Previously on Seven Stones: Anger fuelled by Erinis’ lies, several groups of citizens storm the rooms in which Kobb and the others are gathered. Kobb manages to drive them away without causing serious injuries, but warns it will become ever harder to avoid; and that Erinis might be deliberately sending civilians in to make the defence emotionally arduous. Anessa suggests collapsing the tunnel and withdrawing to the stables. Using the Belt, Kobb blasts enough of the stonework to block the main entrance, but – before he and his companions can retreat – soldiers appear from the opposite direction.
Kobb brought his Courser up, rapier leaping into his other hand, and cursed. They weren’t limited to pikes. Of course, they weren’t; a nation that lived in tunnels for centuries would’ve realised the issues by now. If he moved immediately, he could reach the doorway before the enemy did. The extra space would be a liability against trained fighters, though. Better to take advantage of both range and their cramped advance.
Purple light flared along the corridor as he felled soldier after soldier.
His opponents staggered to a halt, shocked by the force of his resistance.
A tactical error he was more than happy to exploit. Courser almost floating in his grip and limbs flowing as smoothly as they did in his memories of youth, he scythed down another rank. This was how it should be. Delivering justice to those who advanced under a flag of evil and lies.
More opponents moved along the corridor, and fell before his wrath. He sheathed his rapier. With the Belt to strengthen him, he no longer needed it. He’d purge the unbelievers before they even reached him. If only he’d had it at Raveth. Those demon worshippers would never have taken Gannon from him.
Palms raised, First Speaker Morheru stepped around the corner.
Now he saw the whole plan. She was part of it too. First, she sneaks in here, then the soldiers run out the main door with her among them as if they’d rescued her. But, it wouldn’t work. Justice would be done.
Rubble tumbled silently to the floor as Kobb’s blast seared through Morheru and into the stone beyond.
The rhythm of his boot-steps rendered staccato by bursts of silence, he advanced along the corridor.
Disarrayed, the remaining enemy fell where they stood.
Slumped against a wall, a robed figure raised a palm.
Lips drawing back, Kobb took aim. Another unbeliever to be cleansed, and he had all the power he—
Pain jolted along his arm as something smashed into his elbow. Fingers tingling yet firm, he spun.
His Courser dropped from his hand as Haelen smacked the club against his wrist.
Rage flooding through him, Kobb swung his other fist into Haelen’s jaw.
The healer fell backward, but as he did, his fingers hooked the buckle on the Belt.
Kobb felt the strength leave him as the Belt slipped free. Agony flickering and jabbing from every direction, he collapsed to the floor.
When the pain faded enough to see again, he realised he lay across a soldier, little older than Anessa. Others, faces equally contorted and eyes equally blank, piled around him.
“Reverend!” Haelen, rubbing his own cheek, crouched beside him. “Are you recovered?”
Fragments of memory rose up. The soldiers had attacked, but he’d cut them all down before they’d harmed anyone… hadn’t he?
They hadn’t charged, though. They’d been walking calmly. And Morheru hadn’t been armed. He eased himself upright. More bodies sprawled dead along the corridor, killed as they tried to flee. He’d broken the advance and hadn’t even noticed. Instead, he’d slaughtered them all.
Haelen rested a hand on his elbow. “The gems almost blinded me when you passed the door. I called out. You didn’t notice me, though. I’m sorry. The club was all I—”
“You did right, my friend. I though I was using the Belt, but the taint used me instead. I killed them all.”
“Not all.” Haelen stepped carefully toward the robed figure. “Kalit still lives.”
High Speaker Kalit pushed his hood back with a palsied hand. “Discovered Erinis plan. Wanted to warn you.”
“Then we can stop this.” Anessa staggered into the corridor, supporting Anserth. “You can explain Erinis lied.”
Kobb sighed. “It’s too late for that. If Morheru lived, maybe. But even if she were here to give her version of events, the mob might not listen. We have to leave, now.”
“No. Serth could die.” Anessa shook her head. “We need to wait.”
Anserth swallowed hard. “Kobb’s right. They won’t stop. If we don’t go, we’ll have to kill everyone.”
“No. I don’t care if you’re a bitch sometimes. I’ll not lose you. We’ll barricade the tunnels. They’ll—”
“Bit tired.” Anserth’s head sagged. “If we’re going to discuss, then… sit down for a bit.”
Eyes filled with panicked love, Anessa lowered against the wall, kicking the discarded Belt aside as she did. After brushing the hair from Anserth’s brow, she shot upright and rounded on Kobb. “Ain’t you supposed to be good at battles? Well, you find some way to keep them all out until—”
Purple light flared behind her as Anserth drove her knife through the Belt over an over.