Castle of Wolves

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3

Breach stepped out of the darkness. He examined the cabin buried in the trees as he lit another cigarette. The piece of glass in his hand pointed at the house. He idly wondered how long it would take Elaine to catch up with him.

He doubted it would take long, especially if Syria had some kind of teleportation in her repertoire.

He pushed the defenses out his way as he walked up to the front door. Young magicians tried so hard, but they always forgot the loopholes in their conditions. It was easy to spin their shields around until the holes in their wards became doors to step through.

He opened the door and stepped inside the cabin. He noted the additional space, and thought it made sense. A wolf didn’t want to stoop in its own lair. He listened, puffing on his cigarette. He decided that the wizard’s lab was to his left.

He walked over to the door to the lab. He had to adjust the inner defenses to allow him to pass three times on the way.

He might have to shut the wards down to allow Elaine and her escort to enter unmolested. He doubted Syria could do it with her spirit knives.

He opened the door and slipped through. It had been a long time since a door could hold him from where he wanted to go.

He found some stairs to walk down, and a lab filled with arcane materials. A wolf wearing his human mask bent over a purple jewel in its stand. He sang a note at the jewel but it refused to do anything.

“Why won’t you work?” The wolf stood straight, glaring at the jewel with yellow eyes.

“Maybe you’re doing something wrong.” Breach puffed on his cigarette, hands in his pockets.“What do you think it should be doing?”

The wolf turned at the unexpected sound. The mask of a bland human male shattered to allow a large beast to stare down at the visitor. He snarled with a display of teeth.

“The Jewel doesn’t work for just anyone.” Breach took his cigarette out of his mouth, and knocked the ash off on the floor. He put it back in his mouth and took a drag. “It only works for the Royal line, and others who know what it’s supposed to do.”

“And you know what it’s supposed to do?” The wolf took two steps toward the wizard, snatchingthe jewel off its stand.

“Sure.” Breach finished his cigarette and dropped the butt to the floor. He stamped it out quietly.“I have done some work with similar things over the years.”

“I don’t believe you.” The wolf looked around. “I think you’re some kind of trickery.”

“Maybe.” Breach shrugged. “Either way, Elaine will be here with the Royal Guard to get the jewel back from you. Make it easy on yourself and give it back before she gets here.”

“She won’t get through my defenses as easily as you seem to have done.” The wolf paused. “How did you get through my defenses?”

“It’s been a long time since a ward line could do anything more than glow prettily once I decide to go somewhere.” Breach lit another cigarette. “It’s a simple thing to find the holes and use them.”

“I think you should tell me what you know.” The wolf loomed over the smaller wizard. “Then I may not eat you.”

“So you want to know what I know?” Breach let his cigarette droop from his lip as he looked up at the wolf. “Are you sure you want to know what I know?”

“Yes, I do.” The wolf held out the jewel in one hand. “How do I make this work?”

Breach snatched the Jewel of Jealasco out of the big paw. He stepped back, holding the purple block up on the palm of his hand. He smiled quietly.

“Are you sure you want to know how this works?” The wizard asked, holding the top of the gem between thumb and index finger.

“Do you think you can show me?” The wolf growled.

“Aye.” Breach spun the jewel with his hand like he was spinning a coin on a table top. Fog seeped from the purple block. It started to expand into a creature that could have been a wolf of some sort if the wolf stood as tall as a tree and wider than a carriage. “Meet Jealasco.”

“Breacher of the Veil of Darkness?” The wolf unveiled teeth as long as human fingers. “Long has it been since we have met. Is it time for my return to the living?”

“No, my lord.” Breach smiled. “I am afraid that your kin wanted a practical demonstration of your stronghold.”

“Really?” Jealasco’s ears pointed at the wolf. “What is your name, puppy?”

“Noah Moon Singer.” The wolf growled. “I freed your gem from the display in the castle. You have to serve me.”

“Really?” Jealasco crossed his arms. “What makes you think that I serve anyone?”

“The stories say that the Jewel of Jealasco holds a great force, and anyone who holds the gem, can control that force.” Noah glared at the cloud with his golden eyes. “I control the gem, I control the force.”

“Really?” The cloud laughed. “It looks like the Breacher is holding the gem. He has the control. If you can wrest it from him, maybe you can control me. Otherwise, I think you have a problem.”

“Here’s where you think about what you want to do next, kid.” Breach took a long drag on his cigarette. “Do you really think you can take me on, or do you want to sit back and make your escape and try some other way to get what you want?”

“I’ll kill you, human.” The wolf howled. The sound ripped the air in front of him. The floor threw up chunks of stone as the blast reached for the wizard. Breach dropped his cigarette as he ducked out of the way.

“Sonic manipulation.” Breach smiled. “I should have known with a name like Moon Singer. Are you sure you want to walk this road?”

“I eat humans for dinner.” Moon Singer drew in breath for another howl.

“Hold this.” Breach handed the cloud the spinning jewel. He began to circle his opponent.

“Do better than eating humans for dinner, puppy,” Jealasco cheered from the sidelines. “We used to say that we used their livers to make wine.”

Breach raised his hands in front of him. He waited for an opening as he continued to circle. He only had to stall the wolf until Elaine arrived. Control of the cloud would automatically go to her since she was the Queen of the Wolves.

Noah spun and roared out his challenge. His voice could be used for many things but he preferred to break his enemies with his thunder.

The sound broke apart his work table behind him. Breach took two more steps to the right, hand outstretched. He pulled himself back together.

“Good volley,” Jealasco called. “A little off target. Haven’t kept up your dueling skills, have you Breacher?”

“Not really.” Breach pulled out another cigarette. He lit it with cupped hands as he stepped two more steps to the right. “You know how it goes.”

“He’s putting in for a stall, puppy.” The cloud loomed over its descendant. “You have to overpower him with everything you have and then flee. The Queen is near.”

Noah whispered roots of metal around his enemy. Then he charged. A large clawed hand came down, talons ripping at his enemy. One strike was all it would take to finish his fellow wizard.

Breach breathed out around his cigarette. Flame burst from the spot of light at the end of the smoke. It caught his opponent in the face. The wolf dropped to the floor. The smell of burning hair filled the air.

“The old flamethrower cigarette trick.” Breach tossed his spent cigarette away. “It’s an oldie, but a goodie.”

“You will cease doing magic.” Noah commanded in the old speech. “I command you to follow my will.”

“Sure.” Breach lit another cigarette and took a drag. He let out a cloud of smoke. “I’ll be glad to follow your will.”

“You still can’t lie, Breacher.” Jealasco shook his head. “You should have fixed that some time.”

“I’ve been busy.” Breach adjusted his hat. “Do you mind?”

Noah growled and roared his disapproval at his trapped enemy. Let his cigarette stop that.

Breach caught the blast in his hands, spinning it between them. He spun the blast until a visible vibration grew in the air between his palms. He flung it at the wolf with one motion of his wrist. The sonic call blew out the far wall.

Moon Singer had thrown himself out of the way just in the nick of time. He looked at the hole in his redoubt. His ears flicked back as he bared his teeth at his enemy.

“Last chance, Noah Moon Singer.” Breach stepped out of the shackles on his ankles. “I’m willing to let things be if you stop.”

“I will never give up when I am this close.” Noah whistled and shadows erupted from the cracks in the floor. They formed birds that descended on their prey with dark talons, ebony beaks, and eyes of shadows.

Breach held up one of his hands. Light burned from it in a spinning orb that surrounded him. He stepped forward, crushing the birds with his shield. He pointed at his enemy and the shield wrapped around the wolf.

“This is a new one.” Jealasco smiled at the top of his column. “How does it work, Breacher?”

“It doesn’t.” Breach dropped his hand. “I never worked out the kinks in it.”

Noah screamed in frustration. The sound didn’t penetrate the spinning globe. He looked around for something he could use to break the shell. He tried to grab a stone out of the floor but the orb was closed at the bottom.

Breach stamped out his cigarette. When the spark faded away, the burning orb he had created went with it. He was glad that he couldn’t hear the wolf’s screams as he faded from sight.

“Ouch.” Jealasco’s ears moved forward. He grinned softly. “That is one I will have to think about as I watch the world from my place.”

“If you can make it work, let me know.” Breach took the purple gem from a cloudy hand. He stopped the spin gently. The cloud wound around the jewel and vanished inside of it as it slowly came to a stop.

“Farewell, brother.” Breach put the jewel in his pocket, lit another cigarette, and looked around. The duel had created a mess, but it wasn’t like Noah could complain from wherever he had gone inside the burning sphere.

And Breach wasn’t about to fix it for future use.

A glowing knife cut through a wall. Then Syria forced her way into the destroyed lab. Elaine and her guards stood behind her. They all had their weapons ready for use.

“Where’s the thief?” Syria drew another knife out of the air. Both burned with her will.

“I don’t know.” Breach pulled the Jewel of Jealasco from his pocket. “He left this. It should work for you, Elaine.”

“I will have this verified at court.” Elaine took the jewel and put it in a pouch hanging from her belt.“I see damage but no other body. I think an explanation is in order.”

“He tried to use the Jewel of Jealasco and it backfired.” Breach shrugged. “It happens to the best of us. I doubt he will be back unless I am totally wrong about where he went.”

“Where did he go?” Elaine touched the hilt of her sword as she asked the question.

“I am not real sure.” Breach adjusted his hat. “I am hoping that it is somewhere that wolves would hate with all their might.”

“So we missed all the action?” Syria dismissed her spirit knives with a look of disgust.

“You have to be faster on the draw, kid.” Breach shook his head at the hole in the wall. “There was a door.”

“There were a huge field of defenses to cut through.” The woman waved her hands. “It was just luck that he didn’t have more than three anchors. That would have taken all night to get through.”

“I suppose you’re right.” Breach pushed what remained of the defensive wall out of his way. “Time to move on.”

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