Oboe bellowed as she smashed through the furniture, shrugging off the ravens as she charged at Bassoon. Grandmother dropped Theo. She held her arms up to protect herself as Oboe slammed a fist into her, and sent that hateful old cow tumbling into the far wall.
Oboe felt big. Bigger than she ever knew she could be. It took everything she had to hold onto this form. It couldn’t last. She didn’t care. Her anger boiled. All grandmother did was hurt people. Oboe wasn’t going to let her hurt Theo, or Fife, or anyone else. She heaved hot, snarling breaths and stalked closer.
Bassoon was laughing. Of course she was laughing. There was something wrong with her. She was broken. Oboe felt broken all her life. She spent her whole life feeling like trash her family had thrown away. That was a mistake. She should’ve listened to Thistle. Oboe wasn’t broken, it was the Circle.
“This is delicious.” Bassoon pulled herself from the rubble. Whispers dived from above, fusing back into grandmother’s body. Her form was shifting. “Yes, give me a reason. I haven’t cut loose in a hundred years.” Claws erupted from her finger tips as the last Whisper returned. Her arms and legs twisted into reptilian scales. Her mouth unhinged, a forked tongue flicked between rows of jagged teeth. “Entertain me, and I will grant you the death you crave.”
She lunged, a dragon large enough to fill the room. Oboe dug her claws into her and she answered by sinking her teeth into Oboe’s shoulder. They grappled, ripping bloody streaks through one another.
The ceiling cracked. The room was huge, but not huge enough for two giant beasts. Oboe pulled back. Theo was dragging himself away, but was about to get stepped on. She reared back and rammed Bassoon with her horns, trying to push her away from Theo.
“What’s this?” Bassoon snapped her jaws, mocking. “Afraid I’ll hurt the poor, helpless little human?” Oboe strained to keep Bassoon back, but her strength gave out. Bassoon shoved Oboe off her feet, and turned towards Theo.
“A victor cannot afford to pity the weak.” Flames licked along bassoon’s snout. She filled her lungs to breathe fire.
“No!!” Oboe leapt, and clamped Bassoon’s jaw shut just as flames escaped, and wrenched her head away.
A smile curled on grandmother’s lips, she forced her jaw open and spat a torrent of flames all over Oboe’s hands. The pain ran up every finger, searing her flesh. The agony filled every sense, deafening like alarm bells and cannon fire. Oboe barely noticed as Bassoon hurled her into the floor. Her magic failed. Oboe shrank back to normal, flat on her back. She stared at her hands, stiff and scorched black.
“No one is owed survival,” Bassoon said, smoke billowing from her nostrils. “You take it, or you die.”
“Shut up!” Oboe said, cringing through the pain. “Just, shut up! I hate you! I hate how you think! I’d rather die than listen to you!!”
Bassoon rolled her eyes. “So be it.” She aimed her claws at Oboe’s heart, and stabbed.
Chains rattled. Oboe opened her eyes. A length of conjured chains coiled around Bassoon’s wrist and leashed her to the wall.
Another took hold of her right wrist, wrenching her arm back. Tattered, burning strips of silk spun through the air, changing into chains that took hold of her legs. More and more piled on, binding her.
“Sister!” A tiny worm on the floor was speaking. It was right underneath Bassoon, magic pouring out of it. “I can’t hold her! You have to hurry!”
“Oboe!!” Theo said. Oboe looked. He had dragged himself to the far end of the room where the sword had gone. “Take it!” Theo threw the blade, and it slid all the way to Oboe’s side.
The pain to move her hands was excruciating, but she forced her fingers tight around the sword hilt. The magic inside it howled up her arm, starving. Bassoon’s eyes went wide. She yanked an arm, shattering one of the chains. There was no time. Oboe jumped into a sprint, rolling past as grandmother slammed a giant fist down. Oboe hopped off her forearm, and thrust the sword deep into Bassoon’s scaly breast. A heart-rending scream split the air as Oboe pulled the sword out again.
“You… you…” Bassoon’s breathing went shallow. “No. How could… I can’t die. I won’t die!!” She thrashed. An ashen color spread through body from the wound. She reached to grab the sword, to take it and seal its magic away again, but Oboe pulled away. “You little weed! You useless, nameless, stupid piece of shit! I’ll kill you!”
The sword clattered to the floor. Oboe fell to her knees. Her whole body hurt; she had nothing left. Bassoon lurched closer and twisted her arm back to attack, but before she could bring it down it hardened and froze. Whispers exploded out of her body, desperate to escape, but each turned to stone in the air and shattered against the ground.
“I’m the queen!” Bassoon said, her mouth growing rigid. “I won’t die! I… can’t…”
Her face split, crumbling to dust. Oboe watched, stunned, as the mound that was her grandmother burst. The ash blew across her face, resting in her fur. The Fair Lady’s magic was snuffed out, like a roaring furnace that had gone ice cold. Oboe stared at the space Bassoon once stood. It did not seem real. She was dead, and they were alive.
Grandmother was right about one thing. Oboe felt no room in her heart for pity.