“Corvus wishes you to stay.”
Her red-rimmed eyes stared blindly past me and her pallor was such, I knew she must be dead. Long dead and yet somehow standing and speaking. I leveled my arrow at one of those black eyes, for the darkness that had taken her had armored her well.
“Corvus be damned,” I said, “And you be damned. I am taking these folk out of your vile realm, whatever the cost.”
“You know nothing of cost,” she spoke the words without emotion, “Corvus wishes me to assure you that there are much higher costs than you can imagine. Rob him of his amusements, and death will seem bliss. Until you wake.”
I tightened my grip on the bowstring and stretched it back alongside my cheek. Then I called to the village elder, “Seth, take your people, now!
I heard them move behind me, and as soon as I felt the first of them brush past me in the gloom, I loosed the arrow. Upon its flight, I watched in amazement as she did a simple sidestep and the arrow sped past. Then there seemed to be an inhale of sorts, and then an explosion of wing flutter from behind her.
A thousand, thousand crows erupted from the darkness that surrounded what once was my sister. I ducked, for what else could I do? I grasped the Tome of Justice as I crouched and the evil creatures flew past. They were just birds.
Then, as I stood and turned back to face my sister’s corpse, I found she was gone. In her stead was a gaunt male, impossibly tall and thin. His dress was similar to that of my dead sister but grander, and he wore a headpiece that resembled the head of a giant crow. Perhaps it had been once.
I started the prayer in thought. I had to be ready and I had to launch the spell without him detecting it. As I was preparing, I heard a wordless intonation coming from the apparition. Shield! My thoughts interrupted, the Godstryke spell faltered and fell away. My hands worked the sigils as quickly as possible, and I barely managed to get my shield up before the force of the darkness hit me.
Though the majority of it was deflected, there was still enough penetration to begin a creeping cold sensation up my left arm. I was being petrified. I began the spell again. My death would be meaningless unless those folk escaped the lich’s realm. I had to buy them time. The prayer and the intonation took the longest. The release was instantaneous. There was an intense burst of light, and then the stone took my mind.
My next sight was the ethereal beauty of the goddess Justice. She stroked my forehead, and spoke my name softly.
“Am I dead?”
“No,” she said, “It’s much worse than that, Jason. You’ve saved them all. You are now my hand on Earth.”