Crime Alley by happy mutt, atmospheric

Down to Earth

Terran Noir By Ben Wheeler

My name is Verlin Kimaris. I am an officer of the law and a wizard, proper rank Mage Marshall. I patrol the streets of Paroskov, Neutral Lands. It’s a large city of roughly 1.2 million people. I learned Thaumaturgy from the great Rosh Quervet. The city itself has a large and prestigious Third Magic University for the gifted mages among us. That means that the gendarmes and officers like me need to be tough. Wizards have issues with emotional stability, and all it takes is one of them to go crazy, and we’d have a volcano in Mourning Wood Park. Again.

People say I’m stiff and mean, and I say, why are you bothering me? If I had a ducat for every time someone said that. What am I to do, be nice? Say. “I know you’re breaking the law, but I think it’s a nice day!” No no no. I’m not here to serve and protect, I leave that to the lowly gendarmes. I’m an officer of the law and a Mage Marshall. I protect, and nothing else is expected of me.

I protect the little guy from the sharks. I’ve done things I’m not proud of, and I’ve done things I’ve been very very proud of. Maybe I’ll tell those stories, but not today. Today, I’m telling the story of a murder in an alleyway.

Chapter 1

I step through the holographic ‘Do not cross’ tape that seals the alley. If I hadn’t been wearing my officer’s fob watch, I’d be stunned until an officer or gendarme would come to pick me up. I nodded to a few of the gendarmes keeping watch. They nodded back and handed me a report. The gendarmes from my division are efficient, I don’t keep them if they aren’t.

My second is a powerfully built and tall elf woman named Elvira Hall. She’s smarter than she looks, and often just has to pick someone up and shake them to get a confession. I don’t know how old she is, but she’d been here before and after me. An immortal puts thoughts of death into your head, just by standing next to you.

She wasn’t wearing her usual gendarme gear, and I realized that it was formal clothes. I remembered that it was one of her rare nights off. Apparently, she had accumulated enough vacation time to take two years off. Glad she didn’t. She glanced at me and unfolded herself from the crotch she was in. The body was hidden behind the dumpster. I nodded at her. “I’m sorry to interrupt your evening like this.”

She shook her head, smiling. I had amused her, like always, but I will never understand why. “Don’t worry, the date was going poorly. This stiff is more friendly than the other guy. I might just have to take this cute thing to dinner.” She took the finished report from my hands, read it quickly, and passed it back. A gendarme, a Dog Pack Utan I think, appeared with a crime scene scanner. I waved at him to come forward.

The Dog finished his work and returned to his friends. I finally got my first look at our unfortunate John Q. I had to pause at the body. It was smashed. No matter how much you steel yourself to death, the sight of a mangled body should always sicken you a little.’

The face was relatively untouched, and quick examination produced a bloodsoaked wallet. I left it where it was for the gendarmes. He was Arcadian. Smaller than a Neutral Lander and clothed in loose fitting, many pocketed clothes. I idly flipped through the chest pockets. Chalk, bits and bobs that had engineering uses, string and wire… Typical Arcadian Thaumaturgy gear. I found a necklace with the symbol of the Saint Church. Not a religious killing then, as Protestants burn the bodies of their victims ritually. I am told that the Saint Church does worse, but I’ve got a Protestant minister.

I put a glove on and removed the cotton hat from his head. It revealed closely cropped brown hair. I had half feared seeing silver hair, as there is a sizeable embassy of Arcadians, led by the noble house Teradoc. No, this had the very large potential of being a nobody. The killing was likely a robbery or revenge job.

I moved back down to the body. I could hear Elvira and one of my gendarmes talking. I took a better look at the wounds. Most of them clustered around the lower abdomen and legs, with a very flat and bloody shoulder besides. I lightly probed the wound for something other than blood and bone and found earth and stone just above the right hip. This changed everything.

“Elvira!” She halted her conversation. “I’ve found evidence that may mean we are dealing with a Third Magic Thaumaturgist.” She moved over to me and took a look at the stone I had taken out of him. The stone was too deep to have fallen in sometime during the body’s stay in the alley. There was no guarantee that the criminal who had done this hadn’t used a sling or something similar either. I’m a Long-ranger Terra former Third Magic Mage Marshall, I know what to look for.

Elvira put the stone in a baggy. There may be traces of the wizard’s mana on it. It won’t help telling us who it is, but it will tell us how he fought, and how much power he has.

“You putting things together, boss?” Elvira probably had the same thoughts as me, but I spoke anyway. The gendarme she was talking to was new, and needed to see how the best thought.

“There’s a good chance that the criminal is a wizard maybe a terraformer. This killing was in a moment of passion, at another location. There isn’t enough blood around here.” I noticed someone standing on a roof, above the alleyway. They were just watching, and likely they were listening. I couldn’t see any features. Clothing, long and to the knees, could indicate female or jacket. “I want a record of gendarme activity, any nightclub reporting a disturbance or any major tremors that aren’t scheduled. I also…”

I had been gathering mana for a burst of activity. I released it, calling for the bricks to mold around the feet of the spy. The spy was very quick, and jumped as soon as s/he felt a disturbance. I manipulated the shape of the bricks to catch at the left leg, but that too was dodged. I got lucky with my second attempt, catching the long outer garment. I was too eager, and put to much pressure, causing it to tear. The spy disappeared over the lip of the building.

The gendarme was calling for his fellows to follow the figure. I belayed him, and sent him to get the piece of fabric. Even a thread of cotton can tell a story about our spy, how high quality it is, colors and a small host of other things.

Elvira was picking up small chunks of brick that had fallen on our victim. “You think that was the murderer?”

“No. I would have felt it if he had any talent. This is something else, connected. Maybe an accomplice.” The Dog Utan gendarme I had seen earlier appeared with the fabric.

I was astounded by the detail on this piece. I could tell from the quality that it was expensive, hand made wool. Along the edge was figures and geometric shapes meaning things I did not comprehend. Myth figures of another nation? The torn edges indicated greater designs in the fabric. I shook my head and passed it to Elvira.

She knew what it was at once, of course. “These are Narthan designs! See? This geometric figure is always found on their clothes. It’s good luck for them.”

Narthans. The school dragged in people from all over the Midworld, but travelers from Narthus was a rarity. They didn’t leave their country much. “Do they tell you anything else?”

“The designs aren’t any I recognize. I’ll have to do some research.” I nodded. I left the scene, leaving it for my underlings to clean up. I left the report with them as well. They would fill it out and return it to me. I hummed to myself as I walked to the car. I enjoy chasing down wizard criminals.

Chapter 2

The Arcadian was a VIP indeed. He was fortunately not an heir, but still a valued member of the Ptolemon Bloodline. They were very powerful mages who served House Delphine, rulers of Arcadia, directly.  His name was Rolf Ptolemon and he was a pyromancer, 3 circuits.

I first learned this from the Chief, Manfred Yules. He was fat and determined to stay the chief or become Police Commissioner by any means necessary. It meant riding my coattails as only a politician could. He and I had words once I realized this, and he ensured me that he would not interfere. Of course, what’s missing is: As long as I keep my success up.

I signed the paperwork from the crime scene. The coroner’s report wasn’t in yet. The Chief buzzed me.

“Chief?” I sat down without invitation. I played a game with him. I was the cat and he was my owner/slave.

“Do you know who the Ptolemons are, Mr. Kimaris?” Without waiting for me to answer, he continued. “They are a very, very old family who have kept powerful secrets of Thaumatergy in their family for generations. You know that the Teradocs are the Mystro’s military leaders? Their head of family is called the ‘Alchemist of Delphine’. This was a small fry, thankfully, but still important, as he was learning techniques of Third Magic to bring back to Arcadia.

“I am sending you to the Arcadian Embassy. Dress up nice and at least be polite. You have a meeting with Halford Ptolemon in two hours. Talk to him, assure him I’m doing a good job and then get what information you can out of him.”

“Send a gendarme. I need to go get some evidence checked out personally.”

“Do it on your own time!” He thumped a flaccid and pudgy fist on the table. It made a humorous sound that did nothing to intimidate me. “Apparently, we were negotiating with Arcadia for trade routes when this happened! We need this to stay smoothed over!” He jowls flapped up and down like he was trying to fly.

“Alright, chief. What about the Narthan cloth?” He flipped a file towards me. The cloth was in a bag, as well as an examination of it. “Thank you.” I got up and left. The chief must have had coals under his spacious buttocks to actually try to order me around.

I dressed up in my sunday finest and had one of my gendarmes drive me to the Embassy. The embassy was small, two stories in a strange, metal and straight style that clashed with the more organic brick buildings surrounding it. It took me a moment, but I realized it meant that only a very powerful terraformer could directly touch the building. It would be also immune to direct assaults of fire, water and wind, depending on the strength of their windows and doors. Very smart.

The gendarme pulled away into the parking lot. He parked in a place that could see the entrance. Good.

The insides were what I assumed Arcadian styles. Straight lines and the silver sheen of metals. There were holographic portraits of famous figures,  one or two I recognized. The foyer was likely the largest room in the building. It dipped down about three feet, and the ceilings rose nearly to the roof. There were thin columns that did not offer good cover, evenly spaced and usually had an occupied desk next to it. The desks looked light and flimsy, made of common, white plastic. The whole place was too bright.

On the second floor were walkways that crissed-crossed, allowing for direct movement for the functionaries. Commanding a perfect view of the foyer was the chief of security. He was a silver haired and well-dressed Teradoc. I could tell just by looking at him. He had that simple arrogance that comes from being a strong fighter, without the benefit of maturity. Draped across him was his lover/servant, a de-winged Valkyrie. She occasionally made doe eyes at him, but I was not fooled. In a second, they could disentangle and attack me.

Proper protocol for mages entering embassies is to declare your talent and power by revealing the symbol of your school/family. I showed him my brand, five concentric circes with a circle surrounding. The circle meant earth. The five circles meant five mana circuits. I was powerful, but it all came down to how you used them. People forget that Laura Stewart, head of the Protestants, has only two mana-circuits, bare minimum needed for Magics. I wished I had the control she had.

The Teradoc gave me a lazy thumb up and I put my glove back on. I moved forward to a central desk. This one was not connected to any column, and had the requisite sign in sheets. It was stationed by two blond women who tried to look ditzy and dumb, but their backs were too straight and everything was too neat. They likely had weapons where I couldn’t see them. I told them my name and purpose.

“Like, sign here and we’ll call him up, okay?” The left one shuffled some papers towards me and I dutifully signed them. She called the secretary of Halford Ptolemon. The right one took the papers and motioned me to sit on one of the semi-comfortable chairs. I spent five minutes brainlessly looking at an article on women’s fashions before the secretary came for me.

The office of Halford Ptolemon was much like the owner. It was sparsely furnished, but tastefully. Knick-knacks adorned one shelf, some sort of collectibles. The other shelves had books of varying age and size. Halford’s importance warranted him a bay window in his office. He sat in front of it, turning his face, dark skinned and perfectly bald, into a silhouette.

“Mr. Kimaris. Sit and let us talk.” I sat down in the semi-comfortable chair provided. “I assume you are here over poor Rolf.”

“Yes sir.” I pulled out a notebook. Most people used Xaio Spheres, but I preferred physical analogs. Easier to catch people who try to mess with me. “I received a preliminary report before I left. He died around eight to nine PM. Do you know anything that could assist me in finding his killer?”

He shook his head. “I’m sorry, I took care of him, but I did not monitor his actions. I do know that he recently acquired a girlfriend.” I nodded, scratching things down in my short-hand. Halford had steeled himself, hiding emotion. People would consider this suspicious, but Arcadians are very stiff lipped about death. “A local. We tried to discourage it, but gave up. Young people. He was otherwise… normal. He studied and got decent grades. No drop off.”

“I believe the murder happened in a moment of passion.”

Halford’s shadow nodded. “I understand wizards are prone to losing control of their emotions.”

“Partly, also it overwhelms us, stronger the wizard, stronger the emotions. I needed years of self-control training myself.”

“I understand.” Halford nodded contemplatively. He picked up an envelope. “Here’s her name and address.” He passed it to me. Laura Thark. University City Hive Dorms. “She was of lower class, on scholarships, mainly. We made sure to send a few her way once she became connected. We tried contacting her…”

“But no response. I see.” I knew where I could find some clues. Halford nodded again. “Is there anything else? We’ve got little on him.”

“The envelope contains address, phone numbers and everything else. I’m sorry we can’t do more.” I didn’t have any other questions. Halford had the influence to have the killer already. “We will continue trade negotiations with the city very soon. We are glad this isn’t a political killing. And we hope to see” He had stood and walked over to me. I finally got to see his face. He had many ritual tattoos, one of which was also on Rolf. His eyes were bloodshot and the ink around his eyes, reaching back from the corner about an inch, had run a little. No wonder he kept himself a silhouette. “you catch the person who killed him!” He opened the door for me.

“I will. It’s my job. I am the best.” I left and the door closed behind me.

Chapter 3

Utan are smaller than human creatures that, according to the history books, were created many thousands of years ago by the ill-fated Columns. After kicking around with the Valkyries for some time, they began to settle in human cities, ironically becoming the servant class, but not slave, mind, that they were created to be.

This Utan was no man’s servant, but was still beholden to me and others for information. Karkles, he hates that name, was the owner of a very well-to-do diner near University City, the mage university’s district. Many students came in to study, eat cheap and greasy food and learn colorful new slang from the owner. He did not talk except to shout.


He was short and gray. I believed him to be a Dog Utan. His eyes occasionally started spinning and his mouth opened disturbingly wide when he began ranting. Of the six or so types of Utan known to exist, dogs were extremely social creatures, even sleeping in giant piles at night. I never saw another Dog Utan enter his shop, and I wondered if he was very lonely. He swore profusely at me.

“Well, Mr. Karkles, (GAAHHH KALIBAN! MISTER KALIBAN! YOU IGNORANT MAN-APE!) I’m glad to see you are in good health.” I liked Karkles. Not in the sarcastic banter sort of way, but in that eventually, he may calm down to give you what you want. Maybe. But I was always amused more than anything else. University wizards are poor wizards, as a rule.

I had once taken him in on a drug bust. It turns out, he had nothing to do with it. “Do you know Laura Thark?”


“Anything else?”


I handed him the cloth. He nodded passed it back. “There’s no police report of a disturbance.”


“I don’t blame them. Where did they go afterward?” Kaliban shrugged.

“THEY WENT TOWARDS MORGANA STREET. I DON’T KNOW WHAT HAPPENED AFTERWARD, BUT I’LL TELL YOU THAT I DIDN’T FEEL ANYTHING.” I knew that. There were no seismic disturbances that were not scheduled.

“Thank you, Mr. Kaliburn. Keep up to the health codes, or I’ll come for you!”

“HA HA HA HA! BETTER CALL THE GENDARMES! IT”S A FREAKING RIOT ALL UP IN HERE! PLEASE DON’T PEPPER SPRAY ME OFFICER! I”M TOO FLIPPIN BEAUTIFUL!” I waved at him as I left. The Gendarme picked me up and took me to Morgana street.

Morgana street is older than most of the city. On the occasion that I need a trinket to assist in a project, I go to any of the shops that sell things that rightly should have gone bad generations ago. I walked down the streets, looking for likely places feuding lovers could take their argument elsewhere.

The buildings are either made of wood or stone. They didn’t discover the clay required to make bricks until a little later in the history of Paroskov. Even though the coroner could not state with certainty what old part of town the murderous stones came from, I would not be surprised if I found the murder scene.

And there it was. It was in an abandoned warehouse. They had had a proper wizards duel over Laura Thark. I used a communication gem to call in Elvira and some gendarmes to look at the place. Despite the damage done to the floor and walls, the building was still sound. While trying to kill each other, they had taken pains both to control their mana usage and power, hoping to avoid discovery.

There was dried wood and charcoal everywhere, excellent material for a pyromancer. The remains of crates, pallets and sundry wooden items long forgotten. I could tell that Rolf, while apparently murderous, had been in very good form. I could see that he used many precision strikes, and that for most of the match, he had kept his Narthan opponent from getting good terraformer form going.

But he made a mistake. A stone wall was thrown up by his opponent as Rolf tried to finish the fight with a too strong attack. With that protection, the murderer had put Rolf to flight. Finally finishing him against the opposite wall from the stone barrier.

There was a disturbing amount of blood. If he bled out here, that would explain the lack of blood to the body. I also found one more piece of evidence. The outline of a hand. Perhaps, after the fight, Laura was unconscious and, after expending so much energy in such a manner, the murderer was unable move much. A common trait after such a battle for such inexperienced wizards.

Unfortunately, that meant that if I had to fight the murderer, he’d be stronger. Thaumaturgy was a muscle, after all. He’d be no match for me, provided he didn’t one hit me.

I felt piercing eyes on me, like last night. I turned swiftly and caught the motion of a multi-colored clothes. “Not this time.” I used the stone floor to propel me towards the window. I smashed the window with a flying stone and flew through it. The mysterious person was already running down the roof. I could tell by her motions and figure that it was a woman.

I heard a female voice call out. A figure vaulted up alongside her. I readied myself for a fight. The new player pulled out a bow and shot an arrow at my feet. I dodged, but it was a trick arrow, exploding a chunk of the roof. I jumped to the side and tried not to lose momentum. I could not use strong terraforming maneuvers without severely damaging the warehouse roof and the evidence.

I sped forward, I grabbed at the stone work in the building next to the warehouse and bent it to my will, trying to hit the man with the weapon. By now the female had dropped down below the roof. I sent several stones at the archer, but he foresaw them, and dodged, putting momentum towards following the female.

I came to the lip in time to see the archer on a horse riding away. I must admit that this was the first time I had seen a man, in the modern era, ride a horse to escape police. Without losing control, he spun around and loosed an arrow at me. It missed, but I had seen enough.

Elvira came a moment later, and I told her what happened. She pulled out a Xaio Sphere with a mobile connection. Soon, we popped into a police car and zoomed towards the only place that advertised they stabled horses.

We arrived in time to see two horses led into the stable. During the few years I was in training under Elvira, before becoming a full fledged Officer of the Law and not a lowly gendarme, I was taught how to make a good impression in any culture. Always use dominant hand, never stare a foreign diplomat down and complement their food when appropriate.

I flashed my badge at the door guard and he let us in. I saw three Narthans sitting in the foyer. They were waiting for me and Elvira.

Chapter 4

They introduced themselves as siblings, formerly a group of four, part of the Timerlane family: Baruk, Sovey and Timer. Timer was the eldest and thus leader. Sovey had arrayed drinks and snacks on the table. They were obviously brothers and sister. All had brown eyes and black hair. Timer was old enough to wear a goattee and Sovey kept herself mostly covered in the manner of their people. They had sprayed cologne on themselves to mask their exertions and sweat.

The drink was tea, a cheap brand and the snack was a milky pastry with a cream center. I didn’t recognize it, but I enjoyed it. This did much to improve my mood and gave us all time to think on opening statements. I must admit that I was more worried about getting hints about capturing their brother than capturing them. It was only a matter of time before a wizard with such poor self control would kill again.

Timer began. “I should have come to you as soon as Rolf Ptolemon was murdered by Kulka. I take full responsibility, and I ask that, should you need to take us in, allow my kin to go free.” His accent was light, like an Arcadian’s, yet there was hints of his original language deep behind it, dark and exotic.
Elvira moved forward, speaking for me. “Yeah, law’s not gonna work like that. You’ll declare diplomatic immunity and head out as soon as we get our cuffs on you. Unfortunately, the same cannot apply to little Kulka. We need to bring him in as soon as possible, but first, tell us what you know about him.”

Timer nodded. “I had hoped to keep a pleasant facade on this matter. Kulka is an eight circuit Terramancer. He came here to learn how to control his power and keep from injuring the people around him. We Narthans do not have as strong a wizard culture as the Neutral Lands. So we must look outward for truly advanced training. I am sorry to say I lost control of him, and all we could do is watch and try to prevent him from doing great harm.”

I needed clarification. “You said eight mana circuits, a mage with that much raw power could easily do more than one talent. Is his only talent terramancy? Does he have any other disciplines?”

Timur shook his head. “No, just terramancy. I did research, and while we attempted to help him, he is terribly inefficient. The first time he demonstrated his powers, he tore a small plateau apart. he gouged out several chunks several metric tons. Only the fact that we raised goats saved us from financial destruction from the ruin of our fields. We immediately knew that we had to send him to a place like this. We already had a relative who had traveled here.”

I nodded my head. I had heard that story before. It was very similar to mine. “Thank you. Do you know where he is now?”

Timur nodded. “The Oaken Bed on Tennis Court street. He hasn’t moved from there.”

“And Laura Thark?”

“She’s with him. She took a blow to the head during Rolf and Kulka’s fight. We tried to take her from him, but he became violent. That’s when we left him to his own devices. I did not want him to cause a disaster. I had hoped that he would calm down and listen to reason. But I’m beginning to see that it is not going to happen.”

“I’m sorry. If he does not come quietly when I confront him, I will have to kill him.”

Sovey leapt to her feet. “Brother! You can’t let him kill Kulka! He’s family!”

Timur stared at her until she sat down again. He was planning something. “I’m sorry, if we do not fight fully like the criminal will, it ends badly for us. Besides that, he has killed a member of a prominent Arcadian family. Even though they have not demanded his blood, they will want a full and proper trial. Our law demands life for a life for murder in first degree.”

Timur punched Baruk as he started to speak. “And of course, if he attacks police, it will guarantee his life being  forfeit?”

Elvira nodded. “Yes. The Police chief is a politically driven fatty. He’ll push for full murder in the first to appease his masters. He made his decision.”

Timur nodded and stood. The meeting was over. Unfortunately, because I did not have a proper warrant, I had very little authority over him in this hotel. If he was just outside… We shook hands and went separate ways. I only hoped that they would not help their brother, but I think that it would be too much to ask.

Elvira and I drove to the Oaken Bed immediately. On the way over, I contacted the chief and got the paperwork. I now had authorization to take any and all measures to take down this rogue wizard. I would have done it, paperwork or no. This could be an international incident and fights started over less and for more trivial things. The Wet Firework war was not named ironically. Gendarmes from my squads were on their way as soon as I told the Chief. They would be there within minutes of us. The Chief would ensure that he and my people would be there first, to hog the glory.

“Elvira. When we get there, find the girl and get her out of here. I will move the fight away from her. She might still be unconscious, in which case get her to a hospital ASAP.”

“Yes, boss.”

I began to change into battle armor. My Officer clothes had easy snaps and buckles for my armors. I put on a SWAT helmet. Finally, I put on the gloves. I had added rocks and dirt to various pockets. I had often taken out minor thugs with little effort.

“This will be destructive. If he doesn’t give up quietly, which he won’t, be careful. He may change his attention to you if you move too soon to get Laura.” I put in a request for the Chief to bring a medic squad. I hadn’t once, and it cost three of my best men.

We pulled into the parking lot and I left the car. The Oaken Bed was made of wood. It’s about three stories tall. People assume that sticking a Terramancer in a wooden cage will dampen his powers. In reality, it’s our separation from the earth I manipulate. Because I can use Terramancy from a very long distance, I am only limited by my eyes and the sixth sense that comes with my craft. Likely, Kulka would not be hampered either.

I walked into the foyer and flashed my badge at the receptionist. I told him his insurance better be up to date. He pressed the fire alarm. I took the guest ledger and found Kulka’s room. 306.

I took the elevator. The Oaken Bed was not up to code, for it to keep working during a fire alarm. I began to control my breathing. Emotions produced very strong magicks. But it was like a strong man lifting from the back. It’s inefficient. I can do much greater feats with proper control. I feel the strong emotions every other wizard feels, but I control it.

Kulka would not be the same. His emotions would be all over the place, especially if Laura was still unconscious. He’d do impressive things. I’d be better. I’m the best Officer of the Law in the whole city of Paroskov and my gendarmes are the best. I will take him down.

I left the elevator. There were six rooms, some sort of penthouse suites. 306 was opposite the elevator. I pressed my helmet to it, and I heard male sobbing. I kicked down the door. “Law-Breaker! Surrender or DIE!”

Chapter 5

Kulka was dressed in the burnt ruins of the intricate dress of his family. He smelled terrible. His black hair was half-burnt off. Laura was in a bed, tried blood surrounded her head like a halo, and only her heaving chest told me she yet lived. His back to me, even though I had kicked down the door and everything. It was a little disappointing. I grasped his shoulder. “Get up! You are coming with me!”

“I can’t leave her!”

“I understand that you feel things very strongly right now, but you have to come with me. I can get her help.” Was he going to surrender so peaceably?

“No! She stays with me! I’m all she needs! YOU’RE TRYING TO TAKE HER AWAY FROM ME!” He stood up. I called up concrete from the foundation and sent it through the floor, under his feet. He went flying, several bricks he had called from the building outside the window missed my head, no longer controlled by the mad terramancer.

I jumped on a chair, and grabbed at the new skylight. I pulled myself up in time to see the madman get up. “YOU’RE WEAKER THAN I AM!” I pulled up the bricks from the floor below and hit him with it. He flew at the brick building. He hit it with a crunch. I hoped he was unconscious.

He began laughing. “I get your style now. Keep me off balance.” I began making the bricks into a prison. My power was contested, and the bricks flew my way. I dove to the right, but the bricks caught my shoes and pushed me off of the roof.

I saved myself by grabbing a window sill. I willed the bricks to form steps under my feet. At the street level, I ripped up some asphalt to hurl once he showed his head. I was blindsided by a wave of asphalt from my opponent. He hadn’t pursued the advantage of height.

I spun around, using my powers to blow out most of the mass. The rest of it I formed into a spear and hurled it at Kulka. He laughed and waved his hand as soon as it was close enough to make contact. The structure dissipated. I cursed for once. Mad mages always give me emotional trouble. What’s that philosopher’s saying, he who fights monsters?

I opened the road under him, making spikes at the bottom. He only fell a foot before he pulled the earth back underneath his feet, flattening the spikes. He sent another ripple through the ground at me. I jumped over it and charged him directly. I formed a fist of concrete over my own fist. The charge surprised him, and I got a good punch in, sending him flying.

I can hear your question. Why not kill him and be done with it? The problem is escalation. A severely wounded Wizard is six times more dangerous than a non-wounded one. Adrenaline courses through their veins and every bone in their magically charged body screams “NOT DEAD YET”. It’s a death curse of sorts. I have to be sure of a kill, and that he is unable to properly articulate his last breath.

He slammed against a brick wall. I moved forward, cautiously. I spent a second considering me next move. I couldn’t collapse the wall on him, like I would any other criminal, he’d flip it on me in an instant. By this time, the Gendarmes were advancing, wisely, they had left their vehicles out of sight and out of range.

I signaled and they began throwing in flash-bangs. I and my men were protected by  Blinded and deafened, he would be unable to shape everything. He screamed as they exploded. Rock flew everywhere, but it lacked substance. I tackled him, but his tantrum had weakened the roof of the sewers. We fell through.

I lost my bearing and he used the opportunity to bang into the walls and try to get away. He tried to collapse it further to cover his escape, but I overpowered him. He got out of my grip, using the slickness of the waste fluids to his advantage. I did not want to know what his tastebuds were experiencing. He had fully recovered by now. I am embarrassed to mention that he tripped me up.

By now we had moved away from the original entry point. He suddenly brought the ceiling down a pillar of concrete lifted him back to the service. I followed him. He was standing still. He was staring at Elvira with Laura Thark in her arms.

“GET YOUR HANDS OFF HER YOU DIRTY LONG-EAR!” I moved to intercept him, but he placed his hands on the ground, sending massive amounts of power through them into the ground. A giant concrete block separated us. I maneuvered around it, again facing him in time to see what he was doing. He was ripping a construct right out of the material.

That’s delicate work, and in his heightened and confused state of awareness, it was little more than a pair of legs and a pair of crushing arms, but it would do. I couldn’t touch it, with such a diffusion of my opponent’s magic in it.

I didn’t have to do a thing. As soon as the golem took its first step and I summoned the mana required to hit it with something big enough to slow it down, an arrow hit Kulka in the temple. It exploded a second later. Kulka was dead. I saw the figure of Timur on a nearby roof. He turned away and ran. I did not pursue. The golem collapsed as the mana keeping it together dissapated.

The chief puffed up. “Good work, some damage to the buildings, but nothing a ‘line of duty’ excuse won’t fix.” He looked at Laura, a medic was already attending her. “Get some men for the body! Have the gas company send someone immediately!” He walked off to issue orders. I sat down on a bench.

Elvira sat down next to me and crossed her legs, which were as long as I was. “You didn’t fight at your strongest. Something bothering you boss?”

I didn’t want to admit it, even to her, or myself. I had been distracted by the thought that, only training separated me from that madman. “I could have been like him.”

“Yeah, but you aren’t. It’s really that simple for a guy like you.” She was sharing some joke that only she understood, and smiled. “You’re youngish, but I wouldn’t worry. You’ll only get stronger, and any threat of your emotions taking over will disappear as well. I’ve seen it before you and I’ll see it after you. Just don’t give in. Talk. Then deal with it.” She stood up and waved the air under her nose. “For now, you stink. Did something die?”

I grimaced. Death is not funny. I did smell rank. Paperwork delegated to the gendarmes and showers were in my future.