Magylie slammed her way through the door, hurdled over the stairway railing, and landed on the platform above the dark-haired man she pursued. Her tromping echoed throughout the stairwell as she ran after him, trying to close the thirty-foot distance between them. He was fast, fast enough to disappeared around the corner of the next staircase before she could close that gap. Maro filled the stairwell, warning of a cast, and she rounded the corner to find herself facing a vaguely familiar blond man dressed in a paramedic’s uniform. Cautiously, she ascended a few steps and stopped midway down the set of stairs.
A short minute passed, and the two of them stood assessing one another. “I thought there was a rule about striking first against entropes,” he said, breaking the silence.
“Only if the entrope intends to do harm.” She smiled down at him, proud to flaunt her ability to read his cast. “A transposition spell is harmless.” She took a step closer to him. “And, it’s probably child’s play to you.”
She knew he was a powerful entrope; she could sense it in the maro that was still dissipating. In her split-second assessment, she hadn’t missed how good-looking he was either. His mussed platinum hair wasn’t much lighter than his skin, but he had natural tonal differences that made his skin seem more golden than his hair. He had an angled jaw that wasn’t too square. His mouth wasn’t too narrow or too thick and was perfectly paired with his defined cheek bones. Hazel eyes reflected intelligence, and at that moment they were questioning her and her ability to be a challenge to him. She was questioning her feminine inclinations because she hadn’t ever expected to find an entrope attractive.
“Switching places with someone else is child’s play for a lot of entropes.” He took a step back from her as if inviting her to take another step forward. She accepted the invitation and took another step down. “I wouldn’t have had to cast the transposition spell if you’d left him alone.”
“Your friend shouldn’t stare.” She took another step.
“Maybe he thought you were beautiful.”
“Is that how the two of you find your victims? He scopes them out, and you subdue and kidnap them?”
“I don’t hunt people,” he stated, frowning in distaste.
“Then what do you hunt?”
He smiled in answer, his eyes sparkling with amusement. Placing a foot behind him, he leaned back and slashed two crossed fingers through the air. Maro filled the confined space as power seeped from him. Magylie easily read the cast. Waiting until the last second, she lifted her hand, swished it in a half circle motion, and re-wrote it. A wall of water poured from the ceiling to the floor, making a loud splashing noise, and coating the stairs in water.
“You already know what I am.” Magylie smirked, coming down the last step. “Invisible barriers aren’t simple casts. You just tested me to confirm that I’m not an entrope.”
“Well, you not what I expected. Aren’t you supposed to subdue, capture, and contain? Isn’t that your credo?”
He was trying to distract her with pointless conversation. Magylie could tell he was up to something because the maro had not dispersed. Stretching out her senses, she searched for his hidden cast. She didn’t discover what it was until a moment later when he activated it, almost catching her by surprise with its speed and precision. As the man in front of her disappeared, she threw her elbow back and up, aiming for his reappearing face. He dodged her blow by merely shifting away from it in a fluid movement that reminded her of flowing water. At first, she thought he was casting a defense spell, but when he side-stepped around her, she recognized his technique.
A smile spread across his face. “Wow, you are good. But, I bet you didn’t expect a master of Tai Chi. Isn’t there some sort of rule about expecting the unexpected with Entropes?” As he said this, he backed up the steps and positioned himself to dodge her in case she chose to strike. Again, Magylie stretched out her senses. She felt nothing but his maro floating on the air. He smiled down at her as if reading her thoughts. “Ah, casting wouldn’t be fair.”
“There’s no such thing as a fair fight.”
“Not were Inquisitors are concerned.”
Magylie stepped down and away from him. She didn’t like him standing over her. “If you’d let me finish…” She smirked. “There’s no such thing as a fair fight when an entrope is involved.”
The hazel eyed man squatted down on the steps, settling on his haunches and resting his elbows on his knees. He tried to look casual, but she could see veins and tightened muscles showing in his forearms and hands. His tension did not convey carelessness.
Magylie senses exploded about the same time she saw the pupils of his eyes flash glowing orange. It caught her by surprise that he was casting without words or movement. His stealthy teleportation cast would have allowed him to get the drop on her if she had been any less skilled.
“Never encountered a stealth caster before?” A voice whispered behind her. Magylie aimed a kick at the center of his chest. With little effort, he moved out of the path of her foot. Smiling teasingly, he disappeared again seeming to blow around the landing they stood. Sensing him behind her, Magylie struck out again and she missed, much to his amusement.
Laughter echoed around the stairway. “I thought you were one of the big bad impressive Inquisitors. One of those relentless entrope killers. Maybe I was wrong,” he said, winking at her. He disappeared just as she turned. She retaliated and didn’t restrain herself. She punched out with a back fist. Still, he was faster, catching her wrist holding it next to his face. “Or Inquisitor standards aren’t what they used to be, and you can’t subdue me.”
“Or, I was testing you.” This time she fought with precision, bringing an elbow to his face as he raised his other hand to block. The distraction caused him to loosen his grip, and she was able to twist the arm that he held, reversing the hold. She shoved him toward the stone wall. He had enough time to brace himself and soften the impact so that he wasn’t rendered unconscious, but he still hit hard enough to have the wind knocked out of him. She swept her foot beneath his, knocking him to the ground with a soft thud and loud splash. Taking advantage of his stunned state, she quickly searched his pockets for clues on his person. Then she used zip-ties to bind his wrists. By the time he was fully aware again, she had him propped against the wall with a tazer pressed into his neck.
“Teleportation spells are not offensive spells and not worth killing over.” She squatted over him, her feet straddling his legs. “And before you argue that you could have teleported inside me, remember that I know tearing your way out of a muscle and bones is not easy and is often fatal. That’s if you could manage to keep our collective cells from mingling and killing us both immediately.”
The man smiled at her. It was a strange sincere smile that showed perfect white teeth. If he’d hadn’t been an entrope, she’d have found his smile distractingly charming. “You are impressive.” He didn’t bother to hide the amusement in his voice as he leaned against the wall. “But, you’ve got the wrong guy.”
Magylie smiled back at him, or rather bared her teeth. “You thought I wouldn’t be able to sense that it wasn’t you that raped the girl? Wrong. But, I do recognize the signature of your cast. You covered up the tracks of a rapist and altered the emotional state of at least twenty people in order to do it.” He didn’t say anything, or attempt to break free, just sat on the floor smiling proudly at her. “Ooh, ah, such an impressive show of power. Does that help stroke your ego?”
“Well, if you’re into stroking things…”
“It won’t work. I don’t get scared, I don’t have delicate sensibilities, and very little surprises me. Cut the high school charm and tell me where to find the guy that created that wreck of a human upstairs.”
Magylie looked at him, narrowing her eyes. “I’m not stupid either.” She pressed the tazer harder against his skin. “That was too eas…”
“That’s my name. I just thought if you knew mine you’d tell me yours.”
Magylie felt a smile tug at the corners of her mouth for a split second. “Magylie, Magylie Landen,” she said carefully then waited. She didn’t have to wait long to see the look of recognition then surprise cross his features.
“Brighton Landen’s daughter?” He asked sounding incredulous.
“Funny I get that a lot.” She retorted before getting so close to his face she could feel the heat of his skin. She pressed harder with the tazer pushing deeper into his neck, probably breaking his skin with the metal prongs, and grabbed a fistful of silken hair. “Funny how every last entrope I’ve encountered knows who he is. But that didn’t stop a caster just like you from killing him. And, none of you seem to know he had a daughter.”
“I knew Brighton had a daughter. I just didn’t know what happened to her… you.” He looked up at her with a strange look and sadness touching his hazel eyes. “Whose side are you on?”
Magylie shoved his head back hard and was satisfied with the thud it made from hitting against the stone wall. “I’m on Dawn’s. That’s the woman upstairs in a hospital bed fighting for her life. She’s the one that was raped while her maro was drained. Not enough to kill her, but enough to leave her withered. Because torture is more fun than killing for an entrope.” Shifting her weight, she drew away from him. His proximity was making her uncomfortable. The fact that that had never happened before compounded the issue. “Are we done playing games?”
“I thought we were having fun.” Nolan said before smiling at her again. The next cast was so quick she didn’t have time to pull the trigger on the tazer. He was gone in an instant, leaving behind the zip-ties that held his wrist. “Besides,” he said from behind her. Magylie stood and turned to find him casually leaning against the handrail. “I never said I was done testing you, Inquisitor Landan. I will warn you though”-his face hardened- “this magic show isn’t for P.G. audiences. Go back to where you came from.”
His arrogance irritated her, but then he had a right to be arrogant. She’d missed something significant. Water was a universal element. Too much of it and it would act as an insulator to an entrope, but the right amount of water and it was an unparalleled conductor. When she re-wrote his barrier cast into a harmless waterfall, he’d used that water against her by hiding a teleportation cast within it. He merely had to be in contact with the water to utilize the cast, and the stairwell was soaked. He wasn’t testing her; he was toying with her.
Magylie smiled, earnestly appreciating his skill. “Clever.”
He saw the smile for what it was, not just appreciation for his skill, but a challenge. “Fine,” he hissed then stood up with quick jerky movements. “Challenge accepted, Inquisitor.” He smiled at her again, only it was an ugly smile that was at odds with his handsome features. “I can’t wait until the next time you stroke my ego, Magylie Landon.” With a nominal build in power, he disappeared, leaving b