ATCv1 #18 of 25

11 03 2008

Please note that posts in this category belong to the old, discontinued version and as such will not any updates nor corrections.

About a dozen fires were set in a circle within the village square,
emitting a cold blue light. The flames were reaching several metres
high, flooding the area with their ghostly light; the snow around them
amplified the impression even further. In the center of the circle a
huge pole had been erected, a whole trunk even, which was covered in
strange mystical carvings and magical symbols. However, nobody cared
about those. Everyone’s attention was focused on what was tied to the
stake; the body of an elven girl. She must have been about Laiva’s
age. The drums stopped. Nobody dared to move, and for what seemed like
an eternity there was nothing to be except for the blazing of the
fires.

The staff had, rather unwillingly, assembled in the library where the
headmaster was trying to force some information out of the librarian
which proved more difficult than one might suspect. Still, Strika was
their best bet, being the only one to read all the memos and mail
around the place. All, including anyone else’s, however he did it.
‘One last time: Where is Elias?’
‘You are going to kill me now, aren’t you? Well, let’s get it
over with then, I don’t have all day you know…’
‘Yes, I’m going to… Stop messing around with me!’
‘How could I do that? I’m just the librarian here, and anyway,
you of all people…’
You could almost believe he was an innocent little boy,
against all evidence. He really knew how to act.
‘That does it, you’re fired.’
‘You can’t do that.’
Strika gave the headmaster a broad grin, whose expression, in
turn, changed to puzzlement.
‘Why…’
‘Well, by the looks of it I have a death term contract. And
don’t even think of it.’
Triumphantly he waved an old piece of parchment in front of
the man’s nose, who instantly snatched the document and read it, his
eyes becoming bigger and bigger. Then, suddenly an evil grin formed on
the headmaster’s face and he produced a match from one of his pockets.
‘We’ll see who laughs last.’
‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you…’
‘Oh, are you afraid something could happen to that contract of
yours? Look, now the match is burning; what shall we do about it?’ He
held it directly under the edge of the parchment, which completely
failed to catch fire.
‘No, not really, it’s a pretty long lasting contract, you see.
It’s just… you might get bitten.’
‘Bitten? By what, the books?’
Instead of an answer thousands of tiny spider like creatures
appeared from the depths of the library, moving straight towards the
headmaster, crawling up his legs and onto his arms until finally
reaching the match, sucking the flame’s power away and vanishing again
in a matter of seconds. With a cry he broke down, his hand covered in
blue bulges and a thin layer of ice.
‘I warned him, didn’t I? Fire in the library! Serves him
right. Now, would anyone go and fetch a doctor? Today, perhaps?’

The door of the largest house at the square opened and a hooded
figure, all in black, strode towards the circle of fires. Slowly it
turned towards the villagers and for a fraction of a second Laiva
could see the harsh face of a man in his middle years. His brows
joined in the middle and formed a ‘V’, overshadowing the small and
mean eyes. Worst, however, was the hideous grimace of a smile that the
lower part of his face had been twisted into. At this moment the
girl’s body moved, hardly noticeable, but enough for Laiva to notice.
She was still alive!

The man lifted his hands and presented a dagger to the cheering crowd.
Slowly he turned back towards the girl and lifted the dagger over his
head, preparing to deliver the deadly blow. It was now or never. Elias
reached for his sword and carefully pulled it a few inches out of its
sheath, but before he could storm forward something flitted through
the air, directly towards the man in the circle. Groping for his
throat he silently sank to the ground and the inevitable happened.
Unaffected by the general panic Elias turned his head in the direction
the shot had come from, instinctively scanning the area, and within
seconds he had spotted the source of this chaos. Damn Azanees, why did
they always have to play hero?

Laiva was thinking hard; she had to get the girl out of there and she
had to do it fast, but then again she’d never make it through all
those people without being caught, even with everyone running around
frantically. Unless, of course, they couldn’t see her. After all she
had done it before.

Suddenly the air became damp and condensed into tiny water drops.
Before anybody realized what had happened, the village had already
been covered in thick fog, making it impossible to see hand before
eyes. Elias, however, untouched by the phenomenon, closed his eyes,
concentrating on the muted sounds emerging from the white void. Who
needed eyes to see anyway? Just a question of training. The villagers,
on the other hand, panicked finally and now people were constantly
bumping into, stumbling and falling over each other. Elias stepped to
the side, narrowly avoiding a man who crashed into the wall next to
him and continued listening closely. There was something else,
something moving from the border of the village towards the stake, in
what seemed like a more or less straight line. A hothead for sure, but
a good one, damn good.

She did it; she could see where she was going. Too hard a spell for
her, was it? But now wasn’t the time for pride. Laiva jumped up and in
one movement broke into a full run, Mynor at her heels. It was almost
impossible to navigate through the headless crowd, but with an
incredible show of skill she managed to get through them without even
slowing down. At least the fires kept the villagers out of the center.
Quickly she pulled the arrow out of the man’s body and grabbed his
dagger; she didn’t need it, but there was no way she’d let them use it
even one more time. Then she turned to the stake and, with a few quick
cuts, freed the girl from the ropes, letting her sink to the ground.
She was indeed alive, but hardly conscious; what had they done to her?
Laiva had no time to lose, though. The havoc wouldn’t last forever and
neither would the fog, so she put the girl’s arm around her shoulders
and pulled her upright; she was certainly heavier than she looked. How
were they going to make it to safety? She couldn’t even properly walk
like that!

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