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  • Dennis Perlstein

Warmage's Gambit

Tyfrenna grit her teeth as she felt the magic surge out from her body; a flaring tingle that left her panting heavily. She dropped to her knees on the ground below where she had been hovering, catching herself with her hand. She blew her sweaty hair out of her face and looked back at her allies. It seems the magical ward she had put on Terya had held. He stood on guard, opposite the fearsome Golem who had moments ago unleashed a flurry of steel and wood fists that would have pancaked a lesser being.

Tyfrenna’s mind raced, the team was in bad shape.

Three of them were already out for the count. Among those left, Tyfrenna observed the grimace on Kali’s face, belying her pain. Kali had taken many hits for their party as well during the skirmish, as she was oathbound to do. The troll, Terya, was still in fighting shape thankfully, but they could not afford to lose him. He protected the bulk of their supplies, which they needed desperately to survive crossing the Tsoul basin. If Terya fell and the raiders stole their gear, they were as good as dead.

Tyfrenna tumbled backwards in a back handspring as a feisty gnome brought his hundred-pound monkey wrench down in a cleaving motion where her head had been moments ago. She couldn’t keep expending energy dodging these blows, and she couldn’t keep burning her mana to protect Terya. If she didn’t think of a new tactic soon, she would run out of energy and her compatriots would die. At the same time, they couldn’t punch through the raider’s onslaught. Tyfrenna’s attacks had all been rebuffed, and Kali didn’t have the offensive oomf to take down an opponent by herself. What could they do?!

As she frantically strategized, Tyfrenna was horrified to hear the crackle of electricity behind her as the Golem accumulated power for another rain of fists directed at Terya. Tyfrenna forced herself to stand, wobbling as she did with exhaustion. She too began to gather mana, intent on casting another defensive spell that would shield the troll from harm. “Warmage!” Tyfrenna heard Terya’s baritone troll voice calling for her. “I know, Terya! I’m working on it.” “No! Warmage…!” Terya reiterated. Tyfrenna locked eyes with him. That call held worlds of meaning. What had he meant? In a moment, she searched his eyes for answers. What did he want from her that she wasn’t already doing? Had he thought of a plan she had not? He was one of the greatest tacticians of the Age of Artifice and probably the best left alive now. She recognized a glimmer in his eye, saw him drop his guard ever-so-slightly, yet at the same time, the corner of his mouth turned up in a near-imperceptible smirk.

Did… did he want the golem to hit him? That would put Terya in rough shape; a big risk. But, Tyfrenna couldn’t help but feel he was baiting the Golem. Tyfrenna kept up the ruse, gathering mana for a spell while the Golem wound up, but in the final moments redirected her mana inward, bolstering her own resolve. The Golem swung; a high right hook. It caught Terya square on his shoulder and sent him staggering, but as the Golem went in for her follow-through attack, Terya’s stagger morphed into an elegant dancing twirl. He spun full around, leveling his sword at the last moment, using the momentum of his own spin and the force imparted by the Golems blow to land a hit with terrifying power. His massive saber connected with the golem’s chassis and rendered a deafening shearing sound. The sword cleaved through multiple layers of the Golem’s armor, completely cleaving her right arm from the elbow and nearly bifurcating her at the waist.

For a moment, the only sound was the little popping arcs of magic from the golem’s severed circuitry. Then, the gnomish artificer who had tried to bash Tyfrenna’s head in gasped, beholding the golem, and took off recklessly towards her, already digging for replacement parts in his pockets. He didn’t get far, though. Kali landed a solid roundhouse kick to his head as he rushed headlong by her. The gnome’s face made a painful “thwack!” as he hit the dirt, out cold.

Tyfrenna looked back towards the assailants. They had frozen in place, thrown off-kilter by the sudden turn of events. The balance of power in their battle had shifted dramatically back towards equilibrium and Tyfrenna could read on their faces that they were weighing the cost of continuing the assault.

She began to back away slowly, regrouping towards Kali and Terya. The Troll bent down and scooped up two of their unconscious allies and tossed one over each shoulder. Tyfrenna waved her hand and a ghostly saucer rose from the ground under the third and carried them like a stretcher. They stood tense for what felt like an eternity, just staring across the scrubgrass of the desert at their humbled assailants. Then, one by one, the attackers turned and walked away, fading into the heat mirage that hovered above the hot stone of the desert basin.

Tyfrenna gestured to the unconscious gnome and the sputtering golem. “Leave them enough rations for two days' travel to escape the desert. Take everything else. We’ll need it to get everyone patched up and fighting fit.”



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