The air shimmered, about a foot over Silva’s head, and blue-white sparks and splinters showered over us as the ogre’s club smashed into what seemed to be empty air.
Sera stood nearby, hands outstretched, fingers flexed as she held together a weaving of Thought.
The air thrummed, and Aurora’s knife spun end-over-end, trailing purple-black flame. It struck the ogre high in the shoulder, the stone in the blade pulsing, sending streamers of inky blackness creeping outward from the wound. The ogre’s growl climbed to a howl of pain.
The ground beneath me gave a shudder, and I heard Silva whisper something, a spidery, slippery word that could only be True Magic. Her fingers tensed against the ground beside me, and the trail at the ogre’s feet begin to steam. In moments the ogre was struggling to pull itself from a soupy, oozing mess of mud and liquefying rock.
Ana balked at the edge of the bubbling circle of muck. Aurora shouted a word, and the gem on the knife pulsed again. Another moment, and the ogre was wrapped completely in the webbing of shadows, its struggles growing more frantic.
Silva helped me to my feet, keeping me upright as the world heaved and spun around me.
I could hear Varis and Gilliam talking, but their words echoed in my hearing, lost beneath the ringing that still throbbed through my head. I saw Aurora walk across the oozing patch of trail, and jerk the knife from the writing mass of the shadow-wrapped ogre. The blackness collapsed on itself, tattering and blowing away in the cold winds coming down the mountains.
I felt hands at my shoulders, and sat as they bid me, against the wheel of the vardo. I leaned back, closing my eyes, just for a moment….
Glimmers of white light crept into my vision, and I felt a small hand in my own. I opened my eyes to see Silva staring down at me, the frown easing from her pale features.
She held one finger up, and nodded as I followed it to the left and then right.
I struggled to my feet. My head throbbed, but nowhere near as badly as it had moments before. I was certain that I sported quite a bruise, much like Gilliam had across one side of his face. His left arm was in a sling, and Ana was binding it in place with a long strip of linen, chiding him again for trying to draw a bow with a dislocated shoulder.
“It would serve you right if you never drew one again,” she was saying, tugging at the knots. “And don’t you dare cut through these bindings.”
A clamor of stone on metal drew my attention to Varis, who was working a dent out of his helm.
“Looks like we might have a new candidate for the cookpot,” he said.
Sera crouched, holding out her hands. “May I?”
Varis handed her the helm and rock. She gave the rock a strange look, letting it fall to the ground, then waving her fingers over the helm, fingers moving as if to pluck the strings of a lute or lyre.
A sharp tingle shivered through my palms, and I flexed my fingers on reflex. Varis’ helm glowed, white-hot for a moment, and Sera passed her hand over the dent. She plunged the helm into the snows piled by the trail, a gout of steam billowing forth, then handed it back to the warrior.
Varis turned it this way and that, running his fingers over the metal, knocking on it. He smiled. “Amazing,” he said. “It’s good as new.”
“Better,” Sera said. “I have realigned the matrices of the metals, that they might strengthen each other.”
“Let me see that,” Aurora said, bending to peer at the helm. She held a hand over it, a glimmer of reddish light seeping from one of the stones adorning that wrist. She frowned, pursing her lips.
“It would take a dragon’s weight to crush it, now,” she said.
“Macha would have me use this weaving along the edges of his knives,” Sera said. “I only just now thought to apply it to the piece as a whole.”
“If you are through playing house, the gift bids us forward,” Demarra called, from where she lounged on the driver’s bench.