The others had a few questions about the patrol Lenore had spotted, mostly if there was danger in attacking them. I highly doubted it, the group she had seen and I had identified as a patrol might be one, at the very least they were likely to report to the other centaurs if they noticed us, but I doubted they were part of the centaur-military. Not that it mattered but by calling them a patrol, I gave us an easy justification for attacking them, even if only to our own minds. It was a curious bit of cognitive dissonance I was experiencing, feeling better about attacking a group of centaurs and using them to test the magic I was theorising just by putting the labels ‘patrol’ and ‘enemy’ on them.
As always when it came to sneak-attacks, Sigmir and Lenore moved with Rai and me until we were in shouting-distance, just in case we were spotted and needed to change tactics from sneaking and slitting throats to open battle, in which case we had reinforcements nearby. Once we found a nice shrub for them to hide behind, Rai and I continued our silent stalk, moving with the shadows we conjured up to hide us, towards the enemy camp.
When we got closer, my conviction that we weren’t dealing with actual centaur-military was strengthened, they only had one guard posted and that guard didn’t even pay attention to the surroundings. He was just sitting, or however the centaurs called the pose in which their equine-body was on the ground but their human-body remained upright and alert, there and staring into the fire, obviously lost in thought.
Placing my hand on Rai’s shoulder, I stopped him from outright attacking and used my mind-magic as it was supposed to be harnessed, using the shadows of the night to slowly creep into the centaurs mind. I had used magic to put enemies into a deep sleep, akin to hibernation, before and combining those spells with the increased penetration granted by Mind Magic made it almost too easy. Within a minute or two, the centaur’s human body slumped, obviously asleep. None of the other centaurs reacted, even as I extended the shadows I had used earlier, pushing their minds deeper into unconsciousness.
“That was easier than expected.” I admitted, looking at Rai who had flinched at the sound of my voice, as I had spoken normally.
“Don’t worry, they won’t easily wake up, I made sure of that.” I added, seeing his uneasiness.
“Are we just going to kill them in their sleep?” he asked, shedding the shadows he was cloaked in.
“No, that would be a waste. They just volunteered to help me in a few magical experiments.” I shook my head and he visibly winced, maybe because of the smile tugging at my lips.
“Tell the others everything is alright and they should make camp. I’ll be busy for a while.” I ordered him, while my hands started to draw out magical formations.
“That was anticlimactic.” Lenore said, once Rai had left.
“Yes, I doubt that they are anything but a hunting-party.” I admitted, not really caring about them. There was still more than enough annoyance at centaurs to go around and I really needed some test-subjects. They were just the unlucky guys that had been handy, or rather, that had been spotted by Lenore.
Once I had finished my magic, frozen chains sprung from the ground, immobilising and gagging the centaurs. Knowing how their bodies worked made that easy, their joints and muscles had a limited range, just like they had with humans, and once they couldn’t work in the way they were supposed to, they were just helpless.
The cold shackles caused a sudden and very rough awakening for the four centaurs we had captured but other than muffled noises, there was nothing they could do. Hell, even if they would have been able to talk, there was little they could say to stop me.
Humming to myself, I began my work, the night was young and I had a lot to do.
“Good Evening and congratulations. You’ve been chosen, it is a great honour, you know? Not everyone gets such a noble purpose in life.” I started monologuing, just because I could and it somehow felt right. Not that talking stopped me from working, as I cut off the clothes and armour they were wearing on their human, upper bodies.
“You will be allowed to assist me in my research and believe me, it is fascinating. Also, experimental but hey, that’s what research is for, am I right?” I asked, mostly myself, as I looked over the four bodies, three male, one female and had to decide which to begin with.
“Let’s get going.” I said, still talking to myself, as I stepped over to the one who should have been on guard.
“You know, if you are supposed to keep watch, watching the surroundings and making sure that nothing sneaks up on you is the important part. Not watching the merrily burning fire.” I explained, not that it would help him, he wasn’t going anywhere.
Gripping his arm, I pulled out my Athame and started carving a simple runic formation into his skin, using my blood magic to draw his own magic into the shaping. It was merely a simple spell that should cloud him in Darkness, nothing fancy. Despite the simplicity of the rune, I could see that the centaur was in excruciating pain, I had used Blood Magic on myself and knew that it was horribly painful, but there was just nothing I could do, I just didn’t have local anesthetics or something like that. My Blood Magic might be able to numb pain but, at the end of the day, I had to focus on my work, not on making him comfortable.
Sadly, he wasn’t cooperating, not like I wanted him to, and when I began the second rune, his struggles caused me to make a rather serious mistake, cutting a line right through the rune, making it totally unusable.
“Now, see what you made me do? I need to start over, you bloody fool.” I scolded, more annoyed than angry, but I knew I would have to make sure he wasn’t going to mess up another formation, it took time and effort, neither I wanted to go to waste. Luckily, there was something I could do, a simple fix, so to speak.
After creating a small icicle, I drove it into his back, carefully aiming for his spine, working my way up the back until his arms completely stilled, as he was now paralysed from the neck down. It should even help with the pain, without nerves, there shouldn't be any pain.
“Aren’t I kind. No more pain, you see?” I asked, still mostly talking to myself, the gagged centaurs certainly wouldn’t answer and if I wanted to talk to Lenore, I simply used our mental connection.
Now that the centaur had no longer a reason to struggle, or the ability, I could continue to work. Shifting my work-area just a little lower on his arm, I continued carving ,starting with the original runes again. Curiously, it seemed as if the centaur was still in horrible pain, despite the fact that he shouldn’t be able to feel anything below his neck, at all. Maybe it was some sort of phantom pain, a memory of the earlier feeling, that caused him to think he was in pain. At the end of the day, it was not my concern and without his spine, he couldn’t struggle and make me mess up my work. And so I continued.
I got a little further in my work when I was interrupted again, this time by Lenore.
“There’s something going on, take a look through my eyes.” she told me, sounding slightly concerned.
When I looked through her sight, I could see what she meant, the original carving, which I thought was a complete failure due to the centaurs struggles, was giving of a light, if very chaotic, glow in Lenore’s sight and that glow was mingling with the new carving, causing a strange feedback-loop, the magic in both pushing the other in strange ways. I had no real idea what was going on, but there was a magical build-up that looked worrying.
Not knowing what was about to happen, I took a couple steps back and conjured up a clear ice-wall, just in case. Proper safety-procedures were important, whether the experiments were magical or mundane and a safety-screen seemed like a good one.
I didn’t have to wait long, after a few minutes of continuous build-up,something unexpected happened. The build-up, and the arm it was in, exploded, small bone-fragments, blood and gore splattering around the camp. Some of it splatted my safety-screen, some hit the centaurs friends but most of it coated the centaur himself.
“Now, that was unexpected.” I muttered, trying to figure out what had caused such an extreme reaction.