“I’m ready, foul beast.” The light in his eye and look on his face, along with the straight back, drew grudging respect from the Stalker. It wasn’t something to relish from his point of view. He preferred the Prey and other incidentals to cower in fear from him. It was something that he found refreshing, but this man was not following the script.
Shaking his head, he took out a small length of metal. He muttered an incantation, and the rigid bar became flexible.
“Put your hands out.” The man did so, and the beast tried to wrap the metal around his wrists. He was repelled by some force and stumbled back in surprise. His eyes narrowed, and he growled deep in his chest. The girl’s father simply smiled.
“Papa!” The girl’s cry was anguished, and he looked over his shoulder.
“Hush, my dearest. Remember what I said.”
The priest moved toward her while the beast was distracted and put his hand on her shoulder, subvocalizing another litany. He broke off as he looked at her. There were only a few of the other men around to witness this event, and more of them decided that elsewhere was a better place to be.
“He knows what he’s doing, my daughter.”
“But…!” The fatigue in her from the chase kept her from objecting more strenously. “He’s going to die!”
The priest’s smile was unexpected, at least to her, and she stopped for a moment to stare at him. He stared back placidly, then his attention drifted back over to the other man. Even with the seriousness of his plight, the tall form still stood upright, staring at the ugliness of the beast as though he was commenting on the bark of some old tree.
The Stalker didn’t miss the look. He sneered at the man.
“You have some kind of power that I didn’t expect. If you resist me, then the deal you want to make is off, and I take the girl. For that matter, if you resist me, I’ll take the girl and you. Then the few others still here, and then the cleric.”
“I know what your intentions are.” The glance the man gave the Stalker was harder still. “But I know that any deal we make in his presence is still something you’re bound to. This is the deep magic.”
Stymied for a moment, the Stalker paused. The others could see that he was still calculating a way out.
“Very well. You for her. Stand ready.”