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Chapter 36

He approached the water's edge, only to be confronted by a mob of people who had just seen him walk across open water. The wall of people pressed in on him. They wanted to know his secret. Was he a wizard? It was known that there were wizards in the world, but no one ever met one. But they had just seen him commit an act of magic. Some wanted to question him, others wanted to ask favors of him, and others simply wanted to touch him, in hopes that some of his magic would imbue them with its power. The crush of people was overwhelming to Derrl, whose mind began to race frantically in circles for a means of escape. His eyes began to roll as he panicked. The wall of humanity grew ever closer, pressing in on him, crushing him, sealing him off from the air. He needed room but knew not how to procure it. Panicking and frantic, his mind raced in circles about runes as he curled into a ball near the shoreline, trying to close himself off from the overwhelming tide of life. Eyes closed, he could see lines forming, changing, vanishing, reappearing, shifting, disappearing as it searched desperately for some way to get away. The lines faltered in their ever-changing dance, flickered, solidified, and locked on one pattern. The panic-stricken young mage felt himself rise above the ground as he stayed closed off from the outside world. The mob strained to retain their hold on him, but the power of the runes lifted him inexorably upward. One desperate member of the mob had gained purchase by clinging with his life to the hem of his tunic, but as Derrl rose higher above the crowd, the lone member of the mob began to lose his grip. He struggled and kicked in order to shift his weight, that he might regain a firm grip on the garment. He succeeded in retaining his hold, and as he did so, he felt a jerk. He heard a ripping noise over the tumult of the crowd. Hanging on with both hands he looked upward at his handhold. A small tear had appeared along one edge above where his hands gripped the cloth. Derrl had continued rising up and he and the one fanatic were now twenty feet above the crowd's heads. The filthy man hanging onto Derrl struggled and kicked that he might change his handhold but in doing so placed the extra strain on the cloth, finishing the tear, and dropping him to the crowd below. He fell heavily atop the people in the mob, bringing down several members of the mob with him as he fell to the ground.

Opening his eyes, Derrl could see the mob below him. He was still hugging his knees in his fear. Below him he heard someone yell for a rope, with which to pull him down, and as the idea was picked up by the general mob, he lay out runes before him and fled. He ran swiftly along his aerial path, unencumbered by the necessity of going around buildings. He knew not where he fled, only that he fled away from the mob.

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