For all his caution, for all his magickal possibilities, the bullet caught Calay just below the navel and blew a hole straight through his back. He crumpled, felt the force of the wound before the pain. He tried to breathe and found his lungs were intact. Coughing, sputtering, he gripped his abdomen and fumbled for his belt.
He could sketch that wound away. He just needed the vial. Any of the vials. It didn’t matter whose blood he used, just so long as it wasn’t his own.
Groping sluggishly, he found his hands responded with a worrying slowness.
All around him, he heard bodies hit the ground. The sound of full-grown men and women tumbling into the soft, muddy earth.
He turned his head just in time to see Vosk fall to his knees, then faceplant into the dirt, his still-smoking pistol falling from his grip. A snarl built upon Calay’s mouth, but a thought held him back: he didn’t have much time. If this was it, he wasn’t going to waste his last breath cursing that bastard.
Movement to his other side: the man caught in the tree’s roots–nearly excised with Calay’s help–also fell limp.
Twisting onto his stomach, vision blurring crazily, Calay tried to rise to a kneel. Something slippery nudged at his fingers. He didn’t look down, well aware of what that meant. Slapping a hand into place, he held his entrails in. With every passing second, his own body felt further and further away from the rest of the world.
Someone was yelling. Was it his name they were yelling?
And why was it snowing?
He took in a short, pained breath and it had the odd, gritty texture of dusty air from a room long-undisturbed. Like he’d just walked into a tomb.
Before everything greyed out, he caught a glimpse of Gaz crawling toward him. He lifted a foot, tried to walk, but his knees weren’t behaving. Stumbling, he pitched forward into the twisted roots of the great crawling tree. It accepted him with open, inhuman arms.