231 The Voice of the Mist*
It had taken Kit a good three hours to steal a Knight's Badge. He wasn't proud of the time it had taken, and Olly had certainly been frustrated with him, but he'd had to wait for them to let their guard down. Kit didn't usually wonder around without Olly, so he'd had to wait until shortly before meal time when he'd asked for some food for him and Olly. That excuse had been well accepted and it had been easy for Kit to take a badge when the cook wasn't looking.
After that, Kit had taken to hiding in the shadows, from what Olly had said, he'd appear to be in the cafeteria to those watching the stone below.
The entrance, surprisingly, was unguarded. Mostly because it was some inconspicuous hut right next to where they stored all the wood for the fireplaces in the Fortress. Kit had only spotted it because he thought it strange that such an area would be so active in summer. Once he was underground, hiding in the shadows became a lot easier. He only had to wait for the right moment to use the locking charm on the stone, which was clearly Evanine, then escape through the shadows back to the pavilion as everyone panicked.
"Alright, done," said Kit.
Olly nodded, "It won't be long now".
Kit approached him, following Olly's gaze as he looked up and around, the night sky revealing the stars above.
"So what do we do?" asked Kit.
"Turn your back to mine, then take four steps forward," said Olly.
Kit frowned, but did as told, "Okay, what now?"
Olly turned to look at him, "Be ready".
Kit was about to ask ready for what when he heard a scream in one of the courtyards to the left. Alarms began to sound out, and the fortress went into a panic.
"The Inktress, she's entered the Fort!"
"Ready for Battle!"
"Protect the Pavilion!"
Kit drew on the shadows. The shadows at night were long and deep, so much more powerful than those in the day time. They condensed around the Pavilion, a ring to protect them.
More screams and shouts of alarm rang out around them, then suddenly, silence prevailed.
Kit tensed, the chilling feeling of that damp dark and wrong presence so close by he could almost touch it.
At Olly's call Kit reacted instantly, the Shadows shot out like great spikes piercing through under the arches of the Pavilion and streaming towards the forming blob of inky blackness.
It pierced it from ten or more different directions, but only a chuckle rang out in response, the ink slipping past his spikes and forming into the threatening woman as she stepped towards him and Olly.
"You're not the only one who is more powerful in the dark, little boy," the Inktress grinned.
Kit threw out a swipe of his shadows, aiming to cut her in half it not stab through her. But she moved quickly, and in an instant she was right behind Olly, wrapping him in her ink before she turned him to face Kit, a dagger of dripping darkness held near Olly's throat.
She grinned at Kit.
"I'll only offer this once, little boy," spoke the Inktress, "After all, my master can't bring himself to care anymore if you live or die, and I'm really sick of hunting you and your pack of charm profiteers. So what will it be? Will you come willingly, or shall I just kill you here?"
Kit glared at her, glancing at Olly. Olly, who looked not in the least bit concerned as he stared back at Kit. That expression of absolute serenity threw him. How could he possibly be calm in this moment? Was he that confident in what the Mist had told him? What could anybody possibly say in this instance to distract someone from the threat to their life?
There was no option here, Kit couldn't hit her without hitting Olly as well. She would sense him and move Olly into the way of the oncoming blow. Kit released his shadows slowly, his hands coming down to his sides as the Inktress grinned in victory.
"That's it little boy, nobody needs to die today," said the Inktress, "Well, no Charm Craftsman anyway".
Kit's eyes narrowed as his hand brushed his pocket where the clarity charm rested. He frowned, and as Illai began to approach Kit with Olly still threatened before her, Kit reached into his pocket and touched the charm, willing it to activate.
He'd activated clarity charms before, but never with a purpose beyond clearing his mind to enhance his concentration. This time he had a question.
What did Olly hear to calm him so?
The world came into incredibly sharp focus, and the Mist that Kit always saw around him enhanced too, rather than waves or swirls of air they looked like ribbons of galaxies stretched through the air, around and up and down they flowed, even directions Kit didn't have a hope of naming. And in the split second when his hand touched the clarity charm, he saw the image of a shadowy spike stabbing through Olly and into the Inktress. Then words, without gender or tone yet as vibrant and enchanting as anything he'd ever heard fluttered through his mind.
"Death is an option".
Kit felt a tear involuntarily run down his cheek as he withdrew his finger. This was what Olly had seen? This was why he was so calm? Had Olly just accepted his death like that? Kit looked into Olly's eyes, but there was only that goofy smile there. Kit blinked hard, then he thrust his arm forward.
The shadowy spike shot from a column's shadow on the ground and pierced through Olly's stomach and right up into the Inktress's heart.
The Inktress jolted, her eyes reeling in shock, before the shadows withdrew and both she and Olly tumbled down. Kit shot forward to do his best to catch Olly, but the older man was heavy, and Kit was half crushed.
"I'm sorry," said Kit, "I'm sorry. I didn't want-"
Olly smiled up at Kit, "Death is an option".
Kit felt the tears roll down his cheeks, "But I don't want it to be".
Olly just continued to smile at him, as if he was in no pain at all, "Then what do you want?"
Kit paused, looking at Olly's smile, then his eyes widened in realisation. He hurriedly drew the healing charm from his pocket and held it over Olly's wound, willing it to activate.
Olly took a deep breath as his muscles, organs, blood vessels, nerves and bones all began to knit back together. It took several minutes, by the end of which there was still a good sized scar on either side of his torso, but by that stage Olly seemed to be in far less pain.
Kit helped him sit up, then hurriedly took his shirt off to staunch what was left of the blood flow.
"Well," said Olly, looking down at his belly, "Don't all good stories have a scar?"
Kit drew back a fist and punched Olly in the face. Olly fell to the side, rubbing his jaw as he frowned at Kit.
"Now you'll have a bruise too," Kit snapped.
Olly just went back to smiling. Kit couldn't help but think he was not the genius, or the utter fool everyone believed him to be, but rather, both.