Saturday, October 22, 2016

Maywitch Chapter 17: Sanctum

Previous Chapter: Blood in the Water
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Nina Abendroth looked as if she had barely aged a day since Kay had seen her last. Her features were heavily shadowed in the dim light of the Sanctum, but there was no hiding her wide, dark brown eyes.
“Nina?” Nadia said, the name coming out as little more than a whisper.
Nina tilted her head. “Hey, sis! I can finally bring you up to speed. I’m here ‘cause—”
Before she could stop herself, Kay had rushed inside the room. Flames poured from her outstretched arm, cascading toward Nina in massive orange waves. Nina’s face glowed orange for a split second before she raised a shield.
“Kay, no!” Nadia yelled. “It’s no use, especially with the Grimoire right there—”
“Don’t worry, I’ll protect your precious Grimoire,” Nina said, her grin leering through the translucent shield. “What I’m really here for is my daughter. If you tell me where she is, maybe I’ll spare all three of you, even after that shit you pulled at my cabin.”
Kay launched another blazing salvo, but Nina didn’t even flinch.
“What are you talking about?” Nadia yelled. “Nina, what—”
“You know the one! A little birdy told me you were even the one assigned to her protection detail!”
Kay froze.
“What? I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Nadia said, her voice shaking. Kay heard her take a few steps closer. “Nina, whatever you think you’re here for—”
“Don’t play dumb. The child who’s been in Maywitch’s care for the past 8 months is mine. Now where the hell is she?”
There was a wild, piercing shriek, and before Kay could even react, something had knocked her to the ground. Pain surged through her arms and back, and as she struggled in vain, she could hear Nina laughing.
She wrenched her arm free of whatever was pinning it, but the massive weight on top of her shifted, pressing her neck and head into the tile floor. Then the smell reached her nose - a nauseating, ripe scent of death.
Even with her head pressed hard against the floor, she could see the huge, scaly claws pinning her right arm in place. It didn’t take her long to figure out what that meant.
“The hell?” she said, though it came out no louder than a whisper. “You’re… Are you the demon-summoner?”
The only response was a quiet cry of pain somewhere behind her – Nadia, it sounded like – and a giggle very close by. She tried to twist her free arm again, but a sharp, stabbing pain kept her in place. She knew something was likely dislocated.
Nina’s footsteps thudded softly across the floor, moving closer to Kay. “I want to know where my daughter is,” Nina said. Kay struggled to move her arms, knowing that her flame attacks were useless if she couldn’t aim, but stopped as she heard Nina’s voice close to her ear: “You have about five seconds to tell me everything you know.”
Just out of Kay’s range of vision, something near the entrance to the Sanctum glowed red. Nina stumbled into view as she moved away from the glow, toward the back right corner of the room. “Oh,” she said, smiling. “Nadia, what are you doing?”
There was a primal scream, and a few seconds later, a jet-black figure inched toward Nina. It was easily eight feet tall and thirty feet – no, forty, Kay realized – from head to tail.
Except Kay had no idea what it was. Its head resembled a dragon, but its body was more like a long, grotesque centipede. It charged at Nina, opening its mouth to reveal multiple rows of glimmering silver teeth. Dozens of spindly, knife-like legs chattered across the floor, sending bits of tile flying in every direction.
The weight on Kay’s back and arm lifted, and she rolled over to see a dark gray griffin taking flight. She scrambled to her feet and turned to Nina, who was defending herself against the black, dragon-like creature.
As Kay raised her good arm and began to recite a spell, something glimmered in the corner of her eye. Before she could react, a massive wave of water rushed past her, splashing her as she stumbled out of the way.
When she turned around, she saw Gardner kneeling in the doorway, covered in blood. Holly lay motionless beside her. Nadia was on her hands and knees, staring at the floor, where Kay thought she could make out a magic circle. A dark green, bus-sized lizard lay near the door, black blood spurting from a gaping wound in its back.
“What—” Kay whirled around, saw that Nina and the griffin were still preoccupied with the black beast, and turned back around. “Nadia, are you okay? Gardner? What happened—”
“Focus on Nina,” Gardner said. She was clutching her stomach, and as Kay looked closer, she could see that Gardner was holding a poultice to her side.
“But Nadia - what happened?”
“Focus!” Gardner said, yelling over the inhuman shrieks and sounds of fighting echoing through the room.
Kay turned and ran toward the battle, hoping to lend support to whatever that black creature was. She fumbled in her pocket but yanked her hand away as something sharp stabbed it. Apparently, the plastic vial of wormwood had shattered into pieces sharp enough to cut.
She grimaced as she stuck her hand back in. The combination of blood and herbs would make quite the grisly fireworks show.
Nina noticed her approach and waved at her. Kay raised a shield just as the griffin flew away from the black dragon-like thing and divebombed straight at her.
She hesitated for a moment before dropping the shield and firing flames instead. On the off-chance that the griffin was a living thing, instead of a demon, her shield would be completely useless.
Her fire did little to slow the creature, though, and she felt its claws tear into her shoulder. Its smoldering feathers burned her face and neck, but she gritted her teeth and fired another salvo at its left flank. It shrieked in fury and pulled away, ripping its claws out of her skin in the process.
She heard herself screaming in pain as blood spattered on the floor. Her head felt light, and she struggled to keep her wits about her as she sank to her knees. Both of her shoulders were now wrecked. She stared vacantly at the scorched griffin several feet away from her, struggling to calculate her next move as pain overwhelmed her brain.
“Kay!” she heard Gardner yell behind her.
Something hard collided with her left side, and she screamed in pain as she fell to the ground. Spots danced before her eyes.
“You’re late, Renaya,” she heard Nina’s voice say somewhere to her right. “Make sure you finish Kay off first. She’s been a real pain in the ass.”
The sound of crashing waves echoed through the Sanctum again, and Kay was doused with drops of water. She realized that Gardner had probably attacked. There was a yell of fury, and she turned her head, desperate to see what Nina was talking about. Renaya was dead. There was no way she could be—
“Damn you!” Kyle’s voice yelled. “You’re that water bitch, aren’t you?”
A rush of wind forced Kay to close her eyes. When she opened them again, Kyle was standing twenty feet in front of her, wearing the same clothes he had been wearing when she saw him the previous day.
But his aura was different. Even Kay could tell that it was unstable, violent, and very familiar.
There was a grunt of pain somewhere to her left, but she lacked the strength to look for the cause. Kyle, though, stiffened and began to run toward her.
She tensed and moved her arm as much as she could, hoping to launch a blaze at him, but she moved too slow. He grinned gleefully as he kicked her in the head and kept running. “I’ll get you next time, bitch!” he yelled. “I’ll get you for that flame hex you used on me!”
Another crash of waves resounded through the room, followed by a shriek from some inhuman source. Gardner yelled something, but was drowned out by a loud, rumbling bang.
Kay stared off into space, barely able to process the sounds around her. Her blood was oozing into the water pooled on the floor. The glowing gold orb in the center of the room was still there, whatever that meant.
“Kay? Kay!” Nadia yelled.
Maybe that was a warning, Kay thought. Maybe something else was coming at her.
Gardner’s voice rang out again, this time more harshly, but Kay couldn’t make it out. She heard something splash in the shallow water, coming closer to her every second.
As her vision started to blur, she saw Nadia’s face appear above her. “They’re retreating,” Nadia said as she touched Kay’s shoulder wound. “Dammit, the backpack - I need those poultices—”
“Help Holly first,” Kay murmured.
“No, she’s fine. You’re bleeding too much.” Nadia began rattling off spells in Latin, and Kay could feel her shoulder growing warm.
“Tierra, we need another healer over here!” Gardner yelled from very close by. “Tell George we have a second summoner on our hands, but I have her guarded. Kay is in bad shape, and she’ll need…”
The sound of Gardner’s voice faded out, and the last thing Kay remembered was the warmth of Nadia’s hands on her shoulder.
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