Immediately, Will recognised the grey, grisly hand that took hold of his collar; that of a Shade. They were the lowest minions under the Mastery's control, created with magick of unspeakable darkness that made them abominations. Its knuckles were dripping with blood and hashed with glass, flesh hanging from the fingers in shreds. The elbow was bent around the windowpane and had reached blindly for him, and now it tried to pull him through.
Persephone shrieked, hidden at the top of the stairs, tears pouring down her cheeks in silver trails. Arlamus and his mother fell backwards onto the stairs, but Andrel ran forward to try and pry the hand away.
With incredible strength, the Shade pulled Will away from the wall to the window, but it was too narrow. His wand shaking, Andrel shouted 'kovathia' and three deep gashes appeared on the Shade's wrist, like it had been scraped with an invisible claw. The artery divided, and as the Shade screamed, blood sprayed like a fountain across Will's face, tasting acidic when it dripped into his mouth. But despite Andrel's efforts, the Shade didn't cease, in fact it seemed to pull with more determination.
Another hand burst through the opposite window, waving erratically for somebody. Persephone shrieked again, and now Arlamus had taken her in his arms, gripping her tightly whilst she cocooned herself against him and beads of glass flew across the lobby.
'Come here, boy!' Will's Shade spat. He caught a glimpse of its face, with barely any flesh over its skull, but stretched tautly over most of its eyes and mouth, saliva dribbling through torn and sore slits.
Will was overwhelmed with disgust, but he suddenly felt a wave of hot pain up his arm, realising that a shard of glass in the window frame had burrowed into his arm as the Shade tugged aimlessly to get him onto the porch. He screamed as he felt the glass moving in and out of him, as if it was slashing a different nerve each time.
He called on the sorceress' strength, and it came like an electric charge, enervating his arm enough so that he could lift his wand and shout 'ekrixi!'
He felt the sudden burning of fire on his skin, yet it seemed paltry once he'd freed himself from the window. He felt a moment of relief before he realised, and watched as the window frame was blown apart, along with the wall and the door. Chips and shards sprayed everywhere, and Will felt himself ricochet in the opposite direction onto the porch.
He hit the floor and felt the tenderness of the burns up his right arm, bricks and wood showering down on him with dull pain. Now outside, he felt the full assault of the blizzard, burning more than the explosion had. He leaned up and saw his blood, bright blue against the white snow, intermingled with the Shade's black blood. One of the Shades, the one who hadn't attacked him, had its shrivelled head lying at least a metre from its body, which was flattening out and disappearing into spiralling, black mist.
'Will!' a voice called from inside, choked by smoke and brick dust. 'Will! Are you alright?' He picked out Mrs Wilthric, looking out of the newly-made hole in her house, hoisting Andrel from the floor, who was unconscious, blood dripping from his head.
'Yeah, I'm -,' he began to say, but was suddenly hauled upward. He realised in that split second that the Shade who had attacked him hadn't been killed in the blast. When he turned to face his opponent, he saw that he had done a lot of damage; its head was partially severed. As well as this, black organs from his chest were now spilling forth onto the porch, dropping with bloody squelches. Will saw the large intestine unravel and coil on the ground, leaving the Shade's spine visible from the inside. He felt bile at the back of his throat, but had no time.
'You son-of-a-bitch!' the Shade rasped, gathering its intestine and sloppily stuffing it back into its body. 'I'll take you to the Grand Master in pieces!' From his black robes he drew a long machete, catching the moonlight even through the dense screen of snow.
Just as Will thought the blade would fall onto him, he heard somebody shout.
'Kubiokiru!' He watched as the Shade released its grip on the weapon, and its head rolled completely from the body with no trace of blood at all. It rolled across the porch, leaving the body swaying, turning to a plume of black smoke that filtered through the collar and cuffs. As the body fell, Will saw Arlamus standing in front of him, Persephone weeping on his arm.
Arlamus' eyes were wide in shock at what he'd done, and they watched each other for a moment, the adrenaline settling in their veins.
'Th - thanks,' Will stammered, unable to believe how close he had come to death again, and how of all people, Arlamus had saved him.