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“Angelina, wait!” said Chelsea.

It was too late. She could head Angelina’s voice from the living room, shouting in Italian at someone or something. Whatever had crashed into the house, Angelina was already confronting it.

She ran down the hall, and her blood froze when she reached the living room.

Standing in the living room with broken glass and plaster littering the floor behind him, was the olive-scaled snake man.

He was much smaller than Chelsea had thought he’d been; before he’d seemed almost skyscraper massive, now she could see he was only about three meters tall, the top of his head resting on the ceiling. Seeing the way he towered over Angelina, it hardly mattered. He looked nearly twice her height as he loomed over her, baring his fangs as he let out an angry hiss.

Angelina looked so small as she stared up at him, defiant, brandishing the lamp as though it would be any use as a weapon against such a terrifying, powerful creature.

Chelsea didn’t see Belfry anywhere. He was probably hiding, and she couldn’t exactly blame him.

Even knowing there wasn’t much point, Chelsea ran toward Angelina and stepped in front of her. Her hands trembled as she turned and looked up at the snake man. His neck twisted to look down at her with his beady, slitted eyes.

“No one escapes the judgement of Zogzhesh, the almighty,” he said in that awful, unearthly hiss of a voice.

She glared up at him, doing her best to look defiant. She knew she was doing a very poor job of it.

“Leave her alone,” said Chelsea.

She could feel her voice shake as she spoke. What was she thinking, trying to intimidate a snake monster at least twice her size?

“It’s fine, C,” said Angelina. “I was handling him.”

As confident as Chelsea was in Angelina’s capabilities, that seemed highly unlikely.

“You are brave, mortals,” said Zogzhesh. “I shall take your courage into account when you stand trial in the snake room.”

“We’re not standing trial in any room,” said Angelina. “Go away.”

Angelina attempted to sidestep around Chelsea, and Chelsea held out an arm, motioning for her to stay back.

“C!” Angelina protested. “I was handling him!”

“I just don’t want you to get hurt again,” said Chelsea.

Chelsea looked around, surveying the room and trying to figure out their options. The path to the front door was relatively clear, and if they both ran for it, they might be able to outrun Zogzhesh. He was bigger than them, but maybe that would mean he was slower. On the other hand, she didn’t want to leave without Belfry.

“There is no escape,” said Zogzhesh. “Surrender, and embrace your fates, mortals.”

“Oh, shut up,” said Angelina.

This was very, very bad. The snake man had found them somehow, and Angelina didn’t seem to grasp the danger at all.

“Silence, mortal! Tremble before the all-powerful–“

“No!” Angelina interrupted. “You silence!”

“How dare you–“

“You’re not all powerful,” said Angelina. “You can’t even take us back to that snake place, can you? If you could, you wouldn’t just be standing here. You would have done it already.”

“Angelina–” Chelsea started.

“I’m handling him!” snapped Angelina. She turned back to Zogzhesh. “You’re pretending, just like you were in the snake room, only this trick isn’t even nearly as good.”

“How dare you question me? I am Zogzhesh, the almighty, the omnipotent–“

“If you’re so almighty, prove it. Wave that stupid cane thing around and poof us back into the snake place. Go ahead.”

Zogzhesh peered over Chelsea’s shoulder, his beady eyes fixed on Angelina, considering.

Then, he raised an enormous scaled hand and swatted at Chelsea the way one might swat at a gnat that kept flying in front of their face. The swat didn’t hurt as much as she’d expected it to, but it swept her feet from under her and sent her tumbling to the floor. She broke the fall with her hands and turned herself over, lifting herself into a half-sitting position.

Zogzhesh advanced on Angelina, raising two of his four hands with an angry hiss. Angelina swung the lamp she was holding, and it hit him with a shattering sound. Splinters of the broken light bulb slid out of the lampshade, joining the rest of the debris on the floor. Zogzhesh hardly seemed to notice.

Chelsea pulled herself to her feet, preparing to run to Angelina’s side and fight, or maybe drag Angelina out the door and make a run for it.

A tiny, dark shape swooped down from the ceiling toward Zogzhesh, clawing and scratching at his face.

Zogzhesh flailed, two of his arms smashing into an expensive looking set of dishes.

Good work, Belfry!

Chelsea took the opportunity, grabbing Angelina by the arm and pulling her toward the door. To Chelsea’s relief, Angelina dropped the lamp and followed.

They headed out the front door and ran down the street, not looking back, though Chelsea did listen for the sound of Belfry fluttering behind them.

She felt Belfry alight on her shoulder as she ran and picked up the pace.

Angelina said something between gasping breaths that sounded like “I was handling him.”

Somehow, Chelsea doubted that.

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