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from The Gods' Own by Alexis Cunningham

Copyright © 2019–2021 Alexis Cunningham

Chapter 10
Night Strolling

‘She really said that? She told you she loved me?’

‘Yes,’ Yasha paused on the street corner, shooting Ludo a look. ‘She really said it. Do you have to keep repeating it?’

Ludo ignored his tone. His friend was a grey scale shadow as the two drudged down deserted residential streets following Mati’s beacon. ‘You don’t think she’s a thrall?’

Yasha sighed. ‘I don’t know. She didn’t act like a thrall, but then again, I didn’t know Mladin had mind control butterflies so, there is that.’

‘Right that,’ Ludo hummed thoughtfully. ‘Y’know, I’d forgotten this sort of thing happens to you.’

             ‘What sort of thing?’ Yasha paused briefly, shutting his eyes so he could focus on the connection with Mati, before cutting down a narrow path running between two terrace rows of houses.

             ‘This sort of thing,’ Ludo said cursing when a cat jumped down from a fence to run across his path. ‘Only you could get into these kinds of messes. No one knew you were coming and yet you still managed to get almost possessed and then caught up in an ambush.’

             Yasha snorted but stopped walking when he spotted a pair of red glowing eyes ahead in the dark. ‘Hold up, we’ve got grey company.’

             ‘Great,’ Ludo muttered. ‘Must’ve been what scared the cat.’ He stepped forward and pulled a device out of his jacket pocket. ‘Move on deader, or you get a dose of this.’ He held out the device. It was small enough to fit in the palm of his hand and looked oddly like a hand held detonator, or a mechanised car lock.

             The red eyes in the dark blinked twice before the grey oozed out of the darkness, it grew denser and more solid as it moved and Yasha saw that instead of a dark purplish grey colour this deader’s vaporous body was shading into phantom red. Its mouth opened impossibly wide and it yowled like a drowning cat. It started to drag itself across the ground, arms powering forward.

             ‘Pit damn it,’ Yasha shot Ludo a look as they both backed up. ‘Whatever that thing is, you’d better use it.’

             ‘Yeah,’ Ludo took a step back and depressed the button on top of the device. A high pitched noise lanced through Yasha’s brain and he grabbed his head, choking on a surprised curse. The phantom screamed and exploded in a cloud of anima particles.

 ‘What the Pit damn was that?’ Yasha demanded, watching soul particulate fade into the night.

‘Anima disruptor,’ Ludo said shrugging. ‘Y’know, the type they sell to the normies as a “magic deterrent”.’

Yasha scowled at him. ‘That was not a normal disruptor.’ He rubbed his brow, ‘Damn it. I’ve lost my connection to Mati. You cut me off from my magic.’

‘I may have tweaked the design,’ Ludo admitted. ‘But it worked didn’t it? Got rid of the phantom.’

‘That thing detonated the phantom,’ Yasha ground out through gritted teeth.

Ludo shrugged again unrepentant, ‘And thus got rid of the problem. I don’t know what you’re complaining about. Your magic will be alright in a minute or two.’

Yasha sighed. ‘How far does the signal travel?’ he asked.

‘About thirty foot, radius,’ Ludo sounded smug. ‘No deaders are gonna bother us for a while.’

‘C’mon,’ Yasha took the lead, following the only path out from behind the houses. Once they were clear of the disruptor’s radius the anima would bring Mati’s signal to him once more. Assuming Ludo’s gizmo hadn’t fried his brain completely.

‘You sure you’re feeling alright?’ Ludo asked once they hit the street again.

‘No,’ Yasha muttered. ‘Your toy gave me a headache.’

Ludo snorted. ‘Not what I meant, mate. I’m talking about Mladin. He didn’t get to you, did he?’

Yasha stopped under a streetlight that served to adequately illuminate his unimpressed expression. ‘If I wa...

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