22. Rescue

The congealing pool of blood mixes into the dirt road around the defeated shepherd. Above him, the spearman lifts his shaft for the final blow, the polished tip dripping red rain over the heart of the conquered. Softly building, rising as the spear rises, a song of the old tongue swells in its melodies, the chords dancing in spirals of light about the priestess. The magic’s glow infects the surroundings, the white mud walls amplifying the color until the scene is painted in nothing but shades of blue.

Now like a shadow—already uniformed in black, the cold light robs the hunter of any subtlety of depth, presenting him more a two-dimensional form than a man—the spearman stands over his victim. Plunging his weapon, he makes to finish his business with the shepherd, but in more of a scream than a song, a wave of light breaks from its coiling dance around Tachi, an arc exploding into a billowing force throwing the hunter from his prey, and slamming him into the nearest side of a hut.

With a softer refrain, the light flows from the priestess like a cool stream running from the deep waters of a well. Around the herdsman the echoing light pools, cocooning him in the healing radiance of her song. The world’s colors return as the light condenses around the dying man. With a groan, the spearman rises to his feet, climbing his shaft like a crutch. Before him, he sees the two outlaws, the one kneeling by the other. Taking his weapon up from the dust, he bears it towards his shoulder, preparing to hurl the javelin into this dread witch.

“Stop!” cries the old priest.

But the hunter does not stop, and pulling his arm back, throws his deadly dart. Tachi, absorbed in ministering unto her rescuer, doesn’t even look up to see the spear before it strikes. Gasping, she falls, collapsing over her patient. Her fresh blood anoints him as the wrappings of light and song surround her, incorporating her into their healing magic. The old priest runs, interposing himself between the hunter and the two wounded criminals.

“Stop,” he wheezes quietly, throwing his arms out as if he would try to block the spearman from further approach.

By all signs the hunter stops, standing a yard or so away, satisfied with his work. Panting, the priest watches his companion, trying to parse the unspoken intentions. Turning his back to the man in black, he makes his way toward the pair. Kneeling by the shepherd and priestess, the old priest adds his voice to the fading song. Rejuvenated, the dancing coils shine all the brighter, growing in intensity like white flame. Taking the shaft in his hand, the old man pulls the spear free.

Returning unto the hunter, mumbling, his eyes seem to search the barren road as if for words, until looking up he says, “She’s a priest.” Only a head-cocking is given in answer. Bringing his hands to the terminal end of the weapon, he continues, “That’s the blood of a priest.” Letting the sordid tool fall from his grasp, the old man walks around the shepherd and Tachi, coming to the unconscious men who had first arrested the so called witch. Remembering the fat bore who had instigated this affair, the one who had so insultingly spoken of Richard, the priest marches up to the snoring pig farmer.

Kicking him in the side, he shouts, “Wake up!”

A few more kicks, and the groaning Daniel rolls over, blearily making out the shriveled form of an old man. Rubbing his eyes, he finds the dreadful priest from earlier that day, his eyes again aflame with wrath.

“No, no,” Daniel starts muttering.

Crouching down, the old man floods the pig farmer’s face with his own. His booming voice questions, “How did you get this girl?”

Silence is the only answer, the lout falling back into unconsciousness.

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