Part 3, Section 2 - Refined

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"Pertuli!" I called. "Find anything we can use as ropes or a net!"

"Fai'thall, fli'bal kennsor!" he said in tilwenic, dashing off into the deserted terraces to find something—anything—that could be used as a restraint.

"Faranado! Stande! Glassier!" I barked. "Ready your steel and surround the creature. We can't hurt it, but we can harry it like a pack of wolves until I figure something out."

"But the priests have it held," the Faranado boy said, confused, even as he joined the officiants and I on the small battlefield.

Stande was still dazed from his tumble. Faranado wasn't much more than a child, quaking in his boots, and Glassier's hand, arm and shoulders were bleeding profusely. Between the four of us, we had two swords. I didn't like our chances.

"Your other cousin Demis needs them more—desperately in fact," I said with the grim determination of any loyal soldier facing a stronger enemy. "He won't last another thirty count without magic."

The taller of the acolytes heard me, and glanced my way in dismay, breaking away from the spell. It was a sign of inexperience, but it suited my purpose.

"You!" I called to him, seizing his attention. "Slim. Go heal Demis Faranado. His neck is broken and he can't breathe. Move!" The pallid healer started at my barked orders, shuffling quickly toward Paolo's brother. I regretted the tone, but without interrupting Bessik's critical work, there was no hope of following a proper chain of command.

The beast was again in motion, still held to a lesser extent by the other two straining healers' powers. Sweat poured down both faces. Bessik's fervent chanting shook his jowls and knit his brows as they struggled to hold the monster through faith alone.

As if the very air around it was thick, it pushed forward slowly, a gurgling hiss of effort rising from its throat. I darted in and, with some effort, snagged my steel free of its forearm and dodged away when the snapping teeth came for me.

The young Faranado slashed at its face, then drew away, taking the monster's attention with it. Stande used that opening in turn to hamstring the beast, a move that would have crippled any opponent that healed less quickly.

It was futile. All we could hope to do was distract it.

" 'Tuli, get me some silver!" I wailed, taking my turn at distracting the monster with a flourish of steel.

It struck me how thoroughly Paolo had been transformed by the anger and jealousy that had been eating away inside him. I too was transformed, in a way, when Father Bessik healed me. I felt great. In fact, intentional or not, he may have cured my hangover along with my body.

Our conflict had been refined through the crucibles of pain and transformation. No longer was it so base as a fight over a woman. Our struggle was now a supreme battle of intellect versus alter-ego; finesse against strength; high art vying with mindless fury. It was a challenge, at long last, worth a brief period of sobriety.

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