"Foolish peasant," the rider bellowed in his own language, his good hand still shading his eyes from the light. "You cannot approach me unnoticed. No one can."
Tim lay motionless, his pant leg still on fire.
The rider continued his rant, uncaring if Tim could hear him or not "I could be blind and I'd still sense all life forms around me. I have the spark! I see all! I—"
Eddie leapt onto the man's back, wrapping his left arm around his windpipe, locking it in place with his right arm. As the man whipped around, Eddie pulled tighter. He wanted to tear the man's head off. He held on like a vice. As the man spun, Eddie bit down into the man's ear, tasting blood. The rider screamed.
The struggle was a blur of confusion. All Eddie knew was rage. This man had killed Tim. Given a chance, he'd kill the girl too. He needed to die. He deserved to die. When the man fell to his knees, Eddie followed him down, still squeezing the man's throat, heedless of the flames only inches away.
Bryce moved to his side. "You got him. You got him. Ease up, buddy."
Eddie did not relent. As the rider's body went limp, he continued.
"If he's dead, we can't collect the reward."
"He killed Tim," Eddie hissed.
Eddie looked up. Bryce stared down at him, grim faced and a little frightened.
"Let it go."
Eddie let go. The man flopped into the dirt. The sleeve of his robe caught fire. Bryce yanked him away from the gas hose and patted out the flame.
Eddie staggered to his feet and walked towards Tim. The flame on Tim's pants had gone out by itself. He lay still, his arm bent at an impossible angle. Eddie knelt by his side.
"Is he... alive?" Bryce asked.
Eddie reached towards Tim's neck to check for a pulse, then drew his hand back.
"Ed, what is it?".
"I don't know. Maybe I just don't want to know the answer." Eddie fought through the hesitation and reached out to check Tim's pulse.
The shock came with a brilliant burst of white light. An electric spasm shot up Eddie's arm from the point of contact and through his body. He lurched backwards.
"What the hell happened?" Bryce cried, jumping back.
Tim lay on his back, staring up at the spinning lights of the houses below. "Uh... Tim shocked me."
Eddie struggled to his feet. Tim remain motionless. What had just happened?
"Is that boy injured?"
It was the Sheriff. She stepped into the light, a group of men with pickaxes, scythes and pitchforks following a few steps behind.
Eddie looked helplessly from the sheriff to his fallen friend.
The sheriff waited for a reply. When she didn't get one, she stepped forward and knelt beside Tim's fallen form. Before Eddie could warn her, she laid two fingers at the side of his neck. Nothing happened. Her face darkened as she waited.
"Dead," she said, standing. She pointed to the dragon rider. "What about him?"
"Still alive," Eddie said.
She frowned. "Why?"
Bryce knelt over the rider and cut the band holding the ring to his palm. He tucked it in his own pocket, then fetched the rope. "There's a reward for this guy out east. We plan to collect."
"You're bounty hunters?" The Sheriff looked disgusted.
"We are now," Bryce said as he secured the man's hands behind his back.
"And was your reward worth the life of the blacksmith's boy?"
"No," Eddie said. "It wasn't."
"Sheriff, we should kill the dragon man," said one man. "If he gets loose, he could..."
The Sheriff stared the man down, her disgust obvious. "I don't like this business. Not one bit."
Bryce stood up, defiant. "You going to arrest us?"
"And what about the girl?"
She stared at him, cold eyes reflecting the gaslight.
"Take her with you," she said.
"But Sheriff," a man protested.
"Jonathan, the sooner we get these drifters out of our town, the sooner we can get back to normal life. Give them the girl."
One of the men in the back stepped forward. He had Kai gripped by the arm. She struggled and kicked to get away from him. The man looked uncertain, but with a nod from the Sheriff, he released her. She bolted to Eddie's side.
"Now go," the Sheriff said. "Get out of here."
* * *
They said nothing as Bryce drove. A dirt road led eastward out of town. Kai lay curled in the back seat under the mayor's cloak. The dragon rider, Adept of the Ord, lay tied up in the trunk.
"Tim was so curious to find out what had caused all the changes in the world," Eddie said as they passed the last building of town.
Bryce didn't reply.
"He was smart. If anyone could have figured out what was going on, it would have been him." Eddie swallowed. "He was excited, you know. He wanted to get out of his town and see what was out there."
"I'm sorry, man."
"What if I did something to cause all of this? What if I ruined the whole world?"
"The world's still here."
"This isn't the world it should be. This is a sick joke."
"You saved a little girl, Eddie. You're no evil world destroyer."
"Maybe I'm trying to make up for... whatever. And if you haven't noticed, Tim died in the process."
"Not your fault. It was Tim's plan."
"It was me that convinced him to help."
"He wanted to help. You can't take responsibility for... what is that noise?"
Eddie heard it too. A faint, pulsing buzz. "Is that the car?"
Bryce looked worried. He searched around himself. "Under your feet there," Bryce said, nodding towards the floor. "Something's blinking."
Eddie reached under his seat. He drew out his phone, still tethered to the charge cable. It buzzed in his hand.
"My phone," he said, shocked. "It's ringing."