His clothes finally stopped trying to drag him into the mine and so Tomas stood up cautiously.
It seemed that whatever Laerian had been doing it was over now.
As he stepped into the mine the first thing he saw was the bandit.
From the waist down he was a bloody mess, his knees and crotch especially bad. His arms were just as bad, so little flesh at the elbows that it was surprising his forearms were still connected.
Tomas crouched down taking care not to slip before he realized that there was no blood.
None at all, despite the wounds the man had suffered.
Trying to ignore the fact for the moment he shuffled over to the man’s head.
He checked for both a pulse and breath, and was surprised to find both.
“Are you awake?”
“The…the pain. The threads. They burrowed. They burrowed inside me. Stop them. Get them out. Help me”
The voice was both exhausted and panicked, weak and desperate. Tomas had never before heard anything like it, but if he was to say anything about it he would call it the voice of a man about to die.
“I can. If you tell me what you know of the plot to kill the king”
“You’ll take the threads out?”
“The…Hiros. Man named Hiros. Brought us the idea. Told Chief”
“And why did Chief listen?”
“Hiros…brings lots of ideas. Tells when caravans coming. Sends messages through pens. Tells us from far away…what’s happening”
“Is he a Sketcher then?”
“Maybe. Never showed me. Now heal me. Take the threads out”
Tomas grabbed the man’s head and snapped his neck in one swift motion.
There would be no mercy for these men who allied with traitors, those who would use him.
And he had found out everything useful. It was time to move on to the next bandit.
He stood and leapt backwards, skidding to a halt as his hands flew into a guard position.
A blood-smeared man was coming out of the tunnel towards him. His head was just a black orb without lines or definition and his hands were bloodsoaked.
After a moment Tomas realized that the figure was wearing Laerian’s coat.
He stepped forwards as the figure came fully into the light.
Laerian’s face stared back at him from behind the black. It was a mask that transformed his face into close to a skull, his hair all flat, his eye sockets hollow and empty looking, his nose just a point and his ears bumps.
The only thing that had detail as his mouth. He could see every line, every tooth, the wrinkles in his lips, and the too wide grin.
Hands came up to point at him as the blood began to disappear fading into plain white silk.
“Laerian, it is me, Tomas. Is everyone incapacitated? Are the captives all freed? Laerian?”
The figure swayed and then began to peel off the gloves.
Tucking the now pure white gloves into his belt again Laerian raised his hands towards his face.
As he did so the mask sagged and fell away from his skin leaving only a loose black hood.
He pulled that off too and tucked it into a pocket, and he was just Laerian again. His clothes weren’t even bloody or rumpled.
He had a kind of sad half smile on his face as he walked forwards and dropped onto a partially collapsed crate.
“I think its all done now. Some of them over there are still alive, but they won’t be getting up again. Unless you heal them of course. I’ll let you interrogate them. I need to rest for a few minutes, and then I’ll let out the captives”
He stifled a yawn as he staggered over to sit against the wall.
“You just” Another yan “Go ahead. I’ll be right here”
He rubbed his eyes, and then leaned his head back against the wall.
A moment later his breathing became even and regular as his eyes slid shut.
Tomas looked down at the bandit’s corpse.
“Well, it would seem that his fight with you and your fellows was too much for the mighty magician. You stay here and watch over him while I interrogate the others”
He marched off leaving the blank and sightless eyes to look at the closed ones.