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“You’re a pretender to the throne,” Dakotah said. “There’s no balance, and it’s making the fey world unsafe. I have to take you down.”
Queen Samantha cackled a lightning-filled laugh. “Big words, Guardian! Just how will you do what Icarus could not?”
He shifted focus, tapping into the Guardian power of borrowing, which let him take on the power of fey nearby. The area was crowded with fey power but he looked only for Samantha’s…without luck. He felt her magic like a roiling mass but he couldn’t access it, couldn’t even see into its opaque depths.
“Trying a bit of borrowing?” she asked after he’d stood there for a minute like an idiot, unmoving.
He pursed his lips in response.
“Guardians cannot take on fairy power.” His heart sank as she let that thought sink in. “I suppose it’s my turn.”
The Unseelie Queen raised her arms. Light bloomed around her face–her hair was on fire, the blaze destroying the prairie and little forest. The birds took flight. The little trees stood like charred stalks. A humming filled the air around her, gathering into a fever pitch before it sparked.
Dakotah dove, throwing up his Shield as he went. Lightning burst and blazed around him, blinding him. She hit him again and again. He dashed around, throwing back whatever magic he could borrow from fey in the crowd. Their magic was frail compared to Samantha’s, pinging off of her like BB gun pellets. It was almost like she was absorbing each hit and gaining some kind of strength from it. Putting up his Shield too slowly, she got his arm. Fire caught his clothes and he patted himself down hastily, howling when he smacked at burned skin.
“Run away, Guardian, eventually you’ll be too slow!”
She’s right, he thought. All it would take would be one hit before he put up a shield and that would be that. He needed to be on the offensive.
Stupid Guardians and their stupid no battle magic. Too late he thought he should’ve just brought an iron pole and beaten his way through. It wouldn’t have felt right, he realized. Iron disturbed the fey balance and he wasn’t trying to upset it anymore than it already was.
….Wait…there was an idea.
Putting up his Shield, he felt again for the powers around him. Now that he was looking for it, he felt the imbalance, like a scale weighed down too heavily on one side. He was surprised he’d never noticed before. It was almost like the listing like a busted canoe. He could tell any spell he or anyone else did would be warped by this slippery slope of imbalance. In his case, his magic would be working against this imbalance. In Samantha’s case, her magic would gain some momentum.
But he could already sense what Samantha in her hubris had not yet noticed: too much imbalance and her magic would suffer too, for it drew from both parts–Making and Unmaking being the same, after all.
The Unseelie Queen had been raining blasts of magic at him, apparently for the amusement of her Court, because she’d been changing colors and adding little flourishes like fireworks. The next rippled toward him, sparkling like sun on a lake in summer.
He dropped his Shield.
Samantha’s mouth opened in surprise, and that was the last thing he saw before the magic hit him.
The battle magic still blazed around him with ill intent, but he felt none of the effect. He had left the fey world and was on some other plane, where there was nothing but him and the magic’s component parts. He separated them with a mental swoop of the mind, absorbed the parts he wanted and dissolved the rest, before landing back in the field in front of Queen Samantha.
He didn’t know who was more surprised, the court or their queen. She frowned and shot at him again, another wild lightning strike. He almost snatched it out of the air, separated the parts again and reappeared on the field to an even more dumbfounded Samantha.
“What are you doing?” she demanded.
He shrugged. “I think I’m Guarding the balance.”
She didn’t look like she understood, but he could feel the slightest shift back toward normal; the scales taking a step toward balance.
She rained a few more spells at him, all battle magic, all ill intent, all of the exact kind he was learning to disassemble or absorb or whatever he was doing. She paused to get her breath. He hadn’t reacted at all, but now he was ready. He started toward her, pulling in magic all around himself–not the kind they were short on, the kind Samantha had all too much off. He built and built the power until the air was tight and seizing between himself and the queen.
Her fire had run its course, leaving her head charred and bare and smoking. But as he closed the distance her look changed. Green grass sprouted all over and she smirked.
He didn’t have time to guess what she was thinking. She whipped a spell at him–a curveball. He went to catch it but it wasn’t the same type of magic. Before he could adjust his own magic he was already in motion. He blinked, and found he’d been moved to the other side of the field.
What the hell? he thought, wondering how that helped Samantha.
Then he heard his name. “Dakotah!”
Phin, Pete, and Val had emerged from the cover of the iron tree. They were now across the field from him.
Samantha tossed him a sly grin over her shoulder. Then she raised a ball of fire and hurled it toward his friends.
“NO!” Dakotah cried.
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