How Brother Jed Smock met Vex Harrow.


She turned back just in time for the staff to strike her, shaft-first, in the chest. The thump knocked the wind out of her and pain blossomed through her ribs. Her wards flared hot to repel the attack. After hitting her chest the staff struck downwards and swept away from her body, it caught the hammer and flung it across the courtyard where it blasted a wide crack in a support column and fell to the floor.

Vex grabbed the staff as Jed tried to recover and swung her elbow into his throat. The impact jarred him backward but he didn’t release the weapon. She dodged a sloppy swing from the staff and watched the smirking face of the bronze Christ whip past her face. She could feel it pulling at her, bleeding the anger pent up in her and using it to fuel its magick.

That just made her more angry. Jed swung high and she delivered a kidney-punch, followed by a hammer-fist to his ribs, working around the staff on her way up she landed a right-cross to his jaw that would have felled an NFC champion. The blow spun his head and he staggered; she took the advantage of his imbalance and aimed a side snap-kick at his floating rib. The kick connected—

—but in the same moment the staff slammed into her upper chest and without a solid foundation and her wards weakened the blow knocked her from her feet. She crashed into the ground a short distance away.

Brother Jed and the pathophage cackled in deep demoniac laughter as they recovered themselves. Cracked bones mended, reddened and bruised flesh healed, and he rose to his full stature with the staff straight and haughty by his side.

“A valiant fight for such a frail child,” they said together as Brother Jed paused pettishly, to brush concrete dust and debris from his dress pants and shirt. “I will savor your fear as I devour you.”

From her prone position, she could see the haft of the hammer sticking out from beneath a bench mere feet away. Her leg hurt, she couldn’t tell if she could stand on it or not.

Given a distraction she could get to it—she reached out to her pool of voices for a spell. Sensing danger, they came to her with spellwork that could unweave reality, explode flesh from bones with a mere word, collapse the building around her in a hellstorm of molten concrete and glass, one even eagerly offered a magick that would shift the entire building into a limbo-world where she would become nigh unto a god. All nuclear option. No, simpler! She tried to focus on the conversations as she felt Brother Jed walking towards her, the staff clicking against the floor as he approached.

Finally, one came to her—not from the voices—but through her own wits, a cantrip so simple she felt stupid she didn’t think of it immediately.

Nathan sprinted in a fury from his hiding place. He stood behind Brother Jed and held his silver crucifix aloft in front of him in a warding gesture.

“In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I rebuke you! Satan get thee behind me!”

“Nathan. No!” Vex’s eyes went wide with terror as she rolled herself to her feet—her leg held.

A cantrip etched in the air with a single glowing gesture and the hammer jumped from its fallen position into her hand—the same Jed used to grab the staff from her earlier.

Brother Jed’s staff snapped out as he turned and caught Nathan in the chest. Without wards or any combat-experience the blow caught him flat footed and the impact pinched him in half like a rag doll, tossing him across the room. He slammed into a support column with a strangled oomf and crashed onto his face.

“That’s it!” Fury and the urgent need to destroy something flooded through Vex’s near-exhausted muscles. “Fuck off!

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