Off the Roof

As the guards raised their guns, Lorden knew that there was nothing he could do. Powerful as he had grown under Oakstaff's tutelage, he simply could not hope to take on six well-trained Compliance Team Officers plus Grimwald -- at least, not without the cost of Percy's life. Grimwald held her securely from behind, and unlike the other CTOs, his gun was not leveled at Lorden, but at Percy.

Slowly, Lorden raised his hands into the air.

"Going to come quietly at last, then?" Grimwald said. He looked mildly surprised. "First sensible thing you've done."

With a swift jerk of his head, Grimwald motioned for his men to move forward and subdue Lorden. A moment later, he felt the cold metal barrel of a taser press against the base of his skull. Nerves were sending tingles down his spine, but Lorden forced himself to stay calm. He could do this. He could get out of this. He had to.

"Ah, Lorden," Grimwald crooned, "victory is sweet." A triumphant smile twisted his lips.

Lorden, however, was barely paying attention. He was busy probing the floors below with his mind trying to contact Elenia.

Grimwald charged another CTO with guarding Percy so that he could stride forward to confront Lorden up close.

"It was about time you learned not to mettle with what you cannot possibly handle or comprehend," said Grimwald softly as he began pacing around Lorden. "You are just a boy. You cannot possibly hope to defy the monarchy and entire government on your own."

Lorden had found her. Elenia was hidden in the shadows beyond the doorway that led out onto the roof. Lorden brushed her consciousness to tell her who he was, then prepared to send his message.

"I'm not on my own," Lorden said out loud.

Now!

Lorden reached deep within himself and drew upon the magic that he knew was hidden there. It crackled up through his veins with searing intensity, fueled by his loathing for Grimwald and his determination to save Percy. Then the energy exploded from him. Bright purple bolts of electricity hissed from his skin; they shot from his fingertips and lanced toward the two CTOs standing before him. Simultaneously, the guns of all the CTOs were suddenly jerked upward and sent sailing into the brightening sky by Elenia's spell.

The officer next to Lorden made to tackle him, but Lorden whirled and blasted him with a shower of violet lightning, causing him to crumple to the ground unconscious. Out of the corner of his eye, Lorden glimpsed Elenia as she darted out onto the roof, quickly downing the two remaining CTOs with well-aimed Spikes to their knees. Lorden spun to take on Grimwald at last, only to find him standing barely a meter away, plasma gun pointed between Lorden's eyes. The sparks fizzled out at Lorden's fingertips. He knew that if he made the slightest move, Grimwald would shoot. But how had he managed to hang onto his gun?

Grimwald grinned malevolently. Then, with his left hand, he proceeded to draw a knife from a sheath at his belt. Lorden's stomach lurched. He would have known that blade anywhere. The enchanted blade that had killed Ceridwen. The blade that had once belonged to --

"Dagger? Dagger's dead -- why --?"

But Lorden had suddenly realized something. Grimwald's eyes: they were no longer the pale blue that Lorden remembered. They were merciless and black as night. And they were familiar. . . .

Grimwald -- or Dagger, as Lorden now realized -- nodded as he saw the recognition dawn on Lorden's face. That was why Elenia's spells had not affected him. He had used magic to stop them. How Dagger had managed to assume the form of Grimwald, Lorden could not fathom, but he now saw that he was at his mercy. Dagger-Grimwald brought his knife smoothly to Lorden's throat. Then he addressed Percy and Elenia, though he didn't turn to face them.

"Anyone moves and he dies."

Percy, who had been raising herself slowly from the rooftop, froze. Elenia looked on with apprehension, her eyes wide and frightened.

"You win, Dagger," Lorden acquiesced. "You can do what you want with me, alright? I give up. Just don't hurt my friends."

"How very noble of you," smirked Dagger, "but you know what, Lorden? You're not really in a position to bargain for your life or theirs."

Lorden eyed Dagger's hand nervously. It was twitching longingly along the black handle of the knife.

"If it makes you feel any better," said Dagger quietly, "I won't harm either of your friends. But really, Lorden, there's no reason you should get the same treatment. I've waited too long for this moment."

Lorden realized what was happening too late. But before either Dagger or Lorden could do anything, Percy screamed from behind them.

"NO!"

Dagger hesitated for just a fraction of a second. In desperation, Lorden cast the first spell that came to mind, a simple Freeze spell that Dagger easily deflected. But at the same moment, Elenia had launched an attack, and Dagger, distracted, was unable to defend against it. The spell sent him crashing violently to the ground; his knife went spinning away in one direction, his gun skittered across the rooftop in the other. The force of the spell had knocked Lorden off his feet as well, and by the time he had struggled upright once more, he saw Dagger reaching for his gun.

But Percy got there first. She snatched the pistol from his fingertips, aimed for a second, and then fired.

Dagger threw up a Ward just in time to bend the incoming plasma beam away from him, and though Percy fired again and again, each time the shots just missed. Dagger snarled, then lifted a finger to point at Percy --

Lorden didn't even bother to formulate a counterspell. He just flung himself bodily at Dagger and tackled him, causing Dagger's deadly spell to go wide. They both rolled across the rooftop in a tangle of flailing limbs and flashing magic. Dagger wound up on top of Lorden and began punching him viciously, both fists wreathed with roiling flames. It was all Lorden could do to fling up a steady stream of Shield spells, but eventually Dagger was sure to find an opening. . . .

Again and again the twin fireballs of Dagger's fists hammered down on Lorden. But neither Percy nor Elenia could help for fear of hitting Lorden. Lorden had to do something fast.

Summoning up all his remaining strength and magic, Lorden gave an almighty shove to Dagger's chest. Dagger was thrown off of him, thrown right to the very edge of the building. He teetered precariously on the edge for a moment, then thrust out a hand and grabbed at the only thing available -- Lorden. For one terrifying moment they both balanced there and time seemed to have frozen, holding its breath. And then Dagger toppled over the edge, dragging Lorden with him.

The End

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