My cards are drawn as if magnetized to a spot between the Seraph and I, level with his position but a fair distance to his right. They form a haphazard stuck-together pile rotating around in the air.
Before I have a chance to process what’s going on, a flash of red light blinds my left eye for less than a second. A sharp whistling sound starts low and rises in an instant to a fever pitch before dying on the wind as it sails past my ear, nicking its edge. I stagger as my hand reaches to my earlobe and closes around a burst of tiny downy feathers. I flood them with magic and feel them rot away to nothing in my grip, just to make sure the Seraph can’t have them.
I look behind to see what just sped past my face. Embedded in the pavement is one of the Seraph’s sculpted-light feathers, shedding its crimson glow. Seeing one of them up close, I notice the feather’s edges look thin and razor sharp. Its tip was keen enough to lodge it into concrete. There’s a sting like a paper cut where the Seraph’s feather just barely grazed my ear. It could have jabbed my eye out instead.
The feather bursts into sparks which blink away without a sound, and I turn back to face its origin. The Seraph looms with his hand outstretched towards me once again. Rather than an open palm, it’s as if he’d flung one of his feathers like a dart. Like how I would fling one of my cards. The Seraph’s wings must be his implement, his version of my orbiting cards.
Has he been on guard with his weapon poised against me this entire time, and he’s just been pretending otherwise?
“What are you doing?” The words spill out of my mouth. “Are you actually trying to kill me?!”
“Hey, you started it,” he calls back, as if my cards even had a chance of hitting their mark, let alone scratching him. He pays the tarot pile he swiped from me a short glance, and the cards cease their rotation and straighten themselves neatly into a deck, remaining suspended in the air. “If you really wanna get dangerous, we can get dangerous. But you’re crazy if you think you can beat me. It’s pointless to even try. So just come along quietly and we can get this sorted out. You’ll thank me later.” It sounds like he’s discarded walking me home and is just going to drag me wherever he pleases.
“You’re the crazy one if you think I’ll go with you after you nearly stabbed me in the eye!”
“Good thing I wasn’t aiming for your eye, then,” the Seraph answers matter-of-factly. “There’s no way that would have happened.”
“How do you know?”
“I never miss my mark. That’s just how it is,” he says with flawless confidence. “Now, what do you say?”
I can only glare up at him in reply. He seems to be waiting for me to answer his latest demand, as if there’s anything more to say. I take stock of the situation while he’s giving me the chance. I can sense the point in the air where the Seraph has collected the cards I summoned — it’s a concentration of his magic, similar to when he crucified Seryana and started turning her inside out. I guess this time it’s attuned to me in some way.
Hopefully he can’t pull my guts out just like that, but… something tells me that if he could just drag me around however he wanted, he wouldn’t have to go to so much trouble trying to convince me to go with him while finding ways to pin me down in the meantime. Maybe there’s some condition he has to meet before he can affect me directly, like how thoroughly I’ve got to contaminate a Harbinger before I can drain its health.
I can still feel my cards at the point they’ve been gathered mostly the same as usual, too. It’s a little like my fight with Tetha, when she managed to capture one of my cards in a sphere of water. My will still reaches my cards from afar, but they feel… heavy. Incredibly heavy, weighed down to that spot. The pressure on them is constant, and it’s difficult to get them to budge. Almost like he’s grabbed me by the wrist and has me held there, and all I can do is struggle against his strength.
What’s worse is that despite disarming me, he’s keeping his distance from the cards as if he already knows what the infected ones can do. If he had them close by, then I might be able to catch him off guard by detonating them, but there’s no point in releasing my scourge if he’s too far away to be engulfed by the resulting plague-mist. Where he is now, he’s just far enough to make escaping on reaction easy. Does he somehow already know enough about my magic to prepare against it, or is it something else?
Even if he does know how I fight, though, there’s something he’s overlooked.
Without sparing another word, I immerse my body in my stored health and sprint to the left of the Seraph – opposite of where he’s gathered my deck – and start putting distance between us again.
“Oh? Gotta tucker yourself out some more?” he mocks, turning his neck to follow my movement before his entire body revolves smoothly in the air to face me again. I don’t wait for him to react. The moment I’ve found a decent angle, I simply dismiss all my cards and resummon them around me. They vanish from the point he’s drawn them to and reappear back in my orbit.
But the invisible force drawing them to that single point the Seraph anchored in the world hasn’t yet disappeared. I figured as much. That’s why the moment my tarot cards manifest around me again, I launch them all at once. The only outside force acting on my cards is sending them towards that one specific spot the Seraph has chosen, so before they reach it, I have little trouble moving them in any other direction I choose, so long as they’re also still moving towards it.
And since my cards are constantly being drawn toward a specific spot, I can guide their path to pass through where the Stardust Seraph currently is by putting myself between him and that point. I can hit him even as he’s tearing my cards away. In fact, the force that’s pulling them makes their flight towards their target even faster.
As though tossed into the sky and blown away on a passing gale, the deck scatters at my command. Some of the cards dart straight through the air at whatever angle I’ve managed to direct them to, while others twirl on their sides like spinning blades as I spread them further from my main volley, causing them to fly in more of an arc than a straight line.
I try to hold some of my cards back against the pull of the Seraph’s anchor with my will, and while I can’t entirely stop them from being sucked in, I do manage to delay their travel, slowing how fast they go compared to the other cards. Some cards I hold back harder than others, so they’ll arrive at different times rather than all at once.
Riding on the same blinding speed he disarmed me with before, I barrage the Seraph from every angle. He folds his arms behind his back as one card races towards him, then casually turns aside to evade its path. In the same movement, he slides backwards through the air into what looks like a wide gap in the wave of tarot cards I’ve unleashed… and right into the blast zone of one of the four blighted cards I’d conjured with this deck.
I don’t know what Tetha’s condition was after I afflicted her, but I know she’s still alive, and right now, that’s good enough for me. If Tetha could survive this, then I’m sure the Stardust Seraph can. I just hope it’s enough to even slow him down.
Right as I will that diseased card to detonate, though, the Seraph suddenly shoots in the direction opposite of it at incredible speed, like a crimson comet traced across the sky. He escapes the cloud of noxious fog that bursts forth, twirling once as he moves to deflect a blank card his path happens to cross off one of his wings. He’s too slippery.
I’m not done yet, though. The Seraph’s course takes him safely outside the range of two of my other blighted cards, but I’ve held back the fourth and last one as long as I could, saving it for the end. It’s now arcing through the air, about to draw close to the Seraph’s current position. It’s not as close as he was to the last card I burst, but if he keeps moving in the direction he is right now, he’ll fly right into the plague-cloud that blooms from it.
I time the explosion perfectly, but at the very last second, the Seraph bounces upwards off empty air, skirting the edge of the cloud of illness for a moment before completely escaping its reach.
He passes behind the point where he’s once again gathered all the cards I flung at him, then comes to a sudden halt. “That won’t work, princess!” he calls out to me. He sounds like he’s enjoying himself. But he’s also right where I want him, finally close enough to the anchor point that I just might catch him.
…Yet, before I have the chance to use the next two infected cards, both of them slide out of the floating deck and hit the street below like a pair of falling rocks.
He made a second anchor point on the streets right below the original one. I can feel it. The only difference is, this one only draws my corrupted cards towards it, dividing them from the blank cards. He’s already figured me out.
I grit my teeth. As the toxic mist from the previous two bursts gradually swells outwards, forming a curtain of smog between me and the Seraph that’s slowly drawing closed, I detonate the two remaining blighted cards to speed up the process. Emerald haze rises up, joining the two disparate clouds and engulfing the street. Before he and the red glow that halos him disappear behind the encroaching wall of infectious fog, the Seraph falls back and folds his wings around his body as if to shield himself.
I whirl around and start running on my aching legs, filling my lungs with rough, ragged breaths each stride I take. My sweat runs cold in the chill night air. My eyes flit from one side of the street to the other. This brief moment could be my only chance to escape. It’ll take a second for the Seraph to rise over the miasma, which could give me just enough time to duck into an alley and find a place to hide. If I dismiss my regalia, he might lose track of me. That might at least give me enough time to call Aisling.
But I’ve barely gone half the length of a street before a crimson shimmer cuts through the shroud of my fog, flashing against the vapors like lightning in an overcast sky. I turn back to see the wall of smog I’d created collapsing into itself, shrinking towards a single point as though vacuumed out of the air. Just floating there is a black speck, a pinprick hole in the world all my plague-mist is spiraling into like water down a drain.
Once more revealed from behind the curtain of my fog, the Seraph is pointing ahead of himself, twirling his outstretched index finger in the shape of a spiral. The miasma is cleared from the streets, and the little black speck it vanished into blinks out of being in a flicker of red.
The Seraph reclines backwards in the air and crosses his legs as though taking a seat, wavering slightly as if perched on a swing. He glides toward me in that relaxed pose. The point where he’s captured all my cards moves in tandem with him, always maintaining the same safe distance.
“Man, you’re so dramatic, princess. If you were actually that tired, you’d think you’d just give in. Why are you doing all this, really? Some weird sense of pride? You’re completely Mary-ing out on me right now, you know?”
I can only stare up at the Keeper who just completely evaded my attack without a single scratch and did it all as if it were easy. I don’t have any thoughts to spare for whatever nonsense he’s asking me right now. Everything I have is dedicated to keeping my knees from buckling under my own weight.
He seems to pick up on my loss for words. “So, how’s that offer from before sound about now?”
“Worse the harder you push it.”
The Seraph sighs. “Cute. Right then.”
He raises his arm and flicks up his wrist. With that motion alone, the world around him answers to his call.
In front of a streetside restaurant, a section of the sidewalk and road has been cordoned off and arranged with plastic tables and chairs under the shade of parasols to make a modest seating area. On the other side of the street, there’s a construction project similar to the one that tore down the house Seryana was born from – it even looks like the same company. From both these places, dozens of objects lift up off the ground and zip straight to positions arrayed around the Seraph, where they begin rolling in place almost like debris in a storm. Tables and chairs and empty flower pots join traffic cones, construction barrels, and a caution easel or two, all revolving in the air.
“Let’s make a wager,” he says, surrounded on all sides by his jumble of whatever happened to be nearby. “If you can actually beat me, I’ll let you go. If I can get you to give up, then you’ll come along with me. Whoever gives up first gives in, no arguments.”
“…And how’s that different from just making me go by force?” I shoot back, however pointlessly.
There’s a pause for just a moment before he gives his deadpan reply. “Huh, I wonder?”
He swats his hand out as though batting away a fly, and that’s all it takes for the medley of junk he’s beckoned to launch at me all at once. A plastic table big enough for me to use as a bed flies straight at me, barreling down the street like a speeding car. I hardly have any time to dodge, and even if I did, I would just be stumbling into whatever else he’s hurled my way. All I can think to do in the moment is fall backwards, scrunch myself into a ball, and hope I’m conscious after it crashes over me.
A second passes. Then another. The impact never comes. I peek my head out from between my arms to find the table frozen in the air, completely still.
“Hah. Made you flinch,” he says like it’s all just a schoolyard prank.
“A-are you actually insane?” I choke out between panicked gasps. “How much of your time as a big fancy hero do you spend torturing people for fun?”
His shoulders slouch at my words. “…I didn’t even hit you, princess,” he answers coldly. “And I doubt I’d be having a fun time if you managed to hit me, either, if Tetha is anything to go by.”
Rather than simply running me over, all the objects in the Seraph’s onslaught have spread out to surround me at a distance, forming a ring that’s boxing me in from every angle. They begin to swirl around me slowly, almost like I’m in the center of a merry-go-round, every impromptu projectile continuing to roll through the air as it moves along with the flow.
“I know to watch out when it comes to you. You stopped that flaring Harbinger’s ritual, after all. Still, that doesn’t mean I’m going to blow up another Keeper just ’cause. I’m trying to show you what you’re up against. If you don’t like what you see, then yield. Otherwise, square up.”
I don’t respond immediately, simply wiping away the tears I don’t have time for. If I just sit here for a bit, he’ll probably give me a moment to think, secure knowing he’s got me right where he wants me. But I’m not mulling over whether to surrender or not, like I’m sure he hopes. The only thing on my mind is how to get out of this. I clutch my chest and steady my breathing as I try to consider everything I have at my disposal.
Come on, Liadain. Don’t panic. Think. I’ve been in much worse situations than fighting this guy, who’s supposedly not even trying to kill me. There has to be something, anything I can do right now to catch him off guard and turn the tables.
Yurfaln’s power-from-pain won’t help me much. It puts more strain on my body than any other magic I have to my name. I certainly can’t rely on it the way I did against Aulunla; if I push myself any farther over the edge than I already have today, I’ll be overwhelmed by Emergence in more ways I can’t control, just as Aisling warned.
I would be so much faster, stronger, better if I walked the tightrope between life and death Yurfaln lived on, though. I’m not sure I would be an actual match for the Stardust Seraph even then, but it would certainly make this more of a fight, rather than something like a tomcat batting around a mouse between his paws. It would have made it easy to dodge through his entire barrage from before. I just… would have done it, just by willing myself to. Given I could resist the pull he has on my cards to some extent already, I’m sure I could actually seize my cards from his grip, too, at least with how much force the anchor point is currently exerting on them.
But I’m certain that if I embraced Yurfaln’s ideal right now, something would happen to me that there would be no coming back from. I’ve never felt less human than when I was in that state.
What I gained from Aulunla’s heart doesn’t give me much to work with, either. There’s something deeper to its curse than simply understanding Harbingers better, something intrinsic to its nature, but I haven’t had the time to explore how to use it. I certainly don’t now.
The magical perception Irakkia’s morsels earned me doesn’t seem especially suited to the situation. Transferring the vision from one of my eyes into a card and controlling it remotely seems good for scouting, but it would disorient me more than it helps. I don’t even know if it could help at all, not while the Seraph has control of where all my cards end up anyway.
…Maybe the key to that lies in figuring out the rules and limits behind whatever power he’s using to control my cards in the first place. The Seraph’s powers seem completely overwhelming to me – fast, impossible to challenge, and capable of overcoming anything I throw at them… but even though he seems to have the power to fling anything around him however he wants with only his thoughts, how come he never just picks me up and holds me in place? That would end this instantly.
The answer is simple: he can’t do that. Just like I can’t just drain a Harbinger of its health like I can a normal person. It’s hard to directly interfere with other beings of magic when they’re resisting you. You have to dig your claws into them somehow first.
…What does that say about Mide, then, who I can drain as easily as I can any normal person? I don’t have any time to spare thinking about that.
Which leaves the latest heart I’ve swallowed. Does Seryana have anything for me?
When I search inside myself, feeling the shape of Seryana’s soul and the dying thoughts she left with me, I get an abstract sense of the new way my power has grown through hers. And when I do, everything clicks into place.
I may have missed my chance to swallow the entirety of Irakkia’s heart when I split it with Mide, but it did start my magic down a particular path. A path Seryana’s heart is all too eager to lead me down.
I’d thought that Seryana and Irakkia had similar tricks before, even if Seryana couldn’t twist perception as freely as Irakkia until later. She could intrude into my dreams, and even inflict nightmares in the waking world after she donned that mask, similar to Irakkia’s mental attacks… I’m not sure I understand how much the two of them truly shared, beyond their desperate rejection of the cruel reality in which they found themselves trapped, but where Irakkia’s lost and broken truth once ended within me like a road into a chasm, Seryana’s connects and continues on, their hearts building on one another with my magic as the foundation.
This could be it. This could be my key to victory. It’s something the Seraph would never expect. Could using this new expression of my magic be doing exactly what Aisling warned me against? Maybe, but if I’m careful and keep things small, there’s no way it’ll affect me the way betting everything on Yurfaln’s power would.
The only problem is that whether the Stardust Seraph expects something or not doesn’t seem to actually matter. He might only have been doing this for a couple years, but that’s an eternity next to my couple of months. He’s much more experienced than me. He’s clearly prepared for any sneak attack I might muster. He’s had no trouble seeing through every last attack I’ve made so far.
“Well?” the Seraph asks, his patience finally starting to wear thin.
I conjure my cane, pick myself up on wobbling limbs, and look up through the jumble of floating debris to stare daggers at him. Burning an inner candle of the stolen life that got me into this mess in the first place, I spread my legs out and raise my free arm defensively to show him this isn’t over yet.
I don’t think there’s any point in trying to get him to lower his guard by pretending to surrender. Out of all the bad things I can say about the Seraph right now, the one thing he definitely isn’t is stupid. Still, he’s playing around like this is some game, and that means he’s not fighting like his life depends on it. Like mine does.
He lets out a chuckle and simply says, “Alright then,” before flicking a finger at the empty air.
A cold shock jolts up my spine. Faintly, I feel his magic lashing out at me from behind. I duck down and fall to my knees, and immediately watch as a construction barrel hurtles overhead before passing back into the ring of churning debris.
If I had been a second slower, that heavy drum would have bashed me over the head and planted my face into the pavement. Just the realization it came so close to hitting me makes my black blood turn to ice in my veins. No matter how I look at it, I would have died. This fragile body of mine would have broken into pieces and I’d have died.
The image of my corpse lying sprawled out against the street, a great raven of plague and hunger and malice ripping out from within before being crushed beneath the Seraph’s power flashes through my mind. The only reason that premonition died as nothing but a nightmare in my thoughts is because I sensed the Seraph’s attack and dodged at the very last moment.
I turn widened eyes back up to the Seraph. The impenetrable tint of his vizor gives nothing away. Were all his words just lies? I thought he was just going to try to wear me down until I couldn’t fight anymore. I’ve done terrible things to people, but I don’t deserve to be treated like the latest incarnation of Sofia the Deathless, do I? Unless they were a real menace, a clear and present danger to everyone around them, killing a Keeper would be a disaster even for the Seraph, wouldn’t it?
Maybe he’s gotten away with this before.
After all, all the violence connected to Mary Hyland was buried until nothing remained but conspiracy tracts on the Coral Sea. If the Church would go that far to protect some random new Keeper, how much further would they go to protect their golden boy?
Another gesture from the Seraph draws six chairs from the ring’s swirling flow and into the air above me. I spring back to my feet and dodge frantically as the chairs rain down one after another towards my position, clacking harshly against the street with each impact. My constant drip feed of health keeps me nimble despite how tired I am.
Next come three dusty traffic cones thrusting towards me like torpedoes, all disappearing back into the ring once I’ve avoided them. He immediately launches six more, this time coming at me from every angle. Half of them seem to speed by harmlessly, just orange blurs coursing through the air to confuse me; I lunge behind one of the chairs he’s left inside the ring to escape the rest, guessing he won’t have aimed his attacks towards something that would cut them off mid-flight. I’m right, and the three traffic cones sail past me.
Before I can congratulate myself, however, the chair shifts to the side, making way for a seventh traffic cone. I push upright on my cane just in time for the cone’s tip to slam into my stomach. All the air is forced out of my lungs from the blow. The cone just keeps traveling forward as I fall away. I’m knocked backwards and skid across the road.
A piercing, tender ache spreads out across my belly. It starts dull and then becomes searing. My throat chokes on the pain and smothers the cries I couldn’t have made anyway on account of my lungs being empty. But there’s no time to dwell on any of that, because even with my eyes blurring with another round of agonized tears, I can still sense a point of the Seraph’s magic shifting just above me.
I roll to the side as another plastic chair slams down, probably trying to pin me underneath its legs. My entire body winces with pain each time my belly touches the ground. I quickly salve the hurt with a fresh injection of stored health. Despite everything, there aren’t so many wounds for my stolen strength to wipe away — no gaping hole in my gut; no cold gnawing agony of my own magic eating me from the inside out; not even the inescapable nauseous misery of infusion days. Not enough to stop me from scrambling through the onslaught and doing the only thing I can do: think.
Between waves of chairs, traffic cones, flower pots, construction barrels, and more, I consider what I actually know for a fact about what the Stardust Seraph can do.
Everyone knows he has power over light and can fly. That’s obvious just from those obnoxious glowing wings of his. But just like with Aisling’s ability to ask the world questions, it’s not like there’s any public information about how he does those things.
He can clearly do much more than control light and levitate himself. The power the Seraph is using to force my cards to a specific place is the same one he’s using to fling all this junk at me.
Each of the projectiles the Seraph is tossing around right now is affected by a separate point, invisible to everything but my magical senses, that’s pulling them towards a particular spot. The Seraph isn’t moving the objects themselves, but the points they’ve been bound to, and the objects just happen to move along with them.
I can almost sense these points in motion if I focus, predicting what direction he’s attacking from… but it’s a rough, vague, sense; an eerie chill creeping up the back of my neck that warns me where not to dodge as I’m pelted from every angle. It’s hard to focus on it while I’m gathering my thoughts.
Whatever he’s doing here might be how he can fly, too… but it’s not just levitation. He can make things heavier and even crush them. Unlike when he’s moving objects from one place to a point he’s chosen, when he’s used his magic to weigh things down, it’s spread out as a field of hazed-over air, shimmering like a twilight mirage.
As a plastic drum and several empty flower pots whirl past me as though caught in a windstorm, I start to wonder. Maybe making things float and forcing them against the ground are just two sides of the same coin, and this “field” is something he got from a Harbinger, building off his original magic the same way the hearts I’ve eaten have built off mine. Maybe the only thing he’s doing is changing how heavy things are… but in different directions. The invisible points formed from his magic are like anchors that draw objects to them, after all.
What if light isn’t what he’s about at all? It could just be one expression of his power, the same way I just happen to be able to control my cards.
From everything I’ve seen tonight, could what he’s actually controlling be… gravity?
My thoughts racing, I duck under an upended table as it spins overhead like a giant frisbee.
Throughout the endless days I’ve spent in hospital beds, one of the only things I had to pass my remaining time was read. Across the countless pages I’ve turned, I know I’ve had gravity explained to me at least once. I still don’t really get it. But I do know it’s the law that says everything that goes up is destined to fall back to the earth; a law the Seraph defies whenever he seems to feel like it.
Can you control light with gravity to sculpt it into feathers? Does it matter if you can when it comes to magic? Maybe it’s something he can just do like I can just summon my cards. I don’t know.
The Seraph’s onslaught is becoming more intense. The improvised armory of random junk he picked up off the side of the road catapults at and around me in organized patterns. First he draws out half the plastic chairs from the swirling junk ring surrounding me and lines them up in a row on one side of it, their legs hovering just a millimeter off the street; with a swipe of his hand, the chairs all rush forward, raking across the breadth of the ring. I rush towards the attack myself, leaping onto the seat of one of the chairs and using it as a stepping stone to vault over its back… and right into the path of an oncoming construction barrel.
I throw my arms in front of my face before I’m bunted out of the air by a dull, hollow impact. I land hard on my back for the second time since this ordeal began, and stagger up with my cane twice as quickly. I’m not going to give the Stardust Seraph the slightest hint that I might be slowing down, that what he’s doing is working.
And it’s good that I’m quick on the recovery, because the line of chairs he sent my way before is now coming right back at me, moving in reverse. I rush towards the throng once again and, right as they’re about to run me down, I dig the end of my cane into the pavement and use its leverage to force my light body into the air. I lift my cane off the ground as well just as the backs of the chairs pass under me before finally landing safely on the other side.
The sound of clapping rings out through the night. “Well done, princess. Finally getting into the groove?”
Maybe. I’m sure I’m getting better at squirming through his debris, if only thanks to him pushing me this far. Thanks to all the strength I’ve stolen, all the pain I’ve caused that’s now going to waste humoring the Seraph.
So I say nothing. I just dart my eyes around the ring, ready to deal with whatever the Seraph sends at me next, and find the various types of plastic objects that make it up have been arranged into different circles, each a separate layer in the overall ring. Even the height and speed each circle is revolving at is different. Chairs, traffic cones, pots, and construction barrels have all been divided into their own orbits, with the outermost layer composed of the eight tables he picked up from the restaurant, their foldable legs curled into their bottoms. Above it all, the two caution easels rotate in a windmill spin, their frames splayed out like open flip books.
The Seraph drifts lazily beyond, lounging against one of his wings as he hangs in the air. I can’t see his face through his mask, but his visor is trained directly on me and the arena he’s boxed me into. He must have been organizing the objects with each attack he made, and I simply didn’t notice until now. The sight of this chaotic surge of shabby, grit-encrusted rubbish having shifted into an orderly waltz while I wasn’t paying attention is so absurd it almost breaks my concentration. This has to be something he’s practiced doing before. It’s just too coordinated not to be.
Unlike in the Wounds, the world around us isn’t malleable. Both of our powers are more limited in what they can achieve here. If I can infest a Wound with my plague and rot it from the inside out, Shona can engulf them in a storm, and the Seraph is already able to bend gravity to his whim like this, I can only imagine what he can do in the patchwork world of a Harbinger.
If his power really is based on gravity, he seems to be able to target whatever he chooses individually. But how is he able to distinguish between those targets? Maybe he can do it by sight… but he could also distinguish my blighted cards from my blank cards and separate them that way.
Back when he crucified Seryana, it seemed like he was concentrating his magic at that point and “tuning” it to her somehow. It was the same way with how he gathered up all my cards… It was probably the same way when he vacuumed up my wall of plague-mist. After all, it’s not like I felt any breeze rushing past me and into that hole he’d poked in the world. There was no suction on the air. The only thing affected was the fog.
…Shona told me before that the Seraph can sense Harbingers from miles away.
When it came to dealing with magic, like when he tore open Seryana and stole my cards, maybe the way he’s attuning these points of gravity to his targets is based on the auras he senses? That would even explain how he was able to divide my tarot deck between blank and blighted cards, creating specific anchor points for each; my blighted cards are more strongly concentrated with me.
Of course. If his senses are really that good, it’s no wonder he could tell which of my cards were imbued with my blight and get out of their way before they were a threat. He was just teasing me back then, intentionally drawing right into their range and then leaping out of the way before they could even graze him. It must be even easier for him than it is for me to sense the points where his magic is most concentrated.
Just like I could sense Roland’s presence even when he was invisible and hard to pinpoint, he should be able to sense attacks with my cards before they happen. If that’s the case, then no matter what angle I come at him from, he’ll be able to anticipate that direction and react accordingly. Even if I attack from multiple angles at once, it’s hopeless. He can buzz around however he wants and dodge or deflect anything I throw at him on reaction.
But that also means that his focus is trained on keeping track of me and my magic. If an aura feels especially different from mine, I’m sure he’d pick up on it, but… maybe he won’t notice it immediately.
So rather than cards filled to the brim with my illness, bursting with my unique flavor of curse, what if I instead used one filled with something else entirely? A scourge extracted from the corpse of a demon. A card I’ve been holding in reserve since the first time I struggled for my life in this world of magic and nightmares.
The disease I ripped from Yurfaln, the purpose behind its being.