Erron came to slowly. Eveything around him was dull, distant and blurred. Voices clanged in his ears like underwater bells. Slowly, his senses kicked into gear, and Sanastael’s face coalesced over his.
“Erron! Wake up! You melted a lot of the cages... there’s a riot going on! We’re going to get killed!”
Shouts and screams permeated the background as the prisoners fought amongst themselves. Guards began to filter into the room from side doors, moving into battle formations.
“Even if it was a little uncontrolled, that was amazing! I’ve heard legends about wizard’s fire, but none of them ever did it justice. Can you do it again?”
Even lying still, Erron felt himself shaking, felt the exhaustion, not in his body but in his spirit.
“That... would be a bad idea. Never mind that it exhausted me, I don’t even know how I did it. Can you help me up?”
With a grimace, the slender elf put her hands under his arms and pulled upwards, helping the mage stumble to his feet. Leaning on each other for support, they began to stagger their way through the mob. By this time, the guards were laying into the escapees, and although they put up a good fight, ten prisoners or more fell for every guard.
A particularly burly man, at least six and a half feet tall, approached the two, followed by a throng of slightly smaller thugs.
“Hey. Mage. Got a proposition for you.”
“Seeing as you look exhausted, I doubt you’re casting any more spells. Me and my boys, on the other hand, are fresh and fighting-ready. So here’s the deal: we’ll get you out of here and hole you up someplace safe. In return, once you’re rested up, I need you to do some magic for me.”
Erron caught sight of a tattoo on the man’s left bicep, a black-and-red dragon. He narrowed his eyes and held up a hand, a little silver flicker adorning the tip of his index finger.
“I have strength enough to fry you if you try anything, Drake. I’ve heard about you. I’ll accept your deal, if you guarantee her safety as well as mine.”
He indicated the elf with a jerk of his head. She could feel him suppressing his shaking, and knew how much even that tiny flame was taxing him, but remained silent, fearful of spoiling their chance to escape. The man threw back his head and laughed.
“You’ve got spirit, mage! Alright, done. Follow me.”
The thugs closed in and screened the pair from the fighting. In the midst of the chaos, it was easy to slip away unnoticed, and because all the guards were quelling the riot, there was nobody to stop them. Soon, the group were out of the prison and hurrying along the alleys in the early morning light, twisting ever deeper into the warrens where even the dwarven guards dared not go...
Erron awoke to the sounds of revelry. Sitting up, he found that he was engulfed in a pile of furs amid what appeared to be the trappings of a communal sleeping area. Glancing around, he noticed a small mound nearby, presumably Sanastael. Drawing up his magic, he muffled his movements so as not to wake her before heading in the direction of the noise. A few quick strides were enough to bring him up to the door, close enough to hear the voices on the other side of it.
“Hah! I can’t believe how lucky we are! A living, breathing mage! Just think of what we could do!”
“We’ll need to be careful, though. The dwarves will notice too much magic.”
“Oh, sure, but he can conceal it, right?”
“Perhaps small spells, but not curses like we want. If we’re to have him cursing those who don’t pay us our protection fee, we’ll have to tread carefully. And how do we know he’ll cooperate? He’s a mage, he could easily -”
“Well, that’s what the elf is for. He’ll do what we say, if he doesn’t want her to be on the wrong end of a knife.”
As he listened, Erron got angrier and angrier. When the last voice cut in – Drake’s without a doubt – his blood suddenly ran cold.
So that’s their plan? I’d better get us out of here quick!
Checking that his muffling spell was still intact, he hurried over to the pile of furs and pulled them back.
Nothing. No elf, just a mound of rags shaped to look vaguely like a sleeping body under the covers. Erron snarled under his breath. Footsteps sounded behind him and he spun, silver flames burning around his clenched fists. This wasn’t the small flame he could summon naturally; it was angry and blazing, something spawned from his fury as much as his will, straining against his control like a wild horse against the yoke. Drake stood before him, grinning, and it took all the effort he could muster to hold back the flames.
“Now, now, mage. You heard me before. You know what’ll happen if you lay so much as a finger on me. Put that fire out.”
Erron slowly opened his hands, taking a deep breath and calling to mind the image of a river. He visualised casting his anger into the water and watching it be swept away. The flames sputtered out.
Of course, that simply meant that he would find it again further downstream...