There was a man in a black cloak standing in the doorway. Fiona blinked. He didn’t go away. She waved the sword at him. He didn’t go away then, either, although he backed up a pace in surprise. She told him to leave now, please. He didn’t. Instead, he pulled a throwing knife from a sheath on his belt and began to advance slowly.
“Is that wee thing all you got?” Fiona asked, her rising voice betraying her loss of confidence. She brandished the sword in what she thought might be a threatening manner, causing the blade to shudder so violently that she almost dropped it. “Weel, mine’s bigger!”
The man in the black cloak didn’t reply, pause, or give any acknowledgement of the superiority of her equipment whatsoever. She needn’t have bothered to speak, for all the mind he was paying to her words. She waved the sword at him again, less haphazardly this time, and backed towards the crypt entrance, nearly tripping over something warm and furry in the process. The warm, furry thing yelped and shot away into the darkness of the tunnel.
“Get back here, you fat coward!” she shouted after it, but Raif was already quite gone.
Turning her attention back to the situation in the library, she saw that the black-cloaked man had stopped in front of her. He still didn’t speak, but he was gesturing now, clearly ordering her to stand aside so he could access the door.
“I willna let you through,” she said between clenched teeth. Seymour’s sword, which had at first seemed so light, was becoming heavier and heavier the longer she held it aloft. Her arms were beginning to burn. “I refuse!”
Her opponent repeated the gesture, as if he thought that she might not have properly understood. His sinister attire and his silent demeanor reminded her strongly of the Rezynite monks that resided in a monastery a few miles outside of Iliathor. They had taken Seoc there, when he was little more than a baby, in an attempt to cure his epilepsy. It hadn’t worked. Fiona had been about five at the time, but she remembered the experience vividly, particularly those solemn monks with their dark grey robes, their hoods pulled so low over their heads that only the bottom half of their faces were visible. They had haunted her nightmares for years.
She was distracted from her reminiscences by the appearance of another figure in the doorway: her youngest brother, Duncan.
“Dinna come in here, Duncan!” she shouted desperately, her gaze flickering back and forth between him and the black-cloaked man. “Go get help!”
But Duncan didn’t run off as she had expected him to. Instead, he took a step into the library and looked past her, through the door and into the tunnel that led into the crypts. “He’s doon there, is he no’?”
“Who?” asked Fiona. “Who’s doon there?”
Fiona said nothing in reply.
“You should get out o’ the way,” Duncan told her.
The man in the black cloak nodded his hooded head in agreement.
“No,” said Fiona.
She looked back to the black-cloaked man and saw that he was sheathing his knife. For a moment, she thought that by some miracle he was going to leave her alone. But it was not to be. She watched—bewildered at first, then horrified—as he began to move his hands about in front of him, whispering in an unfamiliar language. A sort of dark, smoke-like substance started gathering at his fingertips, and a metallic stench, similar to the smell of blood, filled the air.
There was no other choice. She couldn’t let this black-cloaked sorcerer get to Seoc, and Seymour’s flimsy little sword would be of no use. Fiona darted quickly into the tunnel and shut the door, leaning back against it to prevent him from coming in after her. Perhaps he wouldn’t notice the bolts on the outside. Perhaps he would just give up and go away.
If only she were so lucky.
Fiona MacInnes sank to the floor, her moan of despair accompanied by a series of percussive clicks as the sorcerer secured the latches one by one.