Dust and Sand – Chapter 29 – By Sean P. Wallace
“Do you know why I want you alive?” the Faustian asked between a stomach-jab surrounded by a burning spell and an upper-cut that could have liquefied bone.
Dust dodged both and swiped back with his other gun, an attack the bastard avoided by rolling his head away like it were a loose sack of potatoes hanging from his neck.
“No,” Dust said.
“Do you care?”
The Faustian smiled and somehow cast a spell from his mask with the gesture, a new trick on Dust that caught him by surprise. The unusual delivery method meant the spell couldn’t be powerful enough to kill but it turned Dust’s world into a drunken swim of colours, an indiscernible palette of smears.
A blur of black and grey sprang forward and knocked him down, easily avoiding Dust’s counter-attack. As the blur began to focus, the Faustian wrapped his arms around Dust’s shoulders. Literally; his bones became like cloth and his arms coiled around Dust, constricted him. Dust tried to free himself but the Faustian’s grip was firm and his muscles just couldn’t move in the way he’d need them to.
The cloud of white and black inks came into Dust’s struggling vision. “This is just how I want you; constricted, stuck. That Which Sins promised me that I would be escalated, would become as a Saint in Her eyes, if I could do one thing.”
At that, the Faustian started pumping dark magic into Dust, aiming particularly at his tattoo over his heart. It hurt like a bitch, a ripping roar through his flesh, but it was just pain.
Dust relaxed as best he could, started begging his tattoo for the magic to free himself. “Kill me one-on-one?”
“No no,” the smeared Faustian said, stroking him with four-inch fingers. “I want what makes you special.”
“My soul?” he asked, pleading again and again in his mind, hoping his tattoo would respond as much so he didn’t have to listen to this asshole.
“Of course not. I want your tattoo.”
That sent a jolt through both him and Resistance. Power surged back under his control; it seemed that even the hint of such a thing put some urgency behind the god. A strange sense came with it, a feeling of abandonment. Resistance couldn’t or wouldn’t give him more power. He would have only his native abilities to rely on.
Dust wouldn’t use this last piece right away; he wanted to surprise the bastard.
“Your tattoo is the only unique artefact in the world. There are copies of most everything else, every other invention and spell and trinket. But your tattoo is completely unique, an odd seal for an odder pact.” The spell affecting Dust’s vision was almost gone; he could pick out the bastard’s eyes from his blurred face as they searched Dust’s face. “That Which Sins will reward me handsomely for handing it to Her.”
It was Dust’s turn to laugh, a strange and difficult act when he was in so much pain.
“What’s funny?” the pale bastard asked, relaxing his grip on Dust just a little. For someone with such religious fervour, he suddenly wasn’t sure of himself. Maybe he just wanted his sainthood so much he couldn’t believe it might actually happen.
“Three things. You don’t understand my tattoo; you can’t take it by stealing the flesh it’s on. Also, it’s moved to my calf so you’re just hurting me now.”
The Faustian frowned and started repositioning itself to attack his leg. “And?”
Dust let his magic speak for him, turning it into another kinetic burst, cheap but effective magic he relied on too often. But he needed something that fired in all directions to knock away the flesh wrapped round him like a mother’s love or a straight-jacket. And he needed to use it all.
The great burst ripped the Faustian from around Dust and threw it up to the ceiling. Like a long-limbed doll, he crashed against the rock and splatted down again.
Dust scrambled to his feet and kicked the Soulless in the ribs, an attack that lacked grace but had enough power to crush a barrel. The Faustian’s chest caved momentarily but popped back into place as he skidded away.
The world clear now, he collected his other gun then chased after the Faustian. Immediately he had to duck under a pale thrown fist, one grossly-extended to more than twelve feet.