justice until this contract has come to an end.”
Korinna could finally decipher the seal. Inside of it she could see the old script of names spelling out “Purple Paw”, surrounded by the seals of five institutions. Was that the sinner’s teacher, the broad man that had brought her here? It seemed to impress the captain leading the troop and he ordered his men to stand aside. Under whispers and rumbling from the masses, Nannade stepped ahead towards Master Paramonos’ house, yanking Korinna along on an invisible chain.