* * *
Jerghar screamed in anguish as the fringes of that explosion ripped over him and flung him from his feet as if he were toy. He skidded across the ground, bouncing through the tough grass of the Wind Plain like a stone thrown from the hand of spiteful child, and fire enveloped him. The blue fire of Tomanak, consuming, consuming …
He shrieked again and again, tearing at his own undead flash as the agony of Tomanak’s touch gnawed inward. But there was no escape, no evading that torture. It ate inward, slowly—so slowly! —destroying him one agonizing fraction of an inch at a time.
Hooves the size of dinner platters came slowly, remorselessly across the grass to him, and he stared up through the agony of his merciless blue shroud as Walsharno, son of Mathygan and Yorthandro, stopped before him, towering into the night against a backdrop of lurid flame and choking smoke.
“Please!” he managed through his agony. “Please!“
“We’ll have those coursers free of you and your bitch goddess, first,” a deep, rumbling voice, colder than Vonderland ice told him.
“Yes—yes!“ he shrieked, and released his hold. The coursers’ souls exploded out of his opened grasp, fleeing the taint of Krahana, and the eyes of the courser standing above him flashed with the blue glory of Tomanak.
“Please,” Jerghar whimpered, twisting in the dirt, gripped by an agony greater than he had ever imagined. “Oh, please!”
“You’d best be giving me a reason,” that infinitely icy voice told him, and he sobbed.
“Your friend,” he gasped out. “That bitch champion!” He locked his teeth against another scream and shook his head fiercely.
“What of her?” Bahzell grated.
“Promise,” Jerghar got out somehow. “Promise … you’ll kill me. Promise!“
“Aye, you’ve my word,” Bahzell rumbled.
“South,” Jerghar sobbed. “A trap—not just Kalatha. They arranged it. Don’t know more—I swear!”
“You’ve set a trap for Kerry?” Bahzell’s voice sharpened.
“Not me—others,” Jerghar gasped. “Don’t know all of them. They want you and her … and Tellian. But that’s all I know! I swear, I swear!”
Bahzell glared down at him, his face etched with hatred, and Jerghar sobbed.
“You promised,” he whimpered. “Promised!“
For one more endless, seething moment of agony, nothing happened. And then—
“Aye, I did,” Bahzell agreed harshly. “Sword Brother?”
In his torment, Jerghar didn’t understand. But then he did, and a terrible gratitude transfigured his face as Walsharno raised one massive, blue-flickering hoof. His eyes clung to it with desperate hunger as it reached its apogee directly above his head.
Then it fell.