** Cut-scene from Two Empty Thrones. Spoiler alert rating – low. **
Stephan stopped at the top of the stairs, and put his back against the stone wall. He ignored his panting and pounding heart.
Okay, Professor Johansen, he thought. You can do this. You are powerful, intelligent, and in command. No-mus slaughter cows all the time. You’ve done it before. This is just one rabbit-rhino you didn’t finish, nothing new. You remember how to do it, just like riding a bike. And you’re more skilled now. Two bolts drilling for the eyes, two more to drive them in, and then it’s just cleanup. Piece of cake.
He took a breath and held out his hand. It shook. Stephan glared at it. Why didn’t Chuck send Cawnal to do this? That Neanderthal actually enjoys killing. He pushed away from the wall.
Okay, just do it. Do it.
The Guardian’s voice floated up the stairs and Stephan cringed. So feminine, out of such a monster, he thought. It just creeps me out. The fact that the beast could even talk was a testament to the powers of magic to make DNA recombination work.
He took a few steps down and paused. But who is it talking to? A moment later, crashes and explosions rolled up the stairs. Stephan’s heart pounded and he tripped his way back to the top of the stairs. Clutching the corner of the wall, he peered down the stairs. What is that crazy monster doing down there now? He knew Chuck allowed the beast to exercise in whatever way it wanted, but still.
Something else filtered up with the noise. Is that magic? Could Chuck be down there too? Maybe Chuck did send Cawnal as backup? Stephan sighed, a small smile forming on his lips. Yes, he thought. Perhaps Cawnal is down there, taking care of business. The magic does feel odd. More crashes and more of the beast talking. Even if it is just exercising, I can wait for the noises to stop. Wait until the beast is tired out, then do the deed.
He leaned back again, thinking of the day Chuck told him he brought one of those animals into the Castle. Chuck is surely brilliant, but sometimes I wonder if he’s completely sane. He double-checked his mental walls, then went on. To collect those creatures shows a weakness of mind in some way, I’m sure of it.
A pang of guilt and fear tore through him as he remembered the Guardian that he didn’t get to finish off. In the middle of an experiment on one of the beasts, a magic user stole it away. He pushed the memory away, like he had a million times before. Who cares if a mu took the body of one of the beasts? I’m sure it was dead. Doesn’t mean a thing. But the hateful look on that tall magic-user’s face still made Stephan’s blood curdle.
Lost in the memory, Stephan missed the start of the silence. It’s awfully quiet down there, he suddenly realized. He listened for a moment, but heard nothing. Hoping he would find just a body, maybe some bloodstains on the floor, he crept down the stairs, gathering his energy for an attack, just in case.
His pulse pounding in his ears, he couldn’t hear his footsteps on the stairs. He stretched his senses forward, finding a strange magic. Fuzzy, he thought. It’s vaguely familiar. Maybe dead Guardian?
He peeped down the last of the stairs, noting the beast not at its usual place at the bottom landing. Hope and fear tumbled in Stephan’s guts. He crept to the last stair, four spheres of energy at the ready.
He cocked his hand to throw and turned the corner. And blinked.
He glanced around, sensing a jumbled mess of energy. He scuttled quickly down the hall, peering down the bright corridor that led to the beast’s area. Thrumming with nerves and hope, he darted down the corridor, stopping at the end. He scanned the beast’s cave, looking and sensing for life or magic.
Empty, and only a trace of magic.
He stood up straight and walked back the way he came. Pausing in the middle of the hall, he searched the energy mess more closely. Some Fire, Water, and something odd. Nodding, he convinced himself. Cawnal came down and used a magic item to finish the beast off. Nothing for me to do here.
He scampered away. Heading up the stairs, he grinned.
That’s a good bit of work I did, making sure the beast is gone. I deserve a treat. I have just enough time for some wine at a certain French beach before I have to be in position for the next part of Chuck’s plan.
He smiled and opened a portal.