Alton confronts Rialta, killing her. Once she is dead, the castle begins to collapse. Fortunately, her death canceled the magic which held the memories of the women, in check.
The ran down the stairs, losing their balance and running into one another. The were all glad the stair was enclosed on both sides, so no one was in danger of falling to the ground floor.
Revanth struggled to his feet as Astrid ran to him. “My love!” they chorused.
“Let’s get out of here!” Alton yelled as the ceiling on the far side of the room fell.
Once out the door, they found the courtyard empty.
“Where’s Topaz? Who freed her?”
“I didn’t see her leave. I don’t know.”
“I feel her nearby,” Alton said. “She hasn’t left. Come out, you mystic bitch!” he growled. “Let’s have this out, so I don’t have to spend the rest of my life looking over my shoulder.”
The tiny gnome stepped into the archway, blocking them from the outside. “Sure of yourself, wood sprite.”
Alton cocked his head to one side. “Always. Shall we dance?” He gave her a half bow.
“As you wish.”
“Dance? Are you mad?” Revanth said.
“Take the women and run,” Alton said. “Get as far away as you can. They go free,” he told Topaz. “This is between us.”
She moved from the doorway, allowing the other three to leave, but took her place once more between Alton and freedom.
“That was slick, trapping me in earth. You forget, a gnome is an earthbound creature. My magic freed me.”
“Took long, though. I guess you aren’t as tough as you think.”
She sent a runnel of stone his way. The ripple it caused in the cobbled yard nearly knocked him off his feet, but he righted himself. Chuckling, he retaliated, picking up every pebble in a ten yard radius, he pummeled her with them.
“Bastard!” She summoned water from the dry air.
Alton couldn’t imagine how she’d done it. To him, there wasn’t enough water in the air for even a teardrop. He countered every spell she cast, fighting blow for blow with sand and stone. As the castle rumbled to dust around them, he found bigger pieces to hurl at her. Equally matched, they fought for several minutes. Alton knew he had to do something definitive, something she couldn’t, in order to win.
“When I kill you,” Topaz snarled. “I’ll kill your woman. And your friend, and his woman, too! And if you have any living family, I’ll snap their necks like twigs!”
“I freed you, Topaz. I was willing to help you.”
“Fool! No one helps without a motive, a reason!”
“I do,” he said, relaxing his stance. “Because it’s the right thing.” He reached slowly and casually into his vest for his flint and steel. His other hand crept slowly into the pouch at his belt, searching for the bag of dust.
“No one does that!” she screeched, enraged by his calm demeanor. “It’s a weakness, wood sprite. It will get you and your entire family killed!”
As they fought, Alton had slowly worked his way around until the arch was behind him. Most of the castle had fallen down, miraculously not on top of their heads, but the outer wall held. Once he was in position, Alton took a handful of the dust. Flint and steel in his left hand, the dust in his right, he brought them quickly up. With a snap of his fingers, he lit a spark. The dust ignited. Creating a gust of wind, Alton blew it at Topaz.
The gnome’s clothing and hair caught fire wherever the dust touched her. Writhing with pain, she tried to summon water to put out the flames. Air simply fanned the flames higher. With a scream of rage and suffering, she fell to the ground. Soon, she didn’t make a sound. Alton knew she was dead. He turned to leave, but felt himself in a mighty grip, as if a giant hand held his legs. With a roar, a furious wind buffeted against him, wailing and growling through the open doorway. He was lifted in the air, spun around wildly like a top, and was let down like a downy feather. Puffing loudly, he crouched in the courtyard.
He heard a voice from a distance.
Someone knelt beside him. Someone with soft hands and a warm embrace.
“My love? Alton!”
“You smell like flowers,” he whispered, touching her cheek.
“And you smell like something ran you over in a swamp,” Revanth said as he approached. “He’s fine, Velda. Let the man breathe.” He helped his friend stand. “Let’s get out of here before it topples on our heads.”
Walking out of the courtyard, Alton stopped. Instead of a barren desert, as it had been earlier, it was a green and verdant land. A trickle of water ran from the arched door, flowing into the shallow valley.
“What has happened?” Alton asked, gazing at their surroundings.
“It must have been ensorcelled,” Velda replied. “My mother….” she shivered when she remembered Rialtia.
“More likely Topaz,” Revanth replied. “For it turned after she died, not after your mother did.”
“She gave me no choice,” Alton said. “I didn’t want to, Velda.”
“Rialtia was never an easy person to love,” she replied. “Had she not been my mother, I might have ended her myself.”
“How are we going to get home?” Astrid asked.
“First, we’re going to find somewhere to rest for the night,” Velda said, with a glance at the sky. “But not here, if you please. Where is the nearest town?”
© 2019 Dellani Oakes
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