Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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– 4 –

– 4 –

Edmund shifts his stance.

He stretches his palm forward and he does a nithrid move.

Fingers of lightning flow from him, eddy along the ground, and kick upwards towards her; she skitters back.

He twists; he takes a step, he brings his hand down, and the skies open; he calls a spear of argent fire down upon her. She is already moving through ninja space, not visible in the world of mortals, turning and turning as she comes.

He scatters the bolt as it falls. It splits and shatters, turns into a thousand traceries of light, and when she reappears it is in the middle of one of them.

She is in the middle of a wince of pain from that when the box with his heart in it finishes its fall and it hits the ground.

His eyes go blank. His world stutters.

Then he is surging towards her, uncontrolled, and he is not human but a wolf in movement; from the moment his back foot leaves the ground to the moment that his forward foot lands he is not a boy at all but a howling beast; and then Edmund again, just barely, just in time to strike his palm against her nose and for her to intend, and utterly fail, to shove a sword straight through his knee.

“Damn it!” she gargles, because that means she has to add a shilling to the intended maiming, the failed maiming, and the damning jars. Also, because her nose hurts. She traps Edmund’s leg, tumbles him over, and tries to grab the box again. She doesn’t succeed.

“Oh, Hell,” she says, as if to complete some sort of set.

She’s off-balance. He’s got her. He’s got a hand on her shoulder and her t-shirt — unfair, she thinks, at how he can kill her and she can’t reply, how saints apparently can’t even stab a boy’s leg without their holiness interfering — and he hisses, “I don’t want to fight—”

She twists.

She catches his thumb as she is moving. “Fine way,” she says, and she pulls it back, levers herself free; and then, with a sudden grin of realization, pulls him around with it, laughs as his own unwillingness to have his thumb broken lets her spin him around to the ground with it without actually hurting him, “of showing it —”

She makes eye contact for a moment. It’s a mistake on her part.

White flares through his eyes.

It pulses.

His hunger drowns out her vision. Her heart catches in her throat. Her mouth goes dry. She is still moving, she thinks, she may even still be fighting, but she cannot see.

She cannot hear.

She cannot taste.

She wonders if she has killed him, or he her. She wonders if there is still a world anywhere. She wonders what it actually means, to be alive.

She reaches for herself but for a moment she cannot find herself. For a moment, the impact of that hunger has split her between herself and her image; her concept of herself wanders off from her being; she is suddenly dual, the saint and the Bethany, under the impact of that white wolf-boy’s stare.

She staggers backwards. Her vision swims. Her spirit wavers. Then she refocuses.

He is frowning.

And behind him —

“That was interesting,” he says, thoughtfully, but she doesn’t have time any more to deal with him. She dissipates and she leaves him to fight her shadow instead.

She prays he won’t see through it, won’t come after her —

There’s a much bigger problem St. Bethany has now.

It has noticed Edmund playing with lightning down below; it is bearing in on the school; it is cutting its way along the roads and paths with limbs of tree-trunk-wide lightning: the nithrid.

It was reborn at the Lethal Magnet School for Wayward Youth not that many months ago.

It was chased away from the school for a while by its duel with Emily; but now the living storm, the nithrid, is coming home.



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