Her ears were still ringing from the blast that had knocked her back. She shakily got to her feet, all her bones vibrating, and sheathed her sword.
Ghia had led the admiral to the North Tower, where the woman saw the door was locked. They both tried in vain to open it. Anala could tell Ghia had done so, already, many times. Anala even tried to use her Magi powers, to no avail. Finally, in frustration, the admiral had stabbed the mosaic that framed the door at random with her sword.
It had cracked a green stone with a click sound. The broken stone glowed, a whine filling the air, and then everything exploded, and Anala was on her back, twenty feet from the door.
She extended her hand and helped the equally stunned healer to her feet and grabbed the girl’s cane for her, which had fallen a few feet away. Together they turned towards the now-open door, intent on seeing if Magea Rosa was alright.
What they saw stopped them cold.
A figure emerged from the dark, and though Anala knew it had to be the Magea, the sight of the being made the admiral’s blood freeze in her veins. A vicious wind blew around the Magea, sweeping what had been leaf-hair around her head. The once bright green, bushy hair had changed into a tangled mess of vines and tendrils that blew around with whip-crack noises, a green so dark it now looked black. She seemed taller with this mad power that swept around her, and Anala found herself shaking with fear. The ruddy-brown of Rosa’s bark-skin had turned a dark, blood-like color, and sap ran from open wounds all over her face and body. Anala wasn’t sure it was supposed to be that black and sludgy, though she’d never seen Rosa’s sap before.
The Magea glided towards them, her feet sliding across the floor in a deadly walk. Anala looked the Magea in the face and swallowed: Rosa’s face was caught in a terrible rictus, a smile that didn’t waver. Lunacy danced in her eyes, and Anala could see that this being – their mentor – did not recognise either of them.
“This may not ‘ave been such a good idea, Ghia,” the admiral whispered to her cousin. Ghia stood frozen, staring at what had been someone she loved. Anala could see she was in shock.
With a curse Anala drew her sword and stood in front of the girl, like a shield.
“Magea Rosa!” She had to shout, for the Magea was closer to them now, and the gale whipped words away from one’s mouth before they were barely formed. “I’d ken ye’d be a mite angry, but it’d not be us ta get mad at! Magea Rosa!” she shouted again, but the Magea did not hear or understand her.
With every second the Magea drew closer, and every second Anala felt more torn, as she really did not want to stab the tree-being, but felt desperate to protect herself and her cousin.
An’ even if’n I did, would it do anythin’?
Rosa stopped but a few feet in front of the admiral. Anala held her breath.
The Magea cocked her head at Anala and her smile grew wider, if such a thing were possible.
Rosa raised her hand and held it in front of Anala’s drawn sword. Before Anala’s eyes her sword grew white hot and melted away into nothing, leaving a warm pommel in the admiral’s hand. That too started to get hot, and she dropped it before it burned her.
“Please, Magea Rosa, I’d be begging ye –”
A laugh cut her off – it ran through her head, a high-pitched keening noise. Anala clamped her hands over her ears but the sound did not abate; in pain she fell to her knees and toppled over onto her side. She curled up into a ball, praying for the sound to cut off.
Abruptly, it did.
Anala looked up in surprise.
Ghia had tackled Rosa, and the two grappled on the floor.