Theodore gasped for air, choking as Silas tightened his grip. He tried to pull the creature’s hand away from his neck but wasn’t strong enough. His mind swam.
Silas swung Theodore over the edge of the edge and hurled him into the dark. Theodore hit the ground, pinwheeling against the rocks. His glasses were gone, knocked off. He pushed himself to stand but doubled over coughing as magic pushed its way into his lungs like burning coals. His vision blurred. A figure dropped into the pit after him. A shroud of black fog spread around him, threatening to engulf him.
“Bastard!” Silas said as he kicked Theodore onto his back. Worse than the pain was gagging for air that would not come. “Is this what you call a truce?!” Claws raked across Theodore’s chest, tearing his clothes and flesh. “You’ve taken everything from me!” A fist like iron pounded across Theodore’s bare face. “Devil damn you!”
Theodore twisted his head to dodge another blow. He reached for the breathing mask in his pocket, only to feel it torn out of his hand.
“You want to help me?” Silas said, crushing the mask his hand. “Then die!”
There was no escape. Theodore lacked the strength to move. Moments from the end, Theodore thought of his father. Was it like this when he died? Would they see one another again? Silas reeled back to strike.
“No!!” Oboe’s voice rang like a cannon. She burst through the fog and collided with Silas. “Stay away from him!!”
The two figures grappled, and Silas was dragged off Theodore. All Theodore could do was retch as his body went numb. Oboe roared, her body shifting with claws and horns and teeth. Silas answered in kind, his arms and body arcing like scythes. Theodore felt his mind fade as he watched the fight, helpless. He struggled to keep track of who was who, as the two animals shrieked and tore at one another. His eyes grew heavy.
A strap snapped around Theodore’s head. His nose and mouth were wrapped snug in leather. He could breathe. He heaved deep, starved mouthful. Life flowed back into him, enough to feel the pain and blood. He looked up to see Watchmen Fritz staring down at him. He wore a breathing mask, just like the one he just forced onto Theodore’s face. He said something, angry, but his voice was muffled by his mask and the noise. Fritz stood up and charged toward the skirmish.
Oboe had taken the shape of a lioness but was on the retreat. She limped, blood staining her fur. Silas doubled in size, growing huge. He skittered along the ground on all fours and leapt to pounce with long bladed fingers. Before Silas could tear her apart, Oboe shrank and slipped through his claws: a blue bird taking flight.
A half dozen knights closed in around Silas, swords ready. A fraction of the army Myra had brought, but all the breathing masks on hand. They scattered as Silas belched a stream of fire, but two managed to flank the ghast and plunge their blades in his hide. He screamed.
Delirious, Theodore was a child again. Trapped, watching a creature die, feeling nothing but horror and despair. He shouted for them to stop, his throat still raw and sore from inhaling ether. His voice did not carry. Silas swung his arms and threw soldiers off, but it was too late. They piled on, stabbing and slashing. Silas roared, fighting, until his voice broke into a wailing sob. Theodore could not see the tears, only hear them. Until they stopped.
The mob of knights backed away and sheathed their swords. Their work was done.