Amara and Pela are quickly proving to be an effective team, keeping the encroaching bandits at bay with a barrage of lightning bolts, crossbow bolts, and the occasional crossbow bolt crackling with lightning.
A female bandit with a pair of daggers ducks a bolt from Amara, sidesteps a bolt from Pela. and grins wolfishly as she gets into striking distance. Amara moves just a heartbeat faster, bringing up a magic barrier to deflect her blow.
Inspired by Matilda’s example, Amara has been practicing her own barrier spells and she’s glad to find that her practice hasn’t let her down.
“I can’t shoot through your barrier,” Pela notes.
“Don’t worry. I have a plan,” Amara says.
Amara waves her hand and casts another spell.
A look of panic crosses the bandit’s face. “Ah!” she yelps, dropping her daggers. “My elbows! What did you do?”
She begins to desperately scratch her suddenly very, very itchy elbows like a woman beset by hordes of biting insects.
After a fleeting moment of disbelief and bemusement, Amara smirks inwardly and reminds herself to thank Kat—she never would have imagined that a spell called Irritate Elbows could ever prove useful.
With the bandit pre-occupied by her irritated elbows,Amara dispels her barrier and aims another lightning bolt. Of course, it would be churlish to launch lightning at a defenceless enemy, so Amara aims low and sends the lightning bolt into the ground at her feet.
“No fair!” the bandit whines.
“Fair?” Pela calls back. “You’re a bandit!” She follows Amara’s example and fires a warning shot of her own. The bandit leaps back, then back again as Pela looses another bolt.
Still frantically scratching her elbows, she ducks her head and runs for it.
“Good work,” Pela says. “But, uh, what are we going to do about him?”
Amara follows Pela’s trembling green finger to find a particularly large and angry bandit wielding a particularly large and angry axe stalking forward.
Luckily, a mere battle axe is no match for Amara’s righteous indignation.
“Just what sort of ill-bred brute are you?” Amara exclaims, stopping the bandit mid-swing of his axe. “What kind of boorish dastard threatens an unarmed lady with a battle axe? How must your mother feel to know she raised nothing more than a common brute?”
The bandit blinks in bemusement. “My m-mother?” he repeats.
Amara does not relent.
“What do you think she would say if she saw you now?” she asks.
“She—” the bandit says in a small, quavering voice. “She w-would—” He begins to sniffle as tears well in his eyes. “She would say I never should have given up on that apprenticeship with Uncle Wilfred.”
His axe slips from trembling hands. He falls to his knees and begins bawling
“I’m a disgrace!” he wails. “I’m a failure!”
“Well,” Amara offers. “I’m sure she’ll be more than willing to forgive you if you give up on this bandit nonsense and try to turn your life around.”
Comforting though Amara’s words are, the bandit does not hear them over the sound of his own wretched tears.
“Mom! Uncle Fred! I’m sorry!”
Tancred comes running to Amara and Pela’s rescue, only to find they are not in need of rescue. He glances down at the weeping bandit and back to Amara.
“Just how hard did you hit him, Miss Amara?”
Amara smooths out her clothes and clears her throat. “Yes, well. I do have experience dealing with bandits.”
In this moment at the ruins, as magic flies from her fingertips, Matilda’s very existence, every thread of the tapestry of her destiny, crystallises. And she understands. She sees clearly—more clearly than she ever has before.
Adventuring is everything she has ever wanted.
No more fish-on-a-sticks. No more stinking of grease. No more dirty, grimy, cold grey dishwater. No more forced smiles and inward screams dealing with idiotic or creepy customers at her parents’ inn. No more squandering her magic by lighting stoves in the kitchen.
Good news for Matilda. Bad news for the bandits.
She’s flung fireballs at the bandits, telepathically launched rocks at them, sent whirlwinds screaming towards them. And now, she’s starting to feel creative. She’s been getting good at barrier spells, maybe it’s time to try something new with them.
“What the—” one of the bandits mutters as he finds himself surrounded by one of Matilda’s barriers.
He swings his sword, trying to break out of the magic bubble. He has no luck. His sword bounces off the inside of the barrier and makes him stumble.
He regains his balance and glowers at Matilda. “When I get out of here—” he bellows.
“You won’t,” she answers.
She raises her hands for another spell and launches a blast of magic at the trapped bandit, catapulting the bubble of magic surrounding him into the rest of the bandits and knocking them all down like bowling pins.
“Right,” Matilda growls, magical energies burning and crackling around her fingertips.
“Who else wants some?” Evidently, none of the remaining bandits want some. They throw down their weapons and run off.
This, Matilda realises, is the best day of her life.
She regroups with the other members of the Lyte Brigade.
“I think we’re winning,” Pela notes. “Wow. I don’t think I expected that.”
“The only one left—” Falcata begins.
“—is their leader,” Amara concludes.
“Look,” Matilda says. “Nolan needs our help. Lyte Brigade,” she declares in her official capacity as the guild’s Assistant Captain, “move out!”
This day just keeps getting better and better.