The plains parted like water, impossible anywhere but the Other Side. His coming was inevitable as time passing too quickly for the aged and too slow for the young.
“What is lesson two?” I asked looking at Sami.
“No.” She shoved the tip of her sword into the muddy ground and leaned on it, shaking her head. “No.”
I snapped my wrist and the last of the goblin blood staining my sword splattered on the ground. “You are still my apprentice, even here. What is lesson two?”
Her eyes shone with fury, bordering on madness. Any sane person would be mad by now. Good thing the Sisterhood never accepted totally sane people into its ranks to begin with.
“Four minutes, give or take,” Silas called from his perch above.
Why did problems always come with such short deadlines? I looked across the expanse, now littered with piles of goblin bodies, fast decomposing into the sludge that seemed to power this place.
“What is lesson two?” I turned to Sami and wished, not for the last time, that the Sisterhood had less faith in me.
“What does it matter? He’s won. I can hear him in my head. He’s—”
I grabbed Sami and shook her so her teeth clacked together and I could feel her rage throbbing into my hands. “He has not won until you give up! I will not allow it! Now, what is lesson two?”
“For every action, an opposite reaction!” She yanked herself back and stumbled as I let go.
“It means nothing, nothing!”
I smiled and she leaned away from me as if, in this moment, I was more terrifying than him. “Everything means something.”
Silas roared a warning and I reacted more from instinct than from conscious thought as I threw myself and Sami sideways as a volley of fire flew past, close enough to singe the hairs on the nape of my neck. I looked back and he was impossibly closer. But then, thinking like that, that there were impossible things on the Other Side got one killed.
“You can’t win.” His voice rumbled toward us and Sami cried out, falling to her knees. “Stop this foolishness.”
And, for a moment, I wanted to stop. It was foolishness. Why was I sacrificing myself for one apprentice? One who didn’t even care about the Sisterhood. Why was I on the Other Side? I had no need for this fight. It was not mine.
Then Silas growled, low and deep, and it broke apart such delirium that I laughed, which caused him to stop in his tracks. Like a windup doll that stuttered in its walk.
“Who said anything about winning?” Winning, whatever that actually meant, was far from my mind. I merely wanted to survive and have another cup of tea without the world ending around me or my innards being exposed for all the Other Side to see.
And I thrust my sword deep into the ground beside my feet and was met by a bellow of pain as the Plains reacted. As above…
“What?” Sami cried out and latched on to my arm as the ground shook beneath our feet, fissures breaking apart the ground along the plains. A standard reflex to pain.
“Not what,” rumbled Silas. “Who.” He turned to me. “You will be owing the Plains.”
“It cannot be helped.” …so below.
I pulled my sword from the ground and watched as the Plains reacted to being stabbed in what was essentially its hand. It writhed and we leaned against the rocky outcropping to keep our feet. Out on the body of the Plains, there was nowhere to find shelter and he was driven to his knees.
The Plains bellowed again and the ground exploded. Mud splattered up and over our heads, a volcano of earth that swallowed him. The grinding sound pain quieted as the Plains found it was now more tired than hurt. He was closer, but now limping, covered in mud. It would have to be enough.
“Two minutes,” Silas growled and shook his head, spraying mud mixed with blood at my feet. “Remember, you owe me cream.” Then he was gone, slipping through a portal that only cats could traverse and leaving us behind.