Kratia found herself suddenly unable to talk, barely able to think as the pain radiated out from the dying girl, causing the invisible field lines of magic to twist and move away. Unable to cast the simplest spell now, Kratia would have died if her impersonation of the monster had not been biologically viable. Trapped now within the monster body, Kratia took another sip of the dissolved juices, savoring the taste.
“It may be impossible to kill with a spell,” she thought, staring at the shrunken, ripped body. “But there are work-arounds.”
Kratia knew the instant that Tunnea’s brain ceased to function. The refreshing touch of the Crystal’s invisible lines of power again washed over her, unblocked by pain. She clamped down on the tiny bit of shame she felt, but allowed a bit of the anger to remain. It was stupid to have taken the chances that she did. Stupid, stupid. Why had she taken such a risk?
She moved her Rep-like claw to clutch her wand. In a few seconds an orange glow formed and surrounded her, pulsing and shimmering. In the witch light her features quickly returned to human, and the blood on her face, hands and clothing disappeared. With the last of the blood stains, the orange glow vanished.
She walked briskly to the bridge; Ruth and Joanna were there, still holding off the circling Reps. She quickened to a trot.
“Ho! Children! Are you hurt?”
“Help us!” they shrieked. “The Reps are trying to kill us!”
“Are either of you hurt or in pain?”
“No. Please, help us!”
“Take one of these!” shouted Kratia, tossing them a vial. “And stay silent!” Joanna caught the vial, opened it and shook out some of the sky blue pills. Fear blockers. Each took one and replaced the others in the vial.
Kratia gripped her wand and began a spell as soon as she could. As the girls held their breath, the Reps began to mill around in confusion. In a few minutes, they flew off.
“What did you do?” asked Ruth.
Kratia smiled. “A simple spell of concealment, Ruth. One you could have cast yourself if you had been thinking clearly. They couldn’t see, hear, or smell us. So they left.”
“Tunnea!” gasped Joanna. “She ran to the gatehouse. The Reps were after her!”
The wizard’s shoulders sagged and a tear ran down her face. “I’m so sorry, children. I’m afraid I wasn’t able to help your friend. I tried, but the Reps were incredibly tenacious. She had already been cut up pretty bad, and was scared and in too much pain for my spells to work. She was gone before I could make my way to her.” The wizard paused as the shock penetrated their minds; and the abrupt screaming denials burst out, followed by tears and racking sobs. She knelt down, gathering them in her arms to comfort them.
“There, there. I know we need to mourn your friend, but it still isn’t safe here. Let me take you into town. We’ll send someone out for Tunnea in the morning.” She patted them on their backs, gently. “At least you’re both alive and unhurt. What was your friend’s name?”
“Tunnea. Tunnea Nalton,” replied Ruth, who had nearly finished crying. “Her brother is Jed Nalton.”
“The Palatine?” asked the wizard in feigned surprise. Ruth nodded. “The very one who crusades for a militia and has imposed a curfew on minors out after dark?”
Again Ruth nodded. Ruth noticed the look of intense concern on the wizard’s face as she spoke. “It is a strange and tragic coincidence that his sister should fall victim to the Reps. If only there had been some men at arms to help,” she said wistfully staring at the empty guardhouse.
Ruth stopped sniffling. “Would soldiers have helped?” she asked.
Kratia patted her on the head and drew her close again. “Don’t you worry about such things, little one. Let’s just get you home before any more come out on the hunt.”
They walked in silence the rest of the way to the village. Kratia was confident that the girls would carry her message far more effectively than Sarral had.