“Even now I could kill you with a word,” she spat at him.
He shrugged his shoulders, sending a ripple down his flowing robes, and raised his eyebrows. The movement stopped just above the ground, where he seemed to hover over the muddy earth, and enchantments kept the muck from contacting him. With an emotionless voice, he responded, “Prove it.”
It had been an easy bluff to call. If he had followed her movements and had witnessed the magnitude of the magic she had just finished unleashing, he would know exactly how weakened she would be. And, the feat would have been draining with normal spells. The druidic coercion had left her far more weakened and vulnerable than she would have been otherwise. The sorceress had no recourse but to continue the bluff and hopefully buy herself enough time for a real solution to arise.
“Before I kill you,” she replied, matching his emotionless timbre, “I would love to know why you turned your back on our studies. Did I not treat you like a peer? Did I not open doorways for you that you wouldn’t have found studying under anyone else?”
“I know you are stalling,” he laughed. The sound echoed bizarrely, warbling, in the empty river bed and his voice was returned octaves lower, a moaning ghost. It fit the altered landscape and the feeling of being haunted caused chills to run down both their spines.
Before the sorceress could use the brief distraction to her advantage, four more magicians appeared next to her betrayer. Their faces were hidden beneath shadowy hoods, but she was certain she recognized the features of at least one of them, her more recent betrayer: the wizard who had left her to die in the dragon’s den.
At her best, she would have liked her chances against the five magi that spread in front of her. Her eyes tracked their progress, using an old trick where she focused beyond them so she could see them all rather than watching one at a time. However, she was not at her best. She was nowhere near her best. As much as she wanted to stay, fight, and destroy her enemies, the prudent action was to flee.
A fire burned within her, though. It was born of rage and fueled by years of torment. It had once been tempered by ambition and a desire to make her way through the ranks of sorcery, but those governors had finally been scorched by the heat of her anger. There was nothing within her left to hold her fire in check.
She heard the dragon’s laughter in her mind, howling with mirth. The beast had been right to sense a kindred spirit in her. She pushed herself out of the mud, and her eyes burned fiery orange and purple. “I will kill you all.”