"You left the dagger in him?" asked Sorcerer-Commander Vanger, as Pallian laid his brother on the wide discussion table in the center of the command tent.
On the far side of the tent, Troop-Commander Jarrol rolled his eyes. The two men were close enough in age, both just entering their fifties, but the Sorcerer-Commander was whip-thin and leanly muscled while the Troop-Commander was built like a bear, soft fat over heavy bones and muscle.
"I had no choice," he said, and let the helmet turn his voice into a fearsome rasp. "It might be tamponading something."
Troop-Commander Jarrol nodded sharply at that. "I'll send for healers."
"Make sure they're accompanied by troopers. Commander Vanger, can you keep this room lit? Even against an enemy sorcerer trying to plunge it into darkness?"
The older man gestured impatiently, and magical light flooded the room.
"Good," said Pallian. "Now, can you do the same thing for the entire camp? I want it lit up like midday."
"I can... but why?" Vanger looked hesitant, and Pallian didn't begrudge him that; even with all the initiations that strengthened and supported his sorcery, lighting the whole of the camp would require a real effort on the Sorcerer-Commander's part.
Pallian drew breath to answer, but a woman's voice cut him off: "Because of me."
His armor could only barely sense her, even in the brightness of the room, but Pallian had been expecting her return. He caught up the chair beside him and hurled it in a single movement, passing it through the space directly behind Vanger's back. The figure that had briefly shimmered there flickered to one side, and Pallian caught up a second chair and hurled it as well.
This time the figure dove out of the way, rolling before coming up and sprinting for the side of the tent. Pallian seized another chair, but she slipped through the tent wall the same way she'd slipped through the guards' hands earlier. The chair struck the wall and fell harmlessly to the carpeted floor.
"Because," he continued, "I think we're dealing with the Shadow of Edrias."
"I see," said Sorcerer-Commander Vanger, and strode towards the entrance of the tent.
"Wait," commanded Pallian, as Vanger swept aside the curtain and stepped out into the night -- but he was a moment too late. Vanger stopped in the doorway, then staggered back, clutching at a knife in his gut. It wasn't the one she'd displayed earlier; this one was small and accented with silver, and seemed to be trying to pull itself further into Vanger's body.
Pallian lifted his left arm and loosed a stream of fire, burning a hole through the curtain and part of the tent beside it. There was a brief cry from outside -- maybe not a scream of pain, but at least a shriek of surprise -- and he advanced, still burning everything ahead of him. The Shadow of Edrias would either be dead, or wouldn't be there anymore; but he needed the fire for cover while he approached Vanger.
The problem here was the opposite of the one with his brother. That blade might be keeping some vital vein or artery blocked, preventing Ravaj from bleeding to death. This one was actively injuring the Sorcerer-Commander further, and it had to come out.
He knelt down, slipped his gauntlet-covered hand under Vanger's fingers, and yanked on the blade.
It fought him; it didn't want to come loose. Even with his armor adding to his strength, it took an effort to pull it loose. Even then, it didn't quit; it turned on him immediately, trying to twist back and cut at his hand, his wrist...
Pallian slapped the thing against his chestplate and it clung there, desperately pressing against the ensorceled metal. Good enough. "Lose something, Shadow?" he growled.
He got as far as the burning edge of what had once been the door of the command tent before a woman's voice chuckled and said, "Not bad, Black Knight. Not enough to stop me, but not bad."
Something slams into the back of his armor, aimed for his kidney. It rebounds, but not before penetrating the steel; for the first time in his three years as the Black Knight of Teregor, Pallian's dark armor has been pierced.
He's already turning, though, fast enough to catch the Shadow's shoulder before she can slip away, fast enough to slam her into the ground as hard as he can. She's too slippery; he need to kill her, and it needs to happen immediately. His sword is still in its sheath, so he yanks the burrowing-dagger off his chest and stabs down with it...
...A heartbeat too late. She has gone momentarily intangible, and the blade passes through her as she rolls to the side and returns to solidity; he can tell, because she's suddenly back on top of the carpets instead of being sunken slightly into them.
Then Ravaj rolls off the table and lands on his feet, staggering over to Vanger as the Shadow turns her head, expressionless behind her hood but possibly just gaping in the same way that Pallian is behind his helm. He kneels beside the fallen Sorcerer-Commander and bends down, sinking horribly elongated teeth into the side of the older man's neck. He gestures even as he drinks, and the dark armor tracks the wards flooding out from him, filling the room and spreading out into the camp.
The Shadow is aware of them, too: she flickers past Pallian, taking a cut on the arm from her own dagger as she passes, and races out of the tent. A moment later she is gone, melting into the darkness, and Pallian remembers that the wards around the camp probably caught her once before. He doesn't think the wards that Ravaj is generating now will fill the camp quickly enough to prevent her escape, though.
Standing, Vanger dead at his feet, Ravaj pulls the dagger from his gut as the wound seals and his flesh restores itself. "Neither of you saw that," he says, and tucks the dagger into his leather belt. "Clearly, the Shadow of Edrias slew Sorcerer-General Vanger and escaped. He must be avenged. Troop-Commander, assign a company to our Champion. He will lead them across the valley before dawn, and assault the enemy camp."
Jarrol swallows, then nods. "As you say, my prince."
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