How Brother Jed Smock met Vex Harrow.


Vex took a step and pivoted like an athlete preparing for a hammer-throw, swinging the sledgehammer from the far-end of the haft. As she came around she let slip the weapon, staggered and nearly fell. The hammer hurtled at Jed, as it spun through the air the cement beneath it trembled and fractured—a violent wake of destruction erupted behind the sledge as it soared unhindered.

The sledgehammer’s arcing path curved dead into Brother Jed’s chest as he turned to face her. He brought the crucifix-staff up just in time to block its oncoming swath of devastation. The maul met the staff in a thunderous collision. For the first time since he entered the room, Jed’s expression failed to match that of the Christ-figure. Jed’s expression looked befuddled—the bronze figure on the crucifix wore an expression of horror and shock. The hammer head sheared through the staff, spraying splintery shrapnel as it went. The stock of the hammer delivered a blow to Jed that smacked him to the ground. The two pieces of the staff smoldered as they fell to his sides.

The hammer embedded itself in the far wall, but Vex ignored it as she rushed along the path of destruction.

She grabbed Jed by his lapel and coiled back a knock-out blow aimed at his jaw when she noticed the blackened ruin of the staff scattered around him. The crucifix portion lay on its back; the bronze figure had melted into a molten puddle. She couldn’t feel the sensation that the parasite had blanketed the campus with any longer.

The evil was dead.

There certainly would be no need to injure the man on the ground in front of her. He had been just as much a victim as every other person the entity had used in the past. She left him unconscious on the floor and went to where she saw Nathan fall after he took the blow.

She found him, propped up with one arm against the rough concrete of a column.

“How many times have I told you not to use ward magick on things bigger than you?” Vex said, helping him stand. “It just pisses them off.”

“Plenty,” Nathan said, blinking away tears as he struggled to stand. “It just seemed an opportune time… Is he…?”

She shook her head. “He’s fine…” she said. “Well, fine for what we just put him through. I’m sure he’ll have one hell of a headache when he wakes up. So let’s make sure we’re not here when that happens.”

“And the monster?”

“That’s dead for sure.” She held up the crucifix from the top of the staff, now rendered into blackened charcoal-and-melted-bronze wreckage. “How about a souvenir?”

“No, you keep it,” Nathan said. “After watching that thing make a mockery of… Well. I’d rather not think about it.”

Vex grabbed the sledgehammer on the way out of the shaded courtyard. She barely had the strength to lift it from the ground so it scraped along behind her as she walked beside Nathan.

“Let’s adjourn to my apartment,” she said. “I think there’s an ice-pack with your name on it.”

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