The sirens split the air, as the lights rent the sky asunder. People ran and dodged. Women screamed and children cried. One man stood watching the unforgiving bombs fall and the tears ran down his soot-streaked cheeks. His home was one of the blackened skeletons and his wife and his children were among the thousands who died in the fires that crisped the city.
He raised his hands and did the one thing he had sworn never to do in this life. He spoke a single word of power and the earth shook beneath his feet, before a chasm opened in the river and the waters boiled around it. A flaming hand was raised into the murky sky and it grasped the flying bombers one by one, dashing them to the ground to where they lay as charred and broken as the city they were menacing.
When the last bomber was dispatched to hellgates the chasm closed. But not before the head and shoulders of the river master reared up and the creature stared at the wizard with cold antipathy.
“There is,” it grated, “a price to be paid”.
The wizard nodded his head, just once.
“Paid willingly,” he whispered, before clutching his throat and dropping to the ground as dead as his wife and children.
Art by Ian Bristow