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datatime: 2022-11-27 17:08:06 Author:yRQYMrRm

She tugged harder on his arm, in the hope of shaking him out of his stupor. Behind him she could see the horsemen approaching the door, their step more cautious now that they were almost at the threshold. Having stopped the door from being closed Katya had stepped away from it, leaving Todd the closest of them all to the horsemen. So close, in fact, that had the Duke so chosen, he could have lunged from where he stood, and killed Todd with a single stroke.

Only now, as he stumbled across the ground before them, did Zeffer raise his arms to protect himself against the swordsmen. Whether the Duke took this harmless motion as some attempt at aggression, and reacted to protect himself, or whether he simply wanted to do harm Tammy would never know. The Duke lifted his sword and brought it down in a great swooping arc that cut through the meat of Zeffer's right hand, taking off all four of his fingers, and the top half of his thumb. Blood spurted out from the wounds, and Zeffer let out a cry that was one part disbelief to two of agony. He stared at his maimed hand for a moment, then he turned from his mutilator and stumbled back towards the door.

He looked round at her. She was probably more familiar with his face, and with his limited palette of expressions, than she was with her own. But she'd never seen the look of stupefaction he wore right now. The veins at his temples were throbbing, his mouth was slack; his blood-shot eyes seemed to have difficulty focusing on her.

The horsemen were waiting on the other side, swords at the ready.

Why didn't they simply break in, she wondered? They weren't, after all, insubstantial. They had weight, they had force. If they wanted to get in so badly, why didn't they simply break the glass or splinter the doors?

Zeffer threw back his head, and caught hold of the edge of the door with his unmaimed hand. He had his eyes fixed on Tammy as he did so, as though he was drawing the power to do whatever he was planning to do from her. There was a long moment when in fact he did nothing; only teetered on the threshold, his eyelids growing lazy. Then-summoning one last Herculean effort of will-he gave Tammy a tiny smile and closed the door in her face.

Christ... Todd muttered to himself.Christ oh Christ oh Christ...

Come away, she urged him.

Now the escapees were on the half-landing. Through the window off to their left Tammy could see the sight that had held Zeffer's attention just minutes before: the occupants of Coldheart Canyon pressing against the glass.

There was a terrible cracking sound, as the blade cracked Zeffer's breastbone and then the point emerged from the middle of his chest.

Come away, she urged him.

Perhaps she was regretting. Just a little.

And while she regretted, (if regretting was what she was doing) Tammy continued to haul Todd after her up the stairs.

Now the escapees were on the half-landing. Through the window off to their left Tammy could see the sight that had held Zeffer's attention just minutes before: the occupants of Coldheart Canyon pressing against the glass.

He did not do so, however. He hung back from the door, eyeing it with suspicion and awe. Though none of the light from the hallway seemed to illuminate the world on the other side of the doorway, Tammy could see the man's face quite clearly: his severely angular features, his long, braided beard, black shot through with streaks of gray; his dark, heavy-lidded eyes. He was by no means as beautiful as Todd had once been, but there was a gravitas in his physiognomy which Todd's corn-fed charm could never have approached. No doubt he was responsible for all manner of crimes-in such a landscape as he'd ridden who would not lay claim to their share of felonies?-but in that moment, in the midst of a dark journey of her own, Tammy would have instinctively preferred the eloquence of this face for company than Todd's easy beauty.

By now Tammy had recovered sufficiently to grab hold of Todd's arm and pull him back from the threshold.

Todd retreated, and as he did so Katya caught hold of Zeffer by the hair and lifted him up. Tammy was too concerned with reclaiming Todd from the threshold to do anything to save Zeffer. And Zeffer in turn did nothing to save himself. He simply let the woman he had adored pick him up, and with the same nearly supernatural strength Tammy herself had felt just moments before, Katya pitched Zeffer through the open door.

The question went from her head the next instant, driven out by a wail of demand from below.

Todd retreated, and as he did so Katya caught hold of Zeffer by the hair and lifted him up. Tammy was too concerned with reclaiming Todd from the threshold to do anything to save Zeffer. And Zeffer in turn did nothing to save himself. He simply let the woman he had adored pick him up, and with the same nearly supernatural strength Tammy herself had felt just moments before, Katya pitched Zeffer through the open door.

For an instant, he lifted his eyes, and his eyes met Tammy's. They had a moment only to look at one another. Then Duke Goga came at Zeffer again and drove his sword through the middle of his back.

Indeed, if she had ever been in love with Todd Pickett-which by many definitions she had-she fell out of love with him at that moment, comparing his face with that of Duke Goga, and finding it wanting.

It was like being woken from a dream. One moment Tammy had been staring into Zeffer's stricken face, while the men closed in on him from behind, and the sky seethed overhead. The next the door had shut this terrible vision out, and she was back in the little hallway with Todd at her side.

By now Tammy had recovered sufficiently to grab hold of Todd's arm and pull him back from the threshold.

Why didn't they simply break in, she wondered? They weren't, after all, insubstantial. They had weight, they had force. If they wanted to get in so badly, why didn't they simply break the glass or splinter the doors?

Now the escapees were on the half-landing. Through the window off to their left Tammy could see the sight that had held Zeffer's attention just minutes before: the occupants of Coldheart Canyon pressing against the glass.

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