04 – Dust and Smoke


Genre: fantasy
Language: English
Length: 541 words
Published: 2021

The building itself shook from the sheer power of the explosion. Dust, smoke. People screaming, running. Magic ricocheted off the walls, adding to the chaos. Béla’s head whipped around, wand gripped in his hand. His eyes found Zsiga through a curtain of haze just as a second explosion rent the world apart.

It played out in his head in slow motion like a movie: Zsiga, lifting his wand. Zsiga, falling down the stairs. Zsiga, lying still on the wet marble.

Béla was kneeling on the floor next to him before he even knew it, hardly noticing the people pushing past him in their panic. His hands shook as he turned Zsiga over. He was about to shake him, but managed to stop himself at the last moment. What if it just hurt him more? What if he’d made it worse by moving him?

Zsiga’s chest heaved and fell laboriously, but seeing him breathe at all was a relief. The impact had sent him down two flights of stairs as easily as if he were just a ragdoll. Béla couldn’t process it. The Zsiga he knew was untouchable; he could carve his way through stone if he chose to. His spellcasting was so fast that it put Béla’s own to shame. He brandished his wand like a whip, like a man marching to war.

Zsiga coughed, almost doubling over. His face contorted and he muttered an audible, “fuck”.

“Thank the stars, Zsiga,” Béla breathed. He felt his face with both hands, flinching when his fingertips brushed against something wet in his hair. “Can you hear me? Are you hurt?”

“Béla?” Zsiga forced his eyes open, blinking blearily. He seemed to have trouble focusing his gaze.

“I’m right here. Are you all right?”

“No. Everything fucking hurts.”

“We need to get you to a healer—“

“Absolutely not,” he interrupted, grimacing. Béla took his hand as he made to sit up, but he flopped right back down, breathing heavily. “I don’t want hospitals or healers, I just want to go home.”

“You’re in no condition for that.”

“My potions will sort this out. Please.”

They shared a look and Béla’s resolve crumbled. He could never say no to him when he looked like that.


He hooked an arm under Zsiga’s head and lifted him into his arms as gently as he could, but Zsiga still swore from the pain. It took Béla some effort to get back to his feet without dropping him. His arms strained from the effort, but he barely felt it. The lobby had fallen quiet, almost eerily so, apart from the sound of water gushing from a burst pipe and leaking all over the floor, and the quiet wailing of the other injured. A team of healers burst in through the shattered double doors, lead by soot-covered government workers, and headed straight for the bodies lying down in the rubble. No one looked at Béla and Zsiga twice as they left the building.

“My wand,” Zsiga muttered, eyes squeezed shut as Béla pushed through the crowd. “I lost my wand.”

“Shh. Let’s get you home.”

By the time he reached the transference point behind the Atrium and cast the spell to whisk them away, Zsiga was already unconscious.

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