This is part of an ongoing steampunk fantasy story. See the introduction to get at the story from the beginning.

Majick – two ways to use majick. Beasts used Wild Majick by instinct, like the dreamstealer. Humans could control majick by the Treatus: spells bound to letters of an ancient language. I didn’t know much about majick, only that it was irrational and dangerous.

Mouse’s fingers danced through the air. Green trails of light followed from their tips, weaving into long tendrils of liquid-light that slithered around the prisoner, the dreamstealer carcass and the pillar.

Treatus Majick.

Then, Mouse began to sing. I couldn’t hear the music, but I felt it – tasted it – and knew what was happening. 

Darker sorcery. Something else, beyond the Treatus. Something I didn’t understand.

A chill crawled through the muggy air. Mouse sunk the blade into the dreamstealer’s skin. The same oily, black blood oozed and covered the knife. He turned to the prisoner, his expression lighting up like a glowing automaton. Deranged. Mad.

Music rose on its own now, though I couldn’t say where came from

I realized what was happening a second too late. Mouse plunged the dagger into the soldier’s chest.

My scream was lost in Mouse’s bloody howl and the shout from the prisoner and the shriek from the majickal music.

Quick as a shot, I stole Andrew’s rifle and cracked the gun’s butt against is jaw.

On the platform, the prisoner fell.

I took aim.

The shot broke through the music. Right on target.

The soldier fell away, a clean hole between his eyes. A quick death. An Ilsan death.

Next, I took aim on Mouse, but froze in the same breath I was going to fire. He looked at me – inside of me. He worked his fingers into a Treatus Rune in the air. I couldn’t fire. My hands wouldn’t let me.

Rage flashed in my vision. Hatred.

I lunged forward, bent on tearing Mouse apart if I couldn’t shoot him, but Andrew tackled me.

Mouse cackled. He turned back to the soldier and tore the knife away. He finished the spell by smearing the dreamstealer’s blood and the prisoner’s blood on the blank pillar. Cracks spread across the stone, spider-webbing from the bloody smear. The cracks twisted into pictographs and symbols. The top of the pillar flexed. Bits of stone flecked off as if it was shedding skin. Finally, in one last split, the pillar settled. Now, like the others, two faces stared in opposite directions: one panther, one human.

Not just human – the sacrificed soldier.

I buried my face in the dirt. Not only had this Mouse – this Rat – killed a fellow soldier, he had defiled an Ilsan citizen with majick. The soldier could never rest now. Never find peace.

Andrew was silent as he led me to a small tent in the center of the camp. Two guards were posted outside, but he took the precaution of binding me to a post in the center of the tent before leaving. I lay down and closed my eyes. I was alone in a prisoner tent, trying not to shake, begging to forget what I had seen. Praying I could kill Rat before he did that to me.

Eventually, night fell and the guards outside stopped their chatter. Probably asleep. Now was my moment. I slipped the towel the nurse had given me from my pocket and retrieved the razor blade. With it, I cut myself free, then weaved threads from the rope with the frays of the towel. Lastly, I tied the razor to the end.

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Chris Michaels

Storyteller. Researcher. Coder. Innovator. I seek to push the boundaries of storytelling and education.
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