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Sariah woke with a start sometime after midnight. The air was cool and there was a breeze above her, which was odd because she usually kept her window closed. In the distance, she heard the howl of a lycanthrope on the prowl outside town.
At first, she thought maybe her growling tummy had woken her. One apple was hardly a sufficient meal.
Something about her room seemed…not quite right. She had the impression someone was in her room with her.
She cracked open her eyes and caught the pale glint of a knife hovering above her, poised to strike. With a yelp, she rolled out of the way as the knife descended, missing her head.
She quickly got to her feet and turned to face the threat. Her eyes widened in disbelief. The dagger appeared to hang in the air, moving as if on its own.
The knife came at her again. She lifted her blanket to use as a shield to block and slow its descent.
Sariah heard a muffled groan as the blade retracted. Her sleepy brain lit up with this new information. Maybe there was someone there after all, and not just an otherworldly knife moving on its own.
She lowered the blanket and leaped from her spot, shoulder lowered and out front. Her goal was to hit the midsection of where an attacker would be. Her shoulder connected with something hard, and both she and her assailant tumbled to the ground. As they fell, she heard the blade clatter as it fell.
Her attacker groaned again as he shoved Sariah’s body off and scrambled away. Sariah tried to grab hold of something, but she still couldn’t see him and was unable to find a purchase. Instead, she clambered up to her feet and got into a battle stance.
She glanced around the small room to determine what the would-be assassin would do next. The window behind her was open, but her door was not. It was unlikely her opponent would have made it past her, so he was most likely still in the room.
As if on cue, she heard more than saw the soft sound of metal clanking. Turning again, she saw the dagger lift in the air once more, pointed menacingly in her direction.
She cursed herself for forgetting the knife and rolled to dodge the incoming swipe.
This time she wasn’t quite so lucky, and the blade sliced into her shoulder, making a sickening noise as it did so. She felt hot blood pour down her arm and instinctively shielded the wound with her other hand.
Sariah tried to think of her next move, but she was out of ideas. She had some experience fighting. The rearick in town were great fighters. They were all too eager to instruct others in the art, and she had been a willing student.
But it was very hard to hit someone you couldn’t see. Escape was her best option.
She crept slowly around the room, keeping her eyes on the blade hanging in the air before her promising doom, until she found what she was looking for, the doorknob. She wrapped the hand on her injured arm around it and waited for the assassin to make his next move.
It didn’t take long. A second later, her assailant lunged forward, aiming for her heart. She quickly turned the knob and practically fell out of the room, dodging the blade just in time.
Her attacker fell for the ruse and tumbled forward onto the ground again, though he managed to hold onto the blade this time.
Thinking fast, she kicked forward with all her might, aiming her feet for the blade’s hilt. She heard the satisfying crunch of what sounded like bones as she made impact. The blade fell from her attacker’s hands and she heard him swear loudly.
She lurched forward, managing to reach out with her good hand, hoping to connect with her attacker before he could regroup. This time, her hand felt something soft like linen. She grabbed onto it and pulled it toward her. As she did so, she could hear her assailant gasp in surprise.
She aimed for where she assumed the attacker’s head would be and brought her own forehead to bear, trying to headbutt the man into submission. She ended up missing the head, but the full force of her skull impacted with something equally hard. The sound of wind rushed out of her attacker’s lungs, and the man fell backward with enough force to tear the cloth in her hands.
Sariah got up to her feet and scrambled over to the dagger. She reached it and held it in front of her, hoping to ward off a further assault.
She glanced over at the fireplace. It had all but died out earlier on, but somehow now it was a raging inferno.
She could smell smoke from the fireplace fill her nostrils as the flames threatened to burn down the room. She raced back into her room to grab her blanket in an attempt to snuff out the flames, the attack all but forgotten amidst the new danger.
When she got back into the room, she saw the outline of a human in her doorway standing against the night. His eyes glowed bright white. She could make out some of the features of the attacker’s face, but the fire in the room against the dark backdrop of night obscured most of her view.
The attacker seemed to salute her, then ducked out the doorway and into the street.
A moment later, the fire in the room died down. The scent of smoke disappeared entirely, and it was as if the fire had never happened.
Sariah cocked her head to the side and tried to make sense of what had just happened. She moved over to the fireplace and felt the stones. They were cool to the touch, and there were no burn marks anywhere, either.
“That’s strange,” she said to herself. She scratched her chin and pondered the bizarre turn of events. “Could it have been magic?”
She practically spat the last word, recalling the day her father had been hurt. Magic had been responsible then, and ever since she’d grown a serious distaste for the stuff.
Still, it would make sense. She’d heard tales of magicians who could make things appear out of thin air, or make people believe things that weren’t true.
Most of those people were harmless, like the mystic who lived out in the forest a few days’ walk from her town. Her father used to frequent the mystic before he became bedridden for various things.
If one of them were to use their powers for evil, anything was possible.
Sariah shook her head and walked back to her bedroom. She cradled the wound in her arm as she went. It was still oozing, and she was starting to feel dizzy from the blood loss.
Knowing she’d have to do something about it before too long, first she had to check on something. If an assassin had come for her in the night, he must have been after something of value.
Something like the pendant she’d retrieved from the mine today. Based on the timing, it was the only conclusion that made sense.
With her good hand, she reached under her bed and pulled out her work sack and rummaged through the contents. Her heart sank. The pendant was no longer there.
She wasn’t sure how to track an invisible man, but now she had to go after him. The gems were her family’s meal ticket for the next week at least, and as the grumble in her tummy reminded her, she hadn’t eaten much in a while. Besides, he couldn’t keep up his spell forever, and with the wounds she’d dealt him, he probably couldn’t have gotten far.
She needed to do something about her wounded shoulder. She’d be of no use to anyone if she bled out on the way.
She stumbled across the room and rummaged through her shelves until she found a needle and some thread, then she headed back into the main room. She held the needle above the last smoldering coals of the fire to sterilize it, then gritted her teeth and got to work. Stitching her own wounds was a skill she’d learned a few years ago.
It wasn’t uncommon to get scrapes and bruises when you grew up with rough friends like Harvey and Padron, and she didn’t always want to tell her mother about them for fear of what she’d do to her, or worse, to them. She moved the needle quickly, favoring speed over precision, then tied off the thread and looked at her handiwork. It wasn’t great, but it’d have to do.
She bounded toward the door, intent on catching her quarry before he could get out of town. The village was surrounded by a massive wall save for one gate, so she knew exactly where to go and what shortcuts to use to catch up to him.
As she crossed the threshold to her house, a thought came to her, unbidden. She wondered why her parents hadn’t woken up amidst all the commotion downstairs. It didn’t make sense. She’d made enough noise to wake half the town fending off her attacker.
A sinking feeling filled her gut. The assailant could wait. She had to check on her parents.
She raced up the stairs as fast as she could to her parents’ bedroom. It was completely dark inside, but the familiar stench of blood filled her nostrils the moment she threw open the door.
Sariah felt like she was going to throw up, but she steeled her stomach and went inside. If there was any chance her parents were alive, it was worth it.
She made her way over to the bed in the darkness and reached out a hand to touch her father’s arm. It was still warm, but only barely. Reaching up to his neck, she hoped to feel a pulse, but there was none.
Instead, she felt a dark, sticky substance rub off on her fingers. She lifted them and sniffed. It was blood.
Quickly and with all hope fading, she moved over to check on her mother. She could barely bring herself to feel around for her mother, but when she did, she found the same slit across her throat.
Tears welled up in her eyes. Her parents, her whole world, were dead. And the magic assassin was to blame.
Sariah couldn’t hold it back any longer. Her stomach lurched and heaved its meager contents onto the ground. She felt the taste of acid in her mouth as she fell backward and collapsed against the wall.
The tears came in earnest, and she let out all her feelings and sobbed. The night’s happenings were too much for her to handle.
As she laid there and cried, covered in her parents’ blood, she thought about the assassin. She wasn’t sure how, but she knew she’d have to find him.
And she would make him pay.
I am itchin' to see how Sariah adapts to her new normal and goes after those who murdered her parents! Who's with me?
Check out Resistance to Magic on July 16th, and you'll find out exactly what lengths this spunky teenager will go to in order to see vengeance!