It was time for another tidal wave, he decided. Water raged across the courtyard, dousing scattered fires, tossing rubble and battered servants around.
It bought him the extra bit of time he needed. After one more water jet pressed into the dome, he was at last able to punch through with an icy gauntlet. The castle wall lay on the other side, and he immediately launched himself over. As soon as he landed on the outer steps, he started running. ‘Go!’ he told Axiolis.
Thankfully, at least, Lawrence’s enhanced radiation didn’t affect reapers as strongly as living things, so when Axiolis broke away from Zeff, the reaper was only suffering from a bit of ghostly smoldering. He vanished into the ground.
Zeff saw the radium dome disintegrate and knew that Lawrence would be on him any moment. He lowered his own soul defenses in order to be able to kill himself. The ice formed in his mouth, about to pierce his brain.
Instead, a bladed disc sliced through his mouth, severing the top half of his head from the rest of his body. And he saw Lawrence standing there on the wall with a clenched fist.
Still conscious, Zeff could only watch as the radium clapped around his head. Axiolis had escaped. He had not.
Lawrence carried Zeff’s radium-coated head under one arm as he reentered Rhein’s Keep. Upturned earth, shattered stone, and regenerating bodies abounded. He immediately had Lieutenant Adam Leroy freeze Zeff’s head for him--or rather, for Dergoz.
‘You let Axiolis get away,’ Dergoz said privately.
‘Zeff was stronger than I anticipated,’ said Lawrence.
‘You are lying. You held back.’
‘Of course I did. You wanted them alive.’
‘That is not what I mean, and you know it.’
General Xavier Lawrence refrained from further argument. He knew there was nothing to be gained from it. And besides, the reaper wasn’t exactly wrong. He couldn’t disobey Dergoz overtly, but occasionally, small victories were still possible. For all of Dergoz’s threats, Lawrence knew that the reaper didn’t want to release a servant with his level of power. It would mean starting over from scratch, letting nearly eighty years go to waste.