The first thing that Senta noticed was that she had a headache. A second after that came the realization that her jaw hurt and the understanding of just why it hurt. There was something stuffed in her mouth, forcing it open. She felt the foreign object with her tongue. It felt like a rubber ball. There was no forcing it out either. A strap around her head was holding it in place. Then her tongue found something else. There was a large sore on the inside of her cheek—hard, with a painful dimple on the top, like a bee sting. She slowly opened her eyes.
She was in a small dark room. The walls were metal, with long streaks of rust running from the ceiling down the sides. A metal door was directly in front of her. She was seated on a chair, also metal, her hands fastened with steel manacles to rings on the sides. The entire room suddenly pitched to one side. She was aboard a ship. She tried shifting her weight and felt a sharp pain in the small of her back. She must have been seated for a good long while. The chair didn’t move however, and glancing down to her side, she saw that it was bolted to the floor.
“Back among the living, are we luv?”
She turned her head both directions but couldn’t see the owner of the voice somewhere behind her.
“Not to worry. One of them two will be down directly. I’d give you a little splash of water if I could, but theys said not to take your gag out under no circumwhences.”
Senta suddenly realized how thirsty she was.
“Yes, one of them two will be down soon. Theys never gone from you for more than haft a moment. You gots tem all jittery, that you do luv. And them’s two high magical mucketies. You must be all that, to get thems in such a state.”
The door suddenly opened and a tall, thin man in a suit stepped inside the room, closing the door behind him. He wore a brown suit with a bowler hat and spectacles, and had long, pointed chin whiskers. Senta winced at the brightness coming off of him, though it wasn’t a light that anyone else would have seen. It was the magic that clung to him.
“I told you to contact me as soon as she was awake,” he snarled.
“What’s to bother, guv. Yous down here all ta same, ain’t cha?”
“Hello, Miss Bly,” said the man turning his attentions to his prisoner. “My name is Wizard Durham. I’m sure you’ve heard of me.”
Senta didn’t nod or shake her head. She simply glared at him.
“I understand. You’re not only angry, but embarrassed as well. How did someone of your power come to this? Well, you needn’t feel that way. Your magical wards were unassailable, even better than mine. I’ll go ahead and admit it, and I’m a fourth level master. No one could have harmed you with either physical force or magic. But you see, there was one vulnerability.” He leaned down and smiled into her face. “Yes, you know now, don’t you? The idea came from our naturalists. Did you know that ants are at eternal war with termites? It’s true. But the ants can’t kill the termites, because they are protected by their armor. So what are the ants to do? They hold open the termite’s jaws and sting them inside their mouths. That’s what we did. You were shot with a tranquilizer dart, right inside your pretty mouth. And so, like the lowly termite, was the Drache Girl, the world’s most powerful sorceress, brought down.”
“That’s herself then?” asked the voice from the back. “That’s who she be? You shoulda told us what then. We deserve ‘azard pay in such cases, eh?”
“Oh, there’s no hazard here,” said Wizard Durham. “I’ve so many magical protections on me that a dozen wizards couldn’t cause me harm. I’m sure I’m even protected from Miss Bly’s most devastating art. What do you call it? Epic pestilence, I believe.”
“Oi, fine for yous and the other himself. What about little old Dick then? What happens to me? I ain’t gots no magical protections.”
“Oh, you have nothing to worry about.” The wizard leaned back and rubbed his palms together as an oily smile took charge of his face. “As long as she’s gagged she can’t speak, and as long as she can’t speak, she has no power. Isn’t that right, Miss Bly? If you had your mouth, you might give us ten or twenty arcane words and bring about the most furious devastation, or call forth God-only-knows-what to do your bidding. But you can’t. I know how badly you want to utter those four little syllables. Those four syllables give us all our power, but without them, no magic… no magic at all, no matter how gifted we think ourselves.”
“Is that so?” thought Senta. “Let’s test that hypothesis. That and your magical wards.”
Durham leaned over at the waist and looked into her eyes.
“Uuthanum,” thought Senta, concentrating with all her might on his face—his obnoxious gloating face. “Uuthanum, uuthanum, uuthanum, uuthanum. Uuthanum, uuthanum, uuthanum!”
Wizard Durham stood up straight. For a split second, a look of surprise overtook him. And then his head exploded, sending blood and brains in every direction, coating the walls, the floor, the ceiling, and everything else in the room. Tiny little bits of brain hung in the air like pink snowflakes.
The sorceress closed her eyes, both in satisfaction, and because a bit of the wizard’s grey matter was dripping from her forehead down onto her cheek. A giggle, unable to make its way past her gag, escaped through her nose. Then something hit her on the side of the head, hard, and everything went black.