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Last Hex Sacrifice

fantasy by Dale Ivan Smith

They say high noon is the one time you can defeat a sorcerer. The sun’s magic weakens and reveals hexes, which draw strength from darkness. I didn’t make it by noon. By the time I reached the crossroads it was late afternoon.

I crawled through the sage brush until I could see her, sword in hand, standing inside the circle of glyph stones where I’d left Mira, still guarding this desolate pass. Huge chasms tore the earth a stone’s throw to either side of the circle.

A dusty breeze whipped her long black hair out like banner. White sand streaked her leather duster. My eyes narrowed and her face loomed close in my hexed vision, two hundred yards separation seeming only feet away. Despite the beating sun and the scouring wind, her skin was smooth, her eyes clear. I wanted to shout her name.

A dry tingle ran through my bones. Richter’s sorcery still imprisoned my wife.

I swallowed dust. Beyond where Mira stood, the ground sloped up toward the rocky horizon. No sign of that bastard Richter.

The itching in my eyes sharpened. The Far See hex I’d cast wouldn’t last much longer. Too many hexes these past two days, pushing myself fast and hard to get reach the crossroads before sundown. If only there were still horses in the world.

I pulled a glass vial out of my pocket, downing the last of the Sustain elixir.  I winced. It still tasted like shit dipped in oil, but my muscles stopped aching. I ignored the mounting itching in my eyes.

Richter must be here. I had his book in my satchel. Whiskey fumes tickled my throat.

A dust devil swirled past the glyph stones, scattering dead brush and dirt. Mira shielded her eyes, hair billowing. Toward the eastern chasm, the outlines of a ghostly tent shivered.

Richter had hexed a Hidey Hole.

My hand closed on the Revoke tucked inside my duster. One chance. I just had to get closer. I wriggled forward on my stomach through the sage, nettles scouring my face. I crawled until I reached the open ground, stopped and caught my breath. I’d made fifty yards.

The sun touched the western peaks. Soon it would be a lot harder to take him on.

I closed my eyes. Stick to the plan.

I drew my six-shooter, took a pull on my canteen, puckering my mouth against the searing, and let the hexed firewater trickle slowly down my throat. That stuff always gave me gut ache.

I adjusted the satchel so that it hung in front of me. The Whiskey smell made me lick my lips.

I tensed to charge.

Mira’s shout broke the silence like a slap. “He’s here!” She looked away, head up, black tresses hiding her face. She shuddered and then screamed, “Sacrifice!”

Deep laughter from the Hidey Hole. “Try and free her. See what it gets you.”

Fire coiled inside me. I stood up and strode forward, pointing my six-shooter at the Hidey Hole, the Revoke in my other hand.

“Sacrifice!” Mira screamed again.

I swallowed hard. She knew. Which meant Richter might now, unless she had somehow managed to keep that knowledge from his sorcery.

The air around her crackled and she stiffened, suddenly still, pointing her sword at where I crouched.

“Go ahead Thomas, use that Revoke you stole from me. If you don’t, she’ll kill you at my command.” He laughed dryly. “But you have one Revoke. And I’ve got plenty of hexes.” A line of fire roared up between the circle and me. I stepped back. I had to get close to her. I sucked in air, forcing the firewater down into my stomach where it twisted like a sulfur snake.

“I got your damn book.” I kept my voice even. “Release her and I’ll give it to you.”

“I hold the high card this time,” Richter said.

Sacrifice. The word rattled up from my subconscious. That damn book had chapters on sacrifice. An old magic from before our people came from across the poisoned sea. The Vanished sacrificed with blood-drenched stones and thirsty flint knives, granting them power.

I jumped the fire. Wind battered me in mid-leap and the ground came up hard. I rolled into the circle.

Mira remained frozen.

Richter’s voice came from my left. “You can work for me again.” He’d moved.

I whirled and dropped to one knee, casting the Revoke. The air parted and Richter stood there, tall and skeletal. He grabbed at a belt pouch. I fired three times.  Blood blossomed across his bony chest. He staggered back, throwing another hex and pulling shadow around himself.

Sacrifice.

The word ran through my head.

I pulled out the book Richter wanted so badly, the book I’d soaked in alcohol, and fanned the pages.

“No!” Richter’s words thundered at me. Shadow blurred but blood trailed behind the blur. I fired again. Air rushed toward me and he landed inside the circle.

I vomited out fire. The book erupted in flames, searing my fingers. The air crackled.

Fire blazed up.

Richter drew a knife and sliced my shoulder.  Agony stabbed through me.

The stones began crackling. The ground moaned and shook. I fell, blazing like a comet.

Pain seared my skin.

Richter staggered back, a sword sticking through his chest.

“I’ve had enough of you,” Mira said. She withdrew the sword, and then, with one slashing stroke, beheaded him.

She threw a blanket over me and rolled me back and forth until the flames died away.

My wife was free. Tears ran down her face. She reached for my face and then stopped.

I struggled to get up. “Get Richter’s bags.” My voice was a raw croak.

Sacrifice.

His bags bulged with hexes and tomes of sorcerous knowledge.

Perhaps sacrificing his power would save me.

“Help me start another fire,” I said to Mira.

Copyright November 2010 by Dale Ivan Smith

Dale Ivan Smith lives in Oregon.  Last Hex Sacrifice is the third story of a trilogy.  Dead Wife Waiting, appeared in the January 2010 issue of 10Flash and Skinning the Sorcerer appeared in the October 2010 issue.

[Return to the November 2010 cover page]

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3 Responses

  1. Nice conclusion to this trilogy of stories! Now I want to read more about this horseless, sorcery-ridden West.

  2. Good stuff…gets a grip on you and doesn’t let go.

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