“You’re funny,” said Illyra. “What compelled you to — no, better than that — what CONFUSED you so as to mark me for death? Are you being paid? That might very well–”

Illyra’s taunt was cut short by another ill-aimed stone that hurtled past her head. It embedded itself in a building somewhere behind her. Her assailant, a short, hairy man, loaded a third stone into his sling and started to twirl it — maybe to menace her, maybe to reassess the distance.

“As I tried to tell you,” she continued in an annoyed tone, “you had just the one shot, and it’s gone now. You really needed to hit me with the first stone. I realize by the time I pointed this out, it was too late for you to try again, but I thought maybe you’d have the sense to run away and think about it. Why don’t you try to come back and kill me ano–”

She made a violent gesture in the man’s direction, her fingers twisting into a claw, and she spat a vicious epithet at him that sounded more like a snarl than an actual word. She felt the bloated tendrils of her magic rise up from beneath her feet to writhe across her, up to her outstretched arm.

The magic snaked toward the man, and she felt a comforting sense of relief in the moment of release, when the magic left her fingertips to worm its way into the slinger’s chest. To the casual observer, it would have looked very much as though Illyra had lobbed an enormous, black snake at the man — which would have been a few orders of magnitude less lethal than what she actually did.

The magic pierced the man’s heart and began to wind around him after it passed messily through him. It then constricted him, and forced him to his knees as his strength ebbed. He collapsed to the ground, wheezed, coughed, and began to die.

Illyra sighed and let her shoulders sag, unaware of how tense they had been a moment earlier. She crossed her arms and stared at the dying man. She shook her head, “I could have killed you sooner, you didn’t even surprise me with — no, you know what? I don’t care. I don’t even care.”