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Spell of Shadow & Light
A Curse Breaker Prequel
Before Nulthir could consider the merits of that, he traced a protective rune over his pocket and its furry occupant, who was staring up at him with wide trusting eyes. “Hard as diamond, soft as down, keep this little one safe and sound.” The rune glowed green for a moment then faded as it settled into the wool, but it was still there. Nulthir sensed its web of protective magic wrap Furball up in its warmth. If only he had time to layer more spells onto that simple one, but he didn’t.
A clanging sound startled them both as the footsteps and banging suddenly stopped. What the hell was going on back there? Were the inmates restless? Or had one of them escaped? The locks had all felt solid when Nulthir had checked, but they weren’t the best locks money could buy, and there had been incidents in the past week where they’d failed.
“Stay out of sight, okay?” Nulthir reminded Furball. “I have to check something.”
Furball gave him another thumbs-up, then pointed in alarm at the shadows between them and Green Block just as the green light illuminating that cell-lined cave winked out, dropping the tunnel leading to it into deep shadow. Nulthir turned, but Blue Block went dark a moment later. That’s when the screaming began.
“Shh.” Nulthir rested a hand on his pocket to comfort the quivering Furball and quiet his distressed chirps. Apparently, Furball did make other sounds when he wanted to.
Nulthir filed that away for later and widened his eyes in a vain attempt to improve his night sight, but he needed some light to see. He didn’t have any, unless he wanted to pull out his dawn rune again. Nulthir considered doing just that as he walked back toward the cell-filled cave known as Blue Block. But if he brought out the dawn rune again, he’d be visible, and he didn’t want to be.
Until he had a better handle on the situation, Nulthir was stuck navigating the unrelieved darkness of the tunnel, but so was everyone else down here. It covered this section of the prison’s inner ring, hiding the source of those attenuated screams. Nulthir fingered the nightstick clipped to his utility belt but didn’t draw it yet. It hung next to a collection of keys that jangled when he moved. Hmm, maybe he ought to do something about that, so he wasn’t advertising his presence. Nulthir unhooked the keys from his belt and dropped them into his trouser pocket. Hopefully, his hip pocket would muffle their clicking.
Furball shifted in his breast pocket and let out a frightened meep. That was three sounds he’d made in the last few minutes. That was progress of a sort. Too bad Nulthir didn’t speak bird.
“Shh.” Nulthir rubbed the top of Furball’s head since that was the only part of him within reach. The lovable little creature nuzzled his hand. “I love you too, you little fuzzball.” He didn’t see or sense anything amiss, but he trusted the shivering ball of fur in his pocket.
Furball could see quite well in the dark. If only the little guy could tell him what he saw. That would be a huge help since Nulthir had no idea what had caused those screams; why they were quieting; or what he was slowly creeping toward.
Nulthir grasped his nightstick and glided forward, keeping the wall to his left. That still left three directions for an attack to come at him, though, only two were likely because the tunnel was only about four feet wide. That was wide enough. A power so cold it burned, struck Nulthir in the side, staggering him. Another bolt of that same killing cold slammed into him before he could recover his scattered wits. Icy magic burrowed under his skin, and his pulse hammered out a song of fear so loudly, it almost drowned out Furball’s frantic meeps. That killing cold sped through his body, dragging a black void behind it.
Nulthir fought it as he dropped to his knees, but he couldn’t throw off the attack. It was like nothing he’d ever faced before. He couldn’t even think of a way to counter it. The power was so cold, and it was pulling something out of him. Just thinking was growing more and more difficult. But Nulthir tried to hold on. He couldn’t pass out. If he did, the magic he’d hidden since he’d sought refuge under this mountain would be revealed, and his life would be over before he’d even lived much of it. He had to fight it, but how?
Furball shrieked, hopefully in fear, not pain, as another blast of magic so cold and dark it gave off no light at all struck Nulthir—this time in the back, and he fell forward, shielding Furball with his body. He caught himself before he hit the ground. “It’s okay, Furball. I won’t let anyone hurt you.”
Furball didn’t reply, not in words, but Nulthir heard something. Maybe the little guy was calling psychically for help. No, that couldn’t be right. Nulthir wouldn’t be able to hear such a call because he didn’t have the mind gift. But could Furball mind-call his family? More importantly, should Furball do that? Or would the scared kit just call his family into a trap?
Nulthir opened his mouth to warn Furball, but the runes tattooed on his back heated up as they activated. They generated a field that cut some of the force pressing him down into the ground, and the sudden relief from the cold took his breath away. What had Mommy dearest inscribed back there—a transmutation spell maybe?
That would make sense, given its placement. The dark magic’s pull on him lessened as other spells tattooed on his skin lit up under his uniform, but his defenses had kicked in too late. That strange cold magic had taken something from him, and the loss was knocking him out. Footsteps came again as he collapsed on his side, too weak to hold himself up anymore.
Another cold blast hit him. The blood roared in his ears. What kind of magic was so dark and bitterly cold? That question pursued Nulthir as the darkness closed in on him, but his last thought was of Furball. The poor dear was terrified and exposed. Nulthir curled his rapidly numbing body around the frightened little creature who was chirping as if his little life depended on it, and it probably did.
Hide, Furball. Nulthir tried to send that thought the way Furball’s grandsire, Thing, had taught him when he was a child chasing shimmering leaves under the boughs of the enchanted forest. But the blackness swept him under, and Nulthir was lost in its embrace.
To be continued next week as we continue our special presentation. Get your copy of Spell of Shadow & Light now.
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