He could feel it beginning again. The light head, the marvelous floating sensation, the steady encroachment of the mists between the worlds. It could be disorienting, serving as an avatar of Ceranray.

This time he was tall. No, enormous. A fortified castle the size of a dollhouse stood a few dozen feet away. Between him and the castle stood an army of miniatures, with banners fluttering rapidly in the soft breeze and exquisite tiny siege engines drawn up in ranks. A cloud of insects hovered over the castle. From time to time the castle shot tiny darts at them. He wondered which side was entitled to his aid, then sternly reminded himself that his purpose here might not involve whatever war appeared to be going on.

He heard a buzzing in his left ear. It sounded like any other mosquito. They always wanted to talk, and they never spoke any language that he knew. Not that it mattered. He cleared his mind, using one of the prandchaya exercises he had learned as a novice, and meditated. The nameless concepts floated upwards in the stillness, like vegetables in a soup just coming to boil.

The castle. It was a mighty obstacle. A universe In which it no longer stood would be more harmonious. It would be well defended. Loss of life was inevitable, and approved from On High. Urgency. Sorrow.

He moved forward. A smooth half-step avoided the roach-mounted cavalry. A leap brought him over the abbatis, and landed him squarely on the curtain wall between two towers. It crumbled under his weight while tiny siege engines stung him with darts. A shove brought the rightmost tower down in ruins, while a flashing spin kick flung chunks of the left into the courtyard. It was exhilarating, being tall.

Streams of purple fire converged on him from the three remaining towers. He dodged, but the speed of the tiny ones was blinding. His cloak burned while agony erupted around his foot. A rush of pain threatened his serenity. His crossbow hummed, and the bolt flew true, but the central tower glowed blue, and the bolt was deflected. At least the fire stream coming from it ceased.

That left two others. Drawing upon his ki, he sped left, placing that tower between him and the other. Its fire still burned at him, but if he moved fast enough, he could keep it walking across different parts of his body. It hurt, but it would take time to cripple him, time the tower would not have. He dove low, and seized the tower near its base. He thrust upwards with all his strength, and nodded inwardly as it toppled.

But it had taken too long. The sorcerers manning the other towers had combined their powers, and a shadow wrapped itself around the castle. He could not approach it: not by choice, and not by duty. It was the essence of not-him: he could sense that contact with it would destroy him. He paused to consider.

The besiegers did not.

The roach cavalry moved forward on the left flank, while grasshoppers advanced into the breach he had made. The tiny catapults and mangonels maintained a steady fire upon the remaining towers, while the many-shaped Winged Ones swooped low, attacking guards on the walls and preventing return fire. The sorcerers could protect the towers, and maintain the Shadow, but could not assist their defenders, and ants poured into the castle walls while the grasshoppers ravaged the stables and storehouses in the courtyard. Purple fire lashed the upper tower stairs clear of attackers when the defending infantry fell, but in the shelter of the tower bases, the bonfires were already building. Soon the wizard towers were in flames, while the besiegers withdrew. And he began to fade.


Second Breakfast Chickenhat edwardstanford