"Who is left?" said the knight. His gaze fell on the sorceress, wrapped deeply in her robes in the back corner of the room. "You are garbed as an initiate of the Silent Academy. We see few of your kind these days."
She leaned forward and drew back her hood, revealing a pale, gauntly fragile face and a sweep of glittering black hair.
"You all know the reasons for that," she said with a bitter laugh, as her brilliant purple eyes strayed in Father Beren’s direction. "My kind has hardly been welcome in Tyrest since the priesthood began their purges."
Beren rubbed the back of his neck and cleared his throat. "Perhaps this is a conversation best left for another time..."
"Agreed," said the knight. "As I’ve said before, I will brook no grievances, be they personal or political. What brings you here?"
"Why would any of my kind venture into those ancient pathways?" she said, the barest flicker of a smile curving her lips. "I seek power."
"To what purpose?" said the priest.
"That is the question," she said, her smile growing. "But as our grievances are to be set aside, I am not able to answer you."
"Your agenda is no concern of mine, so long as it does not impede my quest," said the knight. "I have my reservations, but I'm even more loath to enter the Labyrinth without a sorcerer. You may join us. Your name?"
"I am Tharissa," she said. "Of the Silent Academy."
Jonn felt a wrenching pull on his leg, and he was dashed to the floor. His heart bursting, his breath caught, he lashed out behind him and felt his sword connect, saw the creature’s skull crack beneath the blow. The beast-man fell limp, but there were more of the creatures coming, more all around, and he could barely see his friends.
He staggered to his feet with his back to the platform, eyes darting. He thought he caught a glimpse of Sir Garath, but then it was gone. There was light coming from somewhere, strobing through the bodies of the beast-men, but Jonn could not tell from where it came. All he could see were the creatures closing in, claws reaching for him, clogging his throat with the rancid stench of their sweat. All thought of his companions was gone, and he swung his sword wildly in every direction. The beast-men closed in. One lost a hand, another an eye. Grimy claws raked Jonn’s forearm, and he saw the blood stain his sleeve, but he barely felt the pain. Ragged whimpering sounds came from his throat with every swing.
Then, through the clamour of battle, through the screams and the snarling beast-men, he heard something. A woman’s voice, low and strong, echoing about the chamber. The beast-men stopped, and shrank back a step.
Jonn didn’t look to see whose voice it was, could not tear his gaze away from the creatures that surrounded him. He stood rooted to the spot, back to the platform, eyes darting. The chanting continued. The words were strange, and they hung in the air with a sense of ancient power.
There was a rush of air, and a burning smell, and Jonn felt himself thrown to the ground. Tendrils of writhing, crackling black energy snaked through the air above him, screaming as they passed. He saw one pierce the chest of a beast-men, and it collapsed into a pile of ash.
Jonn fell to his knees, as all around him the beast-men fled shrieking from the black tendrils, or exploded into black clouds of ash. He looked towards the entrance and saw Tharissa there, robes flung back, head raised. The tendrils came from her open mouth, and every time one of them touched a beast-man she gave a violent shudder.
Then, just as suddenly as they came, the tendrils were gone. Tharissa swayed, staggering back to the wall, a wide-eyed, confused stare on her face. She collapsed to the floor.
Jonn looked around the room. There were no beast-men now, just piles of ash covering the chamber floor. Beren sat, breathing heavily, clutching his glowing staff to his chest. Sir Garath stood beside him, his breastplate battered and his face bruised. Krago was bleeding from a hundred small cuts, but he had his arm around Myrio and a wide grin split his beard. Myrio did not appear to have a scratch on her. Saskar sat huddled on the far corner, a bleak, faraway expression on his face.
"You can come in now," said Sir Garath to the rest of the group, still in the corridor. "I think it's safe."