A tall, robed figure stood in the doorway of the jail, his face hidden in the shadow of his hood, a circle of red light glowing somewhere beneath his left eye. He remained motionless, the oil lamp's light flickering over the folds of his brown robe. He reminded Eddie of the statue they'd seen days before. The Godsbane.
Eddie shared a glance with Bryce, who shrugged. The frogs continued to cower in the corner, muttering in their gurgling drawl. Kai had similarly retreated from the bars, hiding in her own corner. Only the woman seemed unaffected. She remained on her bench, offering the newcomer only a disinterested glance.
Without a word, the stranger advanced, moving with silent steps. He approached the door to Eddie and Bryce's cell, raised his hand, and whispered a few words that not even Eddie could understand. The stranger's hand pulsed with blue light, and the cell door's lock clicked. The door creaked open. He took one step into the cell, as Eddie and Bryce stepped back. One of the frogs squeaked in horror.
"You are an unexpected surprise." The stranger spoke in a hard language of guttural consonants and clipped vowels. His voice was low and sonorous. "I did not come here for you, but you will serve."
"Serve what?" Eddie asked, his hands up. "What do you want with me?"
The hooded stranger turned to him. "Not you." His palm raised towards Bryce. "You."
A blue pulse flashed, blinding Eddie. When he could see again, Bryce had toppled to the floor.
The stranger advanced. With no effort at all, he gripped Bryce by the back of the belt and lifted him off the floor. He dragged Bryce to the doorway and dropped him in a heap. He approached the other cell and repeated his quiet chant. The door clicked open.
Eddie moved in to stop him. "What are you doing? You can't go knocking people out. I mean—"
The stranger backhanded Eddie across the side of face. Eddie's head smashed against the bars. His ears rang as he collapsed onto the floor.
The woman watched with lazy interest, her posture as relaxed as ever. The figure ignored her, turning to Kai.
"And you will be among the greatest to serve," the stranger said. "Your spark blazes like forge fire." He raised his palm towards the girl who stood with her back to the wall, arms hugged across her chest. "You will be a gem in the holy usurper's crown."
The woman jumped suddenly to her feet. The robed figure faced her. She did not flinch away. "What did you just say?" She asked. She turned to Eddie. "Translator boy, what did he just say?"
Eddie stammered, rubbing his head. "He said... he said she'd be a gem in the holy usurper's crown."
She nodded, repeating the words for holy usurper from the stranger's language. "Ghan shikvaht."
The robed figure took a casual swipe at her as he'd done with Eddie. The woman dodged.
"What do you know of the ghan shikvaht?" she asked.
The stranger raised his palm. With a quick sweep of her foot, the woman kicked it away, ducked under his reach and swung her arm around his neck from behind. The man was at least a foot taller, but she yanked him back in a headlock. "I don't want to fight you," she said. "I want to know what you know. I—"
The stranger slammed backwards, pinning her against the bars. She let out a breathless grunt.
Kai had been watching this confrontation with utter horror. When the woman put the stranger in a headlock, she glanced once at Eddie, expectantly. When he didn't move, she raced out of the cell by herself, out the door. The frogs followed close behind.
The woman yanked the stranger's hood back. His bald head gleamed with sweat in the flickering candle light. Beneath his left eye, he appeared to have a mechanical implant, a red LED glowing in its center.
"You will tell me what I want to know," the woman demanded. "The usurper, the godsbane, the unrighteous judge." She pressed her thumb against his left eyelid.
"Get off of me, you bitch," the stranger demanded in his own language.
"What did he say?" she asked, her eyes darting at Eddie.
Eddie stood up, steadying himself on the bars. "He called you a bad word."
The man roared. He raised his hand towards the wall. A burst of blue light blasted out, and the outer wall of the jail exploded. Dust flew, pebbles pinged everywhere, and the cool night air sent the lamp flame flickering violently. It winked out The man freed himself of the woman's grip and rushed out into the night.
Eddie stumbled in the dark. The woman dodged into the front office. When Eddie stooped beside Bryce's fallen form, the woman returned, knocking Eddie sideways. "Follow me, translator boy," she demanded and rushed out through the hole in the wall.
Gaslight lamp posts illuminated the streets. A few groups of villagers stood watching from street corners and through candlelit windows. The robed man waited there, malice burning in his eyes. "You dare to challenge an Adept of Cavaheim," he barked, raising a hand towards the woman. "I am Kahrdoom, and you will face m—"
She dodged aside from a pulse of light and spun midair to kick the man in the face. He stumbled backwards, his hands on his face.
The woman turned to Eddie. She held the sword that Eddie had seen on the Sheriff's desk. "You need to keep up," she demanded. "Tell me what he says, as he says it. If I address him, translate for me."
"I don't have to—" Eddie began, but a fierce snarl from the woman brought him up short. He translated what the man had said.
The attacker took on a fighting pose, his stance low, his arms ready.
"Adept Kahrdoom," the woman said. "I am Montrose, Knight of the Holy Order of Truth." She paused for Eddie to translate, then continued. "I seek no quarrel with you. I wish only to know of the Usurper, the Gahn Shikvaht."
Kahrdoom sneered. The red LED in the implant below his eye blazed brighter. "I seek no quarrel either. You have no spark. You are beneath me. Stand aside and let me be about my business."
When Eddie finished translating, Montrose frowned, her posture relaxed. "You will not leave here or be on any business until I have the information I seek."
Before Eddie was finished, Kahrdoom muttered a curse and raised his palm. Blue light like a lance of lightning flashed from the hand. Montrose flipped forward above the bolt and landed a heel kick downward into the man's face. He tumbled backwards, and she landed another kick to his groin. He bellowed with pain, his whole body crumpling inward to protect what she'd already damaged.
Montrose stepped back and returned to fighting stance. "Yield. Answer my questions."
The big man's groans became clipped, transforming into sinister laughter. He whistled once, a brief tweet.
Montrose stood ready, listening. She jumped and rolled to the left before Eddie could even see what she was dodging. Something had dropped out of the sky and narrowly missed hitting her. The whooshing sounds of huge flapping wings cut the air above.
Eddie looked up. Barely illuminated by the gaslights, Eddie caught sight of the silhouette of a long scaled tale and huge flapping wings.
"A dragon," he whispered. "We're under attack by a dragon."