Bookworm II: The Very Ugly Duckling
helplessly, as a handful of protesters became frogs, or were frozen in place, or were compelled into attacking their fellows. He felt absolute mind-numbing horror as he saw a man attacking the girl next to him with his fists, tears running down his cheeks as his hands moved of their own accord. Another girl was compelled to tear off her shirt and display her charms for all to see; a third was forced to wet herself, then kneel down in her own filth.
    The crowd came apart into screaming panic. A man ran, fists raised, at Jamal who eyed him quizzically. He slammed right into the shield charm and fell to the ground, blood pouring from his nose. Jamal laughed out loud – his laughter somehow echoed over the screams – and kicked the man in the face. The man sank into merciful unconsciousness. Johan watched in absolute horror as Jamal targeted the speaker directly. Someone must have trapped him on his soapbox, Johan realised. The speaker should have tried to run.
    Jamal played with him. One spell gave him boils, another moved him like a puppet, a third left him howling gibberish at the gates. Johan watched as his brother allowed one of his friends to take over, casting his own spells towards the speaker. It was unlikely that he would survive, Johan realised. The spells might be intended as pranks, but the speaker was completely defenceless.
    Pure rage boiled through Johan as he watched the crowd fleeing, save only for the frozen, the compelled and the transfigured. They’d been broken, knocked down so far that they might not be able to recover ... Johan had been transfigured so many times that he was used to it, but mundanes who rarely dealt with even a single magician would find it a new and terrifying experience. Jamal walked onwards, laughing at the City Guardsmen as they shrank back into the gates. It would be a brave or stupid City Guardsman who tried to stand up to a magician on the rampage. That was a job for the Inquisitors. Where were they?
    He cursed, mentally. Could it be that Jamal’s actions had actually been approved by the Grand Sorceress? She couldn’t find the Levellers – or so the paper had named them – very amusing. Indeed, they were a challenge to her prestige, even if they were no threat to her position. Someone like Jamal would make a perfect – and deniable – tool to use against them.
    Johan struggled, throwing himself against the spell ... but nothing happened. Rage met frustration ... and something broke free inside his mind. For a long chilling moment, the entire world dimmed, as if he were about to take a sneeze ... and then something blasted through his mind. He was vaguely aware of someone – Jamal? – yelling in shock, then the spell holding him snapped. He tumbled ...
    And then he fell down into absolute blackness.

 

    Chapter Five
    Elaine felt Light Spinner’s magic billowing through the air as she ran to a window and leapt out, floating on the air and heading towards the riot. For a moment, Elaine wanted to follow her, but sanity reasserted itself before she could jump out of the window herself. She simply didn’t have the power to fly – or levitate – herself for longer than a few seconds, no matter how tightly she finessed the spells. Instead, she ran to the door – passing a handful of servants, who looked thoroughly terrified – and out into the gardens.
    She was greeted by absolute chaos. On the other side of the railing, people were running in all directions, while the City Guardsmen were hanging back, desperately trying to pretend that they weren’t there. Shouts and screams echoed over the palace as Light Spinner swooped down, her raw power scattering the remaining protesters. There was so much magic crawling through the air that Elaine found herself wondering if the whole affair was a trap for the Grand Sorceress, before deciding that any such trap would be unnecessary. Someone with the power to create the magic pulse wouldn’t need such tricks. They could just walk

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