For a Breath of air

By Nic Steven

When I came around, I lay bound and gagged, slumped in the corner of a bare room. No windows, stale air, a cellar probably. A faint light from somewhere illuminated the room. There, a small window, high up above a door at the top of a bare wooden staircase, with a rickety looking bannister rail.  Someone had left a vacuum cleaner under the staircase. The room looked dust free. , Get your brains working Zepharine. I had a good idea who had kidnapped me. Jack Coltrane, a local villain, on the run for murder, asked me to use my powers to help him flee the country. I refused. His knowledge about my powers explained the vacuum cleaner. He probably cleaned the room with it when he left me here, hoping to suck up any air elementals along with the dust. Not that many elementals would be in this airless cellar anyway. At least, not those associated with air. Earth elementals maybe, but I couldn’t use those. And even if any potential allies were present, I couldn’t communicate with them while gagged.

I heard the door open and a heavyset man stepped onto the small landing at the top of the stair; Coltrane. He carefully shut the door, then clumped down the stairs and approached me.

‘Zephie. I’m sorry I had to do this, but as you can probably appreciate, I am desperate, and you foolishly refused my more than generous offer for your services. Don’t worry, by the way, the sleeping draft I gave you is harmless, no aftereffects. However, extremely ill effects will follow if you don’t agree to help me. So once again, will you swear on your power to do as I ask? Conjure up a wind or two to carry me, along with the gold from the bank job, over to France, where I have friends who can help me.’ He stared hard at me.

I didn’t want to help him. Although I made a lot of my living using my powers on the wrong side of the law, I stopped short of murder. He had shot a woman in the course of the robbery. Killed her purely to cow the bank staff into helping him. The threat would have been enough. The second reason was that the size of the elementals he needed would knock years off my life. They would want a reward, and that reward was a special breath. Lifebreath would increase their power and give them physical sensations for a while. But it would shorten my life. As an elemental witch, I was endowed with an exceptionally long lifespan, but I wanted to keep as much of it as possible.

If I swore an oath on my power and went back on it, I would die, so that option was out. I made mumbling noises behind the gag.

‘Stop it Zepharine. I’m not falling for that. The gag stays on. I have researched your power. If I read the oath to you, all you must do is nod. That will be binding. Now, are you ready to deal? I was about to shake my head when a thought struck me.

I thought back to what he had said. Over to France, carrying gold. This could work. I needed to hear the oath before I agreed, but I could always shake my head if it was not what I wanted to hear. Then we would be back where we started. I nodded.

He read the oath. ‘I Zepharine Tou Oera, Conjurer of air spirits, do swear upon my powers to carry John Maurice Coltrane, known as Jack Coltrane, along with one bag of gold bars, to France, and there deposit him gently.’

I would rather he had not said the last part, so I could drop him from a great height, but I had assumed he would cover that possibility. I nodded my head. He repeated the statement twice more and I nodded each time, thus completing a thrice spoken, and thus binding oath.

Coltrane left, and returned with a heavy looking bag. Only then did he untie me and remove my gag.

We stepped outside and I called a powerful wind and told it what I needed. I spoke in Enochian which I knew Coltrane did not understand. The wind bore us into the air and Southward. Soon, the waters of the English Channel were below us.

A short while later I could see the coast of France. I judged the distance to be correct, so instructed the wind. We swooped low over the water.

‘What are you doing?’ Coltrane struggled and gripped my arm. The wind tore him away breaking his grip. I dropped into the cold water. The wind carried him a little further, then deposited him gently, before returning to pick me up.

Coltrane was struggling to swim, he had dropped the gold. I wished I had found a way to keep it but no matter. ‘Your oath,’ shouted Coltrane. ‘You’ll die.’

‘You have arrived Coltrane,’ I called. ‘You are in France. Well, French territorial waters, at least.

The rest of the stories

  1. A Day to Remember by Katharina Gerlach
  2. Were’s the Rabid Rabbit Jemma Weir
  3. VI – The Lovers by Raven O’Fiernan
  4. Grit Nearly Succeeds by Bill Bush
  5. Love’s Sweet Prick by Sabrina Rosen
  6. For a Breath of Air by Nic Steven
  7. Pitch by Sandra Llyn
  8. Bees by Barbara Lund
  9. Unknown Title by Juneta Key
  10. Bullied by Elizabeth McCleary

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