A Close-Run Thing

The Sorcerer limped from the mouth of the cave, tearing fabric from his robe to wrap around his wounded arm. “Minthray! Minthray!”

“Here, my Lord.”

“Bring the horses. And water.”

“The beast, is it—”

“Finished. Go.” He sat down in the dust, sighed, coughed, and was thinking seriously about laying down when he heard a noise behind him. He twisted, hands at the ready, and saw her: a little girl, hair tied up in colorful ribbon, dressed as if for Temple. “You’re dead.”

“I am. You’ve won. But I have a question.”

The hair stood up on the back of his neck, and his shaking hands held their place, but he answered conversationally: “Ask away.”

“You could have taken my offer, and had great wealth, and even more power than you already possess. Which is clearly substantial. Instead you fought.” Her head cocked to one side with a sickening cracking and grinding of bone. “Why?”

“You would have killed everyone in the town.”

“What do you care? You’re more like me than them.”

“You’re dead; I’m not.”

“True.” She slumped, and her body was already bleached bones when it hit the ground.

Minthray returned to find him vomiting and laughing.

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